Publications of the Center for Security Policy No. 99-D 126 DECISION BRIEF 28 October 1999

Are U.S. 'Investments' in the Mideast 'Peace Process' Giving the Arabs a New War Option?

(Washington, D.C.) One of the predictable upshots of today's meeting between Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy will be a joint appeal to Congress for the appropriation of the full $1.9 billion pledged by President Clinton to reward the parties to the Wye River agreement for "taking risks for peace" and to facilitate the implementation of that agreement. The foreign ministers are obliged to address this subject because the U.S. legislative branch has had the temerity to question the wisdom of this expenditure -- with good reason.

The PA Remains Uncommitted to Peace

The fact is that Israel's "partner" in the so-called "peace process" -- Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA) -- is systematically violating its commitments under the Oslo, Hebron and Wye accords in ways that demonstrate the Palestinians' abiding hostility to and determination to destroy the Jewish State. Considering the following tell-tale indicators:

terrorists still find safe haven in Palestinian-controlled areas; the Palestinian Authority's "police force" remains far larger and more heavily armed than it is supposed to be, constituting (like the "disarmed" KLA in Kosovo) what amounts to a prohibited proto-army; incitement to acts of violence against Jews and Israel remains a staple of the PA-controlled press, officially sponsored events and even the text books used in Palestinian schools. (An example of the latter includes the following text: "In your left hand you carry the Koran and in your right hand an Arab sword....Not even one centimeter will be liberated without blood. Therefore, go forward crying: 'Allah is great!...Explain how this poem represents the reality currently experienced by the Palestinians.")

the official use is routinely made of maps that depict "Palestine" as comprising all of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and pre-1967 Israel.

Enter Yuval Steinitz

A newly elected Member of the Knesset (MK), Yuval Steinitz, has issued an important warning about the implications of such activities for the security -- and perhaps even the existence -- of the Jewish State. In an essay entitled "When the Palestinian Army Invades the Center of Israel" (a version of which will be published in the December issue of Commentary Magazine), this former member of Peace Now-turned-Likud MK, Dr. Steinitz writes:

An analysis of optimal courses of action will show that the deployment of Palestinian forces in the immediate proximity of the Israeli rear is liable to transform them into a decisive factor in a comprehensive regional conflagration, if those forces advance quickly towards the nerve centers of Israel's civilian and military rear, in a scenario imagined by one of Israel's greatest strategists, Mr. Shimon Peres, who sounded this alarm: 'The influx of a Palestinian fighting force (more than 25,000 fighters) into Judea and Samaria [would mean] excellent starting point for mobile forces to immediately advance towards the infrastructure vital to Israel's existence'....

If [such an operation enabled] Arab armies [to] advance just a few kilometers past the...ceasefire line of 1949 at the outset of a comprehensive offensive (as the Iraqis did when conquering Kuwait), they could achieve a total conventional victory over the State of Israel by preventing the mobilization and equipping of reserves and by interrupting other vital systems.

What About Egypt -- and Syria?

The danger posed by what would amount to an Arab light army operating within Israel is greatly exacerbated by the growing power of the Egyptian military -- a principal beneficiary of the "peace process" begun at Camp David. Thanks to the tens of billions of dollars in U.S. military assistance showered on Cairo in the ensuing decades and the access to advanced American weapon systems -- including, the manufacturing under license of M-1 main battle tanks -- Egypt has acquired the capability to pose a serious threat to Israel.

Unfortunately, the Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak has also done little to cultivate in the minds of its people the need for peace and reconciliation with Israel. To the contrary, the officially sanctioned incitement of hatred towards the Jewish State is of a piece with that of the Palestinian Authority. As Dr. Steinitz points out, moreover, starting in the aftermath of the Oslo accords, Mr. Mubarak has personally and repeatedly suggested that Egypt retains the option of resuming its war against Israel.

In other words, the formula that has been adopted as the essential lubricant to Middle East diplomacy -- i.e., tying aid to Israel to America's largesse to her one-time enemies -- is having the perverse effect of reconstituting the "war option" for Arabs unreconciled to the presence in their midst of a Western enclave, to say nothing of the detested "Zionist entity." Reportedly, this ominous phenomenon has been the subject of high-level discussions between Israeli and American officials.

This approach will become even more reckless if next applied to Syria. Were the United States to succeed in its efforts to get Israel to return the Golan Heights to Hafez Assad,(1) then to rebuild his increasingly decrepit Soviet arsenal, the Arab war option against Israel may become so attractive as to become irresistible. This could be the case thanks to the combined effects of the loss of critical strategic depth and the improved offensive power that Syria might obtain should it gain access to aircraft, armored vehicles and other hardware that may (at least in combination with Egyptian and other Arab armies, if not in its own right) mortally imperil Israel's irreplaceable "qualitative edge."

The Bottom Line

Before the U.S. Congress agrees to add to the $500 million it has already poured into the corrupt and unaccountable PLO, it should at a minimum insist upon the Palestinians' full and unstinting compliance with their responsibilities under the various "peace" accords. Delinking Israel's aid (and, for that matter, aid for a compliant Jordan) from aid for the Palestinian Authority is not only warranted on the grounds that the PA is neither adhering fully to the letter, to say nothing of the spirit, of its treaties with Israel, however. It is also a necessary corrective to the practice that appears to be facilitating the emergence of dangerous new military threats to Israel.

1. See U.S. Forces on the Golan Heights: An Assessment of Benefits and Costs (25 October 1994).


NOTE: The Center's publications are intended to invigorate and enrich the debate on foreign policy and defense issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of all members of the Center's Board of Advisors.

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