Omar’s critique of Israel ignores its reliability as ally

Last week, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) yet again made shallow comments that reflect her limited grasp of the United States and Israel’s mutual geopolitical strategic interests.

“We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban,” Omar wrote on Twitter.

After a sharp rebuke from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Omar, after initially doubling down on her comments, “clarified” her statement and said she did not intend to compare the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban.

Omar has a history of making incendiary remarks. Let no one be fooled. Omar and the so-called progressive Democrats that regularly rally to defend her are not only openly hostile to Israel, but have a shallow grasp of geopolitics of the Middle East.

Omar’s defenders include Congresswomen Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Micah Halpern, a well-known political commentator, recently wrote in the Jerusalem Post that Warren and Sanders suggested at a J Street event that aid to Israel be conditioned on Israel’s behavior toward the Palestinians. This is a bad idea because it shortchanges the United States’ vital national security interests, which Israel advances.

What Omar, Sanders, Warren and their ilk fail to grasp is that Israel is a rock of stability in the dangerous neighborhood of the Middle East.

Imagine for a moment that you are President Joe Biden, America’s 46th president, who openly supports a two-state paradigm as a permanent solution between Israel’s and the Palestinians’ sharp differences. As president, Biden is responsible for the national security of the United States.

If President Biden carefully surveys a map of the Middle East objective impressions of present and potential dangers in the region are plainly alarming.

No member of Congress is constitutionally mandated as commander in chief to protect the homeland. That is the direct responsibility of the president as written in Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution.

When President Biden studies a map of the Middle East, he sees a host of Arab nations that are ruled by either strongmen, religious fanatics, dynastic despots or weak leaders. Egypt and Jordan have made peace with Israel and are U.S. allies. Both nations are racked with poverty. Egypt, a nation of 100 million, is governed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who seized power in a coup d’état in 2013. Jordan is ruled by King Abdullah II. He rules over 10 million subjects. Abdullah recently survived a plot by his brother, Prince Hamzah, to overthrow him.

Abutting Israel is Syria, presided over by a modern-day butcher, Bashar al-Assad. Syria has a population of 17 million. Assad has taken savage measures to retain power. Civil war has racked Syria since the Arab Spring of 2011. Assad has slaughtered tens of thousands of his own people.

Beyond Israel’s northernmost border lies Lebanon, a republic of 6.8 million people. The southern portion of Lebanon is controlled by Hezbollah, a militant terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction. Hezbollah is steeped in anti-American rhetoric. The Middle East Institute has described Hezbollah as “the most powerful nonstate actor in the world.”

Also occupying the region are Iraq and Afghanistan. The history of the last 20 years has been written in American blood and spent treasure there. A few thousand American troops remain in each nation. President Biden cannot view either country as a staunch ally.

Other major actors in the region include Iran and Pakistan. Pakistan, in the view of former Defense Secretary Jim Matis, is the greatest threat to the United States in the Middle East, because it has a nuclear bomb. Iran’s posture to the United States is pervasively hostile. Its Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has publicly stated that America is untrustworthy. He, too, has pledged Israel’s destruction.

Saudi Arabia, a kingdom of 34 million, also plays an important role in the region. The Saudis are U.S. allies. Yet, many commentators have noted that the monarchy, now presided over by King Salman, 85, confronts long-term challenges to its political stability.

Enormous sums are paid out to the huge Saudi royal family. If Saudi Arabia’s oil income diminishes, or if progressive political forces take hold, the kingdom could be uprooted.

President Biden knows the United States’ vital strategic interests are reinforced by Israel. Like every president before him, Biden depends upon Israel as a strong, democratic, economically viable and steadfast friend. America’s interests are safeguarded by Israel. The facts are undeniable.

As the United States’ official foreign policy proclaims on the State Department’s website, Israel and the United States are historic allies. “Israel is a great partner to the United States, and Israel has no greater friend than the United States. Americans and Israelis are united by our shared commitment to democracy, economic prosperity and regional security.”

A version of this editorial appeared in the June 17, 2021, issue of the Jewish Herald-Voice of Houston. Reprinted with permission.

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