Dear Mr. Shikhman:
Thank your for your thoughtful letter. I am moved to reply quickly to it as it raises an important point that I find many Israelis don't grasp.
The United States is currently involved in two wars, with almost 250,000 people deployed in various capacities overseas fighting these wars. I have two children, one in the Army and one in the Air Force. Each has seen their share of combat.
The United States is trying create a situation in which some sort of coalition governments can take root in the two major theaters and allow us to withdraw our troops--and my children--from these wars. It is the judgment of some that some leverage could be gained if Israel were to engage in talks with the Palestinians right now and forgo new construction. We do not expect a settlement, and it might make hardly any difference at all. But it might potentially help and given that, we have asked Israel for help. We have asked them not to choose this time to build settlements and to move forward to talks. This the Israelis have refused us. Whether this is part of Jerusalem or part of the Jordan valley doesn't interest Americans. The issue is whether it could potentially, in some distant way, shape an atmosphere that might relieve our military burdens and save the lives of some of our children. Build later and build to your hearts content. But right now, don't build and talk to the Palestinians.
I will concede to you that it is unlikely to make much difference, but then Israel wasn't asked for much--just to put off some construction for the time being. It couldn't hurt, it might help, and we weren't asking for much.
Israel has come to the United States many times in time of danger asking for help and the United States helped. Now the United States has asked something of Israel in a time of American danger, and the Israelis not only said no, but justified it with justifications that seem trivial to us in the face of the wars we are fighting.
All of this was of course made clear to Netanyahu. His answer was no. We have almost 5,000 dead and we asked for help and Israel said no.
I am not sure whether the Israelis understand the context of the request and its purpose. Obviously, it cannot be stated openly as what little effect it might have would be wasted. But Israel is a smart country. It can figure it out. I do not know what will happen in the future if Israel asks the United States for help. I think the scars left by this will remain.
Your letter is thoughtful and reasonable. I just wanted to share with you how this all looks from the standpoint of an American whose children go to war.
My very best to you,
Mr. Friedman is writing as a father with children in harm's way, and I respect that. A lot of young men are in uniform at this moment, however, and not just US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. An American President is creating the conditions for a new bloodletting in the Levant that someone else's children will have to contain. I don't have kinderlach yet, but why must my friends and family in Israel risk their lives, and for what, exactly? So that Obama can enter the Arab "Jew-bashing" club as a member in good standing? I'll repeat what I wrote to Friedman:
That the Palestinians, with Iranian guidance, are now planning a new Intifada to exploit the US-Israeli rift is proof that American pressure on Israel has destabilized the region, and has not brought peace negotiations, much less peace, any closer.The Americans have a way of pocketing Israeli concessions and pretending as though they never happened. Netanyahu accepting a two state solution was a concession from the Israeli right. Netanyahu issuing a 10 month building freeze in Yesha was an enormous concession from the Israeli governing coalition. Framing Israeli building in Jerusalem as an emotional issue for Obama(!), while accepting that it has no strategic value, generates its own disturbing questions.
No, Mr. President. If Netanyahu must forfeit his job to say those words, then so be it. This is why he was elected, to lead the sovereign state of the Jewish people. At the point that Israel is being asked to make concessions that infringe on the status of Jerusalem, not even for a tangible benefit, but merely to placate the emotional whims of an American President, any legitimate Jewish leader, any responsible Prime Minister of Israel says "No, Mr. President."