October 17th, 2013
By David Isaac
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu after a bilateral meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office. Sept. 30, 2013
Recently, the Jerusalem-based online newspaper, “The Times of Israel,” ran an interview under the headline, “When they become PM, they realize how utterly dependent Israel is on the US.”
The headline was a quote from the interview subject, Eitan Haber, a former aide to late-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Haber was explaining why, in his view, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who criticized Rabin outside of power, follows a different path now that he’s in power. When you sit in the prime minister’s chair, only then do you understand, Haber said, that Israel depends on America “for absolutely everything — in the realms of diplomacy, security, even economically … Slowly your tone changes.”
Shmuel Katz would have rolled his eyes at Haber’s remarks, though he wouldn’t have been surprised at the source – a man who, in the same interview, makes the mind-boggling assertion that Israel has benefited immensely from the Oslo Accords.
Shmuel wrote often about the U.S.-Israel relationship, poking holes at the false characterization of the relationship by those who thought like Haber. As Shmuel wrote in a 1988 pamphlet published by Americans for A Safe Israel:
What truth is there in the claim that Israel is completely dependent on the United States? It is, even on its face, absurd. If Israel is, as it is often described, an ally or even “our most [or only] dependable ally,” this means ineluctably that between the United States and Israel there subsists a condition of interdependence manifest no less — and in some senses more — than in the relationship between the United States and Western Europe.
A state of mutual interdependence is how Shmuel liked to describe the relationship. Shmuel writes in the same article:
A substantial body of information published in recent years, in professional and political journals, through investigative reporting and in congressional hearings in both houses, bears testimony to the weight and the variety of the Israeli contribution to Western security.
Shmuel was referring then to the work of Professor Steven Spiegel of the University of California who analyzed U.S.-Israel relations in the 1980s and concluded that
Israel gave more than full value for any money received from America.
Judging from a speech by Israeli Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger on February 17, 2013, Israel’s contribution to the relationship may have actually grown. Ettinger reports the intelligence committees of both the House and Senate tell him that the scope of Israeli intelligence “on a daily basis exceeds the scope of intelligence reports received from all NATO countries combined.”
In the 1980s, Israel was still an economic basket case. Today, it’s a technological powerhouse. Even the Obama administration admits Israel’s contribution. In July, 2010, Andrew J. Shapiro, Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, said in a speech at the Brookings Saban Center for Middle East Policy, that, “Israeli-origin equipment deployed on Iraqi and Afghan battlefields are protecting American troops every day.” He listed armor-plating technology, medical innovations, and detection devices to seek out IED’s, among others.
Although false, the perception that Israel is “a poor relation entirely dependent on American charity,” has had a pernicious effect. As Shmuel writes:
What is no less serious is the spirit of dependence that prevails in a large part of the Israeli public. Even among those regarded as Israel’s “hard-nosed” or “hawkish” citizens there exists a sense of “what can we do? We know that it is wrong to agree to some demands of the United States, but we are, after all, dependent on them.”
Not surprisingly, acting as a dependent hasn’t helped Israel. Just as in personal relations, so in international relations, acting like a dish rag only gets you treated more like a dish rag. In “The Prime Minister Is Heading for a Trap” (The Jerusalem Post, March 10, 1978), Shmuel writes:
Israel’s status in Washington has deteriorated considerably ever since her leaders manifested the policy of subservience (or “co-ordination”) to American official “ideas”, and the extent of their readiness to bend their declared political principles.
Look how much Netanyahu has “achieved” by supinely following America’s lead over the years. He froze construction in Judea and Samaria in 2009. He refrained from entering Gaza in 2012. He apologized to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan in 2013.
In Netanyahu’s mind, he was keeping his eyes on a larger prize – gaining America’s support against Iran’s nuclear program. Netanyahu could have spared his backbone all that bending. The U.S. administration has completely undercut his efforts with its latest diplomatic moves. No chance of a military option now. Netanyahu literally looked sick after exiting his meeting with President Obama in September.
It is painful to watch Israel kowtow to America. It is doubly painful considering how many countries flout America’s will without repercussion. Indeed, America’s treatment of countries seems to be inversely proportional to how badly they act toward it. As historian Bernard Lewis observed, “America is harmless as an enemy but treacherous as a friend.”
It’s past time Israel shook itself free of its psychological chains and followed, in Shmuel’s words, “the policy of the straight back and common sense.” If Israel continues to act as if it is not an independent state, that terrible prospect may become reality.
August 28th, 2013
By David Isaac
Secretary of State John Kerry following America's playbook.
With U.S.-brokered, Arab-Israeli talks in process, it’s helpful to become familiar with U.S. tactics, which follow a continuity little changed. This isn’t surprising given the American objective is to force Israel to make concessions which it shouldn’t, but always does. The State Department knows better than to mess with success.
The first tactic is unrelenting pressure. This was most recently demonstrated by Secretary of State John Kerry’s mad-dashing shuttle diplomacy to the Middle East until he wore down both Israelis and Arabs, neither of whom wanted to go to the negotiating table.
Recently, pundits on Mabat, the main news show of Israel’s Channel One, stumbled on American tactic No. 2: Negotiations proceed one issue at a time. To Channel One’s pundits, this is a good thing, demonstrating the age-old wisdom of not biting off more than you can chew. To Shmuel Katz, who was genuinely wise, this is America practicing salami tactics, whereby Israel is forced to swallow one concession at a time until it is in turn swallowed by its enemies.
In his Jerusalem Post op-ed, “No End to the Salami Tactics” (October 20, 1978), Shmuel offers a glimpse of America’s ‘honest brokering’ in action courtesy of then-Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Harold Saunders.
Saunders has treated us to a revealing lesson on Washington’s methods in the [Camp David] negotiations (so self-evident, yet so obscured from the gaze of the Israeli negotiators).
“The art in this process,” he said “is to put the issues in sequence, so that one decision leads to another … An example of how this works is found in the decision by the Israeli Government to remove the settlers from Sinai. A few weeks ago that decision by the Israeli Government would not have been possible. But when the issue became the last remaining issue between Israel and the peace agreement with Egypt, then the Israeli people made the judgment that that issue should be resolved. I think it’s possible in dealing with the many complicated issues that concern the Palestinians to see a similar sequence of issues that could be resolved…”
When the first step in the “sequence of events” is the release of terrorist murderers, and the last step is the establishment of an irredentist terror state on its borders, Israel would do well to stay away. The last step is described euphemistically by Kerry as “two states living side by side in peace and security.”
This fictionalizing was on display at the State Department press conference on July 30 announcing the resumption of talks, with Kerry talking about how “Palestinians can finally realize their aspirations for a flourishing state of their own.”
A fictional narrative is required in America’s approach to the conflict, where Palestinian Arabs are remade into something they’re not, that is to say, a peaceful nation merely seeking self-determination. It’s been shown ad nauseam that this is not the case. Anti-Semitism oozes from its every Arab pore. The Palestinian Authority names streets after murderers. It erases Israel from textbooks. And its current leader (described as “moderate” by America) wrote a dissertation denying the Holocaust. Repeating these truths, which the Arabs themselves don’t bother to hide, is tedious. What is interesting is the lengths American leaders will go to ignore it.
In “Reagan – More of the Same,” (The Jerusalem Post, Feb. 6, 1981), Shmuel described then-Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s reaction when an unpleasant truth was thrust in front of his nose.
The Paris L’Express recently published an interview with [Haig]. He was there confronted with a statement by Saudi Prince Fahd that “only a holy war can resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict. Peace with Israel is only a myth.” To this Mr. Haig replied: “I am confident that Saudi Arabia will continue, as in the past, to play a constructive role.” Period.
Like much of what Shmuel wrote, the following from his op-ed “Salami Tactics” (The Jerusalem Post, November 1, 1991) could be written today:
The extreme danger into which Israel has maneuvered itself should now surely be obvious to the architects of its policy. … The first is that in Washington we are faced by a malevolent administration with far-reaching plans for redrawing the map of the Middle East — according to Arab prescription — which would reduce Israel to a rump mini-state.
Before deciding on the essential new political and economic strategy, the Israel government must rid itself of, and free the minds of the people from, the fatuous and dangerous notion that the U.S. administration is, or can be, an “honest broker.”
July 19th, 2013
By David Isaac
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
It seems John Kerry’s imitation of Henry Kissinger has borne fruit. His sixth trip to jump start ‘peace talks’ in as many months has triggered the desired response, with Arabs and Israelis agreeing to restart negotiations.
Unfortunately, getting Israel to the negotiating table is just a first step in squeezing Israel back to the 1949 Armistice Lines. Doubly unfortunate is that trying to reduce Israel to those lines is a long State Department tradition.
Which makes it all the more disturbing that Israel’s government cheers on Kerry’s endeavors. On July 14, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas Ramadan greetings, saying “I hope that American Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts have results.” Israel’s soon-to-be-replaced U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren, echoed this, saying Israel strongly supports Kerry’s efforts and, “’If [Abbas] decides to stay in the negotiations, he will find an Israeli government that’s very committed to a solution.”
Shmuel Katz said presidents and secretaries of state come and go, “but the spirit of the makers of policy in the State Department has not changed. With increased subservience to Arab demands it has only become more intense, more urgent.” Kerry demonstrates he has zero intention of breaking from that mold. He wears Arabist designs like an old suit.
Notwithstanding American posturing as an “honest broker,” when it comes to Arab-Israeli negotiations it is two against one – America and the Arabs vs. Israel. Kissinger described diplomacy as the art of restraining power. In this case, it has always meant restraining Israel’s power.
As Shmuel wrote in “Missing Mandate” (The Jerusalem Post, July 19, 1985):
The U.S. government has a view of its own, firmly held and untiringly pursued for years. It accepts implicitly the essential Arab premises and their demands. The origins of its policy are in the traditional hostility to Zionism in the State Department. …
It ignores the history of the Arab aggression against the State of Israel since its birth, and has cooperated in Arab efforts to ensure that they should not be deprived of the fruits of their aggression. The Rogers Plan of 1969, the Reagan Plan of 1982, and all the intervening plans and planlets often accompanied by words of sympathy for Israel and concern for her security, are all expressive of these dominant themes.
Thus, Israel can hardly claim ignorance of America’s stance, as it has held it with bald consistency for decades. Yet, its leaders pretend America’s efforts are for the good, applauding from the sidelines, while denying their own understanding of the situation.
Netanyahu is not the first to act this way. His behavior duplicates that of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin. As Shmuel writes of Begin in “Return to Square One” (The Jerusalem Post, April 16, 1982):
He shut his mind to the knowledge — which he himself had so often disseminated —that surrender of territory, far from advancing peace, and weakening, as it must, the power of Israeli resistance, would only strengthen Arab belief and confidence that Israel could be overrun.
And so Israel eggs the U.S. on as John Kerry, its latest personification of U.S. policy, starts still another attempt at forcing an Israeli retreat. It is an amazing scene, like watching a home team crowd rooting for the opposing side. What Shmuel wrote in 1978 (“The Vance Team Prepares the Landmines”) could have been written today:
Are the members of the Israeli Government the only players in the drama now unfolding who are unaware of these realities? Are they really blind to the central purpose of the Americans? Have they not learned enough from the methods of the Americans in order to realize that when their representatives appear as mediators, they direct all their advice and all their coaxing towards the central purpose of their own, which is lethal for Israel but which they regard as their national interest — and that is why they devote so much time and energy in its pursuit?
June 21st, 2013
By David Isaac
Since former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger served at the highest levels of government in the 1970s, he has portrayed himself as one with the Jewish community, accepting awards from the Anti-Defamation League and bestowing awards on behalf of Jewish organizations like the United Jewish Appeal.
However, what has been coming out over the years in dribs and drabs paints a different picture, one of a man who, and this is putting it charitably, has a conflicted attitude about Israel and his fellow Jews.
Two years ago, declassified White House transcripts revealed former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger blaming Israel for exacerbating problems in the Middle East. His remarks no doubt shook those American Jews who admired Kissinger as a ‘native son’ who made good, rising to startling prominence in America’s halls of power.
Now, a new book, “Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight Against Zionism as Racism” (Oxford University Press, 2013) tarnishes
Kissinger’s star even further. What it shows about Kissinger is of a piece with the White House transcripts released two years ago. The author, Gil Troy, a professor of history at McGill University, does a superb job describing the 1975 conflict that swirled around the UN’s infamous Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism.
Troy relates the dramatic story of how Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, battled the resolution’s adoption. What emerges is an unflattering portrait of Kissinger, Moynihan’s boss, who is shown in words and deeds to have undermined Moynihan’s efforts.
On April 12, 1975, months before the resolution was even proposed, Kissinger invited newly minted UN Ambassador Moynihan to his office and warned: “One major problem you will have is on Israel. We must dissociate ourselves a bit from Israel – not to destroy them but to prevent them from becoming a Sparta, with only military solutions to every problem.”
At the heart of the conflict between Moynihan and Kissinger, Troy explains, was a decades-old clash around American foreign policy between idealists and realists. Kissinger, a practitioner of realpolitik, saw morality and idealism as an unsuitable basis for foreign policy, whereas Moynihan believed in championing America’s values abroad. He viewed Resolution 3379 as an attack not just on Israel but on liberal democracy everywhere.
The difference in their worldviews, however, does not fully explain the hostility Kissinger manifested towards Israel. As Moynihan revved up his fight against Resolution 3379, Kissinger groused, “We are conducting foreign policy. This is not a synagogue.” Troy writes: “Kissinger and his aides mocked Moynihan’s Israel obsession. They wondered if he planned on converting.” “I will not put up with any more of Moynihan. I will not do it,” Kissinger said later. “He is going wild about the Israeli issues.”
Moynihan dealt with all kinds of pressure, Troy writes, but the pressure from Kissinger was the most difficult to bear. Hours before the resolution passed, Moynihan received instructions from Kissinger to “tone it down.” As Moynihan made his way to the General Assembly plenary, Kissinger demanded that Moynihan clear his statement with the State Department before making it to the UN. “You get him out and tell him I will not stand for that any more. Tell him these are direct instructions from me,” Kissinger said.
Moynihan defied Kissinger’s instructions to not criticize the UN directly. Moynihan warned of “the harm this act will have done the United Nations,” and said the United Nations was giving “symbolic amnesty – and more – to the murderers of the 6 million European Jews.” This remark “infuriated Kissinger,” Troy writes. Moynihan ended his speech with the line with which he began it: “The United States of America declares that it does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act.”
That the United States did not acquiesce was owed mainly to Moynihan, a Roman Catholic, and not to Kissinger, the German-born Jew.
The truth of the matter is, as important as this UN vote was, and Troy does a first-rate job explaining its repercussions, Kissinger’s actions during the ‘Zionism is Racism’ fight was merely a drop in the bucket compared to the damage he inflicted on Israel during the Yom Kippur War.
Shmuel Katz skewered Kissinger for his role in turning Israel’s military victory into bitter strategic defeat. In his 1974 pamphlet, “The Crisis of Israel and the West,” Katz writes:
When Israel had recovered from her initial, nearly disastrous setback, the resourcefulness, and courage and qualitative superiority of her soldiers so succeeded that – in view of all the responsible military analysts – she was on the brink of achieving the greatest victory in her history. …
But in two further decisive steps the U.S. Secretary of State dictated the conversion of Israel’s advantageous position into a posture of defeat. He insisted on the unconditional lifting of the siege of the Third Army. Brief Israeli resistance (by the Minister of Defense in a telephone conversation) was brusquely rejected. … By February 1974 Israel had by diplomatic negotiation lost the Yom Kippur War, and the aggressor had been awarded the beginnings of a retrospective victory in the Six Day War.
Katz had a remarkable personal encounter with Kissinger, who believed a totally unfounded rumor that Katz had taken out a contract on his life. Zionist writer William Mehlman relates:
“Shmuel, informed of what had transpired and anxious to put the rumor to rest, arranged a face-to-face meeting with Kissinger at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. ‘From the moment I entered his suite until I left three minutes later,’ Katz related to a small circle of friends in Tel Aviv, ‘he did not stop shouting at me. He never gave me a chance to refute the rumor. In fact I never got a chance to say a word. Finally, I just turned around and walked out.’”
It was absurd for Kissinger to fear Katz. While Shmuel may have been a member of the Irgun High Command, he was no hit-man. Kissinger is now 90. He has nothing more to fear in this world. We can only speculate what waits for him in the next.
May 12th, 2013
By David Isaac
Israel recently celebrated the 65th anniversary of its independence. Shmuel Katz likely would have had much to say about the state of that independence. Shmuel in particular was alert to anything that detracted from Israel’s ability to act in its own best interest. He was also quick to praise anything that contributed to Israel’s political independence.
Shmuel would have denounced recent comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he stated the need for a Palestinian Arab State is the only way to “prevent the eventuality of a binational state.” Here, Netanyahu is accepting one of the premier arguments of Israel’s left – that if the Arabs living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza do not get their own state, Israel will have no choice but to incorporate them as citizens into a Jewish one, and the Jews would then be overrun demographically.
Shmuel rebutted the argument that the Arab birthrate was cause for concern in the 1971 pamphlet, “Will Appeasement Lead to Peace”, which he co-wrote with former Mapai Knesset Member Eliezer Livneh:
Already in the three years after 1967 the Jewish birthrate in Israel rose by 20 percent and it is still rising, thus narrowing the gap. Moreover, it is likely that Arab emigration — a striking feature of the nineteen years of Jordanian rule — will continue. At the same time there has been a sharp rise in Jewish immigration, the numbers are rising from year to year, and there are more candidates for immigration than Israel is at present capable of coping with — a condition, however, which is improving.
The net result of the operation of these factors since 1967 is that the numerical preponderance of the Jewish population has increased. In 1967 the ratio of Jews to non-Jews (Arabs, Druzes, and others) throughout the territory held by Israel was 63.2 per cent to 36.8 per cent. Today [early 1971] the ratio is 66 percent to 34 percent. There is no doubt that the Jewish people has the necessary resources, spiritual and material, to meet the challenge of the Arab natural increase.
Shmuel’s predictions over 40 years ago are borne out today. As former Israeli Ambassador Yoram Ettinger, perhaps the leading voice against the demographic doomsayers, writes recently, “In 2013, in sharp contrast with projections issued by the demographic establishment, there is a 66 percent Jewish majority (6.3 million Jews) in the combined area of Judea, Samaria (1.66 million Arabs) and pre-1967 Israel (1.65 million Arabs), compared with a 40 percent Jewish minority in 1948 and a 9 percent Jewish minority in 1900. “
Population statistics are not the only thing Shmuel would have applauded. He would have praised the opening of the Tamar deep-sea gas field, which began pumping at the end of March. It is a momentous event in Israel’s history. Shmuel no doubt would have used the opportunity to warn Israel not to fritter away its energy resources as it has in the past — notably the Abu Rodeis fields in Sinai and the Alma oilfield in the Suez Gulf, both of which Israel conceded to Egypt.
Shmuel wrote in “Irresponsible Attitude on Oil” (The Jerusalem Post, Dec. 8, 1978):
What government in the world, even the government of a country which was not surrounded by a coalition of countries threatening her destruction, would agree to relinquish these vital assets, existent and potential?
Indeed, the crisis in Iran throws into bold relief the almost incredible amateurishness, the lighthearted abandon, with which Israeli governments have handled the problem of the country’s supply of oil, today the indispensable commodity for the progress and the security of the peoples of the world.
With the Tamar field, Israel has been given another chance. Oil industry observers predict a $76 billion lifetime production from the field. It’s not the great wealth that would have delighted Shmuel but the energy and financial independence that comes with it.
Israel’s dependence on foreign aid, he wrote, “is the heart of the problem, humiliating in its economic implications, debilitating in its social impact, and dangerous in its political consequences.”
Shmuel wrote in “Purse-String Tangles” (The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 12, 1982):
Yigal Hurvitz, alone among Israel’s finance ministers to show the perception and the courage to insist in his day on a belt-tightening policy — now did not mince words.
“In the very month,” he declared, “when we say No to the Americans on the Reagan Plan — and I am for saying No to the Reagan Plan — we go and ask for $3.1 billion. This very month, this very government.”
Shmuel’s point, in short, was that an Israel that takes $3 billion from the U.S. has a more difficult time saying no to American pressure than one that does not.
So Shmuel would likely have issued a warning with Israel’s newfound energy independence; that the wealth should not be used as a spigot by a spendthrift government, but to purchase the kind of capital that mattered most to Shmuel – political capital.
Thus, the one achievement of Israel praised by one and all – that of its becoming an economic powerhouse – would have been greeted with ambivalence by Shmuel. Indeed, wealth as such did not interest Shmuel. He lived a Spartan lifestyle and would have been uncomfortable with Israel’s increasingly consumerist society. He often talked of the need for “belt-tightening” in a country that was basically at war, though many Israelis prefer to remain willfully blind to that fact.
It was not just the debilitating effect a spend-happy government, and the subsequent dependence on American largesse, had on Israel’s leaders, sapping their will to resist U.S. pressure and maneuver politically.
It was chiefly the effect of consumerism on the Israeli mindset, on the psychology of people who became accustomed to the ‘good life’ – a ‘Western’ lifestyle.
Israel’s situation, to Shmuel’s thinking, required a tougher breed, a touch of Sparta.
March 8th, 2013
By David Isaac
Shmuel Katz wrote often on the failures of Israel's public diplomacy.
On Feb. 28, at a meeting of something called the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Zionism “a crime against humanity.” Another day, another vicious slur on Israel, in this case from the leader of a country that only yesterday had been its strategic ally in the region. All that was unusual was that this one actually drew a comment from Secretary of State John Kerry — “objectionable” — after it was exposed by the private monitoring group U.N. Watch, awkwardly for Kerry at the very time he was visiting Turkey. The episode underscores the worldwide no-holds-barred attack on Israel’s legitimacy and how little push-back this meets from Israel herself.
A number of articles have appeared recently lamenting Israel’s public relations failures. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes in The Jerusalem Post on Jan. 7, “What good is having Apache helicopter gunships, or Merkava tanks, to defend your citizens against attack if you can’t even use them because the world thinks you’re always the aggressor?” On Jan. 11, in the same paper, Barry Shaw, author of “Israel – Reclaiming the Narrative,” says, “government-wise, we are barely on the battlefield for hearts and minds, while the Palestinians and their supporters seem to have endless resources and are succeeding to win the world away from us.”
Martin Sherman, executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, also writes in The Jerusalem Post on Feb. 14: “Israel’s greatest strategic challenge, its gravest strategic failure, its grimmest strategic danger is the (mis)conduct of its public diplomacy.”
Such complaints are nothing new. Decades ago, Shmuel Katz, who thought of himself primarily as an “information man,” returned repeatedly to this subject, as readers of this blog well know. He called for a response against the assault on Israel’s legitimacy, what Shmuel described as the “many-faceted campaign of denigration throughout the world, openly aiming at the demonization of Israel as a state and of the Jews as a nation.”
In “A Crying Need” (The Jerusalem Post, August 6, 1982) Shmuel wrote:
How long must the battle for a sane and rational policy on information go on? …
[F]or years Jews and other friends throughout the world, specifically in the U.S. and Europe, have been complaining bitterly that attacks on Israel go unanswered. There simply is no permanent, established machinery adequate for the task and ready to handle the very special problems faced by Israel.
Nothing has changed except the extent to which the campaign of demonization has succeeded. Sherman, in his op-ed, says the criticisms of Israel’s public diplomacy are found only in the English press, “revealing what appears to be an alarming lack of awareness of, and/or interest in, the topic among the Hebrew-reading public.”
There have been valiant civilian efforts made outside of Israel. The media watchdog group CAMERA is a striking example. It was founded in 1982 and under the tireless leadership of its chairman Andrea Levin, has exposed media bias around the world. “Stand with Us” focuses its energies on educating about Israel on college campuses, which have become a frontline in the propaganda war against Israel. Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI offer a window into what Arab media and governments say in their own language.
The Internet has opened up the field to the efforts of individuals. Marcella Rosen, a former ad agency executive, has created the site “Untold News,” which creates short videos on Israel’s positive contributions to science. This writer has made his own efforts at Zionist education with the website Zionism101.org, created at the behest of Herbert Zweibon, the late chairman of Americans for A Safe Israel. The very number of groups and websites advocating for Israel indirectly points an accusatory finger at Israeli governments for failing to do the job themselves.
In Sherman’s view, the job may not be up to the government, but civil society elites. He writes that battling Israel’s delegitimization “requires a far greater, wide-ranging and concerted intellectual effort – much of which the government can only help facilitate but not execute, certainly not on its own.”
While Shmuel would have applauded Sherman’s attention to the issue, he would have felt the government could and should do much more. One reason was that representatives speaking for the Israeli government have more authority than the collection (no matter how admirable) of self-appointed representatives who do battle now.
Shmuel had argued for an entire ministry dedicated to Israel’s public diplomacy fight. He referred to the case of Great Britain in World War II, which created a Ministry of Information, second in size only to the Ministry of War.
Shmuel felt that Israel was at war no less than England in World War II. As he wrote in “Countering Propaganda” (The Jerusalem Post, Sept. 26, 1984):
Israeli governments have evidently not come to grips also with the nature of the war. It is not designed to achieve a change in this or the other policy of the Israeli government. Its aim is to put an end to the Zionist entity, to delegitimize Israel – by the assertion, endlessly repeated, that the Jewish people has no right to Palestine, and the Jewish State has no right to exist at all, that the land is Arab territory usurped by the Zionists with the aid of the imperialists.
And Shmuel felt that to properly counter the Arab propaganda juggernaut, Israel must have a juggernaut of its own, that its public relations efforts must have a focus. Shmuel described how he stopped the outburst of propaganda against Prime Minister Menachem Begin in the U.S. in the immediate aftermath of his election. Begin first asked Shmuel to go, but then Begin was advised to send a whole team. Shmuel said the team could go, but without him. There needed to be a focus. Begin acceded and Shmuel stopped the onslaught within 10 days of his arrival in the U.S.
The need for focus brings up another problem — that leadership of the effort be in the right hands, lest it prove counterproductive. For example, a focus on Israel’s desire for peace and willingness to do just about anything to obtain it — a focus that no doubt some elements in Israel would find appealing — could only lead to even greater denigration of Israel for failing to achieve it.
Nor can an information campaign be conducted divorced from public policy. For example, in his effort to cobble together a governing coalition, Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to put Tzipi Livni, head of the Hatnua party, who made “peace” the focus of her platform, in charge of negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs. Aaron Lerner of IMRA (Independent Media Review and Analysis) points out some of the pitfalls. From day one, Livni will be making every effort to lay the failure of the talks on Netanyahu. One possibility is that Livni makes backdoor, unauthorized concessions to the Palestinian Arabs, putting overwhelming international pressure on Netanyahu to accept them. Or negotiations fail and Livni could have her staff prepare reams of working papers supporting concessions Netanyahu refused to approve that she would leak to the international press. Finally, Netanyahu might fire Livni leading her to launch a dangerous campaign along these lines against him.
No information campaign can counter the enormous damage stemming from the policy decision to put Livni in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians. But this also underscores how consideration of the strategic importance of public diplomacy could protect Israeli leaders from making policy decisions convenient in the short term but harmful both to themselves and Israel in the long-run.
Decades have passed, and despite the continuing outcry to do something, Israel has ignored the public relations front in the Arabs’ war against her. If Israel took seriously her public relations — including the impact of her policy decisions on them — it could have a transformative effect, empowering her existing friends as well as gaining her new allies.
To see Shmuel tell the story of his trip to the U.S. on behalf of Prime Minister Begin, visit: Shmuel Katz Ministry Video
February 7th, 2013
By David Isaac
Ehud Olmert stood up against U.S. pressure. If he can do it, so can others.
Elliott Abrams, a member of the National Security Council during the Bush years, recently came out with a book, “Tested by Zion,” which deals with the Bush administration and the Arab-Israel conflict. His section on the bombing of the Syrian reactor offers a valuable lesson for Israel’s leaders about standing firm, an oft-repeated theme in Shmuel Katz’s writings.
In May, 2007, Abrams relates, then-Mossad chief Meir Dagan came to the White House with intelligence showing that Syria was building a nuclear reactor with North Korean help. Abrams sat in on the meetings in which the White House struggled with what to do. He describes the debate that developed over a military vs. a diplomatic option.
The diplomatic option involved going to the U.N. and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Abrams felt this was “faintly ridiculous” as Israel wouldn’t accept it, having been down that road before. Its main advocates were Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Although their reasons seemed “flimsy,” at least to Abrams, President Bush sided with Rice. “I was astounded and realized I had underestimated Rice’s influence even after all this time. The president had gone with Condi,” Abrams writes.
Abrams was in the room when President Bush told then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the U.S. would announce a campaign involving the U.N. Security Council and the IAEA.
Abrams expected Olmert to play for more time, but Olmert surprised him. “He reacted immediately and forcefully. George, he said, this leaves me surprised and disappointed. And I cannot accept it. We told you from the first day, when Dagan came to Washington, and I’ve told you since then whenever we discussed it, that the reactor had to go away. Israel cannot live with a Syrian nuclear reactor; we will not accept it. It would change the entire region and our national security cannot accept it. You are telling me you will not act; so, we will act.”
The rest is known. Israel destroyed the al-Kibar reactor. Abrams wondered how the president would react. Would Israel’s refusal to toe the line result in more American pressure? Abrams was in the Oval Office for that conversation, too. Rather than anger, Bush listened calmly to Olmert, hung up the phone and said, “That guy has guts.”
Shmuel would have been pleased at this example of Israel successfully resisting U.S. pressure in order to do what was in its national interests.
He was witness to many instances of what happened when Israel did not stand firm: Israel’s position grew worse. As he wrote in “The Prime Minister is Heading for a Trap” (The Jerusalem Post, March 10, 1978):
Israel’s status in Washington has deteriorated considerably ever since her leaders manifested the policy of subservience (or “co-ordination”) to American official “ideas”, and the extent of their readiness to bend their declared political principles — beginning (in September 1977) with the grotesque idea of confining settlements in military camps (in Judea and Samaria). This provided the first signal to Washington that it is possible to achieve retreats by this government from the policy of the straight back and common sense.
Similarly, in “The Vance Team Prepares the Landmines” (The Jerusalem Post, August 18, 1978), Shmuel warned the Israeli government not to go to Camp David, as it had by then become evident that Egypt’s true intentions had nothing to do with peace:
It should be clear to [the members of Israel’s government] that every present retreat from positions held, every concession, will not only add to the difficulties of the inevitable external struggle, but will gradually weaken the spirit of the people, sowing fatalism and skepticism — those most dangerous of internal enemies.
Sadly, Israel’s leaders collapse under pressure more often than not. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin practically made capitulation his policy. In “Rabin’s Risks Won’t Bring Peace” (The Jerusalem Post, April 2, 1993), Shmuel relates how Rabin stumbled onto the ‘secret’ to getting along with the U.S. back in August, 1975.
[Relations] had been at a very low ebb because of his earlier rejection of the demand by Secretary of State Kissinger – who had been primed by Egyptian president Sadat – for territorial concessions in Sinai. So, in August, the Rabin government agreed to give up what in March he had described as territory “vital to Israel’s security” – which included the Gidi and Mitla passes, and also the Abu Rodeis oilfield. (Loss of Abu Rodeis compelled Israel to spend billions a year on oil.) In a twinkling, then, relations improved …
So, coming to power in 1992 with sweet recollections of 1975, Rabin made plain that his most important objective was to coordinate policy with the U.S. He lost no time in taking the first crucial steps toward “freezing the settlements” in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Then he launched his publicity campaign for territorial surrender on the Golan.
If Olmert, widely panned as a mediocre leader, could adopt, however briefly, “the policy of the straight back and common sense,” surely those leaders of whom more is expected, can do much better.
December 19th, 2012
By David Isaac
An artist's rendering of Israel's Iron Dome system.
Israelis watched in awe as their Iron Dome missile-defense system blasted Hamas rockets out of the sky last month. But while Israel rightly takes pride in this achievement, it should be careful of being seduced by technology. Hidden within Iron Dome’s success lies a strategic threat — that the Iron Dome will lull Israel into a false sense of security, leading it to make dangerous concessions.
Think such a threat is overblown? It has already materialized. Israel called up 75,000 reserves for a ground war that never came. Instead Israel accepted a cease-fire brokered by, of all people, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Hamas celebrated as Israel’s reserves were sent home, recasting the cease-fire as a victory. And they were right. While materiel was destroyed and one commander had been killed, their leadership was untouched, their control of the Gaza Strip remained intact, and they had gained their own Iron Dome of sorts in the form of the protective embrace of Morsi. They will re-arm and fight again.
Worth noting is that the cease-fire had also wrung from Israel the promise that it would not engage in any more targeted attacks — the same kind of attacks America’s president brags about doing every Tuesday with his ‘kill lists’.
If it had been the terrorists who had the 86.3 percent kill rate, and not the Iron Dome, Israel would have had no choice but to go into the Gaza Strip. This isn’t to say Israel should forgo an Iron Dome, but it shows how this new technology can do more than protect against missiles. It can be used as a defensive shield for Israeli politicians who seek to avoid ‘escalation’.
Most dangerous is that the Iron Dome plays into U.S. plans for Israel, what Shmuel Katz rightly termed, “the American-Arab objective.” That is, to reduce Israel to the indefensible 1949 Armistice lines. Successive U.S. administrations seeking to coax Israel into territorial retreat have first sought to calm Israeli fears. This usually found expression in talk of ‘guarantees’. Czechoslovakia learned about guarantees first-hand in World War II, which is why the Czech Republic was the only European country to vote against granting the Palestinian authority semi-statehood status in the recent U.N. vote.
In “Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine” (Bantam Books, 1973), Shmuel cites a number of examples of how guarantees proved to be worth less than the paper they were written on. After 1948, for instance, he describes how Israel was coaxed into leaving Egypt in control of Gaza for an “Armistice Agreement that turned out to be worthless.” This happened again in 1956-1957 and in 1967.
The United Nations force in Sinai and Gaza — established as an international “guarantee” for Israel in 1957 — was immediately withdrawn at a word of command from Cairo. The American President could not find in the state archives the record of promises made ten years earlier to insure Israel’s freedom of navigation.
The American President and the British Prime Minister together were unable to get the United Nations Security Council (including the members who had joined in that promise) to consider the Egyptians’ demonstrative flouting of that freedom. Overnight, the gossamer safeguards by which Israel had been deluded were blown away.
The Obama administration sees the Iron Dome as serving the same purpose as a guarantee. As the Wall Street Journal reports (Nov. 26), “Despite initial Pentagon misgivings, President Barack Obama has given $275 million to the project since 2010 with the aim of reducing the rocket threat and eventually bolstering chances of a peace deal by making Israel feel more secure to agree to territorial concessions.”
For Obama then, the Iron Dome is a means to making Israel believe it is safe so it will more readily retreat to a position where it will not be safe. Obama supporters like to point to the president’s declaration of his “unshakeable commitment” to Israel. Even clear-eyed supporters of Israel were impressed by Obama’s comments when Hamas rockets began to fall: “[T]here is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes.”
But while Obama ‘fully supports’ shooting a missile coming out of the sky using the Iron Dome, he does not support an Israeli ground operation into Gaza to root out the terrorists shooting those missiles. Obama defines ‘defend itself’ very narrowly indeed.
Traditionally Israel has been wary of a defensive-minded strategy. Those Israelis who pushed the Iron Dome’s development needed to sidestep red tape and official channels. “As a rule, Israeli politicians and commanders do not like to spend precious budgetary resources on defensive programs; this simply does not fit the Israeli mind-set or strategic culture,” explains an AEI report. “As a small country with no strategic depth, Israel’s doctrine has traditionally rested on the idea that it must go on the offensive, to take fighting into enemy territory as quickly as possible. Tanks and fighter jets are perfect platforms for this doctrine and fit the aggressive, brash Israeli persona.” The AEI report quotes Dan Meridor, Israel Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, “There is a serious strategic change here, years ago, it was not simple to incorporate into Israeli military doctrine the great importance of defense.’”
It may well be that Israel overdid it in ignoring defensive technologies. The risk now is the pendulum will swing too far the other way. Such is the Obama administration’s hope, which is why it was so quick to support the Iron Dome. In the spring, the administration announced its intention to seek an additional $70 million, on top of the $205 million already appropriated for fiscal 2012. It may be confusing to the uninformed how Obama could be pursuing a strategy of weakening Israel at the same time he approves millions for a defense system, but the tactic fits the overall strategy.
If anyone doubts where Obama stands, less than 10 days after the cease-fire, his administration condemned Israel for its decision to build apartments in its own capital. What Shmuel wrote of the Carter administration in his 1978 op-ed “To Talk Turkey to Mr. Mondale,” could be said of the Obama administration today:
There are many reasons and many factors inhibiting any American administration from “abandoning” Israel, and every administration would feel compelled to continue giving aid to Israel. The present administration however, more than any of its predecessors, behaves as though the interest is not mutual — and together with the aid it gives, it is conducting a campaign to weaken Israel as much as possible, and to blacken the name of its government. It thus facilitates the execution of a policy whose implications cannot be described except as most damaging to Israel.
September 19th, 2012
By David Isaac
“There is always an easy solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.”
This quip by American journalist H.L. Mencken contains a profound truth, particularly where the Arab-Israeli conflict is concerned. There has been no end to plans to ‘solve the problem’. Many never get off the ground. Those that do – think Oslo – end in predictably awful results. As Shmuel writes:
A nation cannot fight wars against an enemy aiming at its destruction while its leaders are occupied with fatuous flights of fancy about peace and formulae for negotiations. (“Flight of Fancy,” The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 6, 2005)
The reason the conflict is unsolvable is one side isn’t interested in solving it. To put it another way, one side offers a kind of solution – annihilation of the other side. As Shmuel writes in “False Prophets won’t Face the Facts” (The Jerusalem Post, May 9, 1986):
[W]e all are caught in a problem to which there is no ready solution in sight. The Arabs have not given up their purpose of dismantling the Jewish State and gaining sovereign control over the whole country – whether in two stages or in a one-stage war; and the only rational prospect of their abandoning that purpose is that they have no hope of achieving it.
Those who don’t shy away from obvious and unpleasant facts will scratch their heads in puzzlement at Israel’s repeated efforts to seek peace with an enemy bent on its destruction. Shmuel said that this behavior was the result of Jewish history and its centuries of exile. In “Lessons the Arabs Taught” (The Jerusalem Post, February 1, 1985), Shmuel writes:
[It represents] a mood, indeed a mode of thought, that has coloured Jewish political action ever since the days of deep galut.
Among its main ingredients is wishful thinking, a recoil from harsh reality, a retreat into delusion. …
Since 1947, it has found expression in the illusion that the Arabs are, in fact, interested in peace with an existent Jewish state, and that only the failure to find the formula for its size prevents such peace. Hence the acceptance of the grotesque partition proposal of 1947 and, ever since, the repeated offers of “compromise,” a giving-up here, a giving-in there, a giving back elsewhere.
A small, but telling example of this ‘retreat into delusion’ is apparent in a June interview with Moshe Ya’alon, former Israeli Chief of Staff, and now a minister in Israel’s government. The interviewer, a left-wing journalist, recoils at Ya’alon’s remarks about the hopelessness of seeking a solution.
Ya’alon said, “In the present situation ‘solution’ is a dirty word. … There are problems in life that have no solution. And at the moment the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a problem with no solution. Anyone who suggests a solution now – of one kind or another – is not suggesting a true solution but a false illusion. A golden calf. Self-deception.”
This is too much for the reporter. He says to Ya’alon, “I understand what you are saying, but it is impossible to live with what you are saying. All you are offering me is a wall, an iron wall, a determined stance. There is no hope in your words. No latitude. No movement toward some sort of horizon.”
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice made the Sunday talk show rounds on Sept. 16, insisting that the attacks were a spontaneous reaction to the anti-Islamic video, even as Libya’s president contradicted her, saying the attackers had spent months preparing to strike on the anniversary of 9-11.
Clearly, the amateur video was just an excuse for the Islamists to rile up their base. The real reason for the attacks is rooted in the Islamic belief system, which holds that there is a region of peace (Dar al-Islam) and a region of war (Dar al-Harb), and that Islam must spread throughout the world and that those who do not submit must be forced to submit. These facts are frightening. They don’t lend themselves to an easy solution. A YouTube video is a much more manageable problem.
Unlike America, Israel doesn’t have the luxury to ignore the truth, and frankly less excuse, having repeatedly been attacked by the Arabs. As Shmuel writes, “[W]e should have learned from bitter experience time after time since 1948.” Retreating into delusion no doubt has its pleasures but it’s the willingness to face unpleasant reality that offers Israel real hope to resist its would-be destroyers.
Shmuel’s words in his aptly named 1982 monograph “No Solution to the Arab Problem” ring as true today:
At this time — objectively, and notwithstanding the theoretical acrobatics indulged in by persons of good will and by various professors of political science — no solution looms on the horizon for the “problem,” however it may be defined.
August 1st, 2012
By David Isaac
Mohammed leads Muslims in a massacre.
Nonie Darwish, an Egyptian who grew up in Gaza and later moved to the U.S. where she converted to Christianity, insists that the problem of Jew-hatred in Islam is fundamental to its belief system. “If Jew-hatred is removed, Islam itself would self-destruct,” she writes in a recent article
Darwish traces the problem to Mohammed’s relations to the Jews of Medina. He tried to persuade them to accept him as a prophet after his own tribe in Mecca had ridiculed his pretensions. When they rejected him, in Darwish’s words, “Mohammed simply and literally flipped.” As much as he had professed to love them, he now hated them. He engaged in unspeakable slaughter, she writes, ordering “the beheading of 600 to 900 Jewish men of one tribe and took their women and children as slaves.”
That has left Islam, says Darwish, with a major existential problem. “Islam must justify the genocide that Mohammed waged against the Jews. Mohammed and Muslims had two choices: either the Jews are evil subhumans, apes, pigs, and enemies of Allah, a common description of Jews still heard regularly in Middle Eastern mosques today, or Mohammed was a genocidal warlord and not fit to be a prophet of God, a choice that would mean the end of Islam.”
To understand what this means for peace efforts with the Arabs one need read no further than the title of Shmuel’s 1982 pamphlet: “No Solution to the Arab-Palestinian Problem.” Shmuel understood full well the religious nature of the Arab-Israel conflict. In that pamphlet he wrote:
Of all the statements about Israel made under Islamic religious inspiration, perhaps the most significant is the one uttered by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in a sermon he delivered in Cairo’s Al-Hussein mosque on April 25, 1972 on the occasion of the birthday anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad:
“The Jews were the neighbors of the Prophet in Medina … and he negotiated with them. But in the end they proved that they were men of deceit. The most splendid thing that the Prophet Muhammad did was to drive them out of the whole of the Arabian Peninsula. … They are a nation of liars and traitors, contrivers of plots, a people born for deeds of treachery. … I promise you … the defeat of Israeli arrogance and rampaging so that they shall return and be as the Quran said of them ‘condemned to humiliation and misery’. … We shall send them back to their former status.”
Shmuel continues: “The eradication of the State of Israel means the restoration of Islam to its potency, to its rightful dimensions: in Israel’s end lies the confirmation.”
Shmuel never shied away from the truth. He writes in “The Existential Fact” (The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 23, 1981):
Indeed, one of the most critical tasks of the Jewish people is to ensure that at least its friends should absorb the fact — bleak, uncomfortable but existential — that the Islamic world, if it were prepared to accept Israel’s collective existence at all, would only tolerate it as a subject community under Moslem sovereignty.
Jews are not the only objects and potential victims of this sovereign purpose, as Christian communities have found to their cost; but they are the only ones who have had the temerity to proclaim their national independence on their own territory in the ‘heart of the Arab world,’ and — worse — have successfully resisted the Arab attempts to destroy them.
It is precisely because a hatred born of bedrock religious belief is not amenable to negotiations that Israelis wedded to peace negotiations ignore the religious dimension and frame the debate as a land issue and one of Palestinian Arab national rights. They must do so in order for the conflict to appear “solvable.” To acknowledge its real nature would be to admit defeat from the start.
It’s in the Arabs’ interest, too, to hide the root cause of their hatred. Their tactic is to isolate Israel internationally, and to do that requires recasting the war against Israel. As Shmuel writes:
[T]he pan-Arab nature of the war against Israel must not be emphasized; rather the conflict was to be presented as a clash between Jews depicted as Goliath (even if with the help of “imperialism”) and their adversary, the small, wretched David: the Palestinian people.
The Egyptian weekly Al Mussawar frankly admitted in 1968:
“The expulsion of our brothers from their homes should not cause us any anxiety, especially as they were driven into the Arab countries. … The masses of the Palestinian people are only the advance-guard of the Arab nation … a plan for rousing world opinion in stages, as it would not be able to understand or accept a war by a hundred million Arabs against a small state.”
So here you have both sides hiding the true nature of the conflict. One side does so because it does not want to believe the problem cannot be solved. The other side, because it does not want to reveal to the world its true nature: Medieval, genocidal, and barbaric.
The two together, the homicidal mixed with the self-delusional, is a lethal combination for the Jews.