Few of us will ever forget where we were when we heard the news. I was driving home from work, listening to National Pinko Radio (Limbaugh was over), when the world as we knew it changed forever. I rushed home to watch it on television, and it was like Berlin ’89 all over again. The image of those Israeli tractors flattening illegal outposts, ending the occupation, still sizzles in my mind.
At first, the demolition looked routine. We’re talking about the West Bank, where the IDF wrecks more homes than all the pills and infidelity in Beverly Hills could ever hope to. But a closer look at the tape revealed certain novelties. No shocked families milling about, watching their modest aspirations crumble. No missiles slamming haphazardly into apartment buildings. No apologia from star-spangled Likudniks.
Strange, unless you dug what was really happening: dummy settlements were being sacrificed to Ariel Sharon’s international credibility. A Potemkin village in reverse, you might say. Some observers dismissed the act as "theatrical and insignificant," but what would politics be without meaningless drama? Actually, the whole charade makes me think of all you libertarians who roll over on foreign policy in order to win domestic leverage. Sharon gave the White House a soundbite, but what have you gotten for whoring yourselves? Show me one symbolic bone that has been thrown your way. Bush could at least pull a Gingrich, in which one trims the government’s bangs while shoving butter down its gullet. Better yet, the president could invite some of you to the Rose Garden and issue posthumous pardons to, say, victims of the drug war. Then the cokehead (as Free Republic’s founder dubbed candidate Bush) could get back to poisoning Colombian peasants and harassing cancer patients.
Which parallels what Sharon has done. Note to hardcore Zionists: don’t Yitzhak Rabin the old fox just yet. He’s still one of yours. Methinks American Maccabees doth protest the road map too much, but not without reason. All this ranting against Israel’s mad "generosity" is a familiar setup for a tired punch line. When Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians a Swiss cheese state full of IDF bases, settlements, and caveats, Israel Firsters held their laughter long enough to scream "treason!," thus convincing moderates that the deal was more than reasonable. The mainstream press also did its part, failing to note the dissonance between Barak’s talk of withdrawal and his habit of building new settlements. Thus, when Arafat rejected all this generosity, Israel’s amen corner could say, "You cannot please these people. Barak offered them the clothes off his back, and then they demanded his skin!"
Now we’re watching the rerun, though sped up considerably. One day after making his empty gesture, Sharon set about provoking the response that would excuse him from the peace table. The series of airstrikes that began on Tuesday were vintage Israeli strategy. Ostensibly target terrorists, kill Palestinian civilians, sit back and watch the savages retaliate. Then blame the Palestinian Authority for promoting terrorism and let the American imagination do the rest. Americans are, of course, the only outsiders whose opinions count in Israeli politics. After all, that "blooming desert" we hear so much about would be several shades lighter minus U.S. greenbacks.
Ironically, all of that money has retarded the growth of a viable Jewish state in the Middle East. By enabling Israeli leaders to act like bullies, American aid prolongs Israel’s painful adolescence and creates the illusion that the country never has to grow up. Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Benny Elon live in a fantasy world where, thanks to U.S. favoritism, Israel will never have to get along with its neighbors. Can such a nation survive? If nothing else, demography and economics suggest otherwise.
But there is something else a river of blood flowing from the West Bank to Gaza, with new effluents emerging each week in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and so on. Israeli citizens are dying for their leaders’ arrogance, and some Israelis are beginning to say so in public. Sadly, few American politicians have the guts to do the one thing that would temper Sharon’s recklessness: reduce the aid we send him, or (gasp!) eliminate it altogether. We all know the latter will never happen, but maybe a "theatrical and insignificant" show of the former would send a message. Hey, Sharon removed some empty trailers can’t Bush take some tweezers to the Israel budget?