The blogosphere best remembers Mark Perry for claiming that Gen. David Petraeus shifted Pentagon strategic thinking away from Israel.
Now, the American security incentives being offered for a new settlement freeze raises more conversation about US-Israeli relations, and Perry muddies the waters again, comparing Israel to the Barbary pirates.
When the Pasha of Barbary demanded ransom for U.S. ships he had seized, Jefferson sent a U.S. naval squadron to punish him. The resulting victory is now celebrated with a half-verse in the Marine Corps hymn (which celebrates the triumph on "the shores of Tripoli") and a knock-out political slogan that energized a nation: "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute."
If only Jefferson could see us now. This weekend, the Obama administration promised to turn over $3 billion in stealth fighters to Israel (supplementing the 20 F-35s it will buy with the $2.75 billion in "grants" it gets from Washington) and veto any U.N. resolution that questions Israel's legitimacy — all in exchange for Israel's pledge to extend a ten-month partial settlement moratorium for another 90 days. This is a bad idea. And it's dangerous. There are differences, of course, between the events of the last 24 hours and the crisis that Jefferson faced in 1804. Then, we protested that we were "paying tribute," now we are "providing incentives." Then too, Israel is not making any "demands," they are simply (in Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's words) "insisting." Oh — and let's not forget — the pirates of Barbary were America's "enemy." That's a lot different than now; Israel is our "friend."
It's fair to debate whether the offer should have been made, and if it's over the top. So it goes with all political horse-trading. But that's not Perry's point. By comparing Israel to those pirates, Perry, a former Arafat advisor who is squarely in the Walt/Mearsheimer camp:
- Implies that Israel is holding the peace process hostage.
- Overlooks the previous 10-month settlement freeze, squandered by the PA's refusal to talk.
- Suggests that Israel is extorting the US.
Last but not least, I have to wonder if Perry's evoking the imagery of US Marines "from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli," on some level, suggests a desire for US military intervention against Israel.