US President Barack Obama has some things in common with Albert
Einstein, such as a basic liberal attitude and a Nobel Prize, but the
differences are more telling.
Like Obama, Einstein shared the
liberal desire to perfect the world – what Jews refer to as “tikkun
olam” – literally, “fixing the world.” This idea was at the heart of
President Obama’s speech in Jerusalem, and it is basically a messianic
Preaching pure messianism can be dangerous. That is why
Obama should think a bit of Einstein, who tempered his ideals, and hopes
as high as the heavens, with a levelheaded – even conservative – view
of the facts on the ground.
Einstein wanted a nuclear weapon-free
world, but when he saw what Hitler was doing, he helped America develop
an atomic bomb. Einstein knew the difference between imagination and
pretense. He could imagine a bomb-free world, but did not pretend that
just talking to Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan would stop the war.
President Obama, Professor Einstein wanted peace, but when faced with
unrelenting war, Einstein wanted to win. Just talking to dictators would
not stop them.
Einstein hated war as much as does Barack Obama,
but he also hated the slave camps, the burial pits, the show trials and
the mass murder imposed by dictators of various stripes. Einstein knew
that habitually trying to appease dictators was insane.
“Insanity,” Einstein famously said, is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
wants Israel to try “the same thing over and over again.” He emphasized
it in his speech to a carefully selected group of students in
Jerusalem. That was the heart of Obama’s call for young Israelis to
force elected leaders to take risks for peace.
“Peace is the only path to true security,” asserted President Obama.
proves him wrong. Sometimes security can only be gained by beating down
an aggressor and not making concessions. For 40 years the Golan
Heights, where Israel made few concessions, has been Israel’s quietest
Israel won land only after being attacked, gaining all or
part of Sinai in 1948, 1956 and in 1967, after Egypt attacked Israel by
land, sea and air. Egyptian forces actually reached the outskirts of
Jerusalem in 1948 and bombed Tel Aviv before being pushed back. Yet
Israel pulled back from Sinai and Gaza after all three wars.
Today, the Muslim Brotherhood rules Egypt, and Hamas rules Gaza.
Both have ties to al-Qaida. Both constantly threaten Israel with war.
Hamas actually attacked Israel during Obama’s visit, firing rockets that landed in the town of Sderot.
is a similar pattern on Israel’s northern front, in Syria and Lebanon.
After being attacked in 1948, 1967, 1973 and 1982, Israel captured parts
of those countries, but withdrew for promises of peace.
But there was no peace. Lebanon became a base for the PLO and Hezbollah, both coached by Syria and Iran.
says talking brings security, but Obama’s record of “engaging” Syria
and Iran shows otherwise. Iran sped up its nuclear program. Syria killed
thousands, amassed chemical weapons, sought a nuclear bomb.
Israel stopped the bomb, but the chemical weapons may fall to Syrian rebels linked to al-Qaida.
suggestion that Israel overlook history and take more risks with the
Palestinians also flies in the face of common sense. Polls show most
Israelis feel this is too risky, that Israel has made too many
concessions to the PLO, a terror group that has repeatedly violated
every promise and every agreement it has made.
That is why
President Obama made his Jerusalem speech to a very carefully selected
group of Left-oriented students brought from Beersheba. Polls in Israel
have long indicated that most Israelis did not like Obama’s habit of
pressing Israel to make more concessions and take more risks.
President Obama’s trip to Jerusalem reflects a change in tone and tactics, and most Israelis welcome the change.
Obama finally discovered Israel is a friend, a huge intelligence asset and America’s only reliable regional ally.
is a solid anchor in a sea of sand littered by four years of Middle
East policy disasters: shambles in Egypt, death in Syria, cover-up in
Libya, surging Islamism in Turkey and frozen Arab-Israeli talks.
leaders ignore their own errors. Obama wants us to imitate them. He
still speaks glowingly of his own 2009 speech in Cairo and the
disastrous “Arab Spring.”
Albert Einstein would have called that
insanity. Einstein was a scientist, and scientists learn from their
mistakes. That is how they make discoveries.
Obama’s discovery of Israel as a friend is welcome news, and let’s hope for more, but we did not need an Einstein to tell us.
writer is an expert on Arab politics and communications, and the author
of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat,
published by Threshold/Simon and Schuster.
He was strategic affairs adviser in the Public Security Ministry and teaches at Bar-Ilan University.