The assumption that Israel must accept the Kerry Plan as a basis for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority – lest it risk a rift with the US – should be assessed in light of the full context of US-Israel strategic cooperation, the imploding Arab Street, the unique foundations and nature of US-Israel ties, the US political system, the ineffectiveness of prior US plans and Israel’s own security requirements.
US-Israel strategic cooperation transcends the Palestinian issue. Thus, despite the 66-year-old disagreement, between the two Administrations, about the ways and means to resolve the Palestinian issue, strategic cooperation has catapulted to unprecedented heights.
Notwithstanding Arab talk – but based on the Arab walk – the Palestinian issue does not preoccupy the attention of Arab policy-makers, does not significantly impact vital US interests, and does not play a key role in destabilizing the Middle East, as reaffirmed by the tectonic Arab Tsunami, which is unrelated to Israel or the Palestinian issue.
Therefore, the Palestinian issue has been superseded by regional and global mutual threats, interests and benefits, shaping the increasingly two-way-street mutually-beneficial US-Israel agenda: the US supply of critical military systems to Israel; the Israeli battle-tested laboratory, which enhances the performance of US military systems and the US defense industries; the joint development of ballistic, space, UAV, cyber and other critical technologies; Israeli innovations upgrade the competitive edge of US high tech industries; Israel provides intelligence of Iran’s nuclear threat and Islamic terrorism on the US mainland and beyond; Israel trains US elite units in countering-terrorism and urban warfare, and shares battle lessons, shaping US battle tactics; Israel’s power-projection deters rogue regimes, which threaten pro-US Arab regimes such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia; etc..
Israel’s role as the most consistent, capable and willing ally of the US gains in importance, as the Arab Street becomes increasingly anti-US, Islamist, unstable and unpredictably violent. While the US cuts its defense budget and withdraws its military from the Middle East, Russia and China deepen their presence in the region and West Europe is preoccupied with domestic challenges.
The disagreement over the Palestinian issue is, also, superseded by shared US-Israel Judeo-Christian values, which have strongly influenced US morality, legal and political systems. This dates back to the early Pilgrims in the 17th century, the Liberty Bell’s inscription from Leviticus, the Founding Fathers, the Biblically-driven Anti-Slavery Movement and the current statues of Moses in the US House of Representatives and the US Supreme Court.
American constituents – which are the axis of the Federal system – through most of the Congress – a co-equal, co-determining branch of government on external and domestic matters – have established a unique bottom-up, systematic, positive attitude towards the Jewish state. They disassociate themselves from the Executive’s moral equivalence towards Israel – the role model of counter terrorism and unconditional alliance with the US – as opposed to the Palestinian leadership – a role model of international terrorism and an ally of Nazi Germany, the Communist Bloc, Khomeini, Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden.
In 1948, the charismatic US Secretary of State, George Marshall pressured Israel to accept his plan of a UN Mandate for Palestine as a substitute for independence. Marshall considered the Jewish state a liability and the Arabs an asset. He assumed that Israel would join the Communist Bloc and would be unable to defend itself against the invading Arabs, thus triggering a second Jewish Holocaust in less than ten years. Prime Minister Ben Gurion refused to negotiate Marshall’s proposal.
When threatened by UN Security Council sanctions, which dictated a withdrawal from the “occupied Negev,” Ben Gurion stated: “What Israel has won on the battlefield, it is determined not to yield at the [UN Security] Council table.” Ben Gurion’s principle-driven defiance and steadfastness produced short-term pressure, but long-term strategic respect, transforming Israel into the most reliable, stable, capable, democratic and unconditional ally of the US in the Middle East and beyond.
In 1957, President Eisenhower pressured Israel to evacuate the Sinai Peninsula. Senate and House leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, threatened Eisenhower with legislative paralysis, and convinced Eisenhower to reduce his pressure. However, Israel pulled the rug from under their feet by accepting the Eisenhower plan.
In December, 1969 and June, 1970, Secretary of State, William Rogers, introduced the Rogers Plan, calling for Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines, providing for a return of Arab refugees to Israel and shared Israel-Jordan rule in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Golda Meir rejected the plan, initializing the construction of three large new neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, home of over 100,00 persons. Rogers tolerated Egypt’s advancing surface-to-air missiles in violation of commitments, which facilitated the deterioration to the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
In 1977, President Carter pressured Israel to participate in an international conference, highlighting the Palestinian issue and a full Israeli withdrawal. Prime Minister Begin dismissed the idea and initiated the dialogue with Egyptian President Sadat, which led to a peace accord.
In September, 1982, President Reagan announced his plan, calling for full Israeli withdrawal and an immediate settlement freeze. Prime Minister Begin rejected the plan, expanded settlements, and laid the foundation for the November, 1983 upgrade of US-Israel strategic cooperation.
Accepting the Kerry Plan would revert Israel to the pre-1967 9-15 mile sliver along the Mediterranean, dominated by the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, which would be controlled by the Palestinian Authority, a systematic violator of agreements, perpetuator of hate education and generator of terror. The irreplaceability of Judea and Samaria mountain ridges for Israel’s national security has been reinforced by the Arab Tsunami. It has made the Middle East – the most conflict-ridden region in the world – more violently intolerant, unpredictable, unreliable, unstable and treacherous.
Accepting the Kerry Plan requires the subordination of long-term vision and security to short-term convenience, and the subjugation of realism to wishful-thinking, thus jeopardizing the very survival of the Jewish State, transforming Israel from a unique asset to a burden. Rejecting the Kerry Plan, might create short-term tension, but no long-term rift. On a rainy day, the US prefers a defiant, rather than a submissive, ally.Yoram Ettinger
About the Author: Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is consultant to Israel’s Cabinet members and Israeli legislators, and lecturer in the U.S., Canada and Israel on Israel’s unique contributions to American interests, the foundations of U.S.-Israel relations, the Iranian threat, and Jewish-Arab issues.
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