Why US Mid-East Peace Plans Always Fail

  • By Jeff Saperstein

Special Analysis provided for the NSF

  • There is no guarantee that a guarantee is a guarantee

—Menachem Begin

Once again we see the fool’s errand that is the US push to clinch the deal for a comprehensive Israel/Palestine Two State Peace Solution. Doomed to failure for a simple reason.

Most Israelis have no appetite to take risks with their security that neither the Palestinians nor the Americans can guarantee: no matter what is signed on paper, Israelis will want full oversight over any Palestinian borders, the freedom to interdict weapons, and to pre-empt terrorist plots and activities wherever they emerge. Every Prime Minister from any political party has insisted Israel would not relinquish full security authority for the borders of a Palestinian State, nor will they allow the Palestinians to sign military treaties and alliances with other states. Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas are Israel’s realities.

Missed by most media reports is the fact that the countries that have the least desire to see a Palestinian State on the West Bank are Jordan, or in Gaza, Egypt. The West Bank would be taken over by Hamas in days and the threat to Jordan will be real. Egypt is already battling the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS in the Sinai and has been even more restrictive on Gaza than has Israel.

The truism in the Middle East is: “What the leaders say is not what they believe, and what they do is neither what they say nor what they believe”. The alliance between Israel, Egypt and Jordan is real, because the Jordanians know that Israel is the only ally that can assure the Hashemite King’s stability, and the Egyptians know that Israel is the one safeguard to help them establish stability in the Sinai.

So if we want to understand how Israelis perceive their vital interests, there are several important historical precedents that inform Israeli opinion and policy.

Israelis must be responsible for their own defense and be constantly vigilant. 

The most important Israeli speech that you may have never heard about was a simple eulogy by Moshe Dayan, Commander of the Southern Front in 1956. Roi Rotberg,  a young officer, was ambushed, killed and mutilated by Gaza infiltrators one mile within Israel’s border.

“For we know that if the hope of our destruction is to perish, we must be, morning and evening, armed and ready…

But beyond the furrow that marks the border, lies a surging sea of hatred and vengeance, yearning for the day that the tranquility blunts our alertness, for the day that we heed the ambassadors of conspiring hypocrisy, who call for us to lay down our arms”

Need I say that no UN Security Council Resolution, nor a 70 country Paris Conference sans Israel, would ever have the slightest chance of persuading the Israelis that others can be endowed to represent Israel’s existential trepidations.

No International or bilateral agreements can be trusted

Most of us alive at the time remember the lightening Israel victory in June of 1967. The Israelis also remember May, 1967. Israel waited three weeks after the Egyptians ordered the removal of UN peace-keepers in the Sinai, the massing of troops on their border, and the closing of the straits of Tiran. Abba Eban went to the supposed guarantors of Israeli security, the United Nations. U Thant, Secretary General of the UN, removed peace-keepers with no discussion. When reminded of the French guarantees from 1956, DeGaulle famously replied , “That was 1956, this is 1967.”France was Israel’s main arms supplier and DeGaulle slapped an arms embargo on Israel to gain favor with the Arabs. Lyndon Johnson, when reminded of Eisenhower’s guarantee that he would lead an armada to break any closing of the Straits of Tiran, refused to act, because he had a Vietnam disaster on his hands and did not think Congress would approve a military adventure in the Middle East. Israel learned in May, 1967, and again in October, 1973, when no European ally would allow US cargo planes to refuel in US bases at Europe for fear of offending the Arabs, that guarantees do not matter

Pre-emption works

Israel destroyed the Egyptian Air Force with a pre-emptive strike in June, 1967, guaranteeing a quick victory. In 1981 Saddam Hussein was building a nuclear bomb facility (designed and contracted by, of course, France).  Israel destroyed it with no prior warning or consultation with the US. Cap Weinberger, US Secretary of Defense, was outraged.  In 1992, after Desert Storm, Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense, sent a thank you note to Ehud Barak, Israel’s Secretary of Defense thanking him for the strike. The US did not have to face Iraqi nuclear weapons. In 2006, Israel pre-emptively destroyed a Syrian nuclear facility. Imagine what we would face today if Syria had nuclear weapons.

Want to predict the future?  Iran is building a facility in northwest Syria to manufacture long-range rockets.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has warned that Iran was strengthening its foothold in its ally Syria. Israel was watching developments and would act against any threat.

“Our policy is clear: We vehemently oppose the military buildup by Iran and its proxies, primarily Hezbollah, in Syria and we will do whatever it takes to protect Israel’s security,”

Iran is Israel’s avowed enemy and Hezbollah and Hamas are Iran’s proxies. That fact will drive any Israeli considerations in peace talks and its actions to prevent Iran and Hezbollah from threatening Israel’s Northern border.

Most pernicious is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions effort popular in the Far-Left and in Europe. The sole purpose of BDS is to eliminate the sovereign Jewish State of Israel. The Israeli Jews have offered partition of the land five times: 1937, 1948, 1967, 2000, and 2008. Palestinians rejected the acceptance of Israel on any boundaries, so accusations of occupation and settlements is a ruse for the failure of Palestinians to come to terms with reality and build their own State, not just destroy Israel.

Courageous Palestinians and Israelis are working together for economic prosperity, equal jurisprudence, and security, so civic institutions will provide Palestinians a better future by working with, not against Israel. BDS does none of that, and is a hateful strategy mostly harming Palestinians, because they are the beneficiaries of closer ties to Israel.

So, let’s not rush to close a deal that cannot be fulfilled. Support Israeli Palestinian efforts to nation build and create economic opportunity and strengthen self-government. If Israel’s security considerations are taken as the first priority, other conciliation can happen.

  • Jeff Saperstein is an NSF member and contributor based in Marin. He is a career coach and lecturer at San Francisco State University. He frequently visits and has led trips to Israel.

 

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