Archive for November, 2010
Tuesday, November 30th, 2010
By David Isaac
Do you know who your American Jewish leaders are?
In last week’s blog, we discussed the massive Saudi arms deal and Israel’s failure to protest it. AIPAC, (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee), America’s chief pro-Israel lobby, slavishly followed Israel’s lead and it, too, did nothing.
The reason is that both have been, in Shmuel Katz’s words, “cowed by experience.” Most observers regard AIPAC’s no-show as an after-effect of its 1981 battle to keep AWACS radar planes out of the hands of the Saudis. AIPAC acts like a boxer who left too much of himself in the ring during a title fight and hasn’t quite been the same since.
But there’s another reason AIPAC can’t work up the moxie to battle Israel’s enemies. Israel doesn’t do it either. If Israel’s government shrugs off a Saudi arms deal, why should AIPAC second-guess it? It begs the question: What is the appropriate role for a pro-Israel lobby in the Diaspora? Should it set its own course or follow unquestioningly one set by Israel?
Shmuel, who had a very definite opinion on the subject, was guided by the principle that American Jews have every right to pressure the American government on issues important to the Jewish state. At the same time, Shmuel opposed the idea that Diaspora Jewry should try to undermine Israeli policy from abroad.
In a Letter-to-the-Editor to The Jerusalem Post (May 13, 1986), Shmuel wrote:
I have told American Jews – including supporters of my views – that, if they want to interfere in Israeli politics, the only honourable way of doing so is to come and live in Israel and get the vote.
In that same letter, a response to a distortion of his views by Abraham Foxman, (Foxman would, soon after, become head of the Anti-Defamation League – a sorry replacement for the thoroughly admirable Nathan Perlmutter), Shmuel wrote:
Sir, – I am astounded at the gross misrepresentation in the article by Abraham Foxman, “To speak or not to speak” (April 28) of the work I have been doing in the United States for some years. He claims that I have been urging American Jews to press the Israeli government to change its policies. This is almost diametrically opposite to the message I have been conveying.
On my first visit to the U.S. as an independent commentator (in April 1971), I summarized my purpose at a meeting with academics in Boston: “It is not in order to criticize the government of Israel that I come to you, but to demand of you that you effectuate your right as American citizens and say to President Nixon and Secretary of State Rogers: ‘Hold it! For the good of the United States too, lay off, and don’t demand of Israel concessions that will jeopardize her security, because her security is also one of the conditions for the security of the United States.’
Because it became apparent that the pattern of Israel-U.S. relations was largely one of pressure by Washington on the Israeli government to do things against its better judgment, I decided that the most important service I could render would be to persuade Americans – non-Jews as well as Jews – to use their legitimate influence with their government to stop twisting Israel’s arm. This is the appeal I have made in just about every public speech in the U.S. and indeed to every group of American visitors to Israel that I have had the opportunity of addressing.
In fact, Shmuel viewed it as an obligation of American supporters of Israel to take action when America pursued policies dangerous to the Jewish state. In “Surrendering to Pressure” (The Jerusalem Post, April 11, 1986), Shmuel urged action, even if it meant taking a harder line than Israel’s own government.
Weakness of character in the Israeli government increases the responsibility of the American Jewish community to be supportive of Israel. Administration pressures can be countered. There is a tremendous body of support for Israel in the American political world. It stems from the perception that the U.S. and Israel share not only common values, but also common interests.…
Surely the role of the U.S. Jewish leaders is clearly indicated. They should undoubtedly join in the opposition to the deal – but they must go further. They must take direct issue with the administration on the subject of the bullying of Israel. They must assert their refusal to have their intelligence insulted, and to have their hands tied, by the derisory notion that Jerusalem is happy with the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia.
This demands a change in their policy – of pretending once Israel has given in, that “If Israel agrees, who are we to interfere?” If they recognize an obligation to stand up for the security of Israel, they should protest not only against the arms deal but also against Washington’s policy of “twisting Israel’s arm” to acquiesce in measures inimical to its security.
Such a bold move will also add heart to Israel’s political friends; and give direction to an all-too-often bewildered Jewish community.
Strong, confident, courageous, aggressive – it’s a far cry from the approach taken by major American Jewish organizations today. If America’s largest pro-Israel lobby can’t muster more than a worried Web page when $60 billion worth of the most advanced military hardware is proposed for a country whose king says Israel shouldn’t exist and whose Mideast Peace Plan means peace of the dead for Israel, then we have a problem.
It would go a long way towards fixing the problem were American Jewish organizations like AIPAC to adopt Shmuel’s position. While Shmuel’s approach may seem like a balancing act, in fact it offers Israel’s supporters a wide, graceful path on which to take a range of independent actions in defense of the Jewish state without veering off the two cliffs – either becoming mindless automatons in ‘sleep’ mode because they haven’t received a signal from Israel, or subversive foreigners, crossing the red line into pressuring Israel’s duly elected government simply because it has staked out policies with which they don’t agree.
Clearly, an independent approach isn’t without its challenges, not least of which are the political and psychological difficulties of taking a stronger stance than Israel on matters affecting her security. When this writer was a child, Shmuel would frequently visit his parents’ home during his trips to the U.S. He would have a running argument with this writer’s mother, Rael Jean Isaac, urging that more must be done in the U.S.
“I would say that it was tough to be more Catholic than the Pope,” she would respond. “I would contend that until Israel’s government adopted a policy assertive of Jewish rights, it was an uphill battle here to persuade the Jewish community and the political elite, however supportive of Israel they might like to be. Shmuel did not want to hear this, insisting that our efforts in showing that a strong Israel was in U.S. interests were quite independent of what went on in Israel. In the end Shmuel would pound the table, and that would end our chicken and egg discussion—at least until his next visit.”
More Jewish leaders -- recognize any?
In addition to the above problem, there is the issue of who these leaders are. Our so-called representatives are not chosen for any particular devotion to Zionism. Most are selected by a board. The poor quality of Jewish leadership only gets worse in other countries. British journalist Melanie Phillips
recently visited Canada where she “was struck by the beleaguered state of many Canadian Jews.”
“They were battling the usual mad barrage against Israel… But perhaps the most troubling aspect was that they appeared not to possess the verbal ammunition with which to respond,” she writes. Phillips points out that Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a much firmer grasp of the motives of the anti-Israel mob than do most Canadian Jews. Clearly, Canada’s Jewish leadership is doing a less than adequate job.
Mick Davis, self-appointed Jewish leader
And in Britain last week, Mick Davis, an “ideal type” of Diaspora leader in that he is unelected and uninformed, caused a storm of controversy when he said a number of odious things in a speech to an audience at the London Jewish Cultural Center, including that Israel could be heading toward apartheid.
It seems world Jewry overall is saddled with flaccid leadership. To put in its place a Jewish leadership worthy of the name will be a formidable challenge. Shmuel is no longer with us to pound the tables. So we must pound our own, until we find the strength to separate these unelected “representatives” from their chairs.
Uphill battle, indeed. But we must do what we can.
Next week I will set forth what from Shmuel’s perspective would be a strong American-Jewish platform for Israel.
Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
By David Isaac
“Critics Slam Obama Administration for ‘Hiding’ Massive Saudi Arms Deal,” read the headline Friday on ABC News’ Web site
. The article reported that some members of Congress were upset by the administration’s “stealthy effort” to rush through a $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia by notifying Congress just as it was heading home for the November elections, more or less nullifying the 30-day review period Congress had to raise objections.
Unfortunately, Congress’s concerns came too late. It was a done deal as of midnight Friday.
It appears that Obama, for whom sneaking around Congress has become a nervous political habit, can’t resist being underhanded even when it’s not necessary. There was little protest about the deal either from Congress, Israel or America’s pro-Israel lobby – despite the fact that this was the largest arms sale in U.S. history and to a country technically still at war with the Jewish state.
One gets the impression that AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the largest pro-Israel lobbying group, was just going through the motions. It acknowledged on its Web site simply that ‘Yes, the impact of the Saudi arms sale should be examined.’ From Congress came two letters protesting the sale and one resolution attempting to block it. From the Israelis – silence. Informed ahead of time, they acquiesced. They were also assuaged by U.S. officials, who promised that the Saudi F-15s would not be equipped with long-range offensive weaponry.
Those familiar with past Saudi arms deals have heard that one before. In 1978, the Senate approved a Carter administration sale of F-15s to the Saudis on condition that certain offensive components wouldn’t be included. The administration also promised that the Saudis wouldn’t receive AWACs (Airborne Warning and Control System) radar planes. Three years later, the Reagan administration was lobbying on behalf of the Saudis to get the additional F-15 equipment they’d earlier been denied along with the AWACs.
That added capability gave the already purchased F-15s “a dramatic five-fold offensive capacity against Israel,” Shmuel Katz noted at the time. And the AWACs enabled “the Saudis to spy upon every movement in Israel 24 hours a day — and to do so from within their own borders.” (“Closing The Circle”, The Jerusalem Post, April 30, 1981)
According to Mitchell Bard, Executive Director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, the U.S. also placates Israel by downplaying the Saudis’ ability to actually use the weapons. As he writes: “One irony is that administrations tell Israel the Saudis are too incompetent to use the weapons but then they tell Congress the Saudis need the arms to defend themselves vs first the Soviets, then Saddam and now Iran.”
Assuming for a moment that the Saudis are too incompetent (this writer can’t say one way or the other, but counting on your enemy to be clumsy with their weapons systems is no way to ensure national security), the fact is that technology has a way of advancing to the point where even the incompetent become competent. Think of that octogenarian who couldn’t figure out a VCR, but now programs that DVR like nobody’s business. At two buttons they were all thumbs. Get it down to one button and you’ve got a nation of Arabic-speaking Audie Murphys.
As AIPAC notes, “The F-15 fighter jet proposed for sale to Riyadh will be one of the most advanced combat aircraft in service outside the developed world, featuring a revolutionary new advanced radar system and other systems that could largely offset the difference in skill between Saudi and Israeli pilots. [italics added]”
This didn’t stop the administration from pooh-poohing concerns about Israel’s security. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro, during a briefing on the arms sale, was reassuring. “We have conducted an independent assessment of what the impact would be on Israel’s qualitative military edge and our assessment is this would not diminish Israel’s qualitative military edge and therefore we felt comfortable in going forward with the sale.”
Andrew Shapiro may have felt comfortable, but Israel sure didn’t. According to Politico.com, while Israel kept quiet publicly about the sale, “Privately, in August — a top Israeli official told POLITICO — they asked the Obama administration to match the Saudi sale with 20 F-35 jets for the Israeli air force, a move that would maintain the ‘qualitative military advantage’.…”
Assistant Secretary of State Shapiro came off poorly in comparison to another Jewish member of an American administration, in this case Mark Siegel, who served as liaison officer to the American-Jewish community under President Carter. He resigned in protest when that administration pushed through a Saudi arms deal.
The American-Jewish community couldn’t expect Shapiro to share a similarly heroic character. What it could have expected was that AIPAC do its utmost to block the sale. The reason most often cited for AIPAC’s failure to act now, as with previous arms sales, is the bruising it took in 1981 during the AWACs battle, a fight it nearly won.
As Mitchell Bard wrote in his recent book, The Arab Lobby
, “Never again would AIPAC make a serious effort to stop an arms transfer to an Arab ally of the United States.”
In 1986, when yet another Saudi sale was in the offing, Shmuel wrote:
It is surely not possible that our government believes that America’s supplying large quantities of sophisticated arms to Saudi Arabia is a good thing for Israel, or that assurances that these arms would “never be used against Israel” can be taken seriously.
We know, after all, that the leaders of the country are not all deaf and blind – and suffering from amnesia.
The government is not actively opposing Washington’s current plan to add more weapons to the Saudi’s overflowing arsenals.
Nobody has even tried seriously to deny the abject reasoning behind this restraint: the government does not want to upset relations with the U.S. It has been cowed by experience. In 1981, for example, the opposition to the U.S. administration’s plan to supply AWACs spy-planes to the Saudis evoked not only harsh anti-Israeli comments, but some old-fashioned anti-Semitic code-words from within the administration.
The Saudis, it should be remembered, long ago proclaimed that the inordinately large quantities of arms they acquire are to serve all the Arab states for use against the Israeli enemy. (“Surrendering to Pressure”, The Jerusalem Post, April 11, 1986)
Early on, Shmuel observed the growing Saudi arsenal with concern. In 1978, he wrote:
Ever since the Yom Kippur War a variegated pattern of arms purchases has become evident in Saudi Arabia. These include hundreds of planes, fighting and transport, hundreds of tanks, thousands of missiles and bombs of different types, artillery and ships. The Saudis do not buy exclusively from the US. They are buying also from France, Italy and Britain. In the past it was widely assumed that Saudi Arabia is acquiring arms mainly as the financier of her sister Arab States and storing them until required. This no doubt is still true, but the accumulating facts point to a new direction and a new purpose: in case of war Saudi Arabia will open a front of her own against Israel.” (“Mark Siegel Opened A Window”, The Jerusalem Post, March 17, 1978)
Twenty-nine years is plenty of time for Israel and AIPAC to nurse their wounds. While our opponents may have convincing-sounding arguments, they pale in comparison to one simple truth: We arm people who spread radical Islam, finance terror, teach their children to hate Christians and Jews, and stone to death innocent women. We arm barbarians.
A few Congressmen, at the last minute, began to ask hard questions of the administration. They were joined by hundreds of their colleagues. Had Israel and AIPAC supported them, it would, at the very least, have raised public awareness of the dangers involved in arming not a friend, but an enemy.
Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
By David Isaac
“Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.” — Genesis 25:34
One can’t help but think of the Biblical story of Esau and the way he cavalierly dispensed with his birthright after the slew of reports regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent decision to support an extension of the settlement ‘freeze’ for another 90 days “in exchange for a package of incentives from Washington.”
Instead of lentil soup, it’s a “honey trap”, to quote Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, one “that will plunge us into another crisis with the Americans in the future, in three months or maybe even before then.” The honey, in this case, consists of 20 U.S. stealth fighters, $3 billion in military hardware and a promise from the U.S. to veto anti-Israel resolutions brought to the UN Security Council.
By working out this latest deal with the U.S., Netanyahu has undermined whatever credibility he had left, both internally and elsewhere. He has shown his commitments are meaningless. He commits and then un-commits. He sets conditions and then removes those conditions. What sort of leadership is this?
Batman villain Mr. Freeze would like Netanyahu
‘Don’t worry,’ he told his supporters, the 10-month construction freeze is “one-time only.” Then, when Obama floated the idea of a freeze extension to lure Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table, Netanyahu back-pedaled. He hinted he might agree to an extension provided the Palestine Authority recognized Israel as a Jewish state. When the PA said ‘nothing doing’, Netanyahu back-pedaled some more, agreeing instead for the current mess of pottage – jet fighters, military hardware and other goodies. Now, the prime minister has the chutzpah to say this 90-day freeze is ‘one-time only’ – as in a ‘one-time only’ extension of a ‘one-time only’ freeze.
The prime minister should set up a Ministry for Vocabulary with a Cabinet-level secretary on hand to tell him what words and phrases like ‘one-time only’ actually mean.
Shmuel had little respect for Netanyahu, whom he compared not to Esau, but to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. Seven-and-a-half months into Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister, Shmuel had seen enough. In “A Very Pernicious Process” (The Jerusalem Post, January 27, 1997), he wrote:
Neville Chamberlain, Baldwin’s successor as conservative leader, led Britain into the appeasement of Hitler, into Munich, and into World War II. And so Binyamin Netanyahu in 1996 won an election he would surely have lost had he told the people what he was going to do as prime minister.
Netanyahu had by 2000 sunk still lower in Shmuel’s estimation. In a Letter-to-the-Editor, “…And Netanyahu’s Candidacy”, (The Jerusalem Post, December 22, 2000), as Netanyahu considered running for election against then-PM Ehud Barak, Shmuel wrote:
If Netanyahu succeeds in securing a contest with Barak for the premiership, the nation will have the dubious option of choosing between Tweedledee (forced to end his earlier term by his blunders, breach of promises, and his dismissive, not to say insolent behavior toward his colleagues and followers) and Tweedledum (ditto). Netanyahu out of office, however, managed to add to his achievements.
He abandoned his distressed and debt-ridden party after its defeat, leaving it to others to pick up the pieces, while he developed his private business concerns. Now, the moment the signs show that – owing to Barak’s failures – the prospects for the Likud’s return to power are bright, here he is, pushing himself to the front, unceremoniously shouldering aside his party’s leader to announce that he will run for prime minister, and correct all the mistakes of Barak.
It will be shocking to some to learn that Shmuel voted for Ehud Barak in the preceding 1999 election – his personal vote of no-confidence in Netanyahu. We will leave it to the reader’s judgment to decide if that was a good idea – Shmuel no doubt felt it didn’t matter when the choice was between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. (It seems that Shmuel was right as both now have joined forces in the same government.)
The collapse of Netanyahu’s first premiership in 1999 came about when right-wing members of his coalition became disenchanted with his leadership. Netanyahu had been voted in with a mandate to stop the Oslo Accords. As Shmuel writes in “A Very Pernicious Process”:
The majority that voted Netanyahu into power was moved by the deep-seated belief that the “peace process” was a transparent confidence trick, a process which, if consummated, would lead to an Arab-Israeli war, with Israel reduced to a state of utmost vulnerability….
They believed that the conflict with the Arabs was not over border modifications but over possession of the Land of Israel; that surrenders of territory not only weakened Israel strategically but increased the Arabs’ confidence that, this time, they would win the war they were planning….
No less strong was a widely shared sense of the need to overcome the defeatism that had become a hallmark of Israeli government policy; and of the need to stem the grinding down of the moral fiber of a segment of the Jewish population.
To the dismay of these supporters, Netanyahu didn’t call a halt, in Shmuel’s words, to “what some joker named the ‘peace process’”, but rather continued it, signing deals with the PLO like the Wye River Memorandum. The subsequent political fall-out, given that Netanyahu had run on a platform of no further territorial concessions, led to a no-confidence motion and the disintegration of his government.
Will history repeat itself? With this latest deal to extend the freeze, Netanyahu has split his cabinet and sparked calls for his ouster from right-wing leaders. According to Ha’aretz, Netanyahu had expressed fears even back in July that any freeze extension would topple his government.
If his government does fall, Netanyahu will only have himself to blame. Like Esau, he made his choice, and like Esau, he will exit ignominiously from our history.
Monday, November 8th, 2010
By David Isaac
Fine example of a mixed message
Why should we in Israel, in addition to our other troubles, be subjected to an almost daily dose of double-talk? We have nearly got used to it from Mr. Rabin with his “I did say it, but I didn’t mean it the way it sounds,” “leave the Golan” does not mean “get off the Golan,” “peace in six months,” “in nine months,” “not in my lifetime.” He has almost brought to life the famous reply of a cabinet minister to a questioner, “I’ve said ‘maybe,’ and that’s final.” (“A Little Push From Washington”, Shmuel Katz, The Jerusalem Post, March 19, 1993)
Shmuel Katz had little patience for dissembling, double-talk or mixed messages – especially from Israel’s leaders. There can be little doubt how he would have reacted to a recent speech by Benjamin Netanyahu to a gathering of Knesset members on Nov. 3, in which the prime minister proved himself the master of the mixed message.
First, the prime minister praises “the efforts being made by President Obama’s administration to find a way to advance the political process.” Given that Obama presses for a total ‘freeze’ on construction in Jewish communities and cities and a subsequent Israeli withdrawal to the ’49 borders – what Abba Eban termed the “Auschwitz borders” — Netanyahu’s praise for such a “political process” is itself mind-boggling.
But the warm words for Obama’s policy become still more bizarre when, a few sentences later, Netanyahu reveals the results presented in a Cabinet meeting earlier that day of a nearly six-month survey conducted by Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon to gauge the level of Palestinian Arab incitement.
“I am talking about official schoolbooks, about the media controlled by the Authority,” Netanyahu says. “The most serious characterization that arose from the materials the Minister showed us was not an argument about borders or certain settlements, but rather the negation of the State of Israel’s right to exist in any borders. This is not expressed in one single article or unusual statement, but all the time.”
Indeed, the nature of that incitement – the complete denial of Israel’s right to exist – demonstrates that the Arabs haven’t given up their ultimate aim, which, in Shmuel’s words, is “but a reflection of the Arab consensus; Israel must go back to the deathtrap of the 1949 Armistice Lines — and there gird itself for the final assault on its life.”
Doubling down on his double-talk, Netanyahu continues: “The truth is that there is great willingness on Israel’s part for a genuine peace process. The truth is that there is not a similar willingness on the part of the Palestinian Authority.”
Here we have Netanyahu’s own admission that there has been a constant stream of anti-Israel invective pouring out of the PA, and that the Arabs haven’t shown themselves truly committed to peace – despite 17 years of opportunity. Logic would dictate that Israel halt the process forthwith, as there is no one with whom to deal.
Netanyahu draws the opposite conclusion, that Israel must “enter into the process”. He adds that “there certainly should be no self-flagellation or blame laid on us or about us, because it is simply not appropriate or right.”
Netanyahu may not like unpleasant words directed at him, but Shmuel would have had some choice ones. He would have taken issue with the prime minister’s assertion that Israel must enter a political process with an entity that engages in anti-Jewish incitement.
In “From Ras Burka To Pollard” (The Jerusalem Post, Dec. 6, 1985), following the infamous murders of Israeli tourists in Egypt, Shmuel wrote:
Israel’s elementary right to see the peace treaty honoured, and indeed a proper concern for the nature of future relations with Egypt, dictate a forthright statement that Israel will not hold any intercourse with Egypt until Cairo begins to fulfill the peace treaty in all of its parts; first and foremost by putting a stop to the propaganda war against Israel.
It’s on the larger issue that Shmuel would have most to say, which is the lack of forthrightness in Netanyahu’s approach. Those on the Right who wish to defend Netanyahu may produce some persuasive-sounding arguments for his actions; that he’s forced to play along with Obama in order to win U.S. support for military action against Iran, or that he’s compelled by international pressure, or constrained by prior Israeli commitments.
Whatever the prime minister’s motives, Shmuel would have had none of it. Shmuel ran with a simple message. It resembled the famous anti-drug message, “Just Say No.” When confronted with impossible international demands that endangered Israel’s existence, Shmuel’s solution was straightforward: “No deal.” This honest, open approach he derived from his hero and mentor, Vladimir Jabotinsky.
In “A Few Words About Steadfastness” (The Jerusalem Post, July 20, 2004), Shmuel wrote:
When, not long after the war, the British began to retreat from the purpose of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, it was Jabotinsky who became the outstanding opponent of British policy. As the British retreat gathered momentum, Jabotinsky was indeed the only Zionist leader who stood firm and unbending against accommodation with that retreat.
This theme ran through Shmuel’s writings. Can one imagine Netanyahu making statements such as the following?
“Israel’s bitter experience dictates that there should be no delay and no ambiguity in delivering the message to Washington and, indeed, to the Jewish community in the Diaspora: the Reagan Plan is an invitation to suicide by degrees and must be fought as such.” (“Dumping the Ballast”, The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 27, 1983)
“It is crucial that our government take advantage of the criticism in the U.S., indeed the disgust, aroused by the enormity of Bush’s behavior – by standing up straight and announcing that it has been forced to conclude that Washington is not acceptable in logic or in conscience, as an arbiter.” (“Pawn in the U.S. Elections”, The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 29, 1991)
The decision must be to roll up our national sleeves, do the job, put an end to self-invited humiliations of rejection and restore our national self-respect. (“Sorry We Troubled You, Mr. Bush”, The Jerusalem Post, Feb. 27, 1992)
These words, inspiring in part because they are so seldom spoken, would give new heart to the Israeli people and much satisfaction to Israel’s friends. They also put into stark relief just how weak is the too-clever-by-half, faint-hearted strategy of Netanyahu.
More than inspiring, only this kind of forthright strategy can lead Israel away from the dangers before it. Shmuel understood that the longer Israel takes to find the courage to tell it like it is, the harder it will be down the road.
In “Into the Jaws of Catastrophe” (The Jerusalem Post, April, 3, 1981), he writes:
Those who balk at the idea of Israel halting the peace process and demanding renegotiation of the treaty fear the diplomatic battle. On the contrary, she will be so hounded and harassed by the same international coalition to vacate Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and withdraw into the 1949 Armistice lines.
If she is not to countenance a direct attempt at her annihilation within those lines, she will have to make a stand somewhere. The alternative to a diplomatic struggle now is not diplomatic tranquility — and peace — later.
The choice is between a strong stand now and a postponement of war —and a diplomatic defensive later in straitened military circumstances, with an emasculated southern front and the much more credible threat of war if Israel does not submit to the last Arab demand.
Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010
By David Isaac
Two famous confidence tricksters
According to Agence Free-Presse
, Israel’s army radio reported Monday that “Israel is mulling a US proposal for addressing key security concerns that would entail leasing swathes of the Jordan Valley from a future Palestinian state.”
The report said: “The radio quoted anonymous Israeli officials as saying Washington had suggested a seven-year lease. They said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had not rejected the idea out of hand but was looking for a far longer period.”
The idea sounds, to put it mildly, nuts. The plan would put the Israelis in the role of “renter” to the Palestinian Arabs’ “owner”. And as with real estate, all rights reside with the owner. Israel can ask for 10 years, 20 years or 100, but the reality is they could only stay in the Jordan valley so long as the Arabs would permit them to stay.
The land-lease suggestion is essentially a gimmick, a U.S.-concocted plan to make it easier for Israel to agree to dangerous retreats that clearly threaten its existence. The proposal also offers a short-term political “out” for Israel’s sitting prime minister – a way for him to kick the can down the road in regards to the thornier issues, such as the wrenching of Jews from evacuated territories in order to make them acceptably Judenrein for the Arabs.
Fortunately, the proposal appears to be a non-starter – Palestinian Authority officials have already rejected its possibility. But is the notion that Israel rent its security zone from a future terrorist state whose purpose is its destruction any less absurd than other political gimmicks that have been taken far more seriously?
Take demilitarization. In several speeches, including his now famous Bar-Ilan University policy speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stressed that any PLO state be devoid of major weaponry. Will such a proposal work? In “Sharon’s Egregious Blunder” (The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 3, 2003), Shmuel wrote:
If Israel were to reach the nadir of political inanity of actually helping to establish a state for the Palestinian Arabs, the Arabs would reject with all vigor the idea that their state would be hobbled by a denial of major armaments. No less emphatic would be the hostile reaction of a large segment of the European and other nations.
Even friends, appalled and distressed, would find themselves bound, albeit reluctantly, to deplore such a limitation of sovereignty. They would find it intolerable.
For the Arabs the military issue is doubly critical. First because the very idea of demilitarization would be regarded as a blow to their honor; second, because a sovereign state has never been the ultimate purpose of Arab policy. The purpose is the destruction of Israel. A state could represent only the penultimate ‘phase’ in the policy of phases. It could be the staging ground – with a large and variegated arsenal – for the ‘final phase.’
That is the original Arab game plan.
Demilitarization is just one of many confidence tricks played on the Israeli public over the years. In the above case, Netanyahu knows full well demilitarization won’t work, having ridiculed the idea in a May 12, 2002 speech to the Likud Central Committee when then-Prime Minister Sharon proposed it. We won’t speculate as to what has changed between then and now.
Foreign “guarantees” might be the oldest trick in the book, and probably the one which Israel has suffered from the most. Shmuel documents many examples in “Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine” (Bantam Books, 1973). 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.
Of smaller confidence tricks played on the Jews, there are too many to mention. It’s ironic that Israelis are highly sensitive to being caught out as “fryerim” – Hebrew slang for “suckers” – as the country has proven itself to be the biggest “fryer” in the region. Israel has been cajoled into swallowing bitter pill after bitter pill in return for empty promises, often from its chief ally the United States. As Shmuel said in an interview on the eve of the Gaza strip disengagement vote, “We have today to remember that we came out of all this as idiots who have been manipulated by the Americans.” (“End of the Ideology,” “Makor Rishon”, November 5, 2004)
To the uninitiated, the image of America as trickster wheedling Israel into territorial concessions will appear a puzzle. Isn’t the U.S., after all, Israel’s main supplier of money and materiel? As Shmuel explained, U.S. policy is itself a contradiction.
American policy after 1948, and most emphatically after the Six Day War, embraced a fusion of two elements: “commitment” to Israel’s survival, and the proposal of conditions that could only endanger that survival.
Specifically, the US gave Israel arms and financial aid while persistently demanding that Israel should again retire into the “death trap” (in Abba Eban’s definition) of the 1949 armistice lines. Since 1973, with America’s growing feeling of dependence on Saudi Arabia a distinct tilt against Israel has been manifest. (“The Chimera of Coordination”, The Jerusalem Post, Dec. 22, 1978)
The result has not been pleasant. To stuff Israel back into those ’49 Armistice Lines, the U.S. variously bribes, inveigles, deceives, threatens and condemns (depending on how obdurate the Jews are at the time). It employs every device it can think up, such as this most recent land-lease. Israel, for its part, ends up looking weak, bending to pressure after a show of adamant refusal, thereby losing respect and inviting more pressure.
Can the U.S.-Israel relationship be put on a sounder footing? The short answer is yes. As Shmuel writes in “The Chimera of Coordination”:
There are many [in America] who believe that every inch of territory, every scintilla of prestige lost by Israel reduces America’s own power and influence.
It goes without saying that in Israel, too, there are many who understand the dangers the country faces from reduced borders. They voted in Benjamin Netanyahu in the belief that he would stand firm against calls for further retreat. (Whether he will do so remains to be seen. Evidence suggests the prospects are grim.)
Yet, the war is winnable. It will require a broad informational and educational campaign, a renewed assertion of Jewish rights, and a leadership with the guts and nerve to see it through. Such an approach will strengthen Israel’s friends in the U.S. and provide them with the ammunition they need to stop America’s current schizophrenic policy and replace it with one that recognizes America and Israel’s common strategic interests.