THE BLOG

Israelis Are Fast Learners, But US War Backers Are a Lot Slower

05/25/2011 11:55 am ET

What a difference a month makes. The Israeli incursion into Lebanon had broad popular support among Israelis when it began. Only 20% now believe Israel's winning, according to a new poll, and support for their Prime Minister and Defense Minister is plunging. Apparently they're catching on quickly.

It's too bad the Administration and the other Americans who urged them into this bloody action are so much slower to understand the situation.

Condi Rice called the violence "the birth pangs of a new Middle East" as Bush and others urged that Israel resist a cease fire and continue the violence. They were eager to use Jews as 'proxy fighters' for their war of Middle East transformation - the same war that has proven so disastrous in Iraq.

Meanwhile, some war-hungry Americans continue to confuse "support for Israel" with a blind faith in the transformative power of violence, even as Israelis die as a result of the policies they support.

"It's our war," William Kristol boasted from the safety of his desk in North America. Most Israelis now seem to be saying, "Then you fight it."

Some of us who support Israel know that being a friend sometimes means cautioning restraint. Israelis, frustrated by years of unresolved conflict and terror, understandably wanted a strong reaction to the seizing of their soldiers.

The American public's response after 9/11 was no different. Strength has to be exercised with judgement and wisdom, however, as we learned too late in Iraq.

Israeli diplomat Daniel Levy understands that "the near-perfect symmetry of Israeli and American policy" is the result of neoconservative influence in the White House, and that it was a disaster for Israel. Writes Levy,

"... Israel was actually in need of an early exit strategy, had its diplomatic options narrowed by American weakness and marginalization in the region, and found itself ratcheting up aerial and ground operations in ways that largely worked to Hezbollah's advantage."

Today's cease fire resolution will satisfy no one. A better one could have been signed a month ago, if the US had been an effective broker. Levy eloquently describes why we were both unwilling an unable to play that role, and the consequences of that failure:

"An America that seeks to reshape the region through an unsophisticated mixture of bombs and ballots, devoid of local contextual understanding, alliance-building or redressing of grievances, ultimately undermines both itself and Israel."

He adds:

"The sight this week of Secretary of State Rice homeward bound, unable to touch down in any Arab capital, should have a sobering effect in Washington and Jerusalem."

It won't, of course.

The Israeli people are to be congratulated for coming to their senses so quickly. In a high-speed version of our own post-Iraq mood shift, Ehud Olmert's approval rating has dropped from 75% to less than 50% in a few short weeks. His Defense Minister's numbers are even lower.

It took the American people years to figure out what the Israelis learned in a month: the neocon agenda of brute and unreasoning force leads only to more death and destruction. Those of us who are committed to Israel's survival must now struggle to protect it from any further damage at the hands of its so-called "supporters" here in the U.S.