Earlier this month, a young American was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in Jaffa. Taylor Force, from Lubbock, Texas, was an Eagle Scout, a graduate of West Point and had served combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq as a member of the United States Army. After he finished his service, he enrolled in Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management. He was in Israel on a school trip.
The terrorist who killed Force did not ask for his passport. Influenced by the relentless campaign of incitement that has fostered genocidal hatred toward Jews in generations of Palestinians, all he cared about was stabbing as many civilians as possible. At least 10 people were wounded by the time the terrorist was neutralized.
The brutal murder of Taylor Force is yet another tragic reminder that the United States and Israel are in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism together.
Israel is on the front lines of this fight, and some argue if we were just to abandon Israel the terrorists would stop hating us. But these apologists for terrorism miss the reality that if the enemy succeeded in wiping Israel off the map – as the Islamic Republic of Iran threatened to do the day after Force was murdered – they would not stop there. This is not a simple matter of geography, and the hateful ideology fueling these attacks does not respect borders. Our citizens are not considered fair game only when they are in Israel. As attacks in the United States from 9/11 to San Bernardino have taught us, Americans don’t have to travel abroad to be targets.
The fact of the matter is that Israel is not the problem. The terrorists, including those who glorify, encourage, sponsor and refuse to condemn such attacks are the problem, which is why there is no moral equivalence between them and Israel.
But the enemy’s failure to distinguish between our two nations can also be our opportunity. We are stronger together than we are apart. As Ronald Reagan wrote powerfully in 1979 as he launched his presidential campaign, Israel serves as America’s bulwark in the Middle East, a vital strategic ally that would in the 1980s serve as a check on Soviet aggression in the region. While President Barack Obama has not demonstrated the same appreciation for the strategic value of the US-Israel friendship that president Reagan had, there is every reason to expect that the American voters will be selecting a new commander- in-chief who will revitalize the alliance and understand that our investment in Israel’s security pays dividends for the United States as well.
A key example of this successful partnership is the multi-tiered missile defense system currently being implemented in Israel in response to the threat from Iran and its terrorist proxies. Americans cheered along with Israelis when the Iron Dome system began providing reliable protection from Hamas rockets. Now, Iron Dome will be joined by David’s Sling and Arrow-3 to counter longer-range missiles in a remarkable achievement that will have a larger significance than shooting down any one projectile.
Both David’s Sling and Arrow-3 are joint US-Israel programs that have been made possible by pooling our ingenuity, technology and resources.
Next week we will mark the 33rd anniversary of president Reagan’s March 23, 1983 speech announcing the Strategic Defense Initiative. While Reagan understood that the technology was at best uncertain and that success was not guaranteed – as was relentlessly argued by the program’s opponents – he also understood that a defensive capability so powerful that it would neutralize the enemy’s most effective offensive weapons was a potential strategic game-changer for the United States. The president later recalled, “I called a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – our military leaders – and I said to them: Every offensive weapon ever invented by man has resulted in the creation of a defense against it; isn’t it possible in this age of technology that we could invent a defensive weapon that could intercept nuclear weapons and destroy them as they emerged from their silos? “So SDI was born, and very shortly some in Congress and the press named it ‘Star Wars.’ “If I had to choose the most important reason, on the United States’ side, for the historic breakthroughs that were to occur during the next five years in the quest for peace and a better relationship with the Soviet Union, I would say the Strategic Defense Initiative, along with the overall modernization of our military force and the revival of US economic power, would be front and center.”
The system Israel is implementing now with the assistance of the US can fill a similar role in defeating the radical Islamic terrorists we face in 2016 – from Hamas to Iran. Just as the combination of economic pressure and the demands of trying to keep up with the Reagan-era military build up including SDI brought down the USSR, a modern version of this peace through strength policy, implemented by a new president in concert with Israel, might achieve similar results against our enemies. Together we win – and they lose.