American Foreign Policy and Israel: A Maccabean Perspective
An Editorial by Bernard J. Shapiro
The Maccabean Online (1999)
This article is quite critical of American Foreign Policy, therefore, I would like to say a few positive things up front. The American people when properly polled come out consistently in support of Israel. There are at least 50 million Evangelical Christians who are friends and dedicated supporters of Israel. Many of America's presidents have bucked the US State Department to help Israel with arms and money. The US Congress and Senate have consistently been friends of Israel. Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed his love of Israel many times. My own grandfather, for whom the Freeman Center was named, expressed his love of America upon his arrival on our shores:
"But what a change in life upon arriving in America - Free America. Here I suddenly found myself unbridled, the air free, no stifling, atmosphere - I could give free expression to the cravings of my soul! Life began to have a different meaning. What a blessing to have free assemblage, free speech free press! Can an American who has always enjoyed these blessings appreciate what it means to one who was deprived of them until manhood?"
Unfortunately there are institutions in America that don't love Israel as much as most of us do. Israel's relations with America go back even before statehood in 1948. During the critical years of WWII, the Zionist community of both America and Israel appealed to President Franklin Roosevelt to take action to stop the Holocaust. They were rebuffed at every turn. It was apparent that neither America nor any of its allies were very interested in saving Jewish lives. England was the most persuasive when arguing that the Jews saved would want to go to Palestine. This would anger the Arabs and should be avoided at all cost. It is true that European Jewry would have been a vast reservoir of new citizens for the emerging State of Israel.
Their sheer numbers would have eliminated the Arab demographic problem in the new State. American policy came down solidly on the side of dead Jews as opposed to live Jews.
When Israel declared its independence in 1948, we were all pleased that the American president, Harry S. Truman, made America the first nation in the world to recognize the Jewish State. Yet even here there was a dark side to American Foreign Policy. The State Department had argued in vain against the recognition of Israel. When they didn't succeed at that they successfully placed an embargo of arms to Middle Eastern States.
Seemingly neutral it only affected Israel since the British and French were arming the Arabs. So we have the spectacle of American recognition of Israel's independence while at the same time refusing the arms it needed to survive, to defend their lives.
Following Israel's Sinai Campaign in 1956, Eisenhower and Dulles forced Israel to withdraw with little political gain. Two "benefits" appeared to be: a UN Force in Sinai to guarantee free passage for Israel in the Gulf of Eilat; and an American promise to guarantee such free passage. In 1967 the UN Force disappeared, as did the American promise, which the State Department claimed they could not verify.
In the period since 1967, the US State Department has devoted an excessive amount of time developing and promoting plans to force Israeli withdrawal to the 'suicide' borders of pre-1967. With amazing regularity, the State Department has failed to be honest about violations of the agreements it has negotiated between the Arabs and Israelis. The US has been blind to Arab violations from the failure to see missile movements in Egypt (1970-76) to the failure to see Palestinian violations of the Oslo and Wye Agreements. This US blindness has always been one way. The Israelis are subjected to constant misinterpretations of agreements. For example, never having agreed to a freeze in Jewish building, US spy satellites are active daily counting houses in YESHA. And then publicly rebuking Israel for a normal activity of a sovereign country.
In order to pressure Israel, stories appear on a regular basis claiming that Israel is transferring American technology to third parties. In every case they are proven false, but the constant repetition is meant to weaken Israel diplomatically. The State Department has orchestrated a media campaign to damage Israel's reputation in general and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular. A few examples:
1. Netanyahu is the "hardline" PM of Israel while other world leaders are Statesman. Arafat is a 'leader.'
2. Ethnic cleansing is bad in Kosovo but the ethnic cleansing of Jews from YESHA is good.
3. All disputed land in YESHA 'belongs' to Arabs even when Israel has clear title.
4. All foreign capitals are recognized 'except Jerusalem.'
5. Israeli soldiers defending themselves from attack have been treated by the media as the 'bad guy.'
6. Rock throwers who can crush you skull have been treated as 'demonstrators or protesters' by the media.
7. Jewish villages are 'settlements' and 'illegitimate' while Arab villages are all considered legitimate.
The list could on but now we must say something that should have been said years ago. It is very important for Israel to disengage from its close embrace with American diplomacy. It should be obvious to all that American and Israeli interests differ markedly in relation to the negotiations with the Palestinians. America has by its own admission ceased to be either pro-Israel or a neutral mediator (the Americans claim to be 'even-handed').
American policy in the final analysis will leave Israel with indefensible borders and an irredentist Palestinian neighbor yearning for all the land "from the river to the sea." Then, of course, they will also want Jordan.
Much more can be gained for Israel by negotiating directly with the Arabs. This used to be Israeli policy. In reality, Arafat has ceased negotiating with Israel and now is negotiating only with Washington.. It may be necessary to give up American aid dollars and possibly weapons to break out of the current US embrace. It will certainly be difficult, but in the end, there will exist a truly free and sovereign Israel. The alternative is to learn nothing from history: placing Israel's destiny in America's hands as was done during WWII. America won the war, but 90% of Europe's Jews were already dead. I would prefer Israel to survive.
Will America Forsake Israel, Again?
By Giulio Meotti
19 August, 2012
America’s interest in Israel’s strategic value has always been the primary motivation for US support.
Photo: Reuters/Stringer Iran
The Israel-Iran countdown has begun, and with regard to Teheran’s nuclear race we are witnessing a great crisis in US-Israel relations.
Will America help the tiny Jewish state? Can Israel trust the word of a US administration which treated Jerusalem like a banana republic? A few days ago, Israeli officials told Yediot Aharonot newspaper that “the US’ stance is pushing the Iranians to become a country at the brink of nuclear capability.”
Very few people in Israel believe that the US will ever launch another preemptive war against the ayatollahs. The US, especially if Barack Obama is re-elected, will be tempted to reach a compromise with the Iranians.
Israel is dependent on the US for economic, military and diplomatic support.
American taxpayers fund 20%-25% of Israel’s defense budget, with the Jewish state being the largest recipient by far of American aid since World War II. Israel is required to use a portion of US aid to buy from the US defense establishment, but no other country – certainly not any European one – provides the weapons needed to protect Israeli lives. Moreover, the United States has cast 40 vetoes to protect Israel in the UN Security Council.
There is a quid pro quo for such support, but also a limit to what even that degree of dependence can buy. The current Iranian nuclear race made this very clear, just as it made clear that the US has, again, forsaken the Israelis.
Washington doesn’t support Israel because of the Jewish state’s democracy, because of the Holocaust or out of respect for human rights. America’s interest in Israel’s strategic value has always been the primary motivation for US support.
But that could change tomorrow, especially if Israel’s survival becomes a burden for Washington (France was Israel’s most important ally after the war, but Paris suddenly abandoned the Jews for the Arab world). Israel must remember that she is America’s ally and client, not its “friend.”
The first US presidents after Israel was established – Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson – gave nothing to the Jewish state. And we were in a time when the ashes of Auschwitz were still warm, while today the memory of the Holocaust is fading. Truman maintained a US embargo against arms sales to the Israeli and Arabs, which was effective only against Israel. In 1948, it was US pressure which forced Israel to withdraw from Sinai where Israeli forces were pursuing the defeated Egyptians.
In 1960 the Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann was apprehended by Israeli agents in Argentina and flown to Jerusalem for trial. Argentina turned to the UN Security Council, asking it to condemn Israel and order Eichmann’s return. Washington intended to support the Argentinean complaint and only the furious reaction of Israel’s foreign minister Golda Meir dissuaded Washington.
Prior to the Six Day War, Abba Eban approached Lyndon Johnson and all he got was an arms embargo on the Middle East. In 1970, at the height of the War of Attrition, the US turned down an urgent Israeli request for security assistance.
In 1992 the Bush-Baker administration humiliated the Israelis with an ultimatum: “Settlements or loan guarantees.”
(The later Israeli general and minister Rehavam Ze’evi dismissed Bush senior as “anti-Semitic”). The US post-Gulf War settlement included American efforts to dislodge Israel from the territories by endangering Israel’s security. The former editor of The New York Times, A.M. Rosenthal, wrote that “the Bush administration has a spiritual affinity for Arab rulers and oilmen, but bares its teeth when Jerusalem shows independence.”
Bill Clinton’s appeasement has been a tragedy for the Jewish people, since he pushed the Oslo process along and encouraged its implementation, bearing a historic responsibility for the intifada’s bloodshed, in which 2,000 Israelis paid with their lives.
In 1981 the Jewish state bombed the Iraqi Osirak reactor. Recent files released by the UK National Archives show that Britain’s ambassador to Washington, Sir Nicholas Henderson, was with US defense secretary Caspar Weinberger as the news came in.
“Weinberger says that he thinks Begin must have taken leave of his senses. He is much disturbed by the Israeli reaction and possible consequences,” Nicholas cabled London. Alexander Haig was secretary of state then. “I argued,” he recalled, “that while some action must be taken to show American disapproval, our strategic interests would not be served by policies that humiliated and weakened Israel.”
Those who remember Ronald Reagan as friendly to Israel may be startled to recall the vehemence of his reaction against Israel. His administration’s immediate response was to impose sanctions on the Jewish state, and he suspended the delivery of F-16 fighter jets, doing something even Jimmy Carter refused to do: use arms supplies as leverage against Israel.
Washington has also armed Israel’s western neighbor to the teeth. The Egyptian army today is infinitely more modern and lethal then when the Egyptians carried out their successful attack against Israel in the Yom Kippur War.
And can we forget the US treatment of Jonathan Pollard, the only American to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally? Despite the fact that nobody has given a single specific example of how Pollard’s actions harmed the US, Pollard is still being held in solitary confinement in an underground cell.
Pollard has been in prison longer than anyone ever sentenced in the US for passing classified materials to a friendly foreign power (the median sentence for someone spying for a non-Soviet power has been less than three years). For his contribution to Israel’s security and for his long suffering in prison, Pollard is an Israeli hero.
He is the source of the Israeli preparedness for the Iraqi missile attacks during the Gulf War, when Saddam’s rockets began to rain down on Tel Aviv, and Israelis wore gas masks. Pollard warned Israel of Iraq’s bellicose intentions, and that Syria’s Assad was amassing quantities of chemical weapons.
By its own agreement with Israel, the US should have given this information to Jerusalem. But it was deliberately blocked by Weinberger.
Today Israel can stand tall in the face of its important ally because it never asked American soldiers to spill their blood in its defense. It’s Washington that must beg for Israel’s alliance and protect the Jews, as it cannot afford disengagement from the only democracy in a region dominated by Islam. But will the US eventually be compelled to sacrifice Israel on the altar of “realism” and oil price, at which time Iran’s knife will descend on the Jews? And will the Jewish state’s leadership dutifully bind Israel on the altar? As Charles Krauthammer put it: “for Israel the stakes are somewhat higher: the very existence of a vibrant nation and its 6 million Jews.” If Israel is unable to change the US’ red line on Iran and Jerusalem capitulates to Washington’s appeasement, Iran will be soon armed with atomic bombs.
And the Jews? They will be psychologically weaker and totally dependent on others’ help. Like it was during the Holocaust. Does someone need to be reminded how Washington refused to help the Jews while they were entering into the gas chambers?
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The writer is an Italian author.