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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

March 13, 2003

Who will the US lean on; Palestinians or Israelis Ted Belman

In this exchange of views we have been having as to what the US will do, most of you are of the mind, that because the US has put the blocks to Israel for the last fifty years, they will do it again. I am of a different opinion.

As they say, 9/11 changed everything.

For the last fifty years, the US has been driven by a policy of cooperation with the rulers of the countries that had oil. So up until the Iranian revolution the US was allied with the Shah of Iran and King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. During this period of time, the USSR was aligned with Egypt, Syria and Iraq. These were socialist secular regimes.

The first shock to the system came with the oil embargo of ’73. After that, Sadat made peace with Israel and the US replaced the USSR as the patron of Egypt. The second shock came with the fall of the Shah and the Islamic revolution in Iran. Shortly thereafter, Iraq attacked Iran with American backing. America was happy to see these two countries expend their energies and wealth in an eight-year war. The next shock to the system came with the Gulf War just after the fall of the USSR. Yet the basic principal of American policy in the ME remained the same namely curry favour with dictators who are friendly.

Throughout the last twenty years, America was subject to many terrorist attacks that took hundreds of American lives. Yet they did nothing. Libya, Syria, Iran, all taking their cue from Arafat’s PLO, created, financed and controlled terrorist groups as their proxies to challenge the US and Israel when it suited their purposes. America made no effort to stop the growth and power of these new groups other than to rail against them.

The ME was becoming unstable and anti-Americanism was growing. The US was not willing to do anything about it, as oil prices were stable.

Then came 9/11.

The US had had it. It put its head out the window and shouted “I am mad as hell and ain’t gonna take it any more.” (a la the movie, Network) And so began a reassessment of its geopolitical strategy. A power struggle began between the State Department who favour business as usual and the White House that favoured a new paradigm. Slowly the power shifted from the former to the latter.

In my article entitled The Greatness of George W Bush, Jan 28, I traced the speeches he made which articulated and advanced the new policy. America was going on the offensive. No longer would it tolerate attacks or duplicitous governments. Rather than live with the situation and watch their power erode they decided to change the situation. No longer would nations be allowed to aid and abet terrorists. No longer would America coddle dictators but would work to create a democratic ME.

In my article American Foreign Policy the day later I covered this change and wrote,
A few years ago the neo cons started to question this policy and suggested a different one was needed. One, where America abandoned the pretence of an honest broker and of even-handedness and where they clearly sided with Israel. Such a policy would, they argued, dash any hopes the Arabs had of getting America’s help in destroying Israel and would as a result force the Arabs to accept Israel.
In a Stratfor Analysis entitled The New Middle East Stratfor summarized as follows,
On the day the war ends, and if the United States is victorious, then the entire geopolitics of the region will be redefined. Every country bordering Iraq will find not the weakest formations of the Iraqi army along their frontiers, but U.S. and British troops. The United States will be able to reach into any country in the region with covert forces based in Iraq, and Washington could threaten overt interventions as well. It would need no permission from regional hosts for the use of facilities, so long as either Turkey or Kuwait will permit trans-shipment into Iraq.

In short, a U.S. victory will change the entire balance of power in the region, from a situation in which the United States must negotiate its way to war, to a situation where the United States is free to act, as it will.
So how does Israel fit into this new strategic policy?

Sharon made a very famous speech at the Herzelia Conference in November in which he laid out his plans. I covered the implications of this speech in an article dated Feb 1 entitled Sharon/Bush Peace Plan: it’s a go and later updated it (Feb 7)in Whither The Road Map and concluded
After Powell and the US have laboured so hard with the EU and the UN to get consensus and action on Iraq, I doubt that they are anxious to repeat the process on the Israel/Palestinian conflict. These parties, the US has learnt if they didn’t always know, are more of a hindrance then a help. Secondly, it is one thing to negotiate a Road Map with the EU and the Arabs when they are feeling strong and we need their support in Iraq, it is an entirely different matter when Iraq has been defeated without France’s help and the Arabs are worried about their own regimes
I recommend you read these posts because they make a very strong case for my conclusions.

On Feb 9, I followed this up with Sharon/Bush Peace Plan Outline; forget the quartet and set out what Sharon is reputably offering the Palestinians.

On Feb 12, I posted Old Europe vs US; good or bad for the Jews and quoted Ze’ev Shiff
The crisis between the U.S. and Europe will have profound implications for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, undermining the Quartet's effort to impose a solution to the conflict on Israel, and strengthening the Sharon government's opposition to the Quartet "road map" and the prime minister's view that the "Bush framework" is the only relevant diplomatic arena for a political peace process.
In Seeing Eye to Eye (Feb 20), I quote Aluf Benn
In conversations with Sharon's representatives, the Americans don't even put on a show of pressure. The settlements aren't mentioned. The Israeli-Arab portfolio in the White House has been handed over to Elliott Abrams, a right-wing Jew close to the Pentagon hawks. His deputy, Flint Evert, who had been promoting the "road map," was thrown out after failing in a report on the preparations for the January conference in London, to which the British sent invitations through Yasser Arafat. State department officials who backed pressure on Israel were worn down on bureaucratic struggles
On February 26, Ha’aretz announced that the Herzelia Speech was part of the Government’s guidelines. Here is a quote from the speech,
The American plan defines the parties' progress according to phases. The transition from one phase to the next will not be on the basis of a pre-determined timetable - which would have resulted in a build-up of heavy pressure on Israel towards the end of one phase and approaching the next phase. Rather, progress is determined on the basis of performance - only once a specific phase has been implemented, will progress into the next phase be possible.
and I concluded
Sharon would never have said he sees "eye to eye" with the Americans if he didn't. Sharon would never have come out in favour of a state had he not had Bush's assurance that this plan would be followed. Take note, that although a State is a given subject to performance, the final borders aren't, nor is there anything on the right of return. Thus the Palestinians must change their government and leaders, decommision their weapons and stop incitement before the question of permanent borders comes up.
Around this time Bush delivered a speech to the American Enterprise Institute where he reiterated the preconditions to a state set out in his June speech and said settlement activity will have to end only after progress on the preconditions.

Bush and Sharon continue to look like they are reading from the same page just as I predicted in the first article on the Sharon Bush Peace Plan above.

Even if Bush said he was “personally committed” to a Palestinian State, it remains subject to his preconditions.

If you accept that Bush is committed to win the “war on terror”, as I am, you must accept that he will never create a Palestinian state that flies in the face of that war.