. . . and so will the dysfunctional
relationship with the Arabs
Of course, part of the reason Americans are so drawn to Israel is because Israel’s neighbors behave so much worse. As bad as Israel’s policies are toward Palestinians under occupation, the Arabs are in a league of their own, in word and deed.
In Syria, the Assads brutally kill and torture their people by the thousands. In Lebanon, Hezbollah continues to act like the authoritarian, anti-democratic group it is, openly siding with Syria and Iran while threatening Israel with rockets. In Gaza, Hamas continues to spew anti-Semitic propaganda, as does the Palestinian Authority. And in Egypt, President Mohamed Morsi, even as he legitimizes the treaty with Israel each day he lets it stand, represents an Islamist movement whose message is anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic and prejudicial to women and Christians.
All of this validates the proposition that American values are much closer to Israel’s and that the Arabs aren’t yet ready for prime time in Washington.
When Jordan’s King Hussein, Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and even Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak were in power, they at least had a chance to sway U.S. public opinion or exert pressure on Israel. Now Arab leaders either don’t much care what America thinks or are playing to their own audiences with anti-U.S.tropes. Either way, they’re neither making friends nor influencing Americans to empathize, let alone sympathize, with their causes.
Indeed, the behavior of the new Arab governments — and those such as Syria’s that remain in crisis — may prove even more constraining for Obama or Romney than the actions of the old ones. Just look at the violent demonstrations against America’s embassies. While over the long haul the Arab Spring may lead to improved governance, don’t expect Obama (and certainly not Romney) to deliver any new Cairo speeches. If anything, Washington will tend to lean on what is stable and familiar.
Enter the Persian Gulf states. Underscoring the continuity of U.S. policy in the region is the importance of maintaining good relations with the Arab oil producers. While the oil-for-security trade-off that for years held the U.S.-Saudi relationship tight may have frayed — with the Saudis watching us engineer a Shiite government in Iraq, facilitate Mubarak’s departure and press for reforms in Bahrain — they can’t get by without us, either. And their fear of Iran will only deepen their dependence on us. Count on Romney or Obama coddling the Arab oil sheiks, selling them all kinds of military hardware and avoiding calls for reform for some time to come. The last thing Washington wants is a disruptive Arab Spring there.