"McCain: Bad for Israel"

An interesting and challenging view of McCain (and Bush) from Hillel Levin:

I am a religious Zionist American Jew, deeply committed to the security of the State of Israel (where much of my immediate family resides).  In my community it is not unusual to hear people express support for John McCain because of his Israel policies.  Frankly, I'm puzzled.  John McCain, like George W. Bush before him, is a disaster for Israel.

John McCain is not George W. Bush, but it is difficult to find much daylight between his views on Israel and Bush's.  Indeed, McCain expressly promises to continue Bush's strong support for Israel.  If we take him at his word, we should be quaking under our kippot (yarmulkes).

Israel today is in more peril than it was eight years ago.  In fact, it is in more peril than it has been since at least the Yom Kippur war of 1973, and perhaps even since its War of Independence.  So color me skeptical that Bush's policies have been "good for Israel," as the refrain in my community goes.  It is unfair, of course, to assume that Israel's situation today is the result of Bush's policies merely because they have coincided with his terms in office.  So let's not assume; let's look.

Israel's gravest external threat comes from Iran.  The relevant question, then, is, has Iran become more dangerous to Israel because of Bush's policies, or in spite of Bush's policies?  Plainly, the former.  The war in Iraq has removed Iran's historic nemesis and counterbalance, strengthening its hand and ambitions in the region.  The war has also demonstrated to Iran's leaders precisely why it is so important that Iran develop nuclear weaponry: America wouldn't dare attack Iran once it has attained nuclear capabilities.  The mishandling of the war has also weakened America's hand in the region, removing any credible threat of a sustained American military engagement with Iran--Americans just won't stand for it.  As a result, our words get louder and louder, but our stick gets smaller and smaller.  And finally, Bush's refusal to engage with Israel's closer neighbor Syria--not a traditional ally of Iran's--has pushed Syria further into Iran orbit than it has ever been before, providing a land-bridge for the transfer of weapons from Iran to Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.  Simply put, Bush's policies have emboldened and empowered Iran and improved its regional standing.  Israel is left facing the consequences.

Meanwhile, Bush's policies have also strengthened Hamas.  Recall that it was Bush who insisted, over then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's strong objections, that Hamas participate in elections in Gaza and the West Bank.  This was part of Bush's brilliant neocon-inspired plan to democratize the region.  To state the obvious, that turned out badly for Israel too, and Hamas is now in control of Gaza and becoming a graver threat to Israel every day.

So why, exactly, do Israelis love Bush so much?  Actually, it isn't that difficult to understand.  From the perspective of an Israeli, Bush is a true friend.  Israelis live in a tough neighborhood, surrounded by states and movements that expressly seek the destruction of Israel.  And here we have President Bush, the leader of the strongest country in the world, declaring himself an unabashed ally of Israel.  Indeed, there's no reason to question Bush's sincerity on this point: he really does care about Israel's security.  So Israelis can be excused for putting aside the content and effects of his policies and for appreciating his steadfast rhetorical and personal support for Israel.  (By the way, this explains the paradox of why Israelis love both Clinton and Bush, despite their radically different regional policies: for Israelis, it isn't about the policies.)

What is more difficult to understand, though, is why American Zionists, who follow American politics closely, insist that Bush has been good for Israel and that McCain's promise to continue Bush's policies is an argument in his favor.  The evidence argues otherwise.  We have no excuse for ignoring the disastrous consequences of this administration's policies in favor of the good intentions that have spawned them.

I don't base my vote primarily on whether a candidate will be good for Israel.  But if I did, I surely wouldn't vote for McCain.