Photo Credit: Pasqual Gorriz / UN
UNIFIL peacekeeper in an observation post watching over the Blue Line at the UNIFIL Indian position 4-7c near the mountain town of Cheeba, South Lebanon. 2015
1. Israel is urged to concede the historically and militarily most critical mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, in return for a US, or a multinational, peacekeeping force, as well as US security guarantees or defense pact.

2. In order to be effective, defense pacts, and security guarantees – including peacekeeping monitoring or combat forces – must be reliable, durable, specific and politically/militarily sustainable. It must serve the interests of the foreign entity, which dispatches the force, lest it be ignored or summarily withdrawn.

3. However, the litany of US commitments, guarantees and defense pacts are characterized by four critical attributes – escape routes – designed to shield US interests in a way which undermines the effectiveness of the commitments: 1. non-specificity, vagueness and ambiguity, facilitating non-implementation; 2. Non-automaticity, facilitating delay, suspension and non-implementation; 3. Non-implementation if it is deemed harmful to US interests; 4. Subordination to the US Constitution, including the limits of presidential power.
4. For example, the NATO treaty – the tightest US defense pact – as ratified by the US Senate, commits the US to consider steps on behalf of an attacked NATO member, “as it deems necessary.” Moreover, in 1954, President Eisenhower signed a defense treaty with Taiwan, but in 1979, President Carter annulled the treaty unilaterally, with the support of Congress and the Supreme Court.


5. The May 25, 1950 Tripartite Declaration, by the US, Britain and France, included a commitment to maintain a military balance between Israel and the Arab states.  However, on October 18, 1955, Secretary of State Dulles refused Israel’s request to buy military systems – to offset Soviet Bloc arm shipments to Egypt – insisting that the facts were still obscure.  In 1957, President Eisenhower issued an executive agreement – to compensate for Israel’s full withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula – committing US troops should Egypt violate the ceasefire and Sinai’s demilitarization.  But, in 1967, President Johnson claimed that “[the commitment] ain’t worth a solitary dime,” while the UN peacekeepers fled upon the Egyptian invasion of the Sinai, the blockade of Israel’s port of Eilat, and the establishment of intra-Arab military force to annihilate Israel.  In 1975, President Ford sent a letter to Prime Minister Rabin, stating that the US “will give great weight to Israel’s position that any peace agreement with Syria must be predicated on Israel remaining on the Golan Heights.” But, in 1979, President Carter contended that Ford’s letter hardly committed Ford, but certainly none of the succeeding presidents.

6. In an April 1975 AIPAC Conference speech, the late Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson dismissed security guarantees as harmful delusion: “Detente did not save Cambodia and it will not save Vietnam, despite the fact that we and the Soviets are co-guarantors of the Paris Accords.  And that is something to keep in mind when one hears that we and the Soviets should play the international guarantee game in the Middle East.”

7. According to Prof. Noah Pelcovits, Political Sicence, UCLA: “[In the context of security arrangements] there is only one chance in three that the protector will come to the aid of its ally in wartime, and then only at the discretion of the protector…. What counts is the protector’s perception of self-interest. Otherwise, the commitment is not honored….”

8. Prof. Michla Pomerance, International Relations, Hebrew University, stated that US defense commitments, including the NATO Treaty, “are uniformly characterized by vagueness, non-specificity… and the explicit denial of any automatic obligation to use force… [in] accordance with the desire of the US, as promisor, to keep its options open…. Evasion by means of interpretation would not be a difficult task….”

9. The stationing of foreign peacekeeping troops on Israel’s border would cripple Israel’s defense capabilities, requiring Israel to seek prior approval in preempting or countering belligerence, which would also strain US-Israel ties. At the same time, appearing to have enabled Israel to act freely, would damage US-Arab ties.

10. The assumption that inherently tenuous, intangible, open-ended and reversible US security commitments constitute an effective compensation for critical Israeli land, tangible, irreversible concessions – such as a retreat from the strategically and historically critical mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria – reflects detachment from the Washington constitutional labyrinth and recent precedents, engendering a false sense of security, thus compromising the existence of the Jewish state, transforming Israel from a robust national security producing asset to a frail national security consuming liability, undermining US interests and US-Israel relations.

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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.