BETRAYING A TRUE FRIEND
by Boris Shusteff
For more than half a century the American State Department has stubbornly tried to push through its pro-Arab policies, unable to realize that by doing so it has only been tightening the knot of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Already in 1948 the American Secretary of State threatened to resign, trying to prevent President Truman from recognizing the newly born Jewish state.
It is not surprising at all that the State Department is so unsympathetic to Israel. One of the reasons is simple arithmetic. Professor of Political Science William Quandt, who served in 1977 as Office Director for Middle Eastern Affairs, honestly admitted that,
"With nearly twenty embassies situated in Arab countries, the State Department inevitably produces more Arabists than it does specialists on Israeli affairs. In a general way, too, the experience of living in Arab countries and studying Arabic seems to make foreign-service officers more, rather then less, sympathetic to Arab concerns... Diplomats see their jobs as 'improving relations' between United States and the countries to which they are assigned, and this requires a degree of empathy and openness to other cultures and their concerns. Some of this stays with diplomats long after they left the Arab world" (1).
If we take into account the fact that the chief emotion the Arab world harbors towards Israel is hatred, it is clear that a love for Israel cannot be born within the State Department by itself. It could have been expected that the tragic events of September 11would have made crystal clear the gaping blunders of American diplomacy, which have helped to whet the appetite of fundamentalist Islam, the cornerstone of anti-American Arab terror. The tragedy of September 11-th was a wake up call. A call for America to reconsider the relations and attitude towards some of its Arab "friends." America should have remembered that Saudi Arabia is the homeland of Wahhabism -the brutal and irreconcilable variety of Islam that is preached by Osama bin Laden. And that it is no "secret" at all that Osama himself receives a great deal of support from his admirers in Saudi Arabia.
However, the State Department has chosen to remain blind to the reality. Sadly, its desire to ignore the facts and continued intention to maintain the anti-Israel orientation is first of all detrimental to America itself. By trying to be "politically correct" the State Department sends a signal to the terrorists that America is not yet ready to seriously wage war against them. Attempts to pay the terrorists off by forcing Israel to surrender create a fertile ground for new and more devastating terrorist attacks on American soil.
Recently, State Department policy has started to border on the absurd. Speaking in Washington on September 20 at a hearing of the House Government Reform Committee Tom Lantos, Democrat from California, presented an example of this policy:
"some months ago I introduced a piece of legislation calling for the government of Lebanon to secure its entire border with Israel, not allowing Hezbollah to engage in cross-border terrorist strikes. The Department of State saw fit just a few months ago to send two letters to all of my colleagues urging them to oppose my amendment and not to vote for it. It passed by the narrowest of margins: 216 to 212."
Even more shameful was the State Department's frontal assault on legislation to impose sanctions on the Palestinian Authority if it does not meet its commitments to fight terrorism. On September 28, Secretary of State Colin Powell, in order to stop an amendment to the Foreign Operations Bill, which was due for a final reading after already having achieved a majority in the House of Representatives, sent a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein. In the letter Powell stated,
"The Palestinian compliance legislation you introduced with Senator McConnell would be counterproductive to our coalition-building and peace process efforts and we would like to see it withdrawn... The bottom line is that we agree with the need for the Palestinians to comply with their commitments and control the violence... But in this critical period I ask you not to tie the President's hands and restrict our ability to engage with both parties to help achieve these goals."
Colin Powell did not elaborate what he meant by the word "ability." However, when Israel, devastated by the assassination of the Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi started to act a little more decisively, the State Department did not even pretend to be "evenhanded." In a rude statement, its spokesman Philip Reeker demanded on October 22, that "Israeli defense forces... be withdrawn immediately from all Palestinian-controlled areas and no further such incursions should be made."
For all her unceasing devotion and staunch friendliness to America, the Jewish state was spat upon and received a kick from the master's boot. What unbelievable hypocrisy Reeker's statement was. "We deeply regret and deplore Israel Defence Force actions that have killed numerous Palestinian civilians over the weekend. The deaths of those innocent civilians under the circumstances reported in recent days are unacceptable."
At the time when hundreds of equally innocent Afghan civilians are killed by American bombs in Afghanistan and their deaths are accepted as "collateral damage," the State Department is suddenly worried about "numerous innocent Palestinian civilians." It is a pity that Mr. Reeker did not elaborate on the issue of their "innocence," and did not mention that according to a recent Palestinian Arab poll conducted between September 11 and 17 in the West Bank and Gaza strip "81.7% of the Palestinian Arabs supported military operations INSIDE Israel and 72.7% rejected a state limited to the occupied territories and Jerusalem" (2).
Speaking on October 19 at the National Press Club in Washington William Burns, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, said, "We have no monopoly on wisdom in the Middle East, and I have always thought that a little humility goes a long way in the exercise of American power and American leadership." What a pity that the State Department does not act in accordance with this statement.
How unfortunate that yet another of Burns's statements from the same meeting turned out to be completely empty words as well. He said, "The voices of publics are all too often ignored until they raise them to a shout." It is the American State Department that adamantly ignores the American public. A large majority of Americans believe that USpressure on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians will only encourage more terrorism.
The results of a recent survey conducted by the New American Initiative and "The Chicago Sun Times" speaks for itself. In this national poll, carried out between October 12-14 by McLaughlin & Associates, "62% said that after the World Trade Center attack, forcing Israel to give up territory - including dividing Jerusalem - to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat for a Palestinian state, would encourage terrorism. 28% had no opinion, and only 9.7% thought that pressuring Israel would end terrorism." When asked if "the Arab world seeks the eventual destruction of Israel," 62% said they "believe the Arab world does seek to destroy Israel," and only 14.6% said they "believe the Arab world sincerely accepts Israel's right to exist."
Shamelessly ignoring the American and the Israeli public, the State Department betrays the only true American ally in the Middle East, well aware that Israel will always offer to America the hand of help when the war against terror becomes serious.
1. William B. Quandt. Decade of Decisions: American Policy Toward the
Arab-Israeli Conflict 1967-1976. University of California Press. 1977.
2. Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre (JMCC) Public Opinion Poll
No. 42 On Palestinian Attitudes Towards Politic including the Current
Intifada - September 2001. www.jmc.org. Quoted from Independent Media
Review and Analysis (IMRA), 09/28/01. www.imra.org.il
Boris Shusteff is an engineer. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.