On Monday, Vice-President Mike Pence addressed the Knesset, where he spoke enthusiastically about the U.S.-Israel relationship and the two countries’ shared biblical heritage. Yoram Hazony contrasts the mutual expressions of friendship between the American vice-president and Israeli politicians with the bitter recent speech by Mahmoud Abbas to the assembled leaders of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), where the PA president expounded various anti-Semitic and anti-Western conspiracy theories and cursed the American president:
I have been following the speeches of the PLO and its supporters in the Arab world for 30 years. Nothing [in Abbas’s speech] is new. These are the same things that Yasir Arafat, Abbas, and the mainline PLO leadership have always believed. It is a worldview that reflects an abiding hatred for the West, blaming Christians and Jews not only for the founding of Israel but for every calamity that has befallen the Muslim and Arab world for centuries. . . .
[In contrast to] the curses that Abbas called down on President Trump’s house, the Israelis responded [to Vice-President Pence’s speech] by blessing him: Netanyahu told Pence it is “our deepest hope that President Trump and you will succeed in strengthening the United States, . . . so that America will continue to be the greatest power in the world for generations to come.” And [Speaker of the Knesset Yuli] Edelstein said that from Israel he would only hear the blessing b’neh beitkha (“may your house be built up”).
For long decades, Washington has crafted policies based on the tacit assumption that America needs the PLO if it is to bring peace to the Middle East. In its effort to “balance” the demands of this extremist organization against Israel’s concerns, American policy inflated the PLO’s importance, and learned to tolerate and even embrace an organization whose views have always been profoundly anti-Western, not to mention anti-Semitic. Meanwhile, the biblical roots of America’s alliance with Israel have been consistently downplayed for fear that mentioning them would upset Arab sensibilities. Even so elementary a move as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, or cutting funding to chronically anti-Western and anti-Semitic organizations, became unthinkable.
These policies did not bring peace to the Middle East. But they did sever the ties between American diplomacy in the region and common sense—to the point that more than a few U.S. officials ended up believing that not only the PLO, but even Iran, whose parliament regularly curses the United States, could be made a peace partner if it were paid handsomely enough. The Trump administration, [by contrast], appears to have good grasp of a principle that is underrated but nonetheless quite useful in making sound policy: in the relations between nations, it matters who blesses you and who curses you.