One might regard the pledges made to Israel and its friends in the United States by aspiring presidential candidates as pro forma and vaguely amusing, but that would be a mistake. Policy commitments, even if they are lightly entered into, are a serious matter with real-world consequences. At the moment, the obligation to Israel goes far beyond the willingness to give Tel Aviv billions of dollars in aid and unlimited political cover each year. Every Republican candidate but one has affirmed that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of a “Jewish state,” the precise formula demanded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and each has affirmed his or her eagerness to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which would end forever any chance of actual peace talks with the Palestinians and would also invite a violent reaction against Americans in many parts of the Muslim world. Michele Bachmann has even found a private “donor” willing to pay for the move. Newt Gingrich, who would shift the embassy to Jerusalem within his first two hours as president and who has also promised to name John Bolton as his secretary of state, has meanwhile discovered that the Palestinian people do not actually exist, which certainly solves the problem of the two-state solution or any solution at all. They were invented by hostile Arabs and are out to destroy Israel.
Mitt Romney and Gingrich might well take the prize for lack of any connection with reality with their demand that U.S. Ambassador Howard Gutman, who is Jewish, be fired for suggesting that some anti-Semitism might be the result of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. Romney has also criticized President Barack Obama for “insulting” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, surely one of the most interesting inversions of truth and fiction ever to occur. Not to be outdone, Rick Perry has promised to increase assistance to Israel, calling it “strategic defensive aid” that benefits the United States.
While this kind of ignorant crackpottery is unfortunately what one expects, there might be worse to come. As part of the pro-Israel package, the same presidential hopefuls have made clear their willingness to go to war with Iran on behalf of Israel even if Israel is the initiator of the conflict, while the media and the Republican Party have together conspired to keep any contrary opinions on that issue marginalized and nearly invisible.
As Washington has demonstrated itself unwilling to negotiate with Iran over outstanding issues and has refused every attempt by the Iranians to compromise, there can be only one outcome to the game that is being played, and that is war. And the characteristically chickenhawk Republicans are ready to rock and roll based on the pseudo-information about the perfidious Persians. Gingrich again leads the charge, calling for a stepped-up program of sabotage and assassination inside Iran coupled with a covert operation to shut down the country’s main oil refinery, which will supposedly lead to “regime change.” Newt also suggested that the United States and Israel join together in “joint operations” to attack the Iranians. Perry and Rick Santorum also agree that it is time to order military strikes, while Mitt Romney is keen on indicting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for “the crime of incitement to genocide.”