To those among us with some historical memory, these tense days might be
reminiscent of days no less tense on the eve of the Six Day War. Then too Israel
was beset by existential threat.
Egypt had blockaded the Tiran Straits,
kicked out UN forces from Sinai and filled our airwaves with bellicose bluster
about annihilating the Jewish state, a.k.a. the loathsome “Zionist
Four and a half decades later, we are threatened by Iranian
nukes and all around us is regurgitated the bellicose bluster about annihilating
Israel, a.k.a. the loathsome “Zionist entity.” To those of us who still
remember, the vehement vows to obliterate us sound eerily similar.
the comparables hardly end here. Our nervous systems are today mercilessly put
through the wringer – but not for the first time. Yesteryear too, our very
existence seemed to equally hang in the balance during a protracted waiting
period of uncertainly, compounded by the realization that somewhere, behind
closed doors, life-and-death decisions are being weighed by pressured individuals
tugged in contradictory directions and bearing unenviable burdens.
didn’t know back then, in 1967, about Yitzhak Rabin’s breakdown but plenty of us
felt at the end of our own tether.
And as our white-knuckle ride on
history’s roller coaster tumbled and tossed us 45 years ago, the world watched
with apathetic aplomb. Our grueling anxiety was no skin off assorted foreign
noses. It was our misfortune and none of their own.
Already back in 1967 what concerned the august statesmen of fellow
democracies was hardly our welfare and survival.
What they feared most
was an Israeli preemptive strike. That, they warned sternly, would grievously
upset the international apple cart.
What they counseled was that we just
learn to live with the very potent threats to our continued presence on the face
of this planet. We should embrace our endangered species status and count on
their diplomats to powwow as per polite protocol. Perhaps they can win us a
smidgen of extra time, but only on condition that we don’t fly off the
Sound familiar? It should.
What US President Barack Obama
fears most, as he campaigns for reelection, is not the Iranian bomb but Israeli
action against that bomb – especially if the dreaded Israeli preemption occurs
before the race for the White House concludes.
That would really be a
And so Obama and his diverse mouthpieces – some in
uniform – issue severe and unsympathetic admonitions against Israeli
They prefer us diminished, demoralized, dependent on their
good will, and, most of all, no trouble during a close electoral showdown. While
we compliantly cower in our assigned corner, they could lay it on real thick and
announce that they’re our devoted friends. Our fate and future must be entrusted
to their superior judgment because Obama knows best. He often tells us
This bears uncanny resemblance to the attitude of another omniscient
friend – French president Charles de Gaulle. Indisputably, Obama appears the
more likable of the two but his policy bottom line is just as galling as de
Back in 1967 many of us still convinced ourselves, despite
mounting evidence to the contrary, that de Gaulle was our best bud. There was no
American aid back then but France occupied a warm spot in Israeli hearts. In its
earliest days Israel came to regard France as an ally, which it literally was
during the 1956 Sinai Campaign, but it also offered military and scientific
collaboration (which begot our nuclear reactor in Dimona). France was Israel’s
premier weapons retailer. Israel’s first modern fighter jets were the French
But by 1967 the disposition toward Israel had shifted as
radically in the Élysée as it later transformed in the White House, after Obama
took up residence there in 2009. He was already imbued with pro-
Arab/pro-Muslim/pro-Third World predilections. Obama sought to impress all these
players, which were inter alia inimical to Israel, with his empathy toward them.
He stressed at every opportunity (even when appointing a new NASA chief) that he
aimed to reach out to Islam. He berated American exceptionalism and apologized
for perceived American/Western slights. Since Israel is unequivocally part of
the democratic West and is abhorred viscerally by Islamist forces, it was
excluded from Obamaesque affections.
Likewise, de Gaulle found no
pragmatic use for Israel after the close of the Algerian conflict. He was
decidedly more interested in Arab oil than in Jewish valor and preferred to
entice Arabs with French weaponry. Israel became a chronic pain in his
This isn’t our conjecture or narrative.
We have it
directly from de Gaulle’s own mouth. In his infamous November 27, 1967 press
conference, de Gaulle did more than characterize all Jews “an elitist people,
self-assured and domineering.”
He also fulminated on the personal affront
which the Six Day War constituted for him.
Like Obama today, de Gaulle
then cautioned Israel against launching any offensive.
Like Israel today,
Israel then did its absolute darndest to alert the nations of the world to the
unparalleled peril facing it. Like today, the hope then was to squeeze out some
sort of international action that would obviate the need for Israel to go it
De Gaulle noted that Israel sent its top diplomat to
him, the suave and very dovish Abba Eban. In his supercilious manner, de Gaulle
referred to their meeting: “I myself, on 24 May, had stated to Mr. Eban,
Israel’s foreign minister, whom I saw in Paris: ‘If Israel is attacked we shall
not let it be destroyed, but if you attack we shall condemn your action.’” It
was pretty much what Obama now tells Israel and every bit as vague –
bone-chillingly so. Like Obama today, de Gaulle then gave no hint of any
concrete measure with which he planned to prevent Israel’s destruction. All he
had done on that same day, in his own words, was to “propose to the other three
Major Powers to jointly forbid both parties from initiating the
These powers, he suggested, should hold an international
conference in an attempt to restore tranquility.
Sound familiar? It
Obama and his international partners have been in the business of
restoring ostensible tranquility for years. It’s no more likely to succeed now
than it did then. In both cases Moscow gave succor to the villains of the piece.
In 1967 it cosseted its protégés Syria and Egypt and spurned all efforts to keep
them at bay, asserting that no crisis existed and that the hysteria was an
intrinsic feature of Israeli war-mongering.
Today Moscow cossets Iran and
charges that there is no reason to lean hard on the ayatollahs. Subtext: there
is no crisis, only Israeli machinations. Russia helps Iran further its nuclear
ambitions while dragging its feet on sanctions, if not altogether sabotaging
In his own memoirs, Eban recounted the glacial indifference with
which he was received by de Gaulle in May 1967, when he rushed to Paris to hold
an emergency meeting and emphasize precisely how precarious things were. All he
heard from de Gaulle were repeated admonitions against starting a war.
Netanyahu’s visits to Obama (especially those considerably before the elections,
before make-nice obligations prevailed) match the humiliation and
On June 2, 1967, De Gaulle published an official
communiqué in which he openly and unabashedly singled Israel out for rebuke and
declared he’d terminate all arms deals if Israel doesn’t abandon the military
Obama, it needs be admitted, cannot be as unpleasant
and as tactless as de Gaulle.
While he adamantly refuses to draw red
lines on Iran, he must abide by the rules of etiquette in his American playing
field – well almost, leastways during sensitive campaigns.
of this is that Obama can’t be as brutally honest as de Gaulle.
pretends a lot. De Gaulle didn’t.
De Gaulle didn’t let Israel down easy,
despite the fact that lonely, vulnerable, affection-craving Israel always
yearned for friends. It always also liked to kid itself that it has friends.
Hence, during his state visit to Paris on June 14, 1960, David Ben-Gurion
extolled French friendship for little, renascent, plucky Israel.
first prime minister was standing next to De Gaulle, who was his unmitigated
snooty self that day. With no compunctions, de Gaulle condescendingly doused
BG’s heartfelt sentiments. “In international affairs,” he intoned disdainfully,
“there are no friends, only interests.”
De Gaulle’s words may have been
harsh but they still ring true and should temper our enthusiasm for Obama’s
electioneering blandishments. Obama has his own interests and he wants us as
submissive and passive in our hour of peril as de Gaulle did.
that we have better friends than America. We don’t. In fact, we have no friends.
Pseudo-friends can be only comforting and useful occasionally, on condition that
we maintain suspicious vigilance and put our own existential interests first.