Saturday, April 26, 2008

Can Israel withstand US pressure?

ed Belman

Recently we hear that Olmert offered to cede the Golan to Syria and I commented The Golan is safe for now. For now, because ultimately the US will be pressuring Israel to do the deal.

As Ami Isseroff points out in Territorial Integrity: American Middle East policy and what it means for Israel, it has always been US policy to force Israel to trade land for peace forever.

Pres. Johnson wrote on May 3rd ‘67, “the United States is firmly committed to the support of the political independence and territorial integrity of all the nations of the area”. When this was uttered, it served as a balm for Israel as its enemies made ready to attack. After the war it proved to be a double-edged sword. True, that Res 242 promised withdrawal from “territories”, not “all territories” to secure borders but the resolution also prohibited the acquisition of territory by force. Nevertheless it was the US that insisted omitting the word “all” or “the”. This policy was reinforced in Bush’s letter in connection with the Gaza Disengagement wherein he said it was “unrealistic” to expect Israel to give up the settlement blocks. The import of these letters was discussed recently in Israelis Claim Secret Agreement With U.S. Now it appears that Both Rice and Bush refused to talk about ‘67 borders in Abbas’ recent visit.

To accomplish this goal the US proceeded to make Israel dependent on it for military supply and diplomatic support in order to gain influence on Israel. Recently, in keeping with this policy, Rice advised Israel that the US would not send extra supplies to Israel but would keep them in the US.

Now keeping Israel dependent on the US would have no leverage value unless there was a threat to Israel providing the push. So the US did nothing about the Arab demonization of Israel and even supported Arafat as a means to terrorized Israelis. And the US has been building up Egypt’s military capacity to threaten Israel. Get the picture.

There are two factors that remain obstacles to US plans. The determination of most Israelis to not cede all the land required or to divide Jerusalem, is one. The other is the Arab rejectionist camp of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas who reject peace with Israel.

Obviously the US can’t deliver now. It has always wanted to prevent Israel from putting facts on the ground in the meantime, thus the settlement freeze demands. In my opinion the US also instructed Israel to allow Arabs to build in order to keep the pressure on Israel to withdraw.

The Saudi Plan that the US embraced and insisted be included in the Roadmap, held out the prospect of normalization with Israel but not until Israel withdraws. Once Israel withdraws, the US has no way to deliver on this. Israel should be insisting that arrangements with and recognition by the Arabs states be processed in parallel not sequentially. No sign of that happening.

As Isseroff points out in the above linked article which is a must read,

Peace in return for Israeli withdrawal would be a fair bargain, if it is really peace. Unfortunately, we should be well aware that the United States does not possess either the will or the means to guarantee continued peace after Israeli withdrawal, and on the other hand, pressures in the United States are growing to get any kind of settlement and call it “peace.”

Acute analysts will note that if Israel ever does return all of the conquered territories, then Israel would be of no further use in American attempts to ingratiate itself with the Arabs. At the same time, America would have very little leverage with the Arabs unless it pressed Israel for further concessions. Without doubt, there are those in the US diplomatic corps who would not be averse to exerting such pressure.

Israeli politicians therefore have to think ahead to what American policy might be two days after the peace treaty is signed, when some Arab states, or Muslim groups, inevitably, nonetheless declare their objections to the presence of Israel in the Middle East. From the Israeli point, we will have no more territory to concede, but that may not necessarily be the American view. After all, in the early 50s, the US was behind a plan to get Israel to make concessions to Egypt in the Negev.

Israel should abrogate the peace process. I realize that the US won’t take it lying down.

The ‘peace process’ is in need of a paradigm shift.

Let’s hope.

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