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Settlements Won’t Harm US-Israel Relationship

When my late father, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, was in office, neither Ronald Reagan nor George Bush agreed with his ideology.
Yair Shamir

Yair Shamir
Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Many have expressed concern over the U.S. strong opposition to Jewish construction in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria. I think the time has come to release ourselves from such simplistic conceptions that insult American intelligence. Most American legislators and policy makers understand that the strategic cooperation between Israel and the U.S. does not hinge on the Palestinian issue nor on the settlement issue not even on the overall conflict between Israel and the Arab nations. Rather, it is based on mutual and common interests in the Middle East and the world over such as Iran’s nuclear threat,counter- terrorism, missile defense, intelligence-sharing, battle tactics, defense and commercial industrial research, where Israel has a competitive edge over any other country in the world.

In the past two years, anyone who has been witnessing the rise of the Islamic tide on the Arab street recognizes there is no ally in the Middle East or the world over trustworthy and stable, capable, democratic and pro-American unconditionally as Israel. That is the reason the strategic cooperation between Israel and the U.S. increases despite the differences on – what the U.S. considers secondary issues – like the settlements, the Palestinian problem or even the Arab-Israel conflict.

Israel’s relationship with the U.S. flourishes regardless of who is the President or Prime Minister and whether there is chemistry between them. When my late father, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, was in office, neither Ronald Reagan nor George Bush agreed with his ideology and even threatened to cut off aid to Israel over the settlements issue. Yet during my father’s tenure US-Israel relations were strengthened in an unprecedented manner. They both knew that even if there was no chemistry, you could rely on Shamir when the chips were down. The US knows that Israel is a unique beachhead, of the Western democracies, that must be strengthened and fortified. They don’t view us as beggars but as a very valuable asset – the relationship between Israel and the US is not one – but a two way – street.

Former US Secretary of State Alexander Haig once described Israel as the biggest American aircraft carrier in the world without having to send even one American soldier, one that you cannot sink and is critical to American economic and military interests. If there were no Israel America would have send aircraft carriers with thousands of troops that would cost the US taxpayers billions of dollars. Israel saves the US all that money and work.

Some have also voiced concern over President Barack Obama’s nomination of John Kerry as Secretary of State who is known for his fierce opposition to settlements and views it as the primary obstacle to peace. Many are liable to feel that his nomination will deter Israel from implementing its decision to build thousands of apartments in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and will be viewed as an obstacle to Israel-US relations.

I trust that the new Israeli government after Jan. 22 will not be deterred and will implement the settlement drive as it decided. The claim that only Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria prejudges the outcome of negotiations is not true. Palestinian construction in Judea and Samaria – which is dramatically larger than Jewish construction there – presents facts on the ground, just as is Jewish construction.

Western tendency to single out Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria – while ignoring Palestinian construction –prejudges the outcome of negotiations! Israel’s government razes illegal Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria. Israel should, also, raze the 1,100 illegal Arab homes built annually in Jerusalem and the thousands of illegal Arab homes in Judea and Samaria.

One must realize that our problem (and that of the US) is not with the Palestinians but with the entire Arab world. First we have to try and end the conflict with the Arab League. Once we succeed in reaching an agreement with it, they will order the Palestinian leadership to concede and they will follow suit. But if no agreement is reached with the Arab world, a peace agreement with the Palestinians alone is unattainable. To adopt a simplistic approach that peace can be reached via an agreement with the Palestinians alone is not realistic.

About the Author: Yair Shamir is chairman of the board of directors of Israel Aerospace Industries.


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3 Responses to “Settlements Won’t Harm US-Israel Relationship”

  1. Liad Bar-el says:

    Yair, thank you for your article. I continue to disagree, however, that the conflict between us Jews in Israel and the Arabs worldwide is not a matter of real-estate but a religious one; thus, when one side (the other side – sidra achra) religiously believes that all Jews should be killed, then there are no agreements that can be signed which will hold true. Also, with Obama in office, the American Administration has cloned itself with the Muslim Brotherhood which also wants to destroy Israel. We all have to remember and take courage that no one has ever started up with the Israelites and come out ahead. One always regrets having done so. HaShem is watching over us.

  2. I met your father once and understand his deep attachment to the Jewish historical heartland.

    I share in the love of Jerusalem and the other sites mentioned in the Bible.

    But at the time when the PLO was just starting to say it wanted to make peace with Israel, I thought that Israel could make peace with both the Palestinians and the Arab World.

    I thought that territorial compromise was a good idea then.

    Today with Hamas in Gaza, the Brotherhood in Egypt and soon possibly in Syria and Jordan, and the tumult that exists everywhere in the Arab World, not to mention the threat from Iran, no real peace is possible now.

    A peace accord now would resemble the 1957 withdrawal from Sinai where Israel gave up everything in return for promises that were not kept.

    But I think you are mistaken in underestimating the complexity of the settlement issue.

    I believe settlements around Schecem and others are not supported even by most.
    Israelis, while the consensus in Israel supports those around Jerusalem.

    In the US the settlement issue has allowed Israel's enemies to find a wedge issue to divide and weaken the American Jewish community.

    It is a very potent weapon.

  3. Charlie Hall says:

    "A peace accord now would resemble the 1957 withdrawal from Sinai where Israel gave up everything in return for promises that were not kept."

    Remember that the 1957 Land for Nothing withdrawal from Sinai was forced on Israel by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, who threatened war with Israel if Israel did not kowtow. Never since has any US President, of either party, been so hostile or threatening. Lots of Israelis, lots of pro-Israel Americans, and some of the greatest Orthodox Rabbis of the past half century have supported Land for Peace — but not Land for Nothing.

    "I believe settlements around Schecem and others are not supported even by most.
    Israelis, while the consensus in Israel supports those around Jerusalem."

    More settlements in isolated areas would be incredibly stupid from a security perspective. They are essentially indefensible, and c'v in the case of a full scale war they would either tie up valuable IDF resources, or need to be abandoned, with the residents at the mercy of the hostile invaders.

    "In the US the settlement issue has allowed Israel's enemies to find a wedge issue to divide and weaken the American Jewish community."

    Not just in the US! Many Israelis have so bought the "the entire world hates us" line that they don't realize that the only problem that much of the world has with Israel is in fact the settlements, which are believed by almost every other country in the world to violate the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel's pilpul on this is completely unconvincing.

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When my late father, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, was in office, neither Ronald Reagan nor George Bush agreed with his ideology.

Anyone who thinks Prime Minister Netanyahu, in order to improve relations with the U.S., should succumb to American pressure in return for a U.S. incentives package and extend the freeze of Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria is either mistaken or misguided.

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