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Posts Tagged ‘U.S.-Israel relations’

Obama’s Visit: He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Given the shape of Jewish history, verbal expressions of friendship that others would take as the norm are treated as overwhelming acts of wonderfulness. This tradition goes back to the days of monarchies, when Jews saw themselves as powerless people who were passive recipients of the king’s generosity.

One reason that idea continued was because expressing the idea that Jews might have some power, some ability to shape events, was a major theme of antisemitism. Indeed, claiming that there is an all-powerful Jewish lobby or even of a Jewish-controlled media (which is laughable) remain to this day one of the main earmarks of antisemitic thinking.

What is the purpose of hasbara, that is, the effort to explain Israel’s situation, experiences, perceptions, and goals? It is not to make everyone love Israel or Jews, though that would be nice, but to create conditions so that Jews are not attacked or materially hurt by hostile neighbors and so Israel can have the environment in which it can operate with enough international support to do what it needs to do.

Let’s discuss these themes in the context of President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel.

From an Israeli, though not necessarily from an American, viewpoint it is absurd to be “pro-Obama” or “anti-Obama.” The issue is what Obama does in regard to Israeli interests. This is not necessarily the same criteria that American Jews would take, given their additional involvement and interest in many other issues that have nothing to do with international affairs.

In Israeli terms, for example, Richard Nixon was a good president. So was Harry Truman, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan. Note the wide differences in their domestic policies, reputations, and worldviews in an American context..

If Obama is now going to be considered friendly toward Israel then, to use his own words in a different context, he didn’t build it on his own. Indeed, if Obama had his own way, if he could do anything he wanted to do, he would have been terribly unfriendly, the most unfriendly American president in history. (Jimmy Carter’s hostility came almost completely after leaving office.) And in many ways, that is how he began his presidency.

But Obama is neither a free agent nor a fanatic out to hurt Israel at any price. As president he interacts with reality, at least on this issue. There were three categories of factors that changed the strong hostility of Obama’s original position into something else.

First, internal American factors: There is a tradition seen as the norm of strong support for Israel by the United States; Pro-Israel public opinion; and a largely pro-Israel Congress.

Second, regional factors, which include:

The lack of cooperation by the Palestinians who gave Obama zero assistance in his attempts to help them. Imagine if the Palestinian Authority had said in 2009: “We want negotiations right away and peace as fast as possible. But we expect Obama to get us what we demand, including big Israeli concessions in exchange for very little. President Obama, you can have peace if you only bash Israel!” But they did the opposite, turning down every Obama initiative.

The lack of cooperation by the Arab states generally, which did not take advantage of Obama’s offer to help them get major Israeli concessions through U.S. pressure.

Iran’s intransigence.

And, the fact that Islamists proved Obama wrong and became more radical.

In short, Obana discovered that distancing himself from Israel bought no gain.

Third, actions by Israel and American Jews:

The Israeli government’s strategy of cooperating with Obama as much as possible to avoid giving him a—you can call it a reason or an excuse—for a quarrel.

The tireless work of American Jews, both supporters and opponents of Obama, to explain the issues and mobilize support. This includes those whose strong criticism stung the administration.

It is not that Obama was nice toward Israel all along; it is that there is a new policy based on his realizing there wasn’t going to be a breakthrough to a comprehensive peace agreement.

There are, however, still two problem areas. First, the president expresses sympathy but not agreement with Israel. His view is: I understand why you act as you do but you are wrong. You can obtain lasting peace fast if only you aren’t stubborn and suspicious.

Visiting a Friend

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

A lot of people are trying to spin President Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel this week in their own image. People on both sides of the divide see this trip designed to re-start the peace process.

The left that think settlements are an impediment to peace and know the President shares that view. So they are hopeful that he will somehow use his personal charm and considerable influence to halt settlement construction with an eye towards re-starting peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Those on the right see the same thing, only instead of supporting it, they are vehemently opposed to it – believing that settlements are not the real issue. They instead see the President’s mission as forcing Israel to stop settlement construction at a time when they need it most (because of natural growth and the perceived (by the right) value of outlying settlements as bulwarks against terrorism).

I think they are both wrong. I don’t see any plan. I see an impasse. I think the President sees that too. If he had any kind of plan that he thinks would have even the slightest chance at success at re-kindling the peace process he would have suggested it by now.

The President doesn’t need face time with Israeli leadership to make these kinds of suggestions. Israeli leaders know full well how important the relationship with the United States is. Even the current Prime Minister bends over backwards to accommodate the President’s wishes whenever he can if he doesn’t see it as compromising their security or other national interests.

I have always maintained that the President is sincere in his attempts to convince both Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate peace in the form of a two state solution believing it to be the best of all possible worlds for all concerned. Whether settlements are an issue on any level can be debated by people of good will. But I don’t think any fair minded observer (and I emphasize fair minded) on either side of the issue can dispute the President’s noble intent.

My view on this issue is somewhere between these two extremes. I do not support settlement building at this time because the gain does not outweigh the loss of good will generated by acceding to the President’s wishes. But I don’t believe they are the main impediment to peace either. With little exception, I would therefore prefer if Israel does not move forward with expansion of settlements at this time. There is no advantage to spitting in the face of the leader of a country that is your biggest supporter. Especially while he’s there. That would be a major mistake.

That said, I do not believe that the President will press Israel to stop settlement during this trip. Not that he has changed his mind. But that he doesn’t want to waste the opportunity to build on the relationship between the two countries.

Unlike some of his biggest detractors, I believe that the President actually likes Israel and values the friendship of the Israeli people. I doubt that he buys into all the anti-Israel rhetoric one hears so frequently from Israel’s enemies. Like accusations that they are guilty of Apartheid for instance. I’m not saying he doesn’t see Palestinian suffering. I’m sure he does. But like me, he understands that their suffering is due in large part from security measures Israel takes because of a history of being attacked by their own people through terrorist organizations like Hamas.

Hamas is still considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. The President never suggested for a moment that Hamas be removed from the State Department list of terrorist organizations. Same thing Hezbollah. Although he may feel that Israel could do better I also believe that he understands Israel’s position and for the most part does not blame them for the suffering of the Palestinians.

I also believe that he values Israel as an important ally as well as a friend. That’s why he approved scarce budget dollars to be spent on the very successful ‘Iron Dome’ anti missile defense system. And why military and intelligence cooperation between the two countries has never been closer! He sees a Israel as a country of shared values and its people much like those of his own country.

The problem is with the way he started off his Presidency with respect to his Middle East foreign policy. Although that too was well intentioned, it was a mistake. He made overtures to the Arab nations by going over there intending to reset the U.S. relationship with them while at the same time being highly critical of their their anti Israel attitude and their revisionist attitude about the Holocaust. But he erred by not visiting Israel as well. Although he did not intend it that way – he in effect snubbed his closest ally in the Middle East.

That began a cycle of mistrust of the President by the Israeli people. He was initially seen as tilting towards the Arabs. He has not fully recovered from that perception. Israel and many of its supporters felt that once he was in the neighborhood he should have at least stopped off and paid his friend a visit. The perception of being snubbed set the tone.

The second thing that further caused a perceived rift was when Israel’s Prime Minister showed poor judgement on his first visit to the White House by publicly lecturing the President. That did not help matters cooling off of the relationship even further– at least publicly. Especially when the President was caught off guard telling the French President what a hard time he had with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Some pundits characterized the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister as one where the two leaders hate each other. I don’t think that is accurate. I’m not saying that they are kindred spirits. But I don’t think ‘hate’ is the right word. I think that the two actually respect each other even while they disagree on some key issues. I do not think Netanyahu is his enemy by any stretch of the imagination – any more than House Speaker John Boehner is.

So why is he going to Israel? I believe that this trip is to repair the negative image he has in Israel. I doubt that he will do or say anything to them about the peace process or settlements – except to perhaps pay some lip service to it.

It is therefore my considered opinion that Israel should put on an unprecedented charm offensive – and treat him like he was – well… the President of the United States and their best friend. They should go out of their way to thank him for the considerable amount of things he has done for them . They ought to make sure that they talk as much as possible about the special relationship between the two countries; their shared democratic principles; and their commitment to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

There certainly ought not to be any demonstrations against him by any dissident extremists like the die-hard price-taggers. Although there may be some. As well as demonstrations about Jonathan Pollard – not that it will help him one iota. If any demonstrations do happen I’m sure that the President will see it as an example of the great freedom of expression that Israel grants its citizens – just like the United States does.

The Israeli public’s real concern right now is not the Palestinians. If the last election showed anything it showed that their main concern is how to solve the problem of “sharing the burden.” Meaning what to do about Haredim who insist on remaining exempt from the draft. If the fractious new coalition government has any one thing in common – it is that. To the chagrin of all the Haredi parties, they will have little to say about it having been left out of the coalition. They are now in the opposition.

But I don’t think this will influence any part of the President’s visit to Israel. I doubt that Haredim will be making an issue of this to the President. So after all is said and done I think this trip should be a resounding success that will enhance the relationship between Israel and the United States to an unprecedented level.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Obaminology

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Do you remember “Kremlinology,” the study of what was actually going on behind the walls of the Soviet citadel? Experts would scrutinize photos of Soviet officials to see who was standing closest to the leaders, who had moved farther away, or, ominously, who was not present at all. Since the Soviets were not exactly transparent about their policies, a known ‘hawk’ moving closer to party chiefs might signal a threat.

A free society is expected to be more transparent. Officials should announce policies, which are more or less the policies that the government then tries to carry out.

But in the America of today — and particularly with regard to Middle East policy — this is not the case. At least the pro-Israel community finds it necessary to microscopically examine the behavior of important officials, to try to determine what the administration intends. At times like this — immediately preceding the presidential visit to Israel — speculation reaches a high pitch. We find ourselves engaged in Obaminology.

There are some simple methods that can be employed. First, what doesn’t work: it is usually a waste of time to listen to the President’s actual words. As we can see by his recent comments to “Jewish leaders” and to representatives of American Arab organizations, he will tell his audiences what they want to hear. Such statements are carefully calibrated so that they will be technically true but either vacuous or open to multiple interpretations.

One useful technique is to look at the “friendly” media. For example, the New York Times often presents the official line or floats trial balloons for the administration. And the Times has run no less than four anti-Israel op-eds or stories in the past seven days: the Joseph Levine piece arguing that Israel did not have the right to exist as a Jewish state (which I commented on here); an op-ed by Columbia professor and Palestinian apologist Rashid Khalidi which claims the U.S. has enabled Israel’s “apartheid” policies; a long story in the magazine by Ben Ehrenreich, blaming the IDF and ‘settlers’ for provoking “resistance” by saintly Arab residents of Nabi Saleh; and a front-page news story by bureau chief Jodi Rudoren critical of Israel for allowing Jews to live in what she calls “Arab East Jerusalem.”

All of these articles had this in common: they are intended to reduce sympathy for Israel, to establish the ‘Palestinian’ narrative of both historical and current events, and to weaken the Jewish one.

This is nothing new for the Times, but the concentration of coverage makes one wonder. And it is not only the Times: this weekend NPR presented an interview with Khalidi making the same points as his op-ed.

If the President’s words are not useful in sniffing out his intentions, his actions are. Wednesday, President Obama will be visiting Israel, where he will snub the democratically elected Knesset by speaking at a nearby convention center, unlike Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush, who chose to speak at Israel’s parliament. This is apparently because of the unprecedented lengths to which the Obama Administration has gone to deny Israel’s sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem. To add insult to injury, students from one of Israel’s accredited universities — the one that happens to be located in Ariel, east of the armistice line — were left out of the invitations offered to students at other universities.

I believe that the administration believes that it has set all of its ducks in a row for the upcoming visit. I do not believe that it will be “merely a photo-op,” as some have suggested, because Obama has no need for a photo-op today. The visit is costly and complicated, and will have objectives that the President and his advisers think are important.

It has also been suggested that the President will concentrate on issues involving Iran and the Syrian civil war rather than the question of the Palestinian Arabs. But this is not what is implied by the media offensive and the deliberate snub of Israel’s parliament and government.

Obaminology tells us that these objectives will be related to the ongoing effort to force Israel to withdraw from Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. Probably there will be renewed pressure to freeze construction east of the armistice lines, including Jerusalem. It would not surprise me if support for Israel in possible future actions against Iran were conditioned on concessions in the Palestinian arena.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

Redeeming the Captives and Jonathan Pollard

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

There is, to the outside world, something a bit incomprehensible about Jews. Most of the world cannot grasp what idiocy would bring Israel to exchange 1,000 prisoners (and yes, among them hundreds of terrorists and murderers) for the life of one person, a young soldier of no worth in terms of security or military knowledge. The sum value of Gilad Shalit’s life was simply that he was one of ours.

By contrast, here in Israel, though we knew it was a stupid and dangerous exchange, it was never something incomprehensible. Rather, it was completely understood, if not something logical. This is what we were commanded to do, above sanity at time, certainly coming within inches of danger to ourselves. We are not supposed to cross the line of endangering ourselves, but even that line blurs as the desperation to bring out own home grows.

We brought Gilad home – others may well die as a result. Perhaps even this past week, as a young child is in very critical condition because the car in which she was riding was stoned. No one regrets for a moment that Gilad is finally home, finally free. We celebrate each victory he claims on his journey to live his life and take back what was stolen from him. I don’t know if what we did was right, but it was good, and it was needed.

And we as a people continue, as we did with Gilad, always aware that there are others out there still held in captivity. Once it was millions – Russian Jews not allowed to emigrate. We protested, we demonstrated, we demanded, we bargained…until the doors of the former Soviet Union opened and more than a million came out. They are part of Israel now and everywhere mixed in with Hebrew, you hear Russian…or at least Russian accented Hebrew and we know that what we did was good, right, needed.

And there were Jews in Ethiopia and Yemen – and we flew planes to bring them home. Jews in Iran that still need to be brought home, though very few. Jews in Syria who have been smuggled in and even Jews from France, who are coming home. And we know that all our efforts are good and right and needed.

And there is a Jew in the United States. Yes, there is. He is a captive and unfairly so. The price he is paying is not for the crime he committed. There was a price to be paid – and he paid it, but he was betrayed by those with whom he made an agreement. It is to their shame that Jonathan Pollard is still in jail, not his. He has done his time and amazingly enough, the vast majority who condemn him – don’t actually know what he was convicted of doing.

You can’t imprison someone for what you think they did, not even for what you know he did. If you respect American law, than you must accept that Jonathan Pollard was sentenced for committing a crime that, on average, results in a sentence of 3-5 years. He has served more than 28 years.

President Obama wants to come to Israel this week and as recent poll showed 79% of Israelis want to see Obama get off the plane with Pollard. There are few things on which you can get 79% of Israelis to agree and given that approximately 20% of the population is Arab and would presumably not be in favor of Pollard being released, that amounts to an almost complete agreement.

The overwhelming feeling among those I know is very simple. There is really nothing to be gained by Obama’s visit. It will be a nightmare of traffic and delays for Israelis a critical week before the Passover holidays. Many of our relatives are flying in or out of the country – honestly, who needs this?

If…IF he were bringing Pollard home, we would greet him with the respect due the President of the United States, even though personally we know he is far from a friend of Israel. We will listen to the nonsense and unfair position he will spout, how WE should do this and WE should do that. We would ignore his pressuring us and ignoring endless violence by the Palestinians.

My Take On Pollard

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Here are excerpts of my Knesset speech regarding Jonathan Pollard’s incarceration:

I would like to thank Knesset member [Avishay] Braverman who openly told us that at least during a certain time period, Jonathan Pollard remained imprisoned because that was also the will of people here, in Israel.

This is a very important statement, which was said in an offhand way. But in my opinion, it is certainly possible that this problem still exists.

Jonathan Pollard is not a traitor. We have to look at Jonathan Pollard through Jewish, Israeli, Zionist eyes. Jonathan Pollard is an Israeli agent. He performed a service for us. It is unthinkable that we should look at Jonathan through American eyes.

Jonathan Pollard is a hero, a hero of Israel. He is a hero who risked his life for us. And who knows how many of us he literally saved.

I have no intention of signing the petition for Jonathan Pollard. It is just meaningless words. It is lip service. I have no intention of being dragged once again into processes that have nothing behind them. Similarly, in my evaluation, this petition will fade away when President Barack Obama arrives here if we, the MKs, do not take tangible action – and I intend to propose just such an action. With it, our loyalty to the person who we sent to risk his life for us will be put to the test.

Our brother, Jonathan, who risked his life for us as our envoy, was not the only one who ran to the Israeli embassy for protection on that bitter day 28 years ago. His direct handler, Colonel Aviem Sella, ran to the embassy with him.

The U.S. forcefully demanded that both men – the Jew and the Israeli – be handed over to them.

We betrayed the Jew, and handed him over to his captors – the FBI agents waiting outside.

As far as the Israeli, we proved that when Israel wants something, it can certainly stand firm. Aviem Sella was not handed over – and a way was even found to bring him back to Israel.

On that day I understood that the state of Israel is not really the state of the Jews. Israel is the state of the Israelis. And from this denial of its identity and its foundations, my friends, Knesset members, Israel is progressively losing the legitimacy for its very right to exist.

I have visited my brother, Jonathan, many times. When I saw him for the first time, I couldn’t stop my tears. It was awkward: he was the inmate, who, despite the terrible torture that he had endured, remained peaceful and calm while I, a free lark, was crying like a baby.

Since then, Jonathan’s picture is on the front door of my house. One cannot enter the Feiglin family home without remembering our brother, Jonathan.

The betrayal of Pollard continues until today. It is hard to believe, but the simple fact is that the prime minister then, the person who authorized the extradition and today serves as president of the state of Israel, until recently never officially requested Jonathan’s release. We often hear that Israel is doing its utmost. We heard that and we will continue to hear it. We will sign petitions. But an official request was never presented – until Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu did so after 20 years.

But the resolve is still missing. Our body language – and I am referring to the body language of the regime, not of the nation of Israel and not of the Knesset embers but the body language of those responsible – still says to the Americans, “Keep Pollard to yourselves, we don’t really want him here.”

The type of spying that Pollard conducted is carried out by U.S. agents in Israel as a matter of course and is public information. Israel has the ability to demand and receive our brother, Jonathan, if it wants. If we want!

The president of the U.S. will [soon] arrive in Israel and he will want to speak from this podium. Welcome to Israel, U.S. President Barack Obama – with my brother, Jonathan Pollard.

But if you continue to imprison my brother, Jonathan, you will have to speak to my empty chair. And I hope that more Knesset chairs than just mine will be empty.

Obama Limiting US-Israel Security Cooperation?

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Shared values and democratic systems count for a lot in the political world — and they can advance military cooperation — but national security interests can evolve without them. No one would mistake Saudi Arabia or Bahrain for a country that shares American values, yet the U.S. Central Command works closely and cooperatively with both.

Israel shares American values in many ways, but a shared security outlook is something else, hinging on threat perceptions that may no longer be coincident.

Vice President Biden took to the stage at AIPAC this week to promote U.S.-Israel security relations. His emphasis on American support for Israel’s missile defense program is the coin of the realm – first because it is true and second because Israel’s enemies have missiles.

But security relations have undergone a subtle, negative change in the past four years.

The Obama administration has been willing to be Israel’s protector, patron to a client, or parent to a child. This patronizing attitude is reflected in the President’s assertion that Israel’s democratically elected leaders “don’t know what’s in their own best interest” and Vice President Biden’s comment that President Obama wants to hear from “regular Israelis” on his upcoming trip, suggesting that what he hears from Prime Minister Netanyahu would be disputed by Israel’s citizenry. The administration is less willing to be Israel’s partner in addressing common threats, including terrorism and the rise of radical Islam. And there has been a limit to consultation and cooperation on Iran. On occasion, the U.S. adds to Israel’s problems by allowing Israel to bear the brunt of the world’s disapprobation at the U.N.

Israel’s first strategic allies were France and Great Britain. The U.S. was sympathetic to Israel’s plight as small and vulnerable to threats from combinations of Arab states, but except for a desire not to have socialist Israel in the pro-Soviet camp and the 1956 Eisenhower outburst, the U.S. was uninvolved in Israeli security. President Johnson declined to be of assistance to Israel in the Six Day War.

Presidents Nixon and Reagan saw Israel in the Cold War context. Nixon stood with Israel as a defensive measure against the Soviet Union in 1973. Reagan opened “strategic cooperation” as a forward step in a plan to defeat the USSR. His idea of ballistic missile defenses was matched by Israeli innovation in the field; the result was tremendous advancement and in-depth cooperation.

At the end of the Cold War, President Clinton called for “capabilities based” defense to cover contingencies rather than specific enemies. Israel was well placed to continue to work with the United States and provide technological capabilities and test beds. Israel established warm relations with some of the newest NATO members, Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as with Bulgaria and Romania.

After 9-11, President Bush’s formulation of a “war against terrorists and the states that harbor and support them” resonated fully with Israel, and there was increased closeness and cooperation on perceived regional threats. But congruity of interests is never total. When American and Israeli positions on Iran diverged (about 2007), President Bush refused Israel weapons that could be used against Iran.

When the Obama Administration redefined the wars in which the United States is engaged, the words “Islamic” or “Muslim” terrorism and radical Islam were shelved in favor of more neutral appellations. In his Cairo address, President Obama sought to establish “mutual respect” between the West and the “Muslim world,” and he accepted the view that policies of the West were partly responsible for the antagonism of Muslims toward the United States. He called Israel’s independence a response to the Holocaust — a charge that fed into the Arab complaint that Israel was foisted on the region by guilty Europeans rather than by being a legitimate and permanent part of the region.

Without commenting on the approach itself, it should be noted that the independence of and continuing support for Israel is, by the definition of its enemies, part of what the West did and does that creates antagonism in the “Muslim world.” And for those who believe, as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has said, that terrorists are created as a reaction to Western provocation, support for Israel is precisely such a provocation.

In terms of military cooperation, then, the President’s formulation reduced the ability of Israel to have equal stature with the United States in a regional mission.

The ‘Imperialist Tool’ of the Middle East

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Let’s examine claims from the radical academia currently hegemonic in North America and Europe. What is fascinating is that a well-informed observer can easily demolish such claims. That’s precisely why such people are not being trained today and well-informed people are discredited or ignored to keep students (and the general public) relatively ignorant.

To paraphrase George Santayana’s famous statement, those who fail to learn from history make fun of those who do.

I know that the situation has become far worse in recent years, having vivid memories of how my two main Middle East studies professors—both Arabs, both anti-Israel, and one of them a self-professed Marxist—had contempt for Edward Said and the then new, radical approach to the subject. At one graduate seminar, the students–every single one of them hostile to Israel but not, as today is often the case, toward America–literally broke up in laughter pointing out the fallacies in Said’s Orientalism. Today, no one would dare talk that way, it would be almost heresy.

Let me now take a single example of the radical approach so common today and briefly explain how off-base it is. I won’t provide detailed documentation here but could easily do so.

The question is: Who in the Middle East was the tool of imperialism? Most likely the professors and their students, at least their graduate student acolytes, would respond: Israel. Not at all.

Before and During World War One era. It can be easily documented that the French subsidized and encouraged Arab nationalism before the war. During it the British took over, sponsoring the Arab nationalist revolt against the Ottoman Empire. Before the war, Islamism was sponsored by the Ottoman Empire in order to keep control over the region and battle Arab nationalism. For their part, the Germans sided with the Ottomans and encouraged Islamism.

What about Zionism? The British did not issue the Balfour Declaration, supporting a Jewish national home, because they saw Zionism as a useful tool in their long-term Middle East policy. In fact, they were interested in the wartime mobilizing Jewish support elsewhere, specifically to get American Jews to support the United States entering the war on Britain’s side and Russian Jews in keeping that country in the war. Both efforts did not have much effect. At any rate, long-term British policy always saw maximizing Arab support as its priority.

Post-World War One. While having promised Jews a national home, British policy soon turned away from supporting Zionism and certainly from backing a Jewish state, even by the early 1920s, realizing that having the Arabs as clients was a far more valuable prize. It was through local Arab elites that the British built their imperial position in the region. The French toyed a bit with Arab nationalism as a way to undermine British rule but also backed Arab elites. The new Soviet Union actually sponsored Islamism for several years as a way of undermining both British and French in the region.

The only exception was T.E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) and a few other visionaries who thought that both Arab nationalism and Zionism could co-exist under British sponsorship. That concept didn’t last very long and had no policy influence beyond the early 1920s at most.

Before and During World War Two. Realizing that it needed Arab support to fight in the coming war, the British followed an appeasement policy that was quite willing to sacrifice the Jews for Arab help—or at least non-interference—in the battle. If the Arab side had cooperated with these pre-war plans, Arab Palestine might have emerged in 1948, with the Jews driven out or massacred shortly after.

Instead, the radical Arabs—both nationalists and Islamists—made a deal with the Axis. Germany and Italy supported these forces in order to destroy the British and French position in the region, just as the Germans had done in World War One.

While the British worked with the Zionists during the war on common endeavors, there was never any notion that a Jewish state would aid British interests in the region. Quite the opposite. The British focused on moderate Egyptian and Iraqi politicians plus the kings of Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

After World War Two. The British quickly sought to use moderate Arab forces to ensure their position. That’s why they were the real founders of the Arab League. The Zionists fought the British. The United States supported partition of the Palestine mandate and the creation of Israel but with no strategy of using Israel as a tool in Middle East policy. Indeed, the United States had no ambitions in the region at the time. Israel was largely ignored by the United States during its first two decades of existence.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/the-imperialist-tool-of-the-middle-east/2013/03/10/

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