Israel at 70: Bibi’s Troubled Hour of Power

Israel at 70: Bibi's Troubled Hour of Power

By Patrick J. Buchanan

For Bibi Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister save only founding father David Ben-Gurion, it has been a week of triumph.

Last Tuesday, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal as Bibi had demanded. Thursday, after Iran launched 20 missiles at the Golan Heights, Bibi answered with a 70-missile attack on Iran in Syria.

“If it rains on us, it will storm on them. I hope we have finished the episode,” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, boasting that Israel’s raids hit “nearly all Iranian infrastructure in Syria.”

The day before, Bibi was in Moscow, persuading Vladimir Putin to cancel the sale of Russia’s S-300 air defense system to Damascus.

Yesterday, in an event televised worldwide, the U.S. embassy was transferred to Jerusalem, with Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner doing the honors in what Bibi called a “glorious day.” Few can recall a time when Israel seemed in so favorable a position.

The White House and the Republican Party that controls Congress are solidly behind Israel. Egypt is cooperating to battle terrorists in Sinai.

Israel has a de facto alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf royals. And the Palestinians have never been more divided, isolated and alone.

Yet, there is another side to this story, also visible this last week.

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As the transfer ceremony of the Jerusalem embassy was taking place, TV split screens showed pictures of protesting Palestinians, 52 of whom were shot dead Monday, with thousands wounded by snipers. Some 40,000 had rallied against the U.S. embassy move.

Even before Monday’s body count, the Gaza Health Ministry said that, over the previous six Fridays of “March of Return” protests, 49 Palestinians had been killed and 2,240 hit by live fire from Israeli troops.

Those dead and wounded Palestinians are not likely to be forgotten in Gaza. And while Israel has never had so many Arab regimes willing to work with her in pushing back against Iran, Arab League Chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit called the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem, a “clear violation of international law.”

Gheit added: “The fall of Palestinian martyrs by the bullets of the Israeli occupation must ring an alarm … bell to any state that does not find anything wrong with the immoral and illegal stance that we are watching.”

Last week, Hezbollah, which arose in resistance to the 1982 Israeli occupation of Lebanon, and expelled the Israeli army 18 years later, won Lebanon’s elections. A Hezbollah-backed coalition will likely form the new government in Beirut.

Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the U.S. and Bibi ally, said that any attack by Hezbollah, which fought Israel to a standstill in 2006, should bring an Israeli declaration of war — on Lebanon.

While Israel launched some 100 strikes on Syria in recent years, Syrian President Bashar Assad has survived and, with the aid of Hezbollah, Iran and Russia, won his civil war.

Assad and his army and allies are far stronger now, while President Trump, Israel’s indispensable ally, speaks of bringing U.S. troops home from Syria. In polls, a majority of Americans lines up behind Israel in its clashes, but a majority also wants no more U.S. wars in the Middle East.

Also, Sunday, the U.S. sustained another major political defeat.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi lost his re-election bid. Based on early results, the winning coalition was that of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, against whose forces U.S. troops fought a decade ago.

Running second was a ticket led by a Shiite militia general close to Iran. When a new government is formed in Baghdad, the orientation of Iraq seems certain to shift away from the United States.

While the Israelis are the most powerful nation in the region, how long can they keep 2 million Palestinian Arabs confined in the penal colony that is the Gaza Strip? How long can they keep the 2 million Palestinians of the West Bank living in conditions even Israeli leaders have begun to compare to apartheid?

Across the West, especially in universities, a BDS movement to have students, companies and consumers boycott, divest and sanction Israeli-produced products has been gaining ground.

The Palestinians may have been abandoned by Arab rulers and the wider world. Yet, history teaches that people forced to survive in such conditions eventually rise in rebellion and revolution, take revenge, and exact retribution for what was done to them and their own.

Republican leaders often say that we cannot permit “any daylight” between the U.S. position and that of Israel.

But can the country that decried for decades the panicked reaction of an Ohio National Guard that shot and killed four students at Kent State University sit silent as scores of unarmed protesters are shot to death and thousands are wounded by Israeli troops in Gaza?

Bibi and Israel appear to be on a winning streak. It is difficult to see how, over the long run, it can be sustained.

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What Should We Fight For?

What Should We Fight For?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“We will never accept Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea,” declaimed Rex Tillerson last week in Vienna.

“Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”

Tillerson’s principled rejection of the seizure of land by military force — “never accept” — came just one day after President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and pledged to move our embassy there.

How did Israel gain title to East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Golan Heights? Invasion, occupation, colonization, annexation.

Those lands are the spoils of victory from Israel’s 1967 Six-Day War.

Is Israel being severely sanctioned like Russia? Not quite.

Her yearly U.S. stipend is almost $4 billion, as she builds settlement after settlement on occupied land despite America’s feeble protests.

What Bibi Netanyahu just demonstrated is that, when dealing with the Americans and defending what is vital to Israel, perseverance pays off. Given time, the Americans will accept the new reality.

Like Bibi, Vladimir Putin is a nationalist. For him, the recapture of Crimea was the achievement of his presidency. For two centuries that peninsula had been home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and critical to her security.

Putin is not going to return Crimea to Kiev, and, eventually, we will accept this new reality as well.

For while whose flag flies over Crimea has never been crucial to us, it is to Putin. And like Israelis, Russians are resolute when it comes to taking and holding what they see as rightly theirs.

Both these conflicts reveal underlying realities that help explain America’s 21st-century long retreat. We face allies and antagonists who are more willing than are we to take risks, endure pain, persevere and fight to prevail.

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This month, just days after North Korea tested a new ICBM, national security adviser H. R. McMaster declared that Trump “is committed to the total denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

If so, we are committed to a goal we almost surely are not going to achieve. For, short of a war that could go nuclear, Kim Jong Un is not going to yield to our demands.

For Kim, nuclear weapons are not an option.

He knows that Saddam Hussein, who had given up his WMD, was hanged after the Americans attacked. He knows the grisly fate of Moammar Gadhafi, after he invited the West into Libya to dismantle his nuclear program and disarm him of any WMD.

Kim knows that if he surrenders his nuclear weapons, he has nothing to deter the Americans should they choose to use their arsenal on his armed forces, his regime, and him.

North Korea may enter talks, but Kim will never surrender the missiles and nukes that guarantee his survival. Look for the Americans to find a way to accommodate him.

Consider, too, China’s proclaimed ownership of the South China Sea and her building on reefs and rocks in that sea, of artificial islands that are becoming air, missile and naval bases.

Hawkish voices are being raised that this is intolerable and U.S. air and naval power must be used if necessary to force a rollback of China’s annexation and militarization of the South China Sea.

Why is this not going to happen?

While this area is regarded as vital to China, it is not to us. And while China, a littoral state that controls Hainan Island in that sea, is a legitimate claimant to many of its islets, we are claimants to none.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan are the other claimants. But though their interests in the fishing grounds and seabed resources may be as great as China’s, none has seen fit to challenge Beijing’s hegemony.

Why should we risk war with China to validate the claims of Communist Vietnam or Rodrigo Duterte’s ruthless regime in Manila? Why should their fight become our fight?

China’s interests in the sea are as crucial to her as were U.S. interests in the Caribbean when, a rising power in 1823, we declared the Monroe Doctrine. Over time, the world’s powers came to recognize and respect U.S. special interests in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

Given the steady rise of Chinese military power, the proximity of the islets to mainland China, the relative weakness and reluctance to confront of the other claimants, China will likely become the controlling power in the South China Sea, as we came to be the predominant power in the Western Hemisphere.

What we are witnessing in Crimea, across the Middle East, in the South China Sea, on the Korean peninsula, are nations more willing than we to sacrifice and take risks, because their interests there are far greater than ours.

What America needs is a new national consensus on what is vital to us and what is not, what we are willing to fight to defend and what we are not.

For this generation of Americans is not going to risk war, indefinitely, to sustain some Beltway elite’s idea of a “rules-based new world order.” After the Cold War, we entered a new world — and we need new red lines to replace the old.

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Will Christianity Perish in Its Birthplace?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?)” Those are among Jesus’ last words on the Cross that first Good Friday.

It was a cry of agony, but not despair. The dying Christ, to rise again in three days, was repeating the first words of the 22nd Psalm.

And today, in lands where Christ lived and taught and beyond where the Christian faith was born and nourished, the words echo. For it is in the birthplace of Christianity that Christians face the greatest of persecutions and martyrdoms since the time of Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin.

President Donald Trump, outraged by pictures of infants and children who had perished in the nerve gas attack in Syria, ordered missile strikes on the air base from which the war crime came.

Two days later, Palm Sunday, 44 Coptic Christians celebrating Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem were martyred in terrorist attacks in Egypt. The first bombing was at St. George’s Church in Tanta, the second at St. Mark’s in Alexandria, where the Coptic Pope Tawadros II was at Mass.

The pope was unhurt, but 100 Christians were injured in the attacks. At St. George’s, one witness described the scene after the bomb exploded near the altar: “I saw pieces of body parts. … There was so much blood everywhere. Some people had half of their bodies missing.”

The Islamic State group claims credit for the murders, and the pictures of dead children from those churches were surely as horrific as the pictures the president saw after the gas attack.

Copts are among the earliest Christians, dating to the first century A.D., when St. Mark, one of the Twelve Apostles, established the first church outside the Holy Land and became bishop of Alexandria.

The Copts make up 10 percent of Egypt’s population. They have been especially targeted for terrorist attacks since the 2013 overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, who had been elected president after the ouster of longtime U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak.

In the subsequent struggle between Egypt’s Islamists, whose base is in Sinai, and the Cairo regime of Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who was welcomed to the White House in March, the Copts are seen as soft-target allies of Gen. el-Sissi’s and hated for their faith.

Whatever they did for democracy, the U.S. interventions in the Middle East and the vaunted Arab Spring have proved to be pure hell for Arab Christians.

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In Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Christians were left alone if they did not interfere in politics. Indeed, they prospered as doctors, lawyers, journalists, academics, engineers, businessmen. A Christian, Tariq Aziz, was Saddam’s foreign minister who negotiated with Secretary of State James Baker to try to prevent what became the Gulf War.

Before 2003, there were still 800,000 Christians in Iraq. But after a decade of church bombings and murders of priests, their numbers have plummeted. When the Islamic State seized a third of Iraq, Christians under the group’s rule had to convert to Islam and pay a tax or face beheading.

On Dec. 26, St. Stephen’s Day, which honors the first martyr, Pope Francis hailed the Iraqi Christians lately liberated from Islamic State rule, noting, “They are our martyrs of today, and there are so many we can say that they are more numerous than in the first centuries.”

In 2016, an estimated 90,000 more Christians worldwide died for their faith.

Under Syria’s dictator Hafez al-Assad and son Bashar, Christians have been 10 percent of the population and protected by the regime. They thus have sided with Assad against the terrorists of the Islamic State and al-Qaida, whose victory would mean their expulsion or death.

Of the 10 nations deemed by Christianity Today to be the most hateful and hostile toward Christianity, eight are majority-Muslim nations, with the Middle East being the site of the worst of today’s persecutions.

Afghanistan, which we “liberated” in 2001, is listed as the third-most hostile nation toward Christians. The punishment for baptism there is death. A decade ago, a Christian convert had to flee his country to avoid beheading.

Consider. Christianity, whose greatest feast day we celebrate Sunday, is the cradle faith of the culture and the civilization of the West. And in our secularized world, Christianity remains the predominant faith.

A millennium ago, Christendom mounted crusades to ensure that its pilgrims would not lose the right to visit the Holy Land in peace.

Now, a decade and a half after we launched invasions and occupations of the Muslim world in Afghanistan and then Iraq to bring the blessings of democracy, the people there who profess that Christian faith are being persecuted as horribly as they were under the Romans in Nero’s time.

Where are the gains for religious freedom and human rights to justify all the bombings, invasions and wars we have conducted in the lands from Libya to Pakistan — to justify the losses we have endured and the death and suffering we have inflicted?

Truth be told, it is in part because of us that Christianity is on its way to being exterminated in its cradle.

Happy Easter!

The New World Disorder

By Patrick J. Buchanan

After his great victory in Desert Storm, George H.W. Bush went before the United Nations to declare the coming of a New World Order.

The Cold War was yesterday. Communism was in its death throes. The Soviet Empire had crumbled.

The Soviet Union was disintegrating. Francis Fukuyama was writing of “The End of History.” Savants trilled about the inevitable triumph of democratic capitalism.

Yet, in 2012, sectarianism, tribalism and nationalism are all resurgent, reshaping a world where U.S. power and influence are visibly receding.

Syria is sinking into a war of all against all that may end with a breakup of the nation along ethno-sectarian lines — Arab, Druze, Kurd, Sunni, Shia and Christian. Iraq descends along the same path.

A U.S. war with Iran could end with a Kurdish enclave in Iran’s northwest tied to Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran’s Azeri north drifting toward Azerbaijan, and a Balochi enclave in the south linked to Pakistan’s largest province, Balochistan, leaving Iran only Persia.

The Middle and Near East seem to be descending into a Muslim Thirty Years’ War of Sunni vs. Shia. Out of it may come new nations whose names and borders were not written in drawing rooms by 19th and 20th century European cartographers, but in blood.

India, too, is feeling the tremors. Ethnic violence in the Assam region has sent hundreds of thousands fleeing in panic.

In East Asia, ethnonationalism, fed by memories from the 20th century, is igniting clashes among former Cold War allies.

China’s claim to the Spratly, Paracel and other islands in the South China Sea puts Beijing in conflict with Hanoi, which welcomes U.S. warships back to Cam Ranh Bay. Were not these the same people we bombed and blasted not so long ago?

Twenty years ago, Manila ordered the U.S. Navy out of Subic Bay, which had been home to the U.S. Pacific Fleet almost since the Spanish-American war. Now Manila is inviting America back.

Why? China is claiming islets, atolls and reefs 1,000 miles from the Chinese mainland, but only 100 miles from the Philippine coast.

To annex what could be a mother lode of oil, gas and minerals in the South China Sea, China is stoking the ethnonationalism of its own people.

Yet, a fear of ethnonationalism is behind Beijing’s repression of Tibetans and Uighurs, whose regions are being inundated with Han Chinese, just as Josef Stalin flooded Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia with Russians after annexing them in 1940.

“All is race; there is no other truth,” wrote Benjamin Disraeli in his novel “Tancred.” Beijing behaves as if it believes Disraeli was right.

China now claims Japan’s Senkaku islands, which Beijing calls the Diaoyu. South Korea claims Japan’s Takeshima in the East China Sea, which Seoul calls Dokdo. Here history enters the quarrel.

In 1908, in the Root-Takahira Agreement, Theodore Roosevelt agreed to Tokyo’s annexation of Korea in return for recognition of U.S. annexation of the Philippines.

Root-Takahira is a black page in Korean history. For Japan’s occupation ran through World War II, when Korean girls were forced into prostitution as “comfort women” for Japanese troops. Tokyo and Seoul were Cold War allies, but these old wounds never healed.

The visit to Dokdo last week by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, cheered by his countrymen, represented a rejection of Japan’s claim and an assertion that the islets belong to Korea.

Russia, too, has now gotten into the islands game.

Two days after the United States dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, the day before Nagasaki, Stalin declared war and sent Russian troops to seize the Kuril islands north of Japan and expel the population. Japan still claims the four southernmost islands of the Kuril chain.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev just stoked the flames of tribalism in both nations by visiting the Kuril island that is closest to Japan.

With China, South Korea and Russia asserting claims and making intrusions on islands Japan regards as sacred territory, Tokyo is taking a new look at rebuilding her armed forces.

On Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, two cabinet ministers visited the Yasukuni Shrine to the World War II dead. A new nationalism is rising in the Land of the Rising Sun. China and Russia may be nuclear powers, but Japan could join that club swiftly should she chose to do so.

The bipolar world of the Cold War is history. The new world order, however, is not the One World dreamed of by Wilsonian idealists. It is a Balkanizing world where race, tribe, culture and creed matter most, and democracy is seen not as an end in itself but as a means to an end — the accretion of power by one’s own kind to achieve one’s own dreams.

As Abraham Lincoln said in another time, when an old world was dying and a new world was being born, “As our situation is new, let us think and act anew.”

How Bill Kristol Purged the Arabists

By Patrick J. Buchanan

After taping John Stossel’s show on March 16 in New York, the Mrs. and I took the 10 a.m. Acela back to Washington. Once we had boarded the train, who should come waddling up the aisle but Bill Kristol.

The Weekly Standard editor seemed cheerful, and we chatted about the surge in Mitt Romney’s popularity and prospects.

I did not ask what he had been doing in New York, but thanks to the website Mondoweiss, I found out. Kristol was there for a March 16 “debate” with Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street, the pro-Israel organization, at B’nai Jeshurun synagogue on the Upper West Side.

After listening to Kristol, writes Phil Weiss, “I am still reeling.”

“Kristol was treated like royalty and came off as … a Republican Party warlord,” bragging “about how all the hostile elements to Israel inside the Republican Party were purged over the last 30 years — (and) no one (now) dared to question the power of the Israeli lobby.”

“The big story in the Republican Party over the last 30 years, and I’m very happy about this,” said Kristol, is the “eclipsing” of the George H.W. Bush-James Baker-Brent Scowcroft realists, “an Arabist old-fashioned Republican Party … very concerned about relations with Arab states that were not friendly with Israel … .”

That Bush crowd is yesterday, said Kristol. And not only had the “Arabists” like President Bush been shoved aside by the neocons, the “Pat Buchanan/Ron Paul type” of Republican has been purged.

“At B’nai Jeshurun,” writes Weiss, “Kristol admitted to playing a role in expelling members of the Republican Party he does not agree with.” These are Republicans you had to “repudiate,” said Kristol, people “of whom I disapprove so much that I won’t appear with them.”

“I’ve encouraged that they be expelled or not welcomed into the Republican Party. I’d be happy if Ron Paul left. I was very happy when Pat Buchanan was allowed — really encouraged … by George Bush … to go off and run as a third-party candidate.”

Kristol’s point: Refuse to toe the neo-con line on Israel, and you have no future in the Republican Party.

Ben Ami seemed equally exultant: “We’ve won the war; we won the war,” he told the audience. Ninety-nine percent of Congress now votes almost 100 percent pro-Israel.

But Ben Ami appeared nervous about how this unanimity in the Congress behind Israel had been achieved:

“I very seriously and absolutely do believe that a significant percentage of American members of the House of Representatives and the Senate are intimidated on this issue (of Israel). … They worry about the ramifications of speaking out. … They are worried about the attacks that they will receive.”

Ben Ami said the 50 members who have criticized Israel are courageous, but, “Another 200 are scared to do it.” Haaretz.com reports Ben Ami as saying congressmen “live in fear” of the Israeli lobby.

Kristol laughed at this and dared Ben Ami to name them.

When Ben Ami brought up the destruction of Palestinian rights on the West Bank and said Hillary Clinton repeatedly raises this issue with Israel, writes Weiss, “Kristol sniggered.”

It’s a “myth,” said Kristol, that Arabs care about Palestinians. The Israeli occupation on the West Bank can last for 45 or 60 years more. Bill Kristol on Palestinian rights sounds like Bull Connor talking about Negro rights in Birmingham in 1965.

Another source says Kristol predicted that Sen. Joe Lieberman, whose voting record is closer to Socialist Bernie Sanders’ than to conservative Jim DeMint’s, will be secretary of state in the Romney administration.

A former head of the Israel lobby AIPAC describes Lieberman as “the No. 1 pro-Israel advocate and leader in the Congress.”

Joe led the cheers for our last three Middle East wars — and has pushed for two more, against Syria and Iran.

About Kristol’s comments, a point of personal privilege.

George W. Bush never “encouraged” me to go third party. At the Iowa straw poll in 1999, he asked me to stay in the party, and party chair Jim Nicholson came to my home to make the same request.

At the synagogue, Kristol was never asked about his role in the Iraq War that he and his collaborators pressured Bush to wage as “Israel‘s fight against terrorism is our fight.”

Some 4,500 Americans died in that war, 35,000 were wounded, and 100,000 Iraqis perished, leaving half a million widows and orphans.

Result: U.S. influence in the Middle East is at a nadir. Al-Qaida has spread into Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Syria and North Africa.

Now the neocons are worming their way into the Romney camp, dropping us hints on whether John Bolton or Joe Lieberman will be the next secretary of state.

Has Gov. Romney imbibed the Kristol Kool-Aid that caused the war and cost the party Congress in 2006 and the presidency in 2008?

Hard to believe, but we should find out before November.

Is the Window Closing on Israel?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

In June 1967, with ex-Vice President Richard Nixon, this writer toured an Israeli military hospital full of wounded Egyptian soldiers.

An Israeli officer told us that in the hospital was an Egyptian officer he had captured in the 1956 Sinai campaign, and that he had asked the Egyptian: “We have fought three times now, and three times you have been defeated. Why do you keep fighting us?”

The Egyptian replied, “You may have defeated us three times, and you may defeat us 11 times. But the 12th time we win.”

From that Six-Day War, wise Israelis took away two lessons.

First, they had to remain alert and strong enough to defeat all their neighbors at once. Second, the more important struggle was that they must win the acceptance of the Arab peoples to survive in an Arab sea.

The Israelis were not alert in 1973 when Egypt launched the attack of Yom Kippur that sent their army reeling along the Suez Canal.

President Nixon intervened with a massive airlift to save Israel.

Half a decade later, President Sadat and Menachem Begin agreed at Camp David to a trade of land for peace. Israel would give up all of Sinai captured in 1967 in return for a peace treaty with Cairo.

A treaty with King Hussein of Jordan followed.

Israel was on its way to winning acceptance in the Arab world.

In 1982, after an Israeli diplomat was mortally wounded by an assassin in London, Begin ordered an invasion of Lebanon. Gen. Ariel Sharon swiftly reached the suburbs of Beirut, and Yasser Arafat’s PLO was expelled to Tunis.

But as Yitzhak Rabin ruefully conceded, “We let the Shia genie out of the bottle.”

In the south of Lebanon, quiescent Shiites had begun to fight the Israeli occupation in militias that came to be known as Hezbollah.

Bled for 18 years, the Israelis withdrew in 2000, leaving Hezbollah dominant in Lebanon.

Perhaps more critically, after the Six-Day War, the Israelis had annexed all of Jerusalem and begun to move settlers into East Jerusalem and onto the West Bank. In 1987 came the First Intifada, an uprising of the Palestinians using sticks and stones. Yet the movement of Israeli settlers continued. From a few thousand in the 1970s, the number has grown to half a million.

Having won peace with Egypt and Jordan, the Israelis began secret negotiations with the Palestinians. In 1994 came the Oslo Accords, an agreement to trade land for peace. As Sadat got back the Sinai by making peace with Israel, Palestinians would get a nation of their own in return for recognizing Israel.

Israel had broken out of her isolation and won acceptance from Egypt, Jordan and even Arafat’s PLO.

But in 1995, Prime Minister Rabin, who had won the Nobel Peace Prize for Oslo and had come to believe in the necessity of trading land for peace, was assassinated by an Israeli fanatic determined to prevent any surrender of West Bank land.

When Sharon came to power, he gave up Gaza, but refused to yield on Jerusalem or the West Bank. His successor, Ehud Olmert, like Rabin and Ehud Barak before him, came to believe that Israel had to give up the West Bank for peace, or she would never know peace.

But Olmert failed to negotiate that peace.

Looking back, Israel has prevailed in all her wars, from the War of Independence, to the Sinai campaign, to the Six-Day and Yom Kippur wars, to the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, to the first and second intifadas, the Lebanon War of 2006 and the Gaza War of 2008.

But today Israel is more isolated than she has ever been, and the prospects are bleak that she can break out of this isolation.

Hamas rules Gaza. Hezbollah rules Lebanon. The Turks have turned hostile. The Palestinian Authority has given up on Barack Obama and is demanding a state from the Security Council and U.N. General Assembly. Israel’s partner in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, is gone. The Israeli embassy in Cairo has been sacked. Mobs in Amman have sought to do the same.

George W. Bush was persuaded by neocons that an invasion of Iraq would start the dominoes of Arab tyranny falling and usher in an era of pro-Western democracies in the region.

Not quite. The Arab Spring that followed the U.S. invasion by a decade is bringing down the despots but also unleashing the demons of ethnonationalism and Islamic fundamentalism that are anti-American and anti-Zionist.

Israel’s great patron, America, is in retreat from the region, with her army in Iraq home by year’s end and her autocratic allies down in Egypt and Tunisia and tottering in Bahrain and Yemen.

By 2050, Palestinians west of the Jordan will outnumber Israelis two to one. Syria, Jordan and Egypt, which had 40 million people at the time of the Six-Day War, will have 170 million. Militarily, Israel remains dominant, but neither time nor demography seems to be on her side.

And Arab acceptance seems more distant than ever.

Looking Back at ‘The Good War’

By Patrick J. Buchanan

In the early morning hours of Sept. 1, 1939, 72 years ago, the German army crossed the Polish frontier.

On Sept. 3, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, having received no reply to his ultimatum demanding a German withdrawal, declared that a state of war now existed between Great Britain and Germany.

The empire followed the mother country in. The second world war was on. It would last six years, carry off scores of millions and end with Germany in ruins, half of Europe under Josef Stalin’s rule and the British Empire on the way to collapse.

Though it may prove to be the mortal wound that brings about the death of the West, most today accept World War II as inevitable, indeed as “the good war.”

For it is said and believed that Adolf Hitler was not only the incarnation of evil but also out to conquer, first Poland and then Europe and then the world.

To stop such a monster, one must risk everything.

Which makes these two sentences in the final chapter of British historian Richard Overy’s new book, “1939: Countdown to War,” riveting:

“Few historians now accept that Hitler had any plan or blueprint for world conquest. … (R)ecent research has suggested that there were almost no plans for what to do with a conquered Poland and that the vision of a new German empire … had to be improvised almost from scratch.”

But if Hitler had no “plan or blueprint for world conquest,” this raises perhaps the great question of the 20th century.

What was Britain‘s stake in a Polish-German territorial quarrel to justify a war from which the British nation and empire might never recover?

How the war came about is the subject of Overy’s book.

By August 1939, Hitler had come to believe that Polish intransigence over the city of Danzig meant Germany would have to resolve the issue by force. But he desperately did not want a war with Britain like the one in which he had fought from 1914-18.

To prevent a German-Polish clash from bringing on a European war, however, Hitler had to sever the British-Polish alliance formed the previous spring.

To split that alliance, Hitler negotiated his own pact with Stalin, a coup that meant any British declaration of war to save Poland would be an utterly futile gesture. But when the Hitler-Stalin pact was announced, spelling Poland‘s doom, Britain publicly reaffirmed her commitment to Poland.

Hitler instantly called off an invasion set for Aug. 26.

In the last analysis, says Overy, British “honour,” Chamberlain’s honoring of his war guarantee to the Poles, caused Britain to go to war.

When and why was this commitment given?

On March 31, 1939, Chamberlain, humiliated by the collapse of his Munich agreement and Hitler’s occupation of Prague, handed, unsolicited, a war guarantee to a Poland then led by a junta of colonels.

To understand the rashness, the sheer irrationality of this decision, one must understand the issue involved and Britain‘s situation in 1939.

First, the issue: The Polish-German quarrel was over a city, Danzig, most British leaders believed had been unjustly taken from Germany at the end of World War I and ought to be returned.

The German claim to Danzig was regarded as among the most just claims Germany had from what most agreed by then had been an unjust and vindictive Treaty of Versailles.

What did the people of Danzig themselves want? Writes Overy:

“In May 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, Danzig’s National Socialist Party won 38 out of the city’s 72 assembly seats and formed the city government. … By 1936 there was a virtual one-party system. … The strongly nationalist German population agitated in 1939 to come … back home to Germany.”

In short, the Germans wanted their city back, and the Danzigers wanted to go home to Germany. And most British had no objection.

Yet Britain backed up Poland‘s refusal even to negotiate, and when that led to war, Britain declared war on Poland‘s behalf.

Why did Britain do it?

After all, the war guarantee was given in response to the destruction of Czechoslovakia, but the Polish colonels had themselves participated in that destruction and seized a slice of Czechoslovakia.

Second, despite the guarantee, Britain had no plans to come to Poland‘s aid. Third, Britain lacked the means to stop Germany. When Hitler bombed Warsaw, British bombers dropped leaflets on Germany.

If Britain had no ability to save Poland and no plans to save Poland, why encourage the Poles to fight by offering what the British knew was a worthless war guarantee? Why declare a European and world war for a country Britain could not save and a cause, Danzig, in which Britain did not believe, in an Eastern Europe where Britain had no vital interest?

Said British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, “(We must) throw all we can into the scales on the side of law as opposed to lawlessness in Europe.”

And throw it all in they did. And what became of Poland?

At Tehran and Yalta, another prime minister, Winston Churchill, ceded Poland to Stalin’s empire, in whose captivity she remained for a half-century.