The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 20, 2013

The 10 Commandments of Visiting Israel


5. Thou shalt call things by their names.

Israelis respect directness and have little patience for bull. They expect Obama to demonstrate the same candor he's shown in reference to their best interests — and the character of their premier — when speaking of their bitterest enemies. Hezbollah is an instructive example. Obama's new defense secretary was one of 12 senators who refused to sign a letter to the European Union urging it to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization, despite it having shed the blood of more than 250 Americans — including the assassination of a CIA chief and brutal abduction of a Marine Corps colonel and hundreds of Jews and Israelis worldwide. John Brennan, the president's newly confirmed CIA chief has called the group a "very interesting organization" whose "moderate elements" Washington hopes to build up. To win respect in Israel, he'll have to show he's harder-headed than his national security leadership, that he understands that for certain organizations and regimes, hatred of the West — and its torch-bearer America — is a fundamental pillar of their worldview. Asking a Muslim Brother or Hezbollah member to stop hating the United States is like asking Americans to quit that whole freedom business. To win over Israelis — at least those on the center and the right — Obama will have to show he's learned some people are unengageable.

6. Marriage is for life.

In 2011, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in this magazine that her administration would "pivot" the bulk of its strategic resources from the Middle East to Southeast Asia. To an American public tired of losing blood and treasure in Iraq and Afghanistan, the move seemed to make sense. But America cannot divorce the Middle East, try as it might. For all the talk of U.S. energy independence, the region remains the world's leading source of fossil fuels for the near future. And even if America becomes a domestic energy giant over the next few decades, it must still ensure the lucrative fuel deposits of the Persian Gulf don't fall into extremists' hands. Finally, for all the hopes of the "tide of war receding," the instability wrought by the Arab revolts — and the rise of Islamists regionwide — means the Mideast will almost certainly remain the world's leading exporter of terrorism for decades to come.

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