A Separate Peace?

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The objections that President Obama outlined at the White House today in respect of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to a joint meeting of Congress strike us as not only unconvincing but disingenuous. The idea that Congress’s “mistake” in inviting Mr. Netanyahu lies in it being so close to Israel’s elections is an outrageous claim from an American president whose operatives are in Israel right now running a political campaign to unseat the Likud. And the idea that either Congress or Mr. Netanyahu should shrink from his appearance on March 3 because of the sensitivities in respect of Iran — that’s right out of the European appeasement of 1938.

What Mr. Obama wants with Iran is a separate peace. Separate from Israel. Neither he nor Secretary Kerry made the slightest effort to bring Israel to the table beside them. He went as the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany. If Germany must be added to the P5, why not make it the P5+2 and include the Jewish state? It’s Israel, after all, against whom Iran covets an a-bomb. Everyone knows why Mr. Obama didn’t stand with Israel. The Iranians wouldn’t allow it. The mullahs, the editor of the Sun noted this week in a column in Haaretz, would have keeled over in a dead faint.

How eerie are the echoes of Munich. The main point about Munich is that the Czechs, the immediate object of Hitler’s lust, were excluded from the talks. In Haaretz, the editor of the Sun quoted William Shirer’s account of how the Czech minister in London, Jan Masaryk, was actually sitting in the gallery of the Mother of Parliaments when it erupted with joy at Prime Minister Chamberlain’s announcement that he would go to Bavaria. Masaryk then went to Chamberlain and his foreign minister, Lord Halifax, only to be told that Czechs would not be included. Masaryk, Shirer reported, “gazed at the two God-fearing Englishmen and struggled to keep control of himself.”

Shirer quotes Masaryk as choosing that moment to utter his famous words: “If you have sacrificed my nation to preserve the peace of the world, I will be the first to applaud you. But if not, gentlemen, God help your souls.” Mr. Netanyahu has been too polite to put it that way to Messrs. Kerry and Obama, but the moment has eerie echoes. We hope that Mr. Netanyahu is not discouraged by Mr. Obama’s warnings about how the U.S.-Israeli relationship is too important to be “clouded with what could be perceived as partisan politics. Whether that’s accurate or not, that is a possible perception, and that’s something we have to guard against.”

Let us just say that is rich. “Did the Obama Administration lie about Netanyahu?” is the headline that was up on the Washington Post’s Website in a dispatch seeking to untangle the disingenuous way in which the administration has handled this whole thing. Its answer seems to be that it was less than candid. Our own estimate is that the best way to get all this straight is for Mr. Netanyahu to keep the date that the Democratic and Republican leadership in Congress extended to him and to give the solons an unvarnished statement of his concerns. They need to hear them, and so do the rest of us. We need to hear it before any agreement is struck with the mullahs.

What if the Democrats walk out or simply fail to show, as some of them — from Vice President Biden on down — seem determined to do? Well, we remember that day in June 1982, when Prime Minister Menachem Begin went to the rostrum of the United Nations General Assembly, only to find that so many people walked out (or failed to show) that he was addressing a nearly empty hall. The resulting picture is one of our favorite news photographs of all time. We remember what the world said about him in the decades before he won the Nobel Prize for Peace. It turned out to be a cold peace, but it wouldn’t have been even that if Presidents Carter and Sadat had shaken hands in a separate pact without Israel.


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