Today, Israel is said to be a key ally in the war on terror and in our efforts to combat rogue states like Syria and Iran. But there are several big problems with this line of argument.
First, it has the causal logic backwards. We don't back Israel because we have a common threat from terrorism; rather, we have a common threat from terrorism because we have been so closely tied to Israel. That's not -- again, let me be very clear here: That's not the only reason. I am not saying that our unconditional support for Israel is the only source of anti-American terrorism, but it is a very important one. This was clearly stated in the 9/11 commission report.
Walt's denial notwithstanding, that is exactly what he says when he says that the causal logic os backwards - if America's support of Israel wasn't the major cause of terror in his twisted world, he couldn't say that the causal logic was backwards.
Beyond that, the 9/11 Commission report is online, so it is easy to see exactly how "clearly" they state this. Here is the Report's listing of the reasons why Bin Laden hates the US:
As we mentioned in chapter 2, Usama Bin Ladin and other Islamist terrorist leaders draw on a long tradition of extreme intolerance within one stream of Islam (a minority tradition), from at least Ibn Taimiyyah, through the founders of Wahhabism, through the Muslim Brotherhood, to Sayyid Qutb. That stream is motivated by religion and does not distinguish politics from religion, thus distorting both. It is further fed by grievances stressed by Bin Ladin and widely felt throughout the Muslim world—against the U.S. military presence in the Middle East, policies perceived as anti-Arab and anti-Muslim, and support of Israel. Bin Ladin and Islamist terrorists mean exactly what they say: to them America is the font of all evil, the “head of the snake,” and it must be converted or destroyed.What is clear from here is that Bin Laden's blaming US support for Israel was tertiary at best.
It is not a position with which Americans can bargain or negotiate.With it there is no common ground—not even respect for life—on which to begin a dialogue. It can only be destroyed or utterly isolated.
Here's what the report says about Saudi resentment of the US:
Saudis are angry too. Many educated Saudis who were sympathetic toAgain, the US/Israeli seems to be far from the major or even a major factor in Saudi resentment for the US, contrary to Walt's pronouncement.
America now perceive the United States as an unfriendly state. One Saudi
reformer noted to us that the demonization of Saudi Arabia in the U.S. media
gives ammunition to radicals, who accuse reformers of being U.S. lackeys.Tens
of thousands of Saudis who once regularly traveled to (and often had homes
in) the United States now go elsewhere.17
Among Saudis, the United States is seen as aligned with Israel in its conflict
with the Palestinians,with whom Saudis ardently sympathize.Although Saudi
Arabia’s cooperation against terrorism improved to some extent after the September
11 attacks, significant problems remained. Many in the Kingdom initially
reacted with disbelief and denial. In the following months, as the truth
became clear, some leading Saudis quietly acknowledged the problem but still
did not see their own regime as threatened, and thus often did not respond
promptly to U.S. requests for help. Though Saddam Hussein was widely
detested, many Saudis are sympathetic to the anti-U.S. insurgents in Iraq,
although majorities also condemn jihadist attacks in the Kingdom.18
Finally, buried on page 376 of the Report we see this:
American foreign policy is part of the message. America’s policy choices have consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world.That does not mean U.S. choices have been wrong. It means those choices must be integrated with America’s message of opportunity to the Arab and Muslim world. Neither Israel nor the new Iraq will be safer if worldwide Islamist terrorism grows stronger.In the context of the Report, this is almost a footnote. Nowhere does the report imply that this is a "very important source" of anti-American terrorism. Even for what it does say, Walt is misinterpreting it - the report is not saying that it is American policy towards Israel that is the problem, but the fact that Arab opinion is fixated on that policy and not on the many times the US helps out the Muslim world. This section is talking about the US getting a message of freedom and hope to the entire Muslim world and how that message gets lost in the Muslim world's Jew-hating media glare.
For Walt to blame US policy on Israel for terror is equivalent to blaming a Danish newspaper for deadly Muslim cartoon riots. It is a typical liberal viewpoint where the perceived "victims" have no responsibilities whatsoever, and where any excuse they use for their terroristic behavior is taken at face value.
And for Walt to use the 9/11 Commission Report as evidence of his bizarre thesis shows that his own academic methods leave much to be desired. The best you can say is that he is taking words out of context in the report; more likely he is purposefully cherry-picking what he wants to see in a single line out of a 500 page report and ignoring the rest that actually does address the exact same issue in a far more accurate and academically responsible manner.