Likud MK Danny Danon and US politician Mike Huckabee in the West Bank, Sept. 7, 2014.
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Having just returned from 10 days in Israel, I feel compelled to respond to the perplexing actions of President Barack Obama’s State Department, led by the erstwhile Secretary of State John Kerry. As I shepherded 253 Americans safely through a land I’ve been visiting regularly for the past 42 years, (my first trip was in July of 1973 when I was just 17) the State Department issued a “travel warning” on Israel for American citizens. While they could have issued a lesser and more cautionary “travel advisory,” they instead issued a full “warning.” These formal diplomatic pronouncements strongly discourage Americans from traveling to certain countries by detailing imminent security and safety risks for travelers.
The only warning justifiable last week would have involved the snowfall that shut down Jerusalem for a couple of days. But the State Department created its own reality in what appears to be an attempt to embarrass the State of Israel. Sadly, the Obama administration has more heartburn over Israel and its prime minister than the Iranian nuclear threat.
To put this inexplicable “warning” into context, the homicide rate in President Obama’s hometown of Chicago is 10 times that of Israel.
In 2012, Israel had a homicide rate of 1.8 per 100,000 people; Chicago had a homicide rate of 18.5 per 100,000. In Detroit and New Orleans, the homicide rates were actually 30 times that of Israel. Maybe the president should warn Americans about visiting his hometown and American cities like Detroit and New Orleans! Of course, I would still visit any of those cities without fear because I realize that most of the crime is isolated within very specific geographic areas. But even during the height of the attacks from Gaza on Israel by Hamas in the summer of 2014, not one American tourist was killed or injured. None.
What countries does Israel join on the US State Department’s “travel warning” list? Other nations on the current list include Yemen, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Nigeria, Liberia, Libya, Iran, Mali, Chad, South Sudan and Ukraine. My gosh, not even Iraq is on the 2015 list, despite the fact that dozens if not hundreds of Christians have been murdered there. In fact, when they published the Israel announcement on February 18, the State Department had not made any reference to Islamic State in a travel warning since before Thanksgiving of last year.
The Americans with me neither felt nor saw any reason to be afraid in Israel – other than a couple of people who slipped and fell on the mud at the Dead Sea. Most expressed a deep sense of security as they traveled throughout Israel and a deeper amazement at the order and wonder of the region. No one begged to hurry home because of fear.
Not only did they feel safe due to the remarkable measures Israel takes to protect those within its boundaries, but they were further assured that if they got into trouble, even Jerusalem’s mayor was ready to spring into action to stop the criminal! I haven’t heard of Mayor Rahm Emmanuel performing similar tasks in Chicago! When the Obama administration failed to show up for the solidarity march in Paris following the terrorist attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, John Kerry trotted over later and took with him balladeer James Taylor to sing “You’ve Got A Friend.” This may have been the most cringe-worthy moment of failed statecraft and stagecraft in my lifetime.
It rang hollow to sing, “Just call out my name and we’ll come running.” After all, when France called out our name, we went running – the other way – and failed to show up! In light of the disastrous policy this administration has put forward in the Middle East, I’m certain that not even James Taylor could soothe things over.
What the world needs to hope is that Congress will listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu when he warns of the dangers of trusting Iran with nuclear weapons. If not, James Taylor might be singing about the “Fire and Rain” that will threaten civilization.The author is a former Arkansas governor and the New York Times bestselling author of
God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy.