Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Boker tov, 'Economist'

Modern Jews have been examining
"what it means to be Jewish"
since the Enlightenment

Here's one version of reality: Once upon a time, "being a potential Israeli citizen" was the "anchor" for "what it means to be a Jew." But now, "as the threat of genocide or of Israel's destruction has receded, a growing number of diaspora Jews neither feel comfortable with always standing up for Israel, nor feel a need to invoke Israel in defining what makes them Jewish."

Big Jewish organizations "have not caught up" with this reality and often lobby not so much for Israel as its "right-wing political establishment."

This "tendency to stand by Israel right or wrong" especially over its policies in the "occupied territories" is hardly any incentive for keeping Diaspora youth from "leaving the faith." Indeed, while some youth find "defending Israel uncritically" "distasteful," "others simply find Israel irrelevant."

That's how last week's Economist (January 13-19) evaluated "The state of the Jews" in an editorial entitled "Diaspora blues."

In a further three-page inside feature, Economist editors concluded: "Jews around the world are gradually ceasing to regard Israel as a focal point. As a result, many are re-examining what it means to be Jewish."

I'LL COME back to how long Jews have been "re-examining what it means to be Jewish" later. Suffice it to say that the constant redefining of Jewishness is part and parcel of what modern Jewish life is about. But I'll grant that pro-Israelism as a touchstone of Jewish identity is on the wane. The pro-Israel phenomenon began only after the 1967 war, coincided with the freedom for Soviet Jewry movement, and is now dissipating.

If, however, Economist editors really think that millions of well-heeled Diaspora Jews once held visions of becoming "Israeli citizens," they are less sagacious than I imagined.

I've got more news for The Economist: Dissociating Diaspora Jews from Israel's policies in the "occupied territories" goes back almost to their 1967 capture. The Diaspora establishment never embraced the idea of Jewish sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and Gaza. And the record shows that Jewish machers have never hesitated to criticize Israel - not even back when Golda Meir was premier.

Take Rabbi Joachim Prinz, who was chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations until just after the Six Day War. He championed a Jewish "declaration of political independence" from Israel. And as early as December 1967, left-wing critics were calling on Jerusalem to trade land - not for peace, but for free navigation through the Suez Canal.

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, heavy-hitters such as the World Jewish Congress's Nachum Goldmann and Philip Klutznick were habitually critical of Israeli policies. And by the time Menachem Begin became prime minister in 1977, up and down the Jewish mainstream toeing the Israeli line was the exception, not the rule.

As for non-establishment groups on the Jewish Left, they had been "re-defining" what it meant to be pro-Israel from at least the 1970s. For instance, Breira, founded in 1973, supported unconditional inclusion of the pre-Oslo PLO in the diplomatic process. Before Breira there was the Radical Zionist Alliance, and after Breira came the New Jewish Agenda.

So The Economist is wrong in promulgating the idea that to be a critic of Israel in the Diaspora is somehow avant garde.

THE NEWSPAPER - it doesn't like being called a magazine - is also mistaken in insinuating that threats to Israel have receded. Show me a kindergarten, bus line, cafe or mall that - embracing The Economist's sense of serenity - has removed its armed guards.

The Economist says that "the threat [to Israel] of genocide... has receded." Really. Does the name Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ring a bell? And the last time I checked, the best offer we were getting from Hamas was a 10-year truce, conditioned on a pullback to the 1949 armistice lines, and on opening our doors to millions of "refugees" (and their descendents) "returning" to our truncated state.

What about Fatah's more moderate Mahmoud Abbas? From where I sit, he and Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh seem to disagree more over means than ends (see, for instance, Abbas's January 11 speech in Ramallah).

YET WHILE its editorial is way off the mark, the inside feature, "Second thoughts about the Holy Land" provides an informative, albeit tendentious, summary of Israel-Diaspora relations.
The paper, not known for its Zionist sympathies, seems to revel in highlighting the chasms between the Diaspora and Israel. Nevertheless, it has pulled together all the right data, such as a study (several years old) showing that "only 57%" of American Jews say Israel is "very important" to their Jewish identity. It correctly points to the senseless cleavages created by our narrow-minded Orthodox establishment in their condescending attitude toward the world's pluralistic Jewish majority; it correctly notes that being Jewish is, for many young people in the West, only one part of their multifaceted identities; and it draws attention to the welcome revival - quite unconnected to the Zionist enterprise - of Jewish life in such places as Moscow, Berlin and LA.

It belatedly discovers that young people are finding new, non-Zionist ways of "doing Jewish" such as the fine tikkun olam work of The American Jewish World Service.

To its credit, while The Economist may delight in Israel's discomfiture, it reasonably acknowledges that a "fruitful fusion" between Zion and the Diaspora is the best hope for both.

BACK WHEN I was in college, I was assigned a book of essays edited in 1971 by James A. Sleeper and Alan L. Mintz and entitled The New Jews. So I was intrigued to see The Economist cite a recent work with a similar title in arguing its thesis. New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora by Caryn Aviv and David Shneer rejects the very idea of a "diaspora" with Israel at the core. At first blush this sounds radical - even anti-Zionist. After all, what are we Jews absent the covenant idea of a shared past, a blueprint for the future, and Israel at the center?

That may be my ideal, but in practice modern Jews have been "redefining" what it means to be Jewish since the Enlightenment in the 1700s. If anything, the destruction of European Jewry between 1933 and 1945, the subsequent birth of Israel, and the growth of a heterogeneous, acculturated Diaspora in the West has only served to accelerate the debate over "Who is a Jew" and "what it means to be Jewish" into the 21st century.

In an exchange of e-mails, Caryn Aviv, a lecturer at the Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Denver, and David Shneer, director of the center, write that Israel radically changed the way Jews identify, both as individuals and as a collective. "The legacy of Zionism cannot be ignored in Jewish life today. But neither is Israel necessarily the center of all things Jewish today for all Jews." Israel, they say, is but one of a number of cultural centers reflecting the diversity of Jewish life.

How relevant is Israel to your own lives?
Israel is deeply relevant - as are other Jewish centers around the world. We both spend time each year in Israel. Aviv has lived in Jerusalem. And we each subscribe to the JTA Daily News Bulletin - though we wish it had more news about global Jewish communities and less about the "crisis in the Middle East."

You've suggested that maybe in 10 years' time there could be a sort of "birthright" to take Diaspora youth to Vilnius to study Yiddish, or Prague to study art...
Why not? These places might be just as effective and compelling to engage young Jews, the way birthright Israel has tried to cultivate a connection to Israel.

How do you assess 'The Economist's' contention that Jews around the world are ceasing to regard Israel as a focal point?
Our book argues along a similar line, although we'd say that Israel is becoming one of many centers on a global Jewish map. It is interesting to us that our somewhat radical rethinking of the global Jewish map that discards the concept of diaspora encourages people to think that we're anti-Zionist, which our responses hopefully suggest we're not.

We're also not in the mainstream, which still holds onto the notion that there are Israeli Jews and everyone else is a diaspora Jew, rather than seeing all Jews as global.

What of the dangers Israel faces?
Sure we see the dangers, but our book is about global Jewish life and the multiple ways Jews live it. Focusing on anxiety about existential threats that Israel faces often obscures other important issues within Israel, not to mention important stories about the resilience and vibrancy of Jewish life in lots of other places.

Anyway, your presumption is that championing Israel should come first. But the reality is that it's a balancing act - for some Israel is indeed a high priority, but for a larger group it's not. We don't see that as a problem.

You Israelis need to focus on finding long-term solutions to your problems, and US Jews who are invested in Israel can help. At the same time, we Jews would be smart and strategic to focus on nurturing and sustaining our own communities.

Does the relationship have to be either, or?
Absolutely not. Jews should, can, and do support thriving Jewish communities around the world, including in Israel. We argue that by imagining a global, rather than "diasporic" Jewish world, all Jews benefit. Philanthropy, people, and ideas should be flowing in many different directions.

You've posed the rhetorical question: What does a middle-class professional, secular Jew in LA have in common with a working-class Sephardi Orthodox Jew in Bnei Brak? And your answer is...
That by self-defining as Jews they opt into a common past and heritage (though each would also have her own) which can - but does not always - create an imagined bond between them.
Sure, in terms of practices, beliefs, cultures we find little in common between the two. And we think this condition (which isn't anything new) is okay; that Jews will survive and thrive even if those two imagined Jews have little in common.

PERSONALLY, I'm not sanguine, much less laudatory, about a Jewish world in which Israel is not the cultural, spiritual and political hub, and where two imagined Jews who each think of themselves as Jews have so little in common. But I see all this grappling with identity, alienation, faith and the Israel-Diaspora relationship as part of a continuing process that is "good for the Jews," keeping us from becoming stultified.

Where The Economist sees "Diaspora blues," I see an ancient and stiff-necked people struggling not just with God, but with itself.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Memo to Mrs. Merkel - think trusteeship

The illusion of momentum isn't a good enough reason to reinvigorate the Quartet's involvement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in her capacity as current head of the European Union, is back in Berlin after a lightning visit to the White House, where she obtained President George W. Bush's agreement to revive Quartet involvement in what is euphemistically known as the Middle East peace process. The Quartet, you will recall, is comprised of the US, the EU, Russia, and the UN.

Bush said it was a "good idea" to convene the Quartet. Merkel added that it would help in achieving a two-state solution if the US and EU "speak with one and the same voice."
Preempting the "why now" question, the chancellor opined: "I simply think that we ought to try time and again to achieve some sort of results in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Merkel has a lot on her plate. In addition to her national and EU responsibilities she's also currently chair of the G-8. But the Middle East is high on her agenda. In February she's scheduled to visit Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

WITH PALESTINIAN factions killing each other in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank, the steadfastly rejectionist Hamas controlling the government and President Mahmoud Abbas as politically impotent as ever, Merkel's desire to go down the Quartet's road map path again strikes me as worse than futile.

To get a better handle on what's driving the chancellor to breathe new life into this plan, I asked Emory University political scientist Christian Tuschhoff in Berlin.

Tuschhoff answered that Merkel's government (her Christian Democrats had to enter into a coalition with the rival Social Democratic Party) is unpopular and desperate for a success - and it's unlikely to come on the domestic front. So Merkel, wisely, is turning to foreign policy, exploiting Germany's leadership of both the EU and G-8.

Tuschhoff accepts that her foreign policy agenda won't produce more than "a high profile on television," given the intractability of the problems she's confronting. This is true, incidentally, not only on the Arab-Israel front but also on energy issues, security and the moribund EU constitution.

Which is why, he said, no one really expects results from the revived Quartet.
So why bother? "Germans think it is better to have the process going than no effort at all. If the Quartet can reengage Israel and the Palestinians, they believe this will divert their activities from armed conflict."

GERMANS SEE themselves as uniquely qualified to help reconcile Israelis and Palestinians. Berlin has the respect of both sides and is thought of as having the most balanced stance within the EU. Political culture also plays a role: Tuschhoff argues that "reconciliation is a key trait of German foreign policy generally."

As a further domestic explanation of Germany's efforts to revive the Quartet, another source in Berlin suggested that policy on the Arab-Israel conflict was partially driven by the close cooperation between Social Democrat Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and a government-funded foreign policy think tank called Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP).

The director of SWP, Volker Pertes, seems able to influence government decision-making.
Some of Steinmeier's initiatives - reaching out to Syria, for instance - are traceable to Pertes's influence, my source said.

BEYOND DOMESTIC drives, the international arena also offers clues to Merkel's Quartet-revival initiative. From the EU's point of view, the Arab-Israel conflict is key to regional stability, political scientist Tuschhoff explained.

To create a sense of policy consistency and follow-through, Merkel is coordinating her approach with Portugal and Slovenia, respectively scheduled to follow Germany's six-month EU presidency.

Moreover, if Merkel can demonstrate that she has genuine influence with the Bush White House, Berlin's weight within the EU can only increase.

EU members are supposed to pursue their foreign policy goals exclusively within the EU framework, Tuschhoff explained. And the Quartet is the best channel through which the EU can exert a role in our region.

It's not clear whether Germany embraces the latest French call for an international peace conference. But Berlin and Paris closely coordinate their foreign policy initiatives. "It would surprise me if France issued a proposal without prior consultation with Germany and possibly German approval," Tuschhoff said.

As we concluded our exchange, Tuschhoff ventured a speculation: "The key [to solving the conflict] is to educate the Palestinian side to act with much greater responsibility and move them away from jihad and terrorism.

"If some international recognition or venue can achieve that 'civilizing' effect on radical Palestinian factions, it should be tried."

THE QUARTET'S contribution to Arab-Israel conflict resolution is the 2002-2003 road map for peace. As the State Department describes it, "The plan is a performance-based, goal-driven plan, with clear phases, timelines, and benchmarks. It involves reciprocal steps by the two parties in the political, security, economic, and humanitarian fields. The destination is a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict."

The road map's first phase called for ending terrorism and normalizing Palestinian life. The Palestinians were to end all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere. Jerusalem was to commit itself to a sovereign Palestinian state living alongside Israel, which prime minister Ariel Sharon did.

Among other things, Israel also committed to freeze all settlement activity and dismantle outposts not authorized by the government. But Israeli officials have long argued that implementation of the road map is contingent on the Palestinians taking concrete steps to dismantle the terror infrastructure.

Since that never happened, neither did much else.

If anything, since the road map evolved the situation on the ground has gotten only more complicated. In January 2006, Hamas - which rejects the very idea of living in peace alongside a sovereign Jewish state - won the Palestinian parliamentary elections. Since then the Palestinian polity has fragmented owing to outside pressure - to shed its rejectionist stance - and internal political cleavages. Today anarchy reigns, with violent clans and splinter groups carrying as much weight as the main terrorist organizations.

It is against this background that Merkel wants to revive the Quartet - as if the Palestinians were capable of agreeing among themselves on a course of action; as if a deal cut with Mahmoud Abbas would hold water with the Islamists; as if the fundamental political culture of Palestinian society, which viscerally rejects accommodation with Israel, could be swept under the rug.

IF MRS. MERKEL wants to do more than engage in the illusion of momentum - and reconvening an international peace conference under the current conditions would be just that - she must have the courage to lead the EU in a radically new direction.

To that end, I direct her attention to Martin S. Indyk's "A Trusteeship for Palestine?" in the May 2003 issue of Foreign Affairs.

We can dispute the details with Indyk (and his scenario anyway needs updating). But the principle that the Palestinian polity desperately needs an invasive "re-socialization" remains key. Merkel should accept that a prerequisite for Palestinian statehood is creating an institutional framework (political, educational and security) that fosters representative government, centrist politics and pluralism.

Can this be done in the Arab context, post-Iraq? What roles should Jordan and Egypt play? What sacrifices would Israel have to make to create the right atmosphere?

These are worthwhile questions that Merkel will need to grapple with assuming she can get first the EU and then the Quartet to make the major philosophical leap of abandoning the road-map illusion that the Palestinians are ready for statehood and investing, instead, in an approach that aims to prepare them to join the family of nations - trusteeship.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Policy trumps presidential personality

I didn't vote for Gerald Ford.
I went for his pro-Israel opponent, Jimmy Carter.

LAST WEDNESDAY night, hours after former US president Gerald R. Ford died at 93, I found myself at the Gielgud Theater in London's West End being captivated by Peter Morgan's play Frost/Nixon.

It's the story of the televised interviews with the disgraced Richard Nixon conducted in 1977 by British talk-show personality David Frost. Nixon had been largely incommunicado since resigning the presidency on August 8, 1974, after the House Judiciary Committee recommended he be impeached.

Michael Sheen plays the hyperactive Frost adroitly, capturing his mannerisms, while Frank Langella plays Nixon in all his pathos. The original televised interviews were culled from 28 hours of taped cross-examinations conducted over 12 days in San Clemente, California.
The flamboyantly Jewish Hollywood agent Irving "Swifty" Lazar is portrayed negotiating the deal that made the interviews possible (and the ex-president $600,000 richer).

The premise of the play, which mixes fact with fiction, is that by pardoning Nixon on September 8, 1974 rather than forcing him to stand trial, Gerald Ford deprived America of its chance of moral and psychological closure over its long Watergate nightmare.

In the playwright's mind, the Frost/Nixon interviews were necessary so that Nixon would publicly confess.

Paradoxically, to my mind, rather than providing left-liberals with the closure they sought, Nixon's mea culpa - "I let down my friends, I let down our country" - put him on the road to political rehabilitation. He went on to publish his memoirs and a series of books on world politics. By the time he died, in 1994, he was an elder statesman - almost as if Watergate had never happened. President Bill Clinton delivered Nixon's eulogy, with four ex-presidents in attendance.

BUT I LEFT the Gielgud thinking more about the newly-departed Ford than about Nixon or Frost.

Ford's presidency lasted a mere 896 days. He completed Nixon's term, famously met Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev at Vladivostok, had the dubious distinction of being the White House incumbent when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese, and signed the Helsinki Accords, which recognized the East-West divide but also obligated the Soviet Union to respect human rights. This in turn boosted the Soviet Jewry movement.

Ford had earlier signed the Jackson-Vanik Amendment into law, which made most-favored-nation trading status (something the Soviets desperately wanted under detente) dependent on their willingness to open the iron gates and allow Jewish emigration.

Nevertheless, at the time I was convinced that Ford was bad for the Jews and bad for Israel, and voted against him. When he was defeated by Jimmy Carter on November 2, 1976, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Now with Ford dead, and Carter, at 82, writing books the likes of Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, I find myself wondering whether I did wrong by Ford.

BUT YOU'VE got to recall the context. Months after Ford took over from Nixon, the October 1974 Arab summit in Rabat gave the Palestine Liberation Organization an internationally stipulated role as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian Arabs. Their cause was on the ascendant. The UN General Assembly invited the PLO to take part in its sessions, culminating in Yasser Arafat's triumphant speech there on November 13, 1974.

The administration made all the right noises about the PLO, but granted it no fewer than 20 entry visas to attend the UN session. It also authorized UN ambassador John Scalli to meet with pro-PLO Arab-American lobbyists.

And, in December, vice-president-designate Nelson Rockefeller expressed affinity for the PLO position, observing that Israel "took the land" of the Palestinian Arabs. Speaking during his confirmation hearings before the House Judiciary Committee, Rockefeller said he didn't know whether he would recognize the PLO if he assumed the presidency.

The pro-Israel community was understandably getting nervous, so Republican Jewish macher Max Fisher set up a White House meeting between the Jewish leadership and Ford. The president reassured them that his administration would not court the PLO. That still left plenty of unease - about the administration's plan to sell F5E warplanes to Saudi Arabia, for instance.
By the start of 1975, it had become obvious that Ford would balance support for Israel with criticism of its West Bank policies, coupled with arms sales to pro-US Arab states.

WHEN SECRETARY of state Henry Kissinger's efforts to broker an Egyptian-Israeli deal in the Sinai faltered in March 1975, Ford's administration let it be known that Jerusalem was to blame. Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin had demanded, and Anwar Sadat had rejected, an arrangement that would have exchanged Israeli control of the Abu Rudeis oil fields plus the strategic Mitla and Gidi passes in return for an Egyptian pledge of non-belligerency.

Privately, Ford complained to Rabin: "I am disappointed to learn that Israel has not moved as far as it might."

All this - cozying up to moderate Arab states with weapons sales, generous visas for the PLO and a soon-to-be-unveiled policy "reassessment" - was largely the work of the Machiavellian Kissinger. To tighten the screws further, Kissinger refused to take calls from Israeli ambassador Simcha Dinitz.

Then the administration went public. In April 1975, Ford declared his "total reassessment" of US policy in the Middle East. American ambassadors from Israel, Egypt, Syria and Jordan were all summoned for talks at the State Department.

Kissinger also made a point of meeting with a group of foreign policy "wise men" including George Ball, Dean Rusk, McGeorge Bundy, Averell Harriman and John McCloy - all of whom supported Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 Armistice Lines.Ford then used his connections with leading US Jews, hoping to get them to pressure Israel into being more forthcoming. He told Fisher: "Max, it's the most distressing thing that's happened to me since I became president. Rabin and [foreign minister Yigal] Allon misled us into thinking they would make a deal. I never would've sent [Kissinger] if I didn't think we had an agreement. The Israelis took advantage of us."

Ford spoke about the need for "evenhandedness" in US Middle East policy, insisting he would not meet with Rabin unless he also met with Arab leaders.

Reassessment eventually drew to a close; it had served its manipulative purpose. But relations between Kissinger and the pro-Israel community were at a nadir.

When - with behind-the-scenes encouragement from the America Israel Public Affairs Committee - 76 US senators signed a letter critical of Ford, Kissinger went ballistic, telling Dinitz: "You'll pay for this! What do you think? [That] this is going to help you? This letter will cause people to charge that Jews control Congress."

On September 4, 1975, an Israeli-Egyptian Sinai Agreement was finally signed, the second following the Yom Kippur War. The deal called for a further Israeli pullback in the Sinai and a limited three-year non-belligerency pledge. Much to Jerusalem's consternation, no direct talks between Egypt and Israel had taken place. On the bright side, the US committed itself not to talk to the PLO so long as it didn't recognize Israel's right to exist. Kissinger would later deny that it was binding on future presidents.

WITH THE benefit of hindsight, it's clear that Ford's brief presidency adhered to the fundamental policy followed by every US administration since the 1967 Six Day War: getting Israel to withdraw from (most of) the captured territories in exchange for an accommodation with the Arabs - in other words, land for peace.

An independent Palestinian state was not then on the agenda, but forcing Israel out of Judea, Samaria and Gaza always had been. Ford's Middle East envoy William Scranton, for instance, declared - probably coining the phrase - that Jewish settlements in the territories were "obstacles to peace." Over the years, administrations may have differed over how best to implement this goal, but the essential objective would never change.

Ford's only full year in office, 1976, continued to be characterized by bumpy relations with the organized Jewish community. He repeatedly turned to Max Fisher and other shtadlanim to assuage the sensibilities of the pro-Israel community while simultaneously trying to get it to lobby in Jerusalem on behalf of the administration's policies.

WHICH BRINGS me to Jimmy Carter. As a Democratic presidential candidate, Carter, seeking a primary win in my home state of New York, actually told voters that he supported Israel's settlement activity and would never want to see it relinquish the Golan Heights or east Jerusalem.

He told Jewish audiences what we wanted to hear: Israel hadn't caused the Palestinian problem, so why was the Ford administration caving in to the Arabs' blackmail and selling them arms? Why didn't it support legislation opposed to the Arab boycott of Israel? And he said all this during an upsurge in Arab rioting in the territories.

On the Republican side, Ronald Reagan was challenging Ford for the nomination, and one of Reagan's foreign policy advisers, Jewish Republican lawyer Rita Hauser, was calling on Ford's State Department to stop "creeping toward tacit recognition" of the PLO.

That's particularly ironic because it was Hauser, acting as a private citizen (with the approval of the Carter administration), who was instrumental in facilitating US recognition of the PLO in December 1988.

Carter went on to win the Democratic nomination. Ford overcame Reagan, but was weakened by the intensity of the primary campaign. It would be Ford versus Carter in the 1976 presidential race.Arab Americans announced their support for the "evenhanded" Ford. And I voted, naturally, for the "pro-Israel" Carter.

IT WOULD take me years to fully appreciate this fundamental fact: Regardless of who occupies the Oval Office, US policy on the Arab-Israel conflict remains the same. Sure the personality of the president matters, but mostly on the margins.

America's perceived interests in the region dictate a certain course and Washington calibrates its commitment to Israel's survival against its other interests in the region.

US policy-makers adhere to a premise many of us in the pro-Israel community find dangerously naive: that the Arab-Israel conflict has shifted from a winner-take-all, zero-sum game to one that can be solved through compromise. Having embraced the idea that the Arabs no longer seek Israel's destruction, everything else - selling them warplanes, flirting with the PLO, pressuring Israel into vulnerable borders - falls into place.

I had been kidding myself into thinking that supporting Carter over Ford would bring America and Israel closer. From Lyndon B. Johnson to George W. Bush, the American line has not wavered: Israel needs to withdraw from the Golan, the West Bank and Gaza.

It would not have mattered if Nixon had survived Watergate; if Reagan had defeated Ford that year for the Republican nomination and gone on to beat Carter.

When he finally did become president, Reagan sold the Saudis AWACs, visited Bitburg and, in the closing days of his administration, granted diplomatic recognition to the PLO - a necessary precursor to the Oslo Accords five years later.

I don't envy Americans who may want to consider support for Israel as they try to decide between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, between John McCain and John Edwards, between Joseph Biden and Mitt Romney, or between Barack Obama and Newt Gingrich.

It's likely to be a pointless exercise - the play's already scripted.

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