Everyone seems to think they know what Gen. David Petraeus said about U.S. support for Israel.
Critics of Israel, like Andrew Sullivan, insist that Petraeus shares their opinion that “Israel’s total impunity for its intransigence is becoming a liability for the advance of U.S. interests around the world.”
Staunch defenders of Israel, like the Anti-Defamation League, blasted Petraeus for purportedly suggesting, in ADL’s words, “that if only there was a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the U.S. could successfully complete its mission” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported that Petraeus warned the Pentagon that “America’s relationship with Israel is important, but not as important as the lives of America’s soldiers” — quoting not Petraeus, but a reporter for the Foreign Policy website who whipped up the controversy.
But Gen. Petraeus, commander of our forces in the Middle East, said none of those things. In his 56-page testimony submitted March 16 to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Petraeus did say that the Arab-Israeli conflict “foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception [in the Muslim world] of U.S. favoritism for Israel.” However, that undeniably true statement was only one of 11 issues that he said drive “instability” in the region.
In fact, even before he raised the Arab-Israeli conflict, Petraeus described the “Most Significant Threats” to U.S. interests in the region: “the nexus of militant groups, hostile states, and WMD” acquisition by enemy states or terrorist organizations.
In subsequent interviews, Petraeus has pointed reporters back to his testimony — and then been pilloried by those who suggest he is retreating from remarks he never made.
Petraeus deserves neither cheers from the anti-Israel crowd nor boos from the pro-Israel community. He has earned all of our thanks for correctly prioritizing America’s (and Israel’s) security challenges: militant Islam, support for terrorism, and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.