Perry & Israel (2)

Here’s Slate’s Will Saletan on Rick Perry’s curious comment that “as a Christian” he had a “clear directive to support Israel”.

Whoa. That’s something George W. Bush never did. Bush never said he had a Christian duty to stand with Israel, because to say such a thing would have been stupid and dangerous. By framing U.S. foreign policy in terms of a religious alliance between Christians and Jews, Perry is validating the propaganda of Islamic extremists. He’s jeopardizing peace, Israel, and the United States.

Bush understood that the terrorists who struck us on 9/11 wanted a religious war. The key to defeating them wasn’t to wage that war, but to refuse it. That’s why Bush constantly praised Islam, emphasized American freedom of religion, and dismissed Osama Bin Laden as a renegade killer of Muslims.

Israel was part of that rhetorical struggle. Bin Laden routinely invoked the plight of Palestinians to rally Muslims to his side. He accused the West of waging a “Zionist-Crusader war” against Islam. He warned Muslims: “Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors. They are but friends and protectors to each other.”

Go back and look at Bush’s comments about Israel. In eight years, he never mentioned his Christianity as a basis for his policies there. He defended Israel as a democracy and an ally. When he mentioned Judaism and Christianity in this context, he always included Islam. “The Middle East is the birthplace of three great religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” Bush said in a speech to the American Jewish Committee a few months before 9/11. “Lasting peace in the region must respect the rights of believers in all these faiths.” In 2007, Bush told Al Arabiya: “I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. … I believe that Islam is a great religion that preaches peace.” Again and again, Bush affirmed: “If you’re a Jew or a Christian or a Muslim, you’re equally American.”

Perry has trashed this legacy. By declaring that “as a Christian, I am going to stand with Israel,” he has vindicated Bin Laden’s narrative. Across the Muslim world, Perry’s policies—starting with his declaration that “it was a mistake to call for an Israeli construction freeze” as a precondition for talks with the Palestinians—would be seen as a Christian-Jewish alliance against Islam…

“Vindicated”, of course, goes too far. Nevertheless those few words by Perry look like a rhetorical gift to America’s enemies. Coming from a man who wants to be president, they show a startling naivety and a dismaying irresponsibility. And if he actually believes what he said, well…

As a reminder, Governor, regardless of your own religious beliefs, however sincerely held, under a Perry presidency—or any presidency—America’s foreign policy must be shaped by one thing and one thing only: the national interest of the United States. In this context, “directives” from God ought to be an irrelevance.

And there’s another thing, Governor. Allies, however close, will occasionally disagree. It happens. Resolving those disagreements will be a matter of negotiation. When it comes to negotiating with the Israelis, however, you have already shown your hand. We now know that, thanks to your God, you will be a pushover.

Not smart, not smart at all.

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2 Responses to Perry & Israel (2)

  1. Matt Foss says:

    America’s foreign policy must be shaped by one thing and one thing only: the national interest of the United States. In this context, “directives” from God ought to be an irrelevance.

    He’s pandering to a voting base that believes that not only are we “One Nation Under God”, but that we are God’s favorite nation. In that state of mind, directives from God and our national interest appear as one in the same.

  2. Don Kenner says:

    Perry’s comments about Israel won’t hurt him. Saletan is just being a cry-baby because he doesn’t support the pro-Israel position, his “praise” for Bush notwithstanding. Do I wish Perry had phrased it differently? Of course. Israel is a civilized country; The Arabs are 7th century barbarians. No need for referencing the Almighty or any theological imperative (although, that is exactly what the question asked for).

    As for Perry “showing his hand” and not being able to be tough with Israel, Perry’s comments are just red meat for the base. He’ll either continue Bush’s ridiculous quest for a Palestinian (terror) state or he’ll wise up and grow a pair. Since the latter is unlikely, his comments won’t matter. It’s not in America’s interest to fund Pali terror or appease Arab savagery, but it will happen anyway. Nothing you, me, or the gods can do about that.

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