As George Bush Sr.’s secretary of state and chief of staff in the 1990s, James Baker famously read the White House’s phone number aloud in Congress and told Israel’s government, "When you’re serious about peace, call us." Under his guidance the U.S. also threatened to withhold $10 billion in financial loan guarantees that Israel needed to absorb a million impoverished Russian Jews flooding out of the former Soviet Union.
So when Baker was named earlier this year as co-chair of the Iraq Study Group exploring how America can get out of Iraq, it was widely assumed that he would push for Israeli concessions as part of a U.S. exit strategy — in effect sacrificing the Middle East’s only democracy in order to appease Arab dictatorships whose good will the U.S. might need.
With the release yesterday of the Iraq Study Group’s report, those predictions appeared accurate. In addition to pushing for dialogue with the terrorist-supporting regimes in Iran and Syria, the report called for a Middle East peace conference and suggested Israel should cede the strategic Golan Heights to Syria.
Israeli PM Ehud Olmert gently rejected the attempt to link Iraq and Israel:
"The attempt to create a linkage between the Iraqi issue and the Mideast issue ? we have a different view,"
"The region needs peace, the region needs dialogue and we [Palestinians] have always stuck to dialogue toward a comprehensive peace."
The irrespressible Canadian commentator Mark Steyn summed up the report as follows:
"Isn?t the main problem with the Iraq Study Group that it?s just majorly lame? Almost anybody could crank out this kind of generalized boilerplate (‘We were told by a general/a translator/my taxi driver/my Ukrainian hooker…’), and most of us could do it without a budget of gazillions of dollars and an Annie Leibovitz photo session.
Of course, Syria ‘should’ do this and Iran ‘should’ do that and, if they were Sandra Day O?Connor, I?m sure they would. But they?re not. And the only specific strategic proposal is a linkage between Iraq and a ‘renewed and sustained commitment’ to a ‘comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace’ ? which concedes the same ludicrous rationale that the Saudi King Abdullah and all the rest of them make: that one tiny ten-mile sliver of Jews is the reason why millions of Muslims from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Emirates are mired in dictatorships, failed economies and jihadist fever. For the Baker group to endorse this clapped out pan-Arabism is disgusting. An ‘Arab-Israeli peace’? What does that mean? What exactly is Israel doing to Iraq, or Tunisia, or Qatar, or any other Arabs except those in the ‘Palestinian territories’? To frame it in those terms is to adopt the pathologies of the enemy. Shame on Baker, Hamilton and all the rest."