When Barry Goldwater told the 1964 Republican convention that extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, a scandalized journalist reportedly exclaimed, "He's going to run as Goldwater!" Today comparable exclamations resound concerning Israel's new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Some news reports of his government's guidelines make much of the fact that they closely resemble his campaign promises. Well did you ever!
President Clinton, speaking from his bunker on barricaded Pennsylvania Avenue, says he hopes Israel will continue to take "risks for peace." In the 48 years since Israel was founded on one-sixth of one percent of the 7.5 million square miles of land that is too casualiy called "the Arab world," Israel has not known an hour of true peace. It has suffered four war s (1948, 1956, 1967, 1973). Five if fyou count the 1969-70 "war of attrition." Six if you count the continuing conflict with various terrorist organizations supported by hostile nations. In three weeks of war in October 1973, Israel's casualties, as a percentage of its population, were three times larger than U.S. casualties in eight years of war in Vietnam. For Israelis, boarding a bus is risky. How grating they must find the exhortations to risk-taking that issue from a powerful nation surrounded by two friendly neighbors and two broad oceans.
Jews were 10 percent of the population of the Roman Empire, and if today they were the proportion of the world's population that they were then, they would number 200 million. They number 13 million. The world was an especially dangerous place for Jews before they had a national home. And that home was very vulnerable in its pre-l967 borders, when it was 12 miles wide at the waist. Netanyahu's guidelines say the Golan Heights, from which tanks poured in 1973, wiIl not be returned to the aggressor Syria. And there will be no Palestinlan state or other foreign sovereignty west of the Jordan River. And Israel has a "right" to act against terrorism "everywhere," and "will act" to remove the threat in Israel's north. Much as the U.S. government acted against threats out of Mexico in 1916.
The guidelines say Jerusalem shall forever be Israel's undivided capital under Israel's sovereignty. Ask average Americans to name the capitals of Delaware, Vermont and Israel. More will know Jerusalem than Dover or Montpelier. Yet the U.S. government for decades said that locating the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem would "prejudge" the city's status. Indeed. That is a good reason for locating the embassy not just in Jerusalem, as Congress has committed a reluctant Clinton to do by May 1997, but in East Jerusalem, the portion Jordan lost by its 1967 aggression, and which Arafat plans to make the capital of a Palestinian state. (By the way, Jordan was an illegal occupier of the area when Israel ousted it, since that area was not ever a part of Jordan when it was created in the earlier part of the century.)
Netanyahu's guidelines say Israeli settlements in the West Bank and alsewhere are important for defense and "Zionist fullfilment." In 1990 Strobe Talbert, who now holds the state Department's second highest position, compared Israel's West Bank settlement policy to Saddam Hussein's claim to Kuwait because Kuwait and Iraq had been part of the same province under the Ottoman Empire. Actually, the settlements are legal because the West Bank, which Jordan seized militarily in 1948-49, is an unallocated portion of the Palestine Mandate of 1922 ((to which Israel has the best claim as the only sovereign entity with a legitimate claim). It has been nearly half a century since Israel became the first salient of democratic values in an inhospitable region, and the world still waits for an Arab nation to become the first democracy in the history of Arab civilization. On the eve of the 1967 war, a young Israeli soldier wrote in his diary of an Englishman, an American and an Israeli caught by cannibals, put in a pot and offered a last wish:
"The Englishman asked for a whiskey and a pipe, and got them. The American asked for a steak and got it. The Israeli asked the chief of the tribe to give him a good kick in the backside. At first the chief refused, but after much argument he did it. At once the Israeli pulled out a gun and shot all the carnibals. The American and the Englishman asked him: `If you had a gun all the time, why didn't you kill them sooner?' `Are you crazy,' answered the Israeli, `and have the U.N. call me an aggressor?'"
So wrote the man who on a memorable date - July 4, 1976 -- led, and was the only Israeli killed in the raid that rescued the hostages at Entebbe. Jonathan Netanyahu. Benjamin's brother.
George F. Will is a well-known and respected Washington columnist and political analyst.