Lt. Gen. Keith W. Dayton, who left Israel last month after overseeing the training of Palestinian security forces for five years, liked to tell the story of his first assignment in the Middle East. Charged with locating Iraq’s elusive weapons of mass destruction after Saddam Hussein was deposed in 2003, General Dayton found no weapons but kept coming upon something else inside Iraqi military barracks — drawings of Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem being squeezed by a serpent labeled Israel.Fair enough, I suppose. But here's a thought. Had General Dayton been able to to travel back in time to any moment between, say, 400-1800 CE, to any place in Europe with Christians, he might have been surprised to see varying local expressions of the certitude that Jews had killed Christ, they hate God and God hates them, and they're despicable and hateful. He might even have been amazed that thousands of miles from the Holy Land, not to mention centuries after the event, an argument between Jesus the Jew and some other Jews felt so immediate and significant.
He was amazed to see that hundreds of miles from the Holy Land, the Arab-Israeli dispute felt so immediate and significant.
In trying to understand the unrelenting American effort to keep alive talks between Israel and the Palestinians — this last week produced the image of the Obama administration chasing the Israeli government with an enticement of more fighter jets — it is worth standing in General Dayton’s boots for a moment.
From there one can see why, in many ways, the United States feels a greater urgency and drive for the peace talks than do the Palestinians and Israelis themselves. Here, neither side believes the other is serious about real compromise and each actively cultivates a sense of historic victimhood. Washington, by contrast, deeply believes that ending this conflict is the key to unlocking its own regional strategic dilemmas.
My point being that there's a limit to how much Jews can bend over backwards to make their enemies like them. If Iraqis and Pakistanis insist on detesting Jews for being connected to Jerusalem, well, there's not much the Jews can do about it; devising a policy whereby the Jews revoke their essence so as to calm their enemies is not likely to recommend itself to the Jews.
This is not to say Israel shouldn't strive for a just peace with the Palestinians. It should. Just, for both sides; just, respecting both sides. If that can be done. The opinions of Iraqis and Pakistanis aren't part of the equation.