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The worst kind of "friend"


I realize that William Kristol’s gig at the Times was probably calculated to give its other editorial choices — this one, for instance — seem less umbral by comparison, but this is particularly awful:

I couldn’t help but reflect that a distressingly small number of my fellow Jews seem to have given much thought at all to the fact that President Bush is one of the greatest friends the state of Israel — and, yes, the Jewish people — have had in quite a while. Bush stood with Israel when he had no political incentive to do so and received no political benefit from doing so.

At Ackerman points out, it’s of course demonstrably untrue that Israel’s interests have been improved by its relationship with the US under Bush. (We could enlarge the argument, obviously, and wonder is Israel’s interests have been served well by either of the past two administrations, but that’s somewhat beside the point.) US war on Iraq — Bush’s “gift” to the world, according to Kristol — was not a project that initially sat well with Israeli officials, who spent a good bit of effort in early 2002 trying to persuade everyone in Washington that Iran was a greater problem. So far as Israel is concerned, then one should probably question any “friendship” that works out so beautifully that you return to the transparently awful notion of launching an attack on Iran years after your best friend’s idiotic war was supposed to improve your life. But since Kristol appears to have no shortage of bad foreign policies ideas, his lack of skepticism isn’t surprising.

Kristol’s strangest assertion, though, is that Bush accrued no political advantage from supporting Israel. If Kristol has in mind the political standing of the US throughout the world, I suppose he’s probably right; but Bush’s devotion to Israel could hardly have undermined his global reputation any more than his own independent efforts already had, so I’m not sure what the actual cost of that support would look like. But if Kristol is imagining that Bush had no domestic interest in supporting nearly every self-defeating decision made by Sharon and Olmert since 2001, he’s obviously been smoking crack with David Frum. Though Bush’s base is less committed to Israel itself than to a weird protestant evangelical fantasy about Israel, it’s safe to assume that he’d have been gobbled alive by the right if he’d been less of an enabler — this is why you’ll find no one in the Bush administration publicly congratulating themselves for talking Israel out of bombing Iran, while every disproportionate Israeli “response” to Palestinian intransigence is greeted with an ovation of gleeful, self-satisfied hooting.

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