ALWAYS UNDER PRESSURE

By Christopher Barder

What was so sad about the plight of Bibi Netanyahu's Likud and ought to be regarded as disastrous about the prospects for Ehud Barak is the way in which they each have been subjected to the will (no pun intended) of the White House, a kind of relentless pressure to have to conform to the State Department's regional plans.

Whereas it is reasonably clear from Israel's history that Israel does not much matter to the USA which has instead invented a mythology that it is Israel's best friend (which after all it would not be hard to be) and that it cares terribly that Israel has a strategic and military edge over the Arabs, in reality it determines to pare Israel down and therefore to render it more or less indefensible. The process which is underway is one called 'peace' and it is pursued with a territorial plan in mind which cannot be stopped or reasoned with without terrible repercussions in the diplomatic sphere at the very least. The EU is more openly hostile and has resorted to threats about sanctions were Israel to be seen to be the one refusing to further 'the peace process'. Rational questions about security and territorial necessities are irrelevant both to the process and the people driving forward the policy, such as Sr. Moratinos, the EU special envoy to the Middle East.

Somewhere in the thinking of the world's chancelleries, Israel is not entitled to debate upon or to refuse external 'solutions' to the problem which is fundamental to her existence in the region: Islamic rejection of a non-Molsem state in that part of the world. Former Arab land must always be Arab land even if it has not been since the Seventh Century. It is an affront that such a place should be in the hands of the Dhimmi. It is an affront that Arab armies should have been defeated.

Thus in global terms it is as if at least one touchstone for states is attitude to Israel. They may be viewed as worth investment and trade if they are not perceived as too accepting of Israel. The Arab world may buy their goods, sell oil, buy arms, and maintain investments, make property purchases, send students to study. But in days supposedly post boycott nothing could be further from the truth than that Arab attitudes to Israel are softening. Therefore other states' attitudes must not be seen to be softening. Put in a nutshell: Israel is in the way. It is in the way of pro-Islamic policies yielding their fruit (supposedly) and of a neat bloc of Arab states able to be dealt with by the mighty USA and EU beneficially to each. It is an irritant muddying the waters. The Arabs have made plain their demands and the West has no scruples about meeting them.

The Arabs want the result of the past wars reversed. Like Anwar Sadat, they may find diplomacy helpful - at least until the final assault when Islam will throw the Zionists either into the sea or into Dhimmitude for good. Like Jimmy Carter at Camp David, and James Baker III and President Bush after the Gulf War, so Indyk and Ross for Clinton act as diplomatic conduits for Arab objectives. Unlike the EU they at least mouth how good it all is for Israel and how beneficial for the region and how they care about Israel's security (which is, apparently, in Warren Christopher's phrase 'iron-clad'). The EU just says Israel must hurry up in assisting the creation of a Palestinian state as demanded nearly 20 years ago in the Venice Declaration.

Might is right and it is not just a matter of an Hegelian state. Rather it is that the Great Powers have always had plans for the region. They intend to see them fulfilled. They have to coincide with Arab plans. Maybe, it is averred, Israel should not have been created. It was a kind of aberration at a particular point in history. Now the damage must be undone. Seriously, the powers believe they have a right to reorder what the region looks like. They are therefore determined to bring about that ordering which best suits their ambitions which are not uncoincident with those of the Arabs. This means that the 'Phased Plan' of 1974 for Israel's slow dismemberment has been in effect and the Madrid--Oslo 'window of opportunity' has been used to every extent possible, despite highly questionable legality according to the principles of international law and the application of Israeli law.

In other words the dubious legality has not counted for anything much at all. If anyone should 'take risks for peace', a piece of absurd contradiction if anything was, it is the victim of the wars, Israel. It is not that there has been a long-lasting terror war against the Arabs. But Israel must take further risks with the lives of its population to appease Arab failure to destroy Israel. Syria should suffer no ill effects for its aggression and hundreds of attacks on civilians as well as war-mongering and war time attacks on Israel. Instead it should gain the Golan. The reality of course is that abject contrition over decades should be demanded and overt friendliness before a single Syrian 'settler' should be allowed to live on such Israeli territory. Assad should get what drug dealing and protecting Alois Brunner would merit in any decent court in the world, not to mention genocide in Lebanon and auto-genocide at Hama in Syria and violation of the ban on chemical weapons use. There is a kind of ugly irony in President Clinton's wooing of Assad. It makes the whole business of justice surrounding Pinochet and Milosovic look rather..selective.

Nor can any case in terms of consistent justice within the international order be made for keeping Yasser Arafat out of court and away from the severest sentence possible. And yet it is Israel that is pressurised to please him. It is Israel that is held up to disrepute and discredit rather than the cronies and murderers who serve Arafat in the at least seven brutal 'security services' he has nurtured in order to rule by terror and embezzlement. Sponsorship of an entity whence there is no extradition from and no serious curb on crime against Israel is tantamount to support for a rogue and lawless gangsterism. Yet the same continues unabashed in the policies of the USA and the EU. Thus Israel is asked again and again to make gestures and to sacrifice real security for nothing in return except unimplemented promises repeated again and again. The whole 'process' is the same thing, again and again. It consists of demands for cutting Israel down which will not appease the Arabs and cannot, will not buy peace and have been hitherto endless.

So those countries which support this support in fact a terror state (the Palestinian Arab one in waiting) and the attempted destruction of another one. In the knowledge of this, Israel's governments at least from 1992, have wantonly fallen in line with this process of dismemberment. They have accepted an amount of land be given away (to be negotiated with their aggressors and haters no less!) in order to buy less overt ill-will. They know from the debacle at Camp David that in news media and cartoons and in professional associations and Arab 'parliaments' and schools they will be hated and vilified. But still they go on with the process designed to create their own self-destruction. They cannot seemingly even compel foreign governments to site their embassies in the capital city.

The state of Israel in some circles is regarded as a nuisance and/or as a pariah. It must be compelled to do what its neighbours want. It must fit the plans for the region hatched by Kissinger and a host of others who seek for a shaping of the region to their liking. These pressures are neither new nor unpredictable nor are they benevolent. At some point there must be a willingness to say no to it all. But the question must be asked in the light of NATO and Kosovo, can the price for saying no be made to be worth paying; but also there is thisother question, too: is there any alternative? Which way is less of a gamble with citizens' lives? How great a punishment might there be for saying no to indefensibility? It is hard to say but the cause would be just and however painful the results, the alternative of being forced to give away strategic and military, historic and meaningful assets for nothing seems too horrible. In the meantime, as Ehud Barak starts his time in office, he should be judged by his capacity to end this endless pressure on Israel to become abject and prostrate before its enemies and those who seek to bring it to such a place. So far there is hope but little in the way of substance to suggest so stark a reality has produced a strategy for dealing with it. But maybe the relative silence suggests understanding. One hopes.

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Christopher Barder is the editor of ISRAEL BULLETIN (England) and writes often on Middle East affairs



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