On a visit to Israel this week, Dr. Harold Rhode, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at New York's Gatestone Institute discussed several of the burning issues in the Middle East today. Dr. Rhode is well qualified to comment on these matters; a former Advisor on Islamic Affairs in the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense, Rhode traces his career in advising the government on Islamic matters to 1982, and he has studied in and traveled extensively throughout the Islamic world and has studied and done research in universities and libraries in Egypt, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.
Based on his observations, Rhode said that the Middle East was in trouble – and much of that trouble was due to the behavior of the current administration in Washington. That trouble extended to almost all aspects of the U.S. relationship with the Middle East – and with Israel.
Iran was a good example of that trouble, said Rhode. The Iran deal, he said, “gets worse each day and it's bad for the world. America is giving in and getting nothing. America appears weak, and when that happens, the world suffers. America should be the policeman of the world. If it is not willng to do that job,” then the region – and the world – will suffer.
The U.S. is also failing to fight ISIS, said Rhode. “Isis is a very big threat than can only be taken care of with boots on the ground,” not with the air strikes that the U.S. has been conducting. “It must be eliminated, and it is attracting more and more people from around the Middle East. ISIS touches something deep in the Muslim mind, living in one state ruled by a caliph, and under Muslim law, even if they don't know what that means.”
Most of all, said Rhode, the administration was failing in its relationship with Israel. President Barack H. Obama has proven himself as someone Israelis cannot rely on, so Israel now must take care of itself. “What the government is doing with Iran is dangerous foe everyone. Israel is a people that dwells alone, and Israel must take care of itself,” he said.
If the Obama administration shuns Israel, the opposite is the case in Congress – and among the American people. “The Congress and Senate are very strongly pro-Israel, and if the Obama administration is not this is an aberration,” said Rhode. In addition, “The American people are very pro-Israeli. Americans admiration for Israel is strong and getting more so. The American people understand that governments like Iran – not the people – want to destroy Israel with their missiles, and they realize Iran can destroy America too.
“In a sense,” he added, “Obama is like a gift to Israel – the big brother you realize can't take care of you when you are a teenager, so you have to take care of yourself.” Israel is that teenager, said Rhode – and it was time for it to grow up and take care of itself.