ISRAEL-US RELATIONS

FACING THE CHALLENGE

By Dr. Aaron Lerner



"Eager to keep its ties with the Arabs, the US would like to see an Israel the Arab regimes can live with. This entails at the very least an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines on all fronts, and the establishment of a Palestinian state with half of Jerusalem as its capital../...the US clearly does not believe it can foster its relations with the Arab regimes unless it keeps prodding Israel to withdraw."

Wow! David-Bar-Illan, who now serves as a senior advisor to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, sure didn't pull his punches in his editorials in The Jerusalem Post.

Dore Gold, another Netanyahu advisor, was a bit more diplomatic in his writings: "given the still substantial differences between the US and Israel on final-status territorial issues, the new interventionism of the Christopher team may not always serve Israel's interest as the negotiations move into the sensitive area of Israeli withdrawal."

In the last week U.S. intervention reached such heights that one might be prompted to call American Ambassador Martin Indyk the first Jewish High Commissioner since Herbert Samuel. Yes, the U.S. vetoed the Security Council resolution, but Israel has yet to be presented the bill. And when Israel tried to practice a form of "imposed reciprocity" by closing some illegal offices in Jerusalem - one of the items on Dennis Ross's "do list" for the Palestinians to deal with "immediately" - American officials criticized the move.

Is this something new? Hardly. Once you penetrate the veneer of happy faces it turns out that American-Israeli relations always faced this tension. And, as former ambassador to Israel, Samuel Lewis noted, "Only the peace process eases the contradictory pulls between the US relationship with Israel and US ties with the Arabs."

These competing interests lead to some very clear American axioms:

American weapons in Arab hands can't significantly hurt Israel: Sure, America carefully weighs the impact of each sale, but, as Henry Kissinger wrote, these studies "remarkably paralleled the policy preferences of the heads of the agencies." Kissinger ominously pointed out that the Yom Kippur War of 1973 "demonstrated that even after the fairly substantial military deliveries of 1970-1973 the military balance in the Middle East had became more precarious than any of our analysts had predicted." ("White House Years")

Arab violations are to be ignored: As Kissinger told President Richard Nixon, "Violations force us to choose between doing something about them and thus risk the blowup of our initiative; or doing nothing and thus renege on our promises to Israel, posing the threat of her taking military action. Accordingly, we tend to lean over backwards to avoid the conclusion that the Arabs are violating../...unless the evidence is unambiguous."

So should Israel "go with the flow" in the hopes that Uncle Sam will stand by the Jewish state in appreciation of the dangerous concessions it made in the pursuit of peace? Not according to the Netanyahu who ran for elections.

"I firmly believe that at the point of testing, a weak Israel would elicit a great deal of American sympathy but not much else. This is not mere theory. It was tested before the Six Day War in the life-threatening siege imposed by Nasser's coalition, when a highly sympathetic U.S. administration stood on the sidelines../..../..If you lack the power to protect yourself, it is unlikely that in the absence of a compelling interest anyone else will be willing to do it for you." ("A Place Among the Nations")

Is all lost? Hardly. For as Netanyahu wrote, "[There is an] appreciation in Washington, as in many places, of a sound argument cogently made and powerfully backed by resolute will. The weak and timid may do well for a while, but not for very long. In international politics, in fact in domestic politics too, strength attracts and weakness ultimately repels."

Are you out there listening Mr. Prime Minister? It's all in your book. Well, almost.

As anyone who has tried to keep a diet knows, it's always best to keep a distance from temptation. And there is no better barrier against hasty concessions than a properly reinforced democratic process.

Today America can't sign a postal treaty with Timbuktu without a 2/3 majority vote of the Senate while Israel can withdraw to Tel Aviv with a simple majority in the cabinet. If Israel adopts the same 2/3 parliamentary approval requirement, America would be hard pressed to oppose the move.

It won't be easy, but with the Arab world pressing America to put Israel in its place and "peace partner" Yasser Arafat's cynical warning that the world do something before his people start shooting, there is no viable alternative for the Jewish state than "sound arguments" AND "resolute will".

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Dr. Aaron Lerner is Director of IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(POB 982, Kfar Sava)
[March 12, 1997]


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