How Israel Out-Foxed US Presidents

From the Archive: At the G20 summit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy commiserated with President Barack Obama about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Sarkozy called a “liar,” prompting Obama to say: “You’re fed up with him? I have to deal with him every day.” But struggling with Israeli leaders is not new, Morgan Strong reported.

By Morgan Strong (Originally published on May 31, 2010)

At the end of a news conference on April 13, 2010, President Barack Obama made the seemingly obvious point that the continuing Middle East conflict pitting Israel against its Arab neighbors will end up “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure.”

Obama’s remark followed a similar comment by Gen. David Petraeus on March 16, 2010, linking the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the challenges that U.S. troops face in the region.

“The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel,” Petraeus said. “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the [region] and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world.

“Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”

The truth behind what Obama and Petraeus said is self-evident to anyone who has spent time observing the Middle East for the past six decades. Even the staunchly pro-Israeli Bush administration made similar observations.

Three years ago in Jerusalem, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice termed the Israeli/Palestinian peace process of “strategic interest” to the United States and expressed empathy for the beleaguered Palestinian people.

“The prolonged experience of deprivation and humiliation can radicalize even normal people,” Rice said, referring to acts of Palestinian violence.

But the recent comments by Obama and Petraeus aroused alarm among some Israeli supporters who reject any suggestion that Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinians might be a factor in the anti-Americanism surging through the Islamic world.

After Petraeus’s comment, the pro-Israeli Anti-Defamation League said linking the Palestinian plight and Muslim anger was “dangerous and counterproductive.”

“Gen. Petraeus has simply erred in linking the challenges faced by the U.S. and coalition forces in the region to a solution of the Israeli-Arab conflict, and blaming extremist activities on the absence of peace and the perceived U.S. favoritism for Israel,” ADL national director Abraham Foxman said.

However, the U.S. government’s widespread (though often unstated) recognition of the truth behind Petraeus’s comment has colored how the Obama administration has reacted to the intransigence of Israel’s Likud government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Petraeus later tried to wiggle out of his comment, noting that it was part of his prepared testimony to a congressional committee and that he did not actually speak the words.)

The U.S. government realizes how much it has done on Israel’s behalf, even to the extent of making Americans the targets of Islamic terrorism such as the 9/11 attacks (as the 9/11 Commission discovered but played down) and sacrificing the lives of thousands of U.S. troops fighting in Middle East conflicts.

That was the backdrop for President Obama’s outrage over the decision of the Netanyahu government to continue building Jewish housing in Arab East Jerusalem despite the fact that the move complicated U.S. peace initiatives and was announced as Vice President Joe Biden arrived to reaffirm American support for Israel.

However, another little-acknowledged truth about the U.S.-Israeli relationship is that Israeli leaders have frequently manipulated and misled American presidents out of a confidence that U.S. politicians deeply fear the political fallout from any public battle with Israel.

Given that history, few analysts who have followed the arc of U.S.-Israeli relations since Israel’s founding in 1948 believe that the Israeli government is likely to retreat very much in its current confrontation with President Obama.

Manipulating Eisenhower

In the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower was a strong supporter of the fledgling Jewish state and had supplied Israel with advanced U.S. weaponry. Yet, despite Eisenhower’s generosity and good intentions, Israel sided with the British and French in 1956 in a conspiracy against him.

Israeli leaders joined a secret arrangement that involved Israel invading Egypt’s Sinai, which then allowed France and Great Britain to introduce their own forces and reclaim control of the Suez Canal.

In reaction to the invasion, the Soviet Union threatened to intervene on the side of Egypt by sending ground troops. With Cold War tensions already stretched thin by the crises in Hungary and elsewhere, Eisenhower faced the possibility of a showdown between nuclear-armed adversaries.

Eisenhower demanded that the Israeli-spearheaded invasion of the Sinai be stopped, and he brought financial and political pressures to bear on Great Britain and France.

A ceasefire soon was declared, and the British and French departed, but the Israelis dragged their heels. Eisenhower finally presented Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion with an ultimatum, a threat to cut off all U.S. aid. Finally, in March 1957, the Israelis withdrew. [For details, see Eisenhower and Israelby Isaac Alteras]

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister

Secret Nukes and JFK

Even as it backed down in the Sinai, Israel was involved in another monumental deception, a plan for building its own nuclear arsenal.

In 1956, Israel had concluded an agreement with France to build a nuclear reactor in the Negev desert. Israel also signed a secret agreement with France to build an adjacent plutonium reprocessing plant.

Israel began constructing its nuclear plant in 1958. However, French President Charles de Gaulle was worried about nuclear weapons destabilizing the Middle East and insisted that Israel not develop a nuclear bomb from the plutonium processing plant. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion assured de Gaulle that the processing plant was for peaceful purposes only.

After John F. Kennedy became President, he also wrote to Ben-Gurion explicitly calling on Israel not to join the nuclear-weapons club, drawing another pledge from Ben-Gurion that Israel had no such intention.

Nevertheless, Kennedy continued to press, forcing the Israelis to let U.S. scientists inspect the nuclear reactor at Dimona. But the Israelis first built a fake control room while bricking up and otherwise disguising parts of the building that housed the plutonium processing plant.

In return for allowing inspectors into Dimona, Ben-Gurion also demanded that the United States sell Hawk surface-to-air missiles to the Israeli military. Kennedy agreed to the sale as a show of good faith. Subsequently, however, the CIA got wind of the Dimona deception and leaked to the press that Israel was secretly building a nuclear bomb.

After Kennedy’s assassination, President Lyndon Johnson also grew concerned over Israel’s acquiring nuclear weapons. He asked then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Eshkol assured Johnson that Israel was studying the matter and would sign the treaty in due course. However, Israel has never signed the treaty and never has admitted that it developed nuclear weapons. [For details, See Israel and The Bomb by Avner Cohen.]

Trapping Johnson

As Israel grew more sophisticated and more confident in its dealings with U.S. presidents, it also sought to secure U.S. military assistance by exaggerating its vulnerability to Arab attacks.

One such case occurred after the Egyptians closed off the Gulf of Aqaba to Israel in May 1967, denying the country its only access to the Red Sea. Israel threatened military action against Egypt if it did not re-open the Gulf.

Israel then asked President Johnson for military assistance in the event war broke out against the Egyptians. Johnson directed Richard Helms, the newly appointed head of the CIA to evaluate Israel’s military capability in the event of war against the surrounding Arab states.

On May 26, 1967, Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban met with Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and CIA Director Helms. Eban presented a Mossad estimate of the capability of the Arab armies, claiming that Israel was seriously outgunned by the Arab armies which had been supplied with advanced Soviet weaponry.

Israel believed that, owing to its special relationship with the United States, the Mossad intelligence assessment would be taken at face value.

However, Helms was asked to present the CIA estimate of the Arabs’ military capabilities versus the Israeli army. The CIA’s analysts concluded that Israel could “defend successfully against simultaneous Arab attacks on all fronts, or hold on any three fronts while mounting a successful major offensive on the fourth.” [See “C.I.A. Analysis of the 1967 Arab Israeli War,” Center for the Study of Intelligence.]

“We do not believe that the Israeli appreciation was a serious estimate of the sort they would submit to their own high officials,” the CIA report said. “It is probably a gambit intended to influence the U.S. to provide military supplies, make more public commitments to Israel, to approve Israeli military initiatives, and put more pressure on Egyptian President Nasser.” [See A Look Over My Shoulder by Richard Helms.]

The CIA report stated further that the Soviet Union would probably not interfere militarily on behalf of the Arab states and that Israel would defeat the combined Arab armies in a matter of days.

As a consequence, Johnson refused to airlift special military supplies to Israel, or to promise public support for Israel if Israel went to war.

The Six-Day Success

Despite Johnson’s resistance, Israel launched an attack on its Arab neighbors on June 5, 1967, claiming that the conflict was provoked when Egyptian forces opened fire. (The CIA later concluded that it was Israel that had first fired upon Egyptian forces.)

On June 8, at the height of the conflict, which would become known as the Six-Day War, Israeli fighter/bombers attacked the USS Liberty, a lightly armed communications vessel sent on a mission to relay information on the course of the war to U.S. naval intelligence.

The attack killed 34 Americans sailors, and wounded 171 others. Israeli leaders have always claimed that they had mistaken the U.S. vessel for an enemy ship, but a number of U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Dean Rusk, believed the attack was deliberate, possibly to prevent the United States from learning about Israel’s war plans. [See As I Saw It by Dean Rusk.]

However, in deference to Israel, the U.S. government did not aggressively pursue the matter of the Liberty attack and even issued misleading accounts in medal citations to crew members, leaving out the identity of the attackers.

Meanwhile, on land and in the air, Israel’s powerful military advanced, shredding the Arab defenses. Soon, the conflict escalated into another potential showdown between nuclear-armed superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States.

On June 10, President Johnson received a “Hot Line” message from Soviet Premier Alexi Kosygin. The Kremlin warned of grave consequences if Israel continued its military campaign against Syria by entering and/or occupying that country.

Johnson dispatched the Sixth Fleet to the Mediterranean, in a move to convince the Soviets of American resolve. But a ceasefire was declared later the same day, with Israel ending up in control of Syria’s Golan Heights, Egypt’s Sinai, and Palestinian lands including Gaza and East Jerusalem.

But a wider war was averted. Johnson’s suspicions about Israel’s expansionist intent had kept the United States from making an even bigger commitment that might have led to the Soviets countering with an escalation of their own.

Nixon and Yom Kippur

Israeli occupation of those additional Arab lands set the stage for a resumption of hostilities six years later, on Oct. 6, 1973, with the Yom Kippur War, which began with a surprise attack by Egypt against Israeli forces in the Sinai.

The offensive caught Israel off guard and Arab forces were close to overrunning Israel’s outer defenses and entering the country. According to later accounts based primarily on Israeli leaks, Prime Minister Golda Meir and her “kitchen cabinet” ordered the arming of 13 nuclear weapons, which were aimed at Egyptian and Syrian targets.

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Simha Dintz warned President Richard Nixon that very serious repercussions would occur if the United States did not immediately begin an airlift of military equipment and personnel to Israel.

Fearing that the Soviet Union might intervene and that nuclear war was possible, the U.S. military raised its alert level to DEFCON-3. U.S. Airborne units in Italy were put on full alert, and military aid was rushed to Israel.

Faced with a well-supplied Israeli counteroffensive and possible nuclear annihilation, the Arab forces fell back. The war ended on Oct. 26, 1973, but the United States had again been pushed to the brink of a possible superpower confrontation due to the unresolved Israeli-Arab conflict.

Nuclear ‘Ambiguity’

On Sept. 22, 1979, after some clouds unexpectedly broke over the South Indian Ocean, a U.S. intelligence satellite detected two bright flashes of light that were quickly interpreted as evidence of a nuclear test.

The explosion was apparently one of several nuclear tests that Israel had undertaken in collaboration with the white-supremacist government of South Africa. But President Jimmy Carter at the start of his reelection bid didn’t want a showdown with Israel, especially on a point as sensitive as its secret nuclear work with the pariah government in Pretoria.

So, after news of the nuclear test leaked a month later, the Carter administration followed Israel’s longstanding policy of “ambiguity” about the existence of its nuclear arsenal, a charade dating back to Richard Nixon’s presidency with the United States pretending not to know for sure that Israel possessed nuclear bombs.

The Carter administration quickly claimed that there was “no confirmation” of a nuclear test, and a panel was set up to conclude that the flashes were “probably not from a nuclear explosion.”

However, as investigative reporter Seymour Hersh and various nuclear experts later concluded, the flashes were most certainly an explosion of a low-yield nuclear weapon. [For details, see Hersh’s Samson Option.]

Getting Carter

Despite Carter’s helpful cover-up of the Israeli-South African nuclear test, he was still viewed with disdain by Israel’s hard-line Likud leadership. Indeed, he arguably was the target of Israel’s most audacious intervention in U.S. politics.

Prime Minister Menachem Begin was furious at Carter over the 1978 Camp David accords in which the U.S. President pushed the Israelis into returning the Sinai to the Egyptians in exchange for a peace agreement.

The next year, Carter failed to protect the Shah of Iran, an important Israeli regional ally who was forced from power by Islamic militants. Then, when Carter acceded to demands from the Shah’s supporters to admit him to New York for cancer treatment, Iranian radicals seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage.

In 1980, as Carter focused on his reelection campaign, Begin saw both dangers and opportunities. High-ranking Israeli diplomat/spy David Kimche described Begin’s thinking in the 1991 book, The Last Option, recounting how Begin feared that Carter might force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and accept a Palestinian state if he won a second term.

“Begin was being set up for diplomatic slaughter by the master butchers in Washington,” Kimche wrote. “They had, moreover, the apparent blessing of the two presidents, Carter and [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat, for this bizarre and clumsy attempt at collusion designed to force Israel to abandon her refusal to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Begin’s alarm was driven by the prospect of Carter being freed from the pressure of having to face another election, according to Kimche.

“Unbeknownst to the Israeli negotiators, the Egyptians held an ace up their sleeves, and they were waiting to play it,” Kimche wrote. “The card was President Carter’s tacit agreement that after the American presidential elections in November 1980, when Carter expected to be re-elected for a second term, he would be free to compel Israel to accept a settlement of the Palestinian problem on his and Egyptian terms, without having to fear the backlash of the American Jewish lobby.”

So, by spring 1980, Begin had privately sided with Carter’s Republican rival, Ronald Reagan, a reality that Carter soon realized.

Questioned by congressional investigators in 1992 regarding allegations about Israel conspiring with Republicans in 1980 to help unseat him, Carter said he knew by April 1980 that “Israel cast their lot with Reagan,” according to notes found among the unpublished documents in the files of a House task force that looked into the so-called October Surprise case.

Carter traced the Israeli opposition to his reelection to a “lingering concern [among] Jewish leaders that I was too friendly with Arabs.”

Doing What Was Necessary

Begin was an Israeli leader committed to do whatever he felt necessary to advance Israeli security interests and the dream of a Greater Israel with Jews controlling the ancient Biblical lands. Before Israel’s independence in 1948, he had led a Zionist terrorist group, and he founded the right-wing Likud Party in 1973 with the goal of “changing the facts on the ground” by placing Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas.

Begin’s anger over the Sinai deal and his fear of Carter’s reelection set the stage for secret collaboration between Begin and the Republicans, according to another former Israeli intelligence official, Ari Ben-Menashe.

“Begin loathed Carter for the peace agreement forced upon him at Camp David,” Ben-Menashe wrote in his 1992 memoir, Profits of War. “As Begin saw it, the agreement took away Sinai from Israel, did not create a comprehensive peace, and left the Palestinian issue hanging on Israel’s back.”

Ben-Menashe, an Iranian-born Jew who had immigrated to Israel as a teen-ager, became part of a secret Israeli program to reestablish its Iranian intelligence network that had been decimated by the Islamic revolution. Ben-Menashe wrote that Begin authorized shipments to Iran of small arms and some military spare parts, via South Africa, as early as September 1979 and continued them despite Iran’s seizure of the U.S. hostages in November 1979.

Extensive evidence also exists that Begin’s preference for Reagan led the Israelis to join in a covert operation with Republicans to contact Iranian leaders behind Carter’s back, interfering with the President’s efforts to free the 52 American hostages before the November 1980 elections.

That evidence includes statements from senior Iranian officials, international arms dealers, intelligence operatives, and Middle East political figures (including a cryptic confirmation from Begin’s successor Yitzhak Shamir). But the truth about the October Surprise case remains in dispute to this day. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

It is clear that after Reagan defeated Carter — and the U.S. hostages were released immediately upon Reagan being sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981 — Israeli-brokered weapons shipments flowed to Iran with the secret blessing of the new Republican administration.

Dealing with Reagan

The Israel Lobby had grown exponentially since its start in the Eisenhower years. Israel’s influential supporters were now positioned to use every political device imaginable to lobby Congress and to get the White House to acquiesce to whatever Israel felt it needed.

President Reagan also credentialed into the Executive Branch a new group of pro-Israeli American officials the likes of Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen and Jeane Kirkpatrick who became known as the neocons.

Yet, despite Reagan’s pro-Israel policies, the new U.S. President wasn’t immune from more Israeli deceptions and additional pressures.

Indeed, whether because of the alleged collusion with Reagan during the 1980 campaign or because Israel sensed its greater clout within his administration, Begin demonstrated a new level of audacity.

In 1981, Israel recruited Jonathan Pollard, an American Navy intelligence analyst, as a spy to acquire American intelligence satellite photos. Eventually, Pollard purloined massive amounts of intelligence information, some of which was reportedly turned over to Soviet intelligence by Israel to win favors from Moscow.

Prime Minister Begin sensed, too, that the time was ripe to gain the upper hand on other Arab enemies. He turned his attention to Lebanon, where the Palestine Liberation Organization was based.

Lebanon War

When U.S. intelligence warned Reagan that Israel was massing troops along the border with Lebanon, Reagan sent a cable to Begin urging him not to invade. But Begin ignored Reagan’s plea and invaded Lebanon the following day, on June 6, 1982. [See Time, Aug. 16, 1982.]

As the offensive progressed, Reagan sought a cessation of hostilities between Israel and the PLO, but Israel was intent on killing as many PLO fighters as possible. Periodic U.S.-brokered ceasefires failed as Israel used the slightest provocation to resume fighting, supposedly in self-defense.

“When PLO sniper fire is followed by fourteen hours of Israeli bombardment that is stretching the definition of defensive action too far,” complained Reagan, who kept the picture of a horribly burned Lebanese child on his desk in the Oval Office as a reminder of the tragedy of Lebanon.

The American public nightly witnessed the Israeli bombardment of Beirut on television news broadcasts. The pictures of dead, mutilated children caught in the Israeli artillery barrages, were particularly wrenching. Repulsed by the carnage, the U.S. public decidedly favored forcing Israel to stop.

When Reagan warned Israel of possible sanctions if its forces continued to indiscriminately attack Beirut, Israel launched a major offensive against West Beirut the next day.

In the United States, Israeli supporters demanded a meeting with Reagan to press Israel’s case. Though Reagan declined the meeting, one was set up for 40 leaders of various Jewish organizations with Vice President George H.W. Bush, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of State George Shultz.

Reagan wrote once again to Begin, reminding him that Israel was allowed to use American weapons only for defensive purposes. He appealed to Begin’s humanitarianism to stop the bombardment.

The next day, in a meeting with Israeli supporters from the United States, Begin fumed that he would not be instructed by an American president or any other U.S. official.

“Nobody is going to bring Israel to her knees. You must have forgotten that Jews do not kneel but to God,” Begin said. “Nobody is going to preach to us humanitarianism.”

Begin’s government also used the tragedy in Lebanon as an opportunity to provide special favors for its American backers.

In From Beirut to Jerusalem, New York Times correspondent Thomas L. Freidman wrote that the Israeli Army conducted tours of the battlefront for influential U.S. donors. On one occasion, women from Hadassah were taken to the hills surrounding Beirut and were invited to look down on the city as Israeli artillery put on a display for them.

The artillery began an enormous barrage, with shells landing throughout the densely populated city. The shells struck and destroyed apartments, shops, homes and shacks in the squalid refugee camps of the Palestinians.

More Tragedy

A ceasefire was finally agreed upon by Israel and the PLO, requiring Yasser Arafat and all PLO fighters to leave Lebanon. The Palestinians were assured, as part of the agreement brokered by the United States, that their wives and children living in Lebanese refugee camps would be safe from harm. The PLO then left Lebanon by ship in August 1982, moving the PLO headquarters to Tunisia.

On Sept. 16, Israel’s Christian militia allies, with Israeli military support, entered the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, and conducted a three-day campaign of rape and murder. Most of the dead with estimates varying from Israel’s count of 400 to a Palestinian estimate of nearly 1,000 were women and children.

American Marines, who had been dispatched to Lebanon as peacekeepers to oversee the PLO evacuation but then had departed, hastily returned after the Sabra and Shatila massacres. They were housed in a large warehouse complex near Beirut’s airport.

Over the next year, American forces found themselves drawn into the worsening Lebanese civil war. A key moment occurred on Sept. 18, 1983, when Reagan’s national security adviser Robert McFarlane, who was considered a staunch supporter of Israel, ordered U.S. warships to bombard Muslim targets inside Lebanon.

As Gen. Colin Powell, then a top aide to Defense Secretary Weinberger, wrote in his memoir, “When the shells started falling on the Shiites, they assumed the American ‘referee’ had taken sides.” [See Powell’s My American Journey.]

Muslim attacks on the Marines in Beirut soon escalated. On Oct. 23, 1983, two Shiite Muslims drove explosives-laden trucks into two buildings in Beirut, one housing French forces and the other the Marines. The blasts killed 241 Americans and 58 French.

Over the ensuing weeks, American forces continued to suffer losses in skirmishes with Muslim militiamen near the Beirut airport and American civilians also became targets for execution and hostage-taking.

On Feb. 7, 1984, Reagan announced that the Marines would be redeployed from Lebanon. Within a couple of weeks, the last of the Marines had departed Lebanon, having suffered a total of 268 killed.

However, the hostage-taking of Americans continued, ironically creating an opportunity for Israel to intercede again through its contacts in Iran to seek the help of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s regime in getting the Lebanese Shiite militants to release captured Americans.

Israeli arms dealers and neocon Americans, such as Michael Ledeen, were used as middlemen for the secret arms-for-hostages deals, which Reagan approved and McFarlane oversaw. However, the arms deliveries via Israel failed to reduce the overall number of Americans held hostage in Lebanon and were eventually exposed in November 1986, becoming Reagan’s worst scandal, the Iran-Contra Affair.

Noriega and Harari

Though Israel’s government had created some headaches for Reagan, it also provided some help, allowing its arms dealers and intelligence operatives to assist some of Reagan’s favorite covert operations, particularly in Central America where the U.S. Congress had objected to military assistance going to human rights violators, like the Guatemalan military, and to the Nicaraguan contra rebels.

As Vice President, George H.W. Bush met with Panamanian dictator Manuel Noreiga and considered him a compliant partner. Noriega subsequently funneled financial and other help to Reagan’s beloved contras and once even volunteered to arrange the assassinations of leaders of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

One of Noriega’s top operatives was Michael Harari, who had led Israeli assassination teams and who had served as the Israeli Mossad station chief in Mexico. In Panama, Harari became a key intermediary for Israeli contributions to the contras, supplying them with arms and training, while Noriega handed over cash.

But Noriega and Harari were conducting other business in the region, allegedly working as middlemen and money launderers for the lucrative smuggling of cocaine into the United States.

When that information surfaced in the U.S. news media and Noriega became notorious as an unstable thug George H.W. Bush as President found himself under enormous political pressure in 1989 to remove Noriega from power.

So, Bush prepared to invade Panama in December 1989. However, the Israeli government was concerned about the possible capture of Harari, whom U.S. prosecutors regarded as Noriega’s top co-conspirator but who also was someone possessing sensitive information about Israeli clandestine activities.

Six hours before U.S. troops were to invade Panama, Harari was warned of the impending attack, an alert that enabled him to flee and may have compromised the safety of American paratroopers and Special Forces units preparing to begin the assault, units that took surprisingly heavy casualties.

Tipped off by Israeli intelligence agents, Harari was whisked away by an Israeli embassy car, flying a diplomatic flag, with diplomatic license plates to ensure he would not be stopped and held, according to an interview that I had in January 1990 with Col. Edward Herrera Hassen, commander of Panama Defense Forces.

Harari soon was on his way back to Israel, where the government has since rebuffed U.S. requests that Harari be extradited to the United States to stand trial in connection with the Noriega case. For his part, Noriega was captured and brought to the United States where he was convicted of eight drug and racketeering charges.

The Lobby

The one constant in Israel’s endless maneuverings both with and against the U.S. government has been the effectiveness of the Israel Lobby and its many allies to fend off sustained criticism of Israel, sometimes by smearing critics as anti-Semitic or by mounting aggressive cover-ups when investigations threatened to expose ugly secrets.

Given this long record of success, U.S. presidents and other politicians have demonstrated a declining capacity to press Israel into making concessions, the way Eisenhower, Kennedy and Carter tried to do.

For instance, when President Bill Clinton first met with Netanyahu in 1996, Clinton was surprised to find himself getting a lecture from Israel’s Likud prime minister. “Who the f**k does he think he is? Who’s the superpower here?” a peeved Clinton was quoted as saying. [See The Much Too Promised Land, by Aaron Miller, an aide to Clinton.]

Joe Lockhart, then White House spokesman, told Clayton Swisher, author of The Truth About Camp David, that Netanyahu was “one of the most obnoxious individuals you’re going to come into – just a liar and a cheat. He could open his mouth and you could have no confidence that anything that came out of it was the truth.”

Faced with these difficulties and fending off Republican attempts to drive him from office Clinton put off any serious push for a Middle East peace accord until the last part of his presidency.

Clinton negotiated the Wye River memorandum with Netanyahu and Arafat on Sept. 23, 1999, calling for reciprocal undertakings by both sides. The agreement called for the freezing of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, but Netanyahu failed to stop the settlement activity. Demolition of Palestinian homes, restrictions on movement by Palestinians, and settlement building continued.

Ultimately, Clinton failed to achieve any breakthrough as his final efforts collapsed amid finger-pointing and distrust between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Handling Bush

Israel’s hopes were buoyed further when George W. Bush entered the White House in 2001. Unlike his father who looked on the Israelis with suspicion and felt some kinship with the Arab oil states, the younger Bush was unabashedly pro-Israel.

Though Reagan had credentialed many young neocons in the 1980s, he had kept them mostly away from Middle East policy, which usually fell to less ideological operatives such as Philip Habib and James Baker.

However, George W. Bush installed the neocons in key jobs for Mideast policy, with the likes of Elliott Abrams at the National Security Council, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith at the Pentagon, and Lewis Libby inside Vice President Dick Cheney’s office.

The neocons arrived with a plan to transform the Middle East based on a scheme prepared by a group of American neocons, including Perle and Feith, for Netanyahu in 1996. Called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” the idea was to bring to heel all the antagonistic states confronting Israel.

The “clean break” was to abandon the idea of achieving peace in the region through mutual understanding and compromise. Instead, there would be “peace through strength,” including violent removal of leaders who were viewed as hostile to Israel’s interests.

The plan sought the ouster of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, which was called “an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right.” After Hussein’s ouster, the plan envisioned destabilizing the Assad dynasty in Syria with hopes of replacing it with regime more favorable to Israel. That presumably would push Lebanon into Israel’s arms and contribute to the destruction of Hezbollah, Israel’s tenacious foe in South Lebanon.

The removal of Hezbollah in Lebanon would, in turn, weaken Iran’s influence, both in Lebanon and in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank, where Hamas and other Palestinian militants would find themselves cornered.

But what the “clean break” needed was the military might of the United States, since some of the targets like Iraq were too far away and too powerful to be overwhelmed even by Israel’s highly efficient military. The cost in Israeli lives and to Israel’s economy from such overreach would have been staggering.

The only way to implement the strategy was to enlist a U.S. president, his administration and the Congress to join Israel in this audacious undertaking. That opportunity presented itself when Bush ascended to the White House and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, created a receptive political climate in the United States.

Turning to Iraq

After a quick strike against al-Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan, the Bush administration turned its attention to conquering Iraq.

However, even after the 9/11 attacks, the neocons and President Bush had to come up with rationales that were sellable to the American people, while playing down any suggestion that the coming conflicts were partially designed to advance Israel’s interests.

So, the Bush administration put together tales about Iraqi stockpiles of WMD, its “reconstituted” nuclear weapons program, and its alleged ties to al-Qaeda and other terrorists determined to strike at the United States.

The PR operation worked like a charm. Bush rallied Congress and much of the American public behind an unprovoked invasion of Iraq, which began on March 19, 2003, and drove Saddam Hussein’s government from power three weeks later.

At the time, the joke circulating among neocons was where to go next, Syria or Iran, with the punch line: “Real men go to Tehran!”

Meanwhile, Israel continued collecting as much intelligence as possible from the United States about the next desired target, Iran. On Aug. 27, 2004, CBS News broke a story about an FBI investigation into a possible spy working for Israel as a policy analyst for Under Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz. The official was identified as Lawrence Franklin.

Franklin pled guilty to passing a classified Presidential Directive and other sensitive documents pertaining to U.S. foreign policy regarding Iran to the powerful Israeli lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which shared the information with Israel.

According to FBI surveillance tapes, Franklin relayed top secret information to Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s policy director, and Keith Weissman, a senior policy analyst with AIPAC. On Aug. 30, 2004, Israeli officials admitted that Franklin had met repeatedly with Naor Gilon, head of the political department at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and a specialist on Iran’s nuclear programs.

Franklin was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison for passing classified information to a pro-Israel lobby group and an Israeli diplomat. No charges were brought against the AIPAC executives or the Israeli diplomat.

Bloody Chaos

Meanwhile, back in the Middle East, it turned out that occupying Iraq was more difficult than the Bush administration had anticipated. Ultimately, more than 4,400 American soldiers died in the conflict along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

The bloody chaos in Iraq also meant that the neocon “real men” couldn’t go either to Syria or Iran, at least not right away. They were forced into a waiting game, counting on the short memories of the American people before revving up the fear machine again to justify moving to the next phase.

When the U.S. death toll finally began to decline in Iraq, the neocons stepped up their alarms about Iran becoming a danger to the world by developing nuclear weapons (although Iran has disavowed any desire to have nukes and U.S. intelligence expressed confidence in 2007 that Iran had stopped work on a warhead four years earlier).

Still, over the past few years, while trying to keep the focus away from its own nuclear arsenal, Israel has pushed the international community to bring pressure on Iran, in part by threatening to mount its own military attack on Iran if the U.S. government and other leading powers don’t act aggressively.

The neocon anti-Iran plans were complicated by the victory of Barack Obama, who promised to reach out in a more respectful way to the Muslim world. Inside Israel and in U.S. neocon circles, complaints quickly spread about Obama’s coziness with Muslims (even claims that he was a secret Muslim or anti-Semitic).

Obama further antagonized the neocons and Israeli hardliners by suggesting (along with Gen. Petraeus) a linkage between the festering Palestinian problem and dangers to U.S. national security, including violence against U.S. troops in the Middle East.

Netanyahu, who again had assumed the post of prime minister, and the neocons wanted U.S. policy refocused on Iran, with little attention on Israel as it continued its longstanding policy of building more and more Jewish settlements on what was once Palestinian land.

In reaction to Netanyahu’s unwillingness to curb those settlements and with the announcement of more housing units during Biden’s visit Obama retaliated by subjecting Netanyahu to several slights, including refusing to have photographs taken of the two of them meeting at the White House.

Obama walked out of one meeting with Netanyahu after failing to get his written promise for a concession on halting further settlement construction. Obama went to dinner alone, a very pointed insult to Netanyahu.

As Obama left the meeting, he said, “Let me know if there is anything new,” according to a member of Congress who was present.

Secret Pacts

For his part, Netanyahu has claimed that secret agreements with the Bush administration allow for the continued building of settlements. However, Obama said on National Public Radio that he does not consider himself bound by secret oral agreements that may have been made by President Bush.

Instead, Obama claims Israel is bound by the 2003 “Road Map” agreement which prohibits building more settlements. “I’ve said clearly to the Israelis both privately and publicly that a freeze on settlements, including natural growth, is part of these obligations,” Obama said.

Still, Obama has shied away from publicly challenging Israel on some of its most sensitive issues, such as its undeclared nuclear-weapons arsenal. Like presidents back to Nixon, Obama has participated in the charade of “ambiguity.”

Even as he demands “transparency” from other countries, Obama continues to dance around questions regarding whether Israel has nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu and Israel surely have vulnerabilities. Without America’s military, diplomatic and economic support, Israel could not exist in its present form. One-quarter of Israeli wage incomes are derived from American aid money, German reparations and various charities. Without that outside assistance, Israel’s standard of living would sink dramatically.

According to the Congressional Research Service, Israel receives $2.4 billion a year in U.S. government grants, military assistance, loan guarantees, and sundry other sources. The United States also pays Egypt another $2 billion to keep the peace with Israel. The combined assistance to both countries comprises nearly one half of all U.S. foreign aid assistance worldwide.

In a sense, Israel can’t be blamed for standing up for itself, especially given the long history of brutality and oppression directed against Jews. However, Israeli leaders have used this tragic history to justify their own harsh treatment of others, especially the Palestinians, many of whom were uprooted from their ancestral homes.

Over the past six decades, Israeli leaders also have refined their strategies for taking advantage of their staunchest ally, the United States.

Today, with many powerful friends inside the United States and with Obama facing intense political pressure over his domestic and national security policies the Israeli government has plenty of reasons to believe that it can out-fox and outlast this latest U.S. president.

Morgan Strong is a former professor of Middle Eastern history, and was an advisor to CBS News “60 Minutes” on the Middle East.

19 comments for “How Israel Out-Foxed US Presidents

  1. THX1138
    November 28, 2011 at 09:18

    Jews are not Semitic, they are not Semites.

  2. John-boy
    November 25, 2011 at 20:45

    You could have begun with President Truman. His Top-Secret May 29, 1949 telex to Prime Minister Ben-Gurion can be read here:

    Truman is often portrayed as an unequivocal supporter of Zionism and the establishment of Israel, but by late May 1949 he was clearly extremely frustrated by the Israeli duplicity and intransigence which was already destroying the first (and best) Israeli-Arab peace process.

    • flat5
      November 26, 2011 at 21:26

      Harry Truman, My Flawed Hero
      By Abraham H. Foxman
      National Director of the Anti-Defamation League
      This op-ed originally appeared in the July 18, 2003 edition of the Forward.

      July 18, 2003

      Okay, the Richard Nixon tapes were one thing. But Harry Truman? A heroic president to Jewish people, with institutes and forests in Israel named after him – and now we learn from the recently discovered Truman diaries of 1947 that he, too, was capable of the most sordid anti-Semitic attitudes.

      “The Jews, I find are very, very selfish,” he wrote. “When they have power, physical, financial or political neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment to the underdog.”

      What gives?

      First, Truman’s comments remind us how strong anti-Semitic attitudes were in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. America, for reasons of history, of constitutionalism, of diversity, was never a place of pogroms or other violence against Jews the way Europe was.

      But prejudice toward and stereotypes about Jews were pervasive. Seventeen years after Truman’s diary was written, the ADL found that 29% of Americans had anti-Semitic attitudes, including views of Jews as dishonest in business, as caring only about themselves, as not loyal to America, as having too much power.

      Remember that during the late 1930s, “Radio Priest” Father Charles Coughlin was heard by millions of Americans every Sunday night articulating the vilest attacks toward Jews. And in 1940 and 1941, when America was deciding whether to join the allies in the war against Germany and Japan, Charles Lindbergh created the America First movement, which drew the support of many millions of Americans. A major tenet of America First was the belief that it was the Jews who sought to bring about American intervention for their own selfish interests and against the interests of the American people.

      Keep in mind that educational programs to encourage tolerance were not a hallmark of America in those days, as they are today. Children who were taught prejudice at home or in church had fewer opportunities to unlearn their prejudices.

      Of course, the most significant perspective in which to place Truman’s views is the historical impact of his presidency on the Jewish people. In that regard, whatever his cultural views of Jews, his contribution to Jewish history is unique and everlasting.

      His decision to support the creation of the State of Israel despite the opposition of such powerful figures as George Marshall makes the diary comments pale in significance. Why Truman stood up for Israel at that critical moment has long been debated by historians. Seeking Jewish votes in 1948? His friendship with Eddie Jacobson? Biblical beliefs about Israel? Feelings for the Jewish people’s suffering? In the end, the decision speaks for itself.

      Recognizing that the revelations in Truman’s diaries reflect the resiliency of the anti-Semitic virus, are there lessons for us in the 21st century?

      For one, it reminds us to avoid complacency about anti-Semitism. Even in America, the place for a different kind of life for Jews, anti-Semitism has resilience in quarters where one might not expect it – Harry Truman, a highly respected progressive national leader; Billy Graham, the most prestigious religious figure in the country. Even as discrimination against Jews disappears, as attitudes improve, as Jewish security is strong, what people think and feel and say in the privacy of their homes or boardrooms is still uncertain. America the exception is also still America the product of a 2,000-year Western tradition of anti-Semitism.

      Secondly, Truman’s diaries reveal once again the irrational character of anti-Semitism. It has often been noted that Jews are often accused of being contradictory things: Communists and capitalists, too powerful and too weak.

      The 33rd American president writes of how “very, very selfish” Jews are and how brutal they are when in power. This, only two years after the Holocaust, when the Jews of Europe were destroyed; when more than one-third of world Jewry was wiped out; when the world, including the United States, largely stood by in the face of the Nazi inhumanity toward Jews, when Jews themselves failed to do enough to try to save their brethren in Europe.

      Jews were at a low point in their history in 1947. That didn’t seem to stop Truman from attributing classic stereotypes about Jews.

      The diaries, along with the Nixon tapes, also speak to the variability of anti-Jewishness. Those two presidents were capable of standing up for Israel at critical times, even while sharing many of society’s worst stereotypes abut Jews. Today, things are turned on their heads: Denials of anti-Semitism abound while one-sided criticism of Israel is rife and acceptable. Anti-Semitism is not only the largest hatred, it is the most elastic.

      I am a Holocaust survivor, a displaced person, and in 1947 I was a stateless 7-year-old waiting to be received by some country other than Poland, Lithuania, Germany or Austria. Harry Truman was my hero, and in 1950, when as displaced persons my parents and I came to the United States, we believed it was the president himself who made it possible. It personally saddens me to learn that he too was so flawed.

      Truman was a product of his time and of a civilization’s attitudes. The anti-Semitism revealed in his diaries is a stain on his reputation. Still, he remains a hero of Israel.

      • John-boy
        November 28, 2011 at 11:55

        If “Dishonest Abe” Foxman had bothered to quote the very next line in Truman’s diary it would have become clear that the President was making no ditinction between downtrodden Jews who suddenly find themselves with the upper hand, and a whole list of other underdogs – a list which included Russians, Labor, Negroes, Baptists and Mormons, among others. This makes his use of the word “Jews” less grating to my perception, and, given that he was continuously being lobbied and pressured by people who were representing themselves as Jews and in the name and interests of the Jewish people, his use of that term does not seem anti-semitic.

        Incidentally, I know Jews who are not from Jewish backgrounds and who don’t speak or understand Hebrew beyond certain verses of the Torah, yet ALL of the Arabic-speaking people of the Middle East and Africa ARE ethno-linguistic semites. Therefore I’d say that the foreign policies and wars of the US, Israel and its allies that have and ARE bringing-about the deaths of uncounted millions of Arabs, reduces the usual screams of “anti-semtism” from the likes of Foxman and Dershowitz to something usually found lying in piles in a pasture or a pigstye.

        • flat5
          November 28, 2011 at 20:49

          such biased bullshit

  3. flat5
    November 23, 2011 at 10:30

    If I entrusted my destiny to the likes of Hillary, Davidson, et al, all Jews would be part of Hitler and Ahmadinejad’s goal: up in smoke, gone…

  4. Hillary
    November 22, 2011 at 08:46

    flat5 just uses hasbara propaganda to silence critics of Israel.

    Seems we can be critical of all countries with the exception of one.

    After the creation of Israel in 1948 isn’t it high time the World Jewish population of 0.2% gave thanks and made peace with the 25 % of the world’s population that is Muslim for the sake of world peace.

    Israel’s Nuclear arsenal targetted at world capitals is taking us all along the road to Global Armageddon.

    The whole world except one country calls for a Nuclear free Middle East.

    “We Israelis possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets…We have the capacity to take the world down with us.”
    — Dr. Marvin Crevald Hebrew University (Associated Press, 2006)

    • Ma
      November 23, 2011 at 08:31

      Imagin if last piece of above comment was uttered by Ahmadinejad !!!

    • flat5
      November 26, 2011 at 17:18

      When you’re surrounded by 200,000,000 people sworn to your destruction, it’s not too impertinent to insure your survival. It always amazes me that you extoll the virtues of the Arab countries, when you as a woman aren’t even allowed to drive a car in Saudi Arabia. I guess that is very dangerous and would cause a seismological event!

  5. flat5
    November 21, 2011 at 21:59

    I’m the James Carville of this site. ‘Just sick & tired of extreme lefties or right wing religious wingnuts using Israel as their convenient punching bag.

  6. Hillary
    November 19, 2011 at 12:01

    Does “out-foxed” mean deceived and or lied to ?

    Is there an established pattern in the American public being out-foxed by Israel ?

    Meanwhile murderous conflicts as a result of the creation of Israel continue.

    Remember the Balfour Declaration said “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” the response from Israel’s first Prime Minister Ben Gurion was “We must expel Arabs and take their places.”: David Ben Gurion, future Prime Minister of Israel, 1937, Ben Gurion and the Palestine Arabs, Oxford University Press, 1985.


    What was to be done with the Palestinians ? Ben-Gurion’s reply was “Drive them out” quote from Yitzhak Rabin memoirs, published in the New York Times, 23 October 1979.


    “The only solution is Eretz Israel [Greater Israel], or at least Western Eretz Israel [all the land west of Jordan River], without Arabs. There is no room for compromise on this point … We must not leave a single village, not a single tribe.” Joseph Weitz, Director of the Jewish National Fund, the Zionist agency charged with acquiring Palestinian land, Circa 1940 . Machover Israca, January 5, 1973 p.2.

    then with the “out-foxing” of JFK ?

    In his June 1963 letter to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion JFK insisted on proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Israel was not developing nuclear weapons at its Dimona reactor facility. Though his letter was cabled to the U.S. embassy, Ben-Gurion resigned (citing undisclosed personal reasons) before the message could be physically delivered giving Israel time enough as Kennedy was assassinated soon after..

    Does there seem to be a pattern to the deception ?

    Is the clever hasbara propaganda history by “flat5” above overkill ?


    ..IN ALMOST every Arab capital today, you can find people who believe the theory that Israel masterminded the terror attacks on America on September 11th. Israel’s critics in the West do not go that far.

    “flat5” doesn’t realize that its more than just “Israel’s critics” who can connect the dots.

    According to the new New York Times/CBS News poll, only 16% of Americans think the government is telling the truth about 9/11 and the intelligence prior to the attacks:

    Scientific Poll: 84% Reject Official 9/11 Story

    The 9/11 official story depends on ignorance of the facts.

    • flat5
      November 21, 2011 at 13:01

      A wingnut on the extreme left is as dangerous as the right wing nuts who masquerade as lovers of Israel. You’re just a conspiracy nut and a closet antisemite.

  7. Robert
    November 18, 2011 at 08:29

    What a rogue state of crazed, religious fanatics. Its comeuppance is nearing.

  8. flat5
    November 17, 2011 at 21:39

    U.S. Presidents On Israel

    The United States had a special relationship with the Jewish people and its homeland even before the establishment of Israel.
    Below are some examples of remarks by American Presidents on the subject of Jews and Israel.

    John Adams | John Quincy Adams | Abraham Lincoln | Woodrow Wilson
    Warren Harding | Calvin Coolidge | Herbert Hoover | Franklin Roosevelt | Harry Truman
    Dwight Eisenhower | John F. Kennedy, Jr. | Lyndon Johnson | Richard Nixon | Gerald Ford
    Jimmy Carter | Ronald Reagan | George H.W. Bush | Bill Clinton | George W. Bush | Barack Obama

    John Adams
    I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize man than any other nation. (Letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson)

    Farther I could find it in my heart to wish that you had been at the head of a hundred thousand Israelites . . . & marching with them into Judea & making a conquest of that country & restoring your nation to the dominion of it. For I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation. (Letter to Mordecai Manuel Noah, 1819) 1

    John Quincy Adams
    [I believe in the] rebuilding of Judea as an independent nation. (Letter to Major Mordecai Manuel Noah)

    Abraham Lincoln
    Not long after the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln met a Canadian Christian Zionist, Henry Wentworth Monk, who expressed hope that Jews who were suffering oppression in Russia and Turkey be emancipated “by restoring them to their national home in Palestine.” Lincoln said this was “a noble dream and one shared by many Americans.” The President said his chiropodist was a Jew who “has so many times ‘put me upon my feet’ that I would have no objection to giving his countrymen ‘a leg up.’”

    Woodrow Wilson
    The allied nations with the fullest concurrence of our government and people are agreed that in Palestine shall be laid the foundations of a Jewish Commonwealth. (Reaction to the Balfour Declaration)

    Recalling the previous experiences of the colonists in applying the Mosaic Code to the order of their internal life, it is not to be wondered at that the various passages in the Bible that serve to undermine royal authority, stripping the Crown of its cloak of divinity, held up before the pioneer Americans the Hebrew Commonwealth as a model government. In the spirit and essence of our Constitution, the influence of the Hebrew Commonwealth was paramount in that it was not only the highest authority for the principle, “that rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God,” but also because it was in itself a divine precedent for a pure democracy, as distinguished from monarchy, aristocracy or any other form of government.

    To think that I, the son ofthe manse, should be able to help restore the Holy Land to its people.

    Warren Harding
    It is impossible for one who has studied at all the services of the Hebrew people to avoid the faith that they will one day be restored to their historic national home and there enter on a new and yet greater phase of their contribution to the advance of humanity.

    Calvin Coolidge
    Coolidge expressed his “sympathy with the deep and intense longing which finds such fine expression in the Jewish National Homeland in Palestine.”

    The Jews themselves, of whom a considerable number were already scattered throughout the colonies, were true to the teachings of their prophets. The Jewish faith is predominantly the faith of liberty.

    Herbert Hoover
    I know the whole world acknowledges the fine spirit shown by the British Government in accepting the mandate of the Palestine in order that there might under this protection be established a homeland so long desired by the Jews. Great progress has been made in this inspiring enterprise over these last ten years, and to this progress the American Jews have made enormous contribution. They have demonstrated not only the fine sentiment and ideals which inspire their activities but its political possibilities. I am confident out of these tragic events will come greater security and greater safeguards for the future, under which the steady rehabilitation of the Palestine as a true homeland will be even more assured. (Message for Jewish Organizations Meeting in Madison Square Garden to Protest the Events in Palestine, August 29, 1929)

    I am interested to learn that a group of distinguished men and women is to be formed to spread knowledge and appreciation of the rehabilitation which is going forward in Palestine under Jewish auspices, and to add my expression to the sentiment among our people in favor of the realization of the age-old aspirations of the Jewish people for the restoration of their national homeland. (Message to the American Palestine Committee, January 11, 1932)

    I wish to express the hope that the ideal of the establishment of the National Jewish Home in Palestine, as embodied in that Declaration, will continue to prosper for the good of all the people inhabiting the Holy Land….I have watched with genuine admiration the steady and unmistakable Progress made in the rehabilitation of Palestine which, desolate for centuries, is now renewing its youth and vitality through the enthusiasm, hard work and self-sacrifice of the Jewish pioneers who toil there in a spirit of peace and social justice. It is very gratifying to note that many American Jews, Zionists as well as non-Zionists, have rendered such splendid service to this cause which merits the sympathy and moral encouragement of everyone. (Message to the Zionist Organization of America on the Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, October 29, 1932)

    Franklin Roosevelt
    The American people, ever zealous in the cause of human freedom, have watched with sympathetic interest the effort of the Jews to renew in Palestine the ties of their ancient homeland and to reestablish Jewish culture in the place where for centuries it flourished and whence it was carried to the far corners of the world. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the keystone of contemporary reconstruction activities in the Jewish homeland. Those two decades have witnessed a remarkable exemplification of the vitality and vision of the Jewish pioneers in Palestine. It should be a source of pride to Jewish citizens of the United States that they, too, have had a share in this great work of revival and restoration. (Greeting to the United Palestine Appeal, February 6, 1937).

    I have on numerous occasions, as you know, expressed my sympathy in the establishment of a National Home for the Jews in Palestine and, despite the set-backs caused by the disorders there during the last few years, I have been heartened by the progress which has been made and by the remarkable accomplishments of the Jewish settlers in that country. (Letter to Senator Tydings, October 19, 1938)

    Harry Truman
    I had faith in Israel before it was established, I have faith in it now. (Granting de facto recognition to the new Jewish State—11 minutes after Israel’s proclamation of independence)

    Truman with Chaim Weizmann

    I believe it has a glorious future before it—not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization. (May 26, 1952)

    I had carefully read the Balfour Declaration. I had familiarized myself with the history of the question of a Jewish homeland and the position of the British and the Arabs. I was skeptical, as I read over the whole record up to date, about some of the views and attitudes assumed by the ‘striped-pants boys’ in the State Department.”

    Dwight D. Eisenhower
    Eisenhower with David Ben-Gurion

    Our forces saved the remnant of the Jewish people of Europe for a new life and a new hope in the reborn land of Israel. Along with all men of good will, I salute the young state and wish it well.

    John Kennedy
    This nation, from the time of President Woodrow Wilson, has established and continued a tradition of friendship with Israel because we are committed to all free societies that seek a path to peace and honor individual right. We seek peace and prosperity for all of the Middle East firm in our belief that a new spirit of comity in that important part of the world would serve the highest aspirations and interests of all nations. In the prophetic spirit of Zionism all free men today look to a better world and in the experience of Zionism we know that it takes courage and perseverance and dedication to achieve it.

    Israel was not created in order to disappear—Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.

    We support the security of both Israel and her neighbors…. (Statement on May 8, 1963)

    Lyndon Johnson
    The United States and Israel share many common objectives…chief of which is the building of a better world in which every nation can develop its resources and develop them in freedom and peace.

    Johnson with Yitzhak Rabin

    Our society is illuminated by the spiritual insights of the Hebrew prophets. America and Israel have a common love of human freedom and they have a common faith in a democratic way of life.

    Most if not all of you have very deep ties with the land and with the people of Israel, as I do, for my Christian faith sprang from yours….the Bible stories are woven into my childhood memories as the gallant struggle of modern Jews to be free of persecution is also woven into our souls. (Speech before B’nai B’rith)

    I may not worry as much as Prime Minister Eshkol does about Israel, but I worry as deeply. (February 7, 1968, Memorandum of Conversation with Israeli Ambassador Harman)

    When Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin asked Johnson why the United States supports Israel when there are 80 million Arabs and only three million Israelis, the President replied simply: “Because it is right.”

    Richard Nixon
    Nixon with Golda Meir

    The United States stands by its friends. Israel is one of its friends Peace can be based only on agreement between the parties and agreement can be achieved only through negotiations between them. The United States will not impose the terms of peace. The United States is prepared to supply military equipment necessary to support the efforts of friendly governments, like Israel’s, to defend the safety of their people. (Source: WZO)

    Nixon asserted that the United States stands by its friends and that “Israel is one of its friends.”

    Americans admire a people who can scratch a desert and produce a garden. The Israelis have shown qualities that Americans identify with: guts, patriotism, idealism, a passion for freedom. I have seen it. I know. I believe that.

    Gerald Ford
    The United States.. has been proud of its association with the State of Israel. We shall continue to stand with Israel. We are committed to Israel’s survival and security. The United States for a quarter of a century has had an excellent relationship with the State of Israel. We have cooperated in many, many fields — in your security, in the well-being of the Middle East, and in leading what we all hope is a lasting peace throughout the world. (Source: White House Press Conference with PM Rabin, September 10, 1974).

    America must and will pursue friendship with all nations. But, this will never be done at the expense of America’s committment to Israel. A strong Israel is essential to a stable peace in the Middle East. Our committment to Israel will meet the test of American stead, fairness, and resolve. My administration will not be found wanting. The United States will continue to help Israel provide for her security. My dedication to Israel’s future goes beyond its military needs to a far higher priority — the need for peace. My commitment to the security and future of Israel is based upon basic morality as well as enlightened self-interest. Our role in supporting Israel honors our own heritage.

    Ford with Yitzhak Rabin

    Jimmy Carter
    We have a special relationship with Israel. It’s absolutely crucial that no one in our country or around the world ever doubt that our number one committment in the Middle East is to protect the right of Israel to exist, to exist permanently, and to exist in peace. It’s a special relationship. ” (Source: The White House, May 12, 1977)

    A few days ago in a conversation with about 30 members of the House of Representatives. I said that I would rather commit suicide than hurt Israel. I think many of them realize the two concepts are not incompatible. If I should ever hurt Israel, which I won’t. I think political suicide would automatically result because it is not only our Jewish citizens who have this deep commitment to Israel, but there is an overwhelming support throughout the nation, because there is a common bond of commitment to the same principles of openness and freedom and democracy and strength and courage that ties us together in an irrevocable way. (October 22, 1977 speech to the Democratic National Committee [DNC])

    We have a committment to the preservation of Israel as a nation, to the security of Israel, the right of the Israeli people, who have suffered so much, to live in peace that is absolutely permanent and unshakeable. The ties that bind the people of the United States and the people of Israel together, the ties of blood, kinship, ties of history, ties of common religious beliefs, the dream, centuries old, of the founding of the new nation of Israel have been realized. But the dream that the new nation of Israel should be guaranteed a right to live in peace has not yet been realized for its people and those who love Israel around the world. … Peace can come from a guarantee of security, and our staunch friendship for Israel will continue to be a major element in this foundation for progress. (Source: The White House, March 21, 1978)

    The special relationship between the United States and Israel still stands. Our total committments to Israel’s security and our hope for peace is still preeminent among all the other considerations that our Nation has in the Middle East. ….. But there need be no concern among the Israeli people nor among Jews in this country that our Nation has changed or turned away from Israel. (Source: The White House, May 26, 1978)

    I would like to emphasize, in the strongest possible terms, that our aid for Israel is not only altruistic; indeed, our close relationship with Israel is in the moral and the strategic interest of the United States. There is a mutual relationship and there is a mutual benefit and there is a mutual committment, which has been impressed very deeply in my mind and also in the minds of the leaders of my Government and the Government of Israel. And I will continue to work with the leaders of Israel to strengthen even further our common commitments and our common goals. We know that in a time of crisis, we can count on Israel. And the people of Israel know that in a time of crisis, they can count on the United States. …

    Let me assure you that in this negotiation, as we work for the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, recognized in the Camp David accords by Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat, that we will countenance no action whcih could hurt Israel’s security. This is because of our commitment to Israel’s security and well-being, and it’s because Israel’s security is so closely linked to the security of the United States of America.

    … I am opposed to an independent Palestinian state, because in my own judgement and in the judgement of many leaders in the Middle East, including Arab leaders, this would be a destabilizing factor in the Middle East and would certainly not serve the United States interests. (Jimmy Carter at the United Jewish Appeal National Young Leadership Conference, February 25, 1980).

    That concept offers a first real hope for keeping our common pledge — a pledge made by all three of us — to resolve the Palestinian problem in all its aspects while fully protecting the security and the future of Israel …

    And we oppose the creation of an independent Palestinian state. The United States, as all of you know, has a warm and unique relationship of friendship with Israel that is morally right. It is compatible with our deepest religious convictions, and it is right in terms of America’s own strategic interests. We are committed to Israel’s security, prosperity, and future as a land that has so much to offer to the world. A strong Israel and a strong Egypt serve our own security interests.

    We are committed to Israel’s right to live in peace with all its neighbors, within secure and recognized borders, free from terrorism. We are committed to a Jerusalem that will forever remain undivided with free access to all faiths to the holy places. Nothing will deflect us from these fundamental principles and committments. (Source: First anniversary of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty / White House joint conference, March 23, 1980).

    The United States…has a warm and a unique relationship of friendship with Israel that is morally right. It is compatible with our deepest religious convictions, and it is right in terms of America’s own strategic interests. We are committed to Israel’s security, prosperity, and future as a land that has so much to offer the world.

    Carter with Menachem Begin

    The survival of Israel is not just a political issue, it is a moral imperative. That is my deeply held belief and it is the belief shared by the vast majority of the American people…A strong secure Israel is not just in Israel’s interest. It’s in the interest of the United States and in the interest of the entire free world.

    Ronald Reagan
    Only by full appreciation of the critical role the State of Israel plays in our strategic calculus can we build the foundation for thwarting Moscow’s designs on territories and resources vital to our security and our national well-being.

    Reagan with Shimon Peres

    Since the rebirth of the State of Israel, there has been an ironclad bond between that democracy and this one.

    In Israel, free men and women are every day demonstrating the power of courage and faith. Back in 1948 when Israel was founded, pundits claimed the new country could never survive. Today, no one questions that Israel is a land of stability and democracy in a region of tyranny and unrest.

    America has never flinched from its commitment to the State of Israel–a commitment which remains unshakable.2

    Israel exists; it has a right to exist in peace behind secure and defensible borders; and it has a right to demand of its neighbors that they recognize those facts. I have personally followed and supported Israel’s heroic struggle for survival, ever since the founding of the State of Israel 34 years ago. In the pre-1967 borders Israel was barely 10 miles wide at its narrowest point. The bulk of Israel’s population lived within artillery range of hostile Arab armies. I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again.3

    Since the foundation of the State of Israel, the United States has stood by her and helped her to pursue security, peace, and economic growth. Our friendship is based on historic moral and strategic ties, as well as our shared dedication to democracy.4

    For the people of Israel and America are historic partners in the global quest for human dignity and freedom. We will always remain at each other’s side.5

    George Bush
    The meetings with the Presidents of Egypt and Israel and with the King of Jordan form part of a larger effort to bring peace to the Middle East. And I made clear the continuing readiness of the United States to facilitate this effort in a manner that’s consistent with the security of Israel and the security of our Arab friends in the region as well. (President’s News Conference in Japan, February 25, 1989).

    We also share a profound desire for a lasting peace in the Middle East. My Administration is dedicated to achieving this goal, one which will guarantee Israel security. At the same time, we will do our utmost to defend and protect Israel, for unless Israel is strong and secure, then peace will always be beyond our grasp. We were with Israel at the beginning, 41 years ago. We are with Israel today. And we will be with Israel in the future. No one should doubt this basic committment. (Source: White House letter to AIPAC Conference attendees, May 17, 1989)

    The friendship, the alliance between the United States and Israel is strong and solid, built upon a foundation of shared democratic values, of shared history and heritage, that sustains the life of our two countries. The emotional bond of our people transcends politics. Our strategic cooperation—and I renew today our determination that that go forward—is a source of mutual security. And the United States’ commitment to the security of Israel remains unshakeable. We may differ over some policies from time to time, individual policies, but never over the principle.

    Bush with Yitzhak Shamir

    For more than 40 years, the United States and Israel have enjoyed a friendship built on mutual respect and commitment to democratic principles. Our continuing search for peace in the Middle East begins with a recognition that the ties uniting our two countries can never be broken.

    Zionism…is the idea that led to the creation of a home for the Jewish people….And to equate Zionism with the intolerable sin of racism is to twist history and forget the terrible plight of Jews in World War II and indeed throughout history (Address to the United Nations, September 23, 1991).

    Bill Clinton
    Our relationship would never vary from its allegiance to the shared values, the shared religious heritage, the shared democratic politics which have made the relationship between the United States and Israel a special—even on occasion a wonderful—relationship.

    Clinton with Benjamin Netanyahu

    The United States admires Israel for all that it has overcome and for all that it has accomplished. We are proud of the strong bond we have forged with Israel, based on our shared values and ideals. That unique relationship will endure just as Israel has endured. (From a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on occasion of Israel’s 50th birthday.)

    America and Israel share a special bond. Our relations are unique among all nations. Like America, Israel is a strong democracy, as a symbol of freedom, and an oasis of liberty, a home to the oppressed and persecuted.

    The relationship between our two countries is built on shared understandings and values. Our peoples continue to enjoy the fruits of our excellent economic and cultural cooperation as we prepare to enter the twenty-first century. (Clinton’s reply after Israeli Ambassador Shoval presented his credentials, September 10, 1998).

    George W. Bush
    We will speak up for our principles and we will stand up for our friends in the world. And one of our most important friends is the State of Israel (Speech to American Jewish Committee, May 3, 2001).

    Israel is a small country that has lived under threat throughout its existence. At the first meeting of my National Security Council, I told them a top foreign policy priority is the safety and security of Israel. My Administration will be steadfast in supporting Israel against terrorism and violence, and in seeking the peace for which all Israelis pray (Speech to American Jewish Committee, May 3, 2001).

    Through centuries of struggle, Jews across the world have been witnesses not only against the crimes of men, but for faith in God, and God alone. Theirs is a story of defiance in oppression and patience in tribulation — reaching back to the exodus and their exile into the diaspora. That story continued in the founding of the State of Israel. The story continues in the defense of the State of Israel (Address to the National Commemoration of the Days of Remembrance, April 19, 2001).

    For more than a generation, the United States and Israel have been steadfast allies. Our nations are bound by our shared values and a strong commitment to freedom. These ties that have made us natural allies will never be broken. Israel and the United States share a common history: We are both nations born of struggle and sacrifice. We are both founded by immigrants escaping religious persecution in other lands. Through the labors and strides of generations, we have both built vibrant democracies, founded in the rule of law and market economies. And we are both countries established with certain basic beliefs: that God watches over the affairs of men and values every human life. (Forward, (September 3, 2004)

    [Israel] is our ally and in that we’ve made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if her security is threatened. (News conference, February 17, 2005, Jerusalem Post)

    Our two nations have a lot in common, when you think about it. We were both founded by immigrants escaping religious persecution in other lands. We both have built vibrant democracies. Both our countries are founded on certain basic beliefs, that there is an Almighty God who watches over the affairs of men and values every life. These ties have made us natural allies, and these ties will never be broken. (President’s Remarks at National Dinner Celebrating Jewish Life in America, September 14, 2005)

    “Israel is a solid ally of the United States. We will rise to Israel’s defense, if need be. So this kind of menacing talk [by the President of Iran] is disturbing. It’s not only disturbing to the United States, it’s disturbing for other countries in the world, as well.” Asked whether he meant the U.S. would rise to Israel’s defense militarily, Bush said: “You bet, we’ll defend Israel.” (Washington Post, February 2, 2006)

    “…the threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel. That’s a threat, a serious threat. It’s a threat to world peace; it’s a threat, in essence, to a strong alliance. I made it clear, I’ll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel.” (Speech on March 20, 2006)

    “Our two nations both faced great challenges when they were founded, and our two nations have both relied on the same principles to help us succeed. We’ve built strong democracies to protect the freedoms given to us by an Almighty God. We’ve welcomed immigrants, who have helped us thrive. We’ve built prosperous economies by rewarding innovation and risk-taking and trade. And we’ve built an enduring alliance to confront terrorists and tyrants.” (Remarks on arrival in Israel, May 14, 2008)

    “The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul.

    ….My country’s admiration for Israel does not end there. When Americans look at Israel, we see a pioneer spirit that worked an agricultural miracle and now leads a high-tech revolution. We see world-class universities and a global leader in business and innovation and the arts. We see a resource more valuable than oil or gold: the talent and determination of a free people who refuse to let any obstacle stand in the way of their destiny.” (Speech to the Knesset, May 15, 2008)

    Barack Obama

    P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu with President Obama
    ( White House, May 20, 2011) P.M. Netanyahu with President Obama
    (United Nations, September 21, 2011)

    “The United States was the first country to recognize Israel in 1948, minutes after its declaration of independence, and the deep bonds of friendship between the U.S. and Israel remain as strong and unshakeable as ever.” (Statement on the 61st Anniversary of Israel’s Independence, April 28, 2009)

    “The American people and the Israeli peoples share a faith in the future and believe that democracies can shape their own destinies and that opportunities should be available to all. Throughout its own extraordinary history, Israel has given life to that promise.” (Televised Statement to the Israeli Public, October 21, 2009)

    “A strong and secure Israel is in the national security interest of the United States not simply because we share strategic interests, although we do both seek a region where families and children can live free from the threat of violence. It’s not simply because we face common dangers, although there can be no denying that terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons are grave threats to both our nations.

    America’s commitment to Israel’s security flows from a deeper place — and that’s the values we share. As two people who struggled to win our freedom against overwhelming odds, we understand that preserving the security for which our forefathers — and foremothers — fought must be the work of every generation. As two vibrant democracies, we recognize that the liberties and freedoms we cherish must be constantly nurtured. And as the nation that recognized the State of Israel moments after its independence, we have a profound commitment to its survival as a strong, secure homeland for the Jewish people…

    Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority. It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels. It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies. (Applause.) It’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels. (Applause.) And that includes additional support –- beyond regular military aid -– for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. (Applause.) A powerful example of American-Israeli cooperation — a powerful example of American-Israeli cooperation which has already intercepted rockets from Gaza and helped saved Israeli lives. So make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.” (Speech at the 2011 AIPAC Policy Conference, May 22, 2011)

    “America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were.

    “These facts cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.” (Speech to the United Nations General Assembly, September 21, 2011)

    1The quote continues: “I believe [that] . . . once restored to an independent government & no longer persecuted they [the Jews] would soon wear away some of the asperities and peculiarities of their character & possibly in time become liberal Unitarian christians for your Jehovah is our Jehovah & your God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob is our God.”
    2Remarks in New York City on Receiving the Charles Evans Hughes Gold Medal of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, March 23, 1982.
    3 Address to the Nation on United States Policy for Peace in the Middle East, September 1, 1982.
    4Remarks at a White House Meeting With Jewish Leaders, February 2, 1983.
    5 Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for President Chaim Herzog of Israel, November 10, 1987.

  9. flat5
    November 17, 2011 at 21:31

    The unblessed peacemaker
    “America is paying for the crimes of Israel.” Discuss
    Oct 4th 2001 | from the print edition of THE ECONOMIST

    ..IN ALMOST every Arab capital today, you can find people who believe the theory that Israel masterminded the terror attacks on America on September 11th. Israel’s critics in the West do not go that far. But many argue that Israel is indirectly to blame, because the protection it receives from America makes America itself a target of Muslim rage. America, in short, is paying for the crimes of Israel.

    The crude version of this argument—if Israel did not make Arabs angry, the attack might not have happened—can be swiftly disposed of. In Osama bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa against America, Israel ranks last—after America’s “occupation” of Saudi Arabia during the Gulf war and its continuing attacks on Iraq—among the three causes he gives for his war against America. His first big atrocity, the bombing in 1998 of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, coincided with a time of unusual optimism in the Israel-Palestine peace process, well before the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada. He has shown scant interest in the Palestinians; and they, to their credit, have so far shown scant interest in him.

    A second line of argument holds that support of Israel blackens America’s reputation in the Arab and Muslim worlds and so complicates its attempts to build a coalition against terror. This is undeniable. If the Jewish state did not exist, America’s relations with the Arabs would be simpler. James Forrestal, America’s defence secretary, foresaw this in 1948, when he tried to talk Harry Truman out of recognising the new state, lest this antagonised the Arabs and hampered American access to their oil. But since Israel does exist, and has a birth certificate from the United Nations, it is right for America to support it.

    The charge that matters is that America’s support has been one-sided and excessive. On this view, America has succoured Israel financially, armed it to the hilt, encouraged its expansion and turned a blind eye to the pleas of its downtrodden victims, especially the Palestinians. As George Bush is now discovering to his cost in his war against terrorism, most Arabs hold this truth to be self-evident. It is not. The evidence of history—always such a bore—repays examination.

    Slow start

    When is this unholy alliance between Israel and America supposed to have started? Not right away. For the first 20 years of Israel’s life America was a sympathetic friend rather than a close ally. Truman himself kept the new state at arm’s length. In 1957 Eisenhower forced Israel out of the Sinai peninsula, which it had invaded as part of the Anglo-French Suez adventure. Until the mid-1960s France, not America, supplied Israel with its weapons. No American president set foot in the country until Richard Nixon.

    The change came in 1967. Israel’s remarkable victory in the six-day war captured the imagination of American Jews, led to the formation of a powerful Israel lobby in America’s domestic politics and planted the idea among some American politicians that Israel might be a useful helper in the cold war. As a dynamic westernised democracy, Israel played better in America than the Soviet-oriented Arab dictatorships of Syria and Egypt. But at no point did America endorse the idea that the lands Israel captured in 1967 could be legitimately held. Since 1967, America has stood behind the land-for-peace formula enshrined in Security Council Resolution 242. Successive administrations have declared Jewish settlements in the territories illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace.

    Should America have done more after 1967, beyond fine words, to implement Resolution 242? Perhaps. But those who say so forget how matters between Israel and the Arabs have stood over the years. From 1948 until Egypt alone broke ranks in 1979, the Arab states and Palestinians alike refused to accept Israel’s right to exist under any circumstances and within any borders. As for Resolution 242, the Palestinians themselves rejected it out of hand. There could, said the Arab League from Khartoum that year, be no negotiation, recognition or peace with the Jewish state.

    Forty years of saying no

    This intransigence is now history. Few governments, save Iraq and Iran, still propose sweeping Israel away. But history has consequences. One was to make it easier for Israel to plant settlements: many early ones were justified on strategic grounds, which made some sense when its neighbours were bent on Israel’s destruction. Another was to block diplomacy. How could America be “even-handed” when one side’s demand was the eradication of the other? The Arabs’ rejection continued for an unconscionable period. Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organisation waited until 1988—40 years and five wars late—before renouncing terrorism and recognising Israel’s right to exist.

    Mr Arafat’s 1988 decision was a breakthrough. And when such breakthroughs have created chances for mediation, most American presidents have tried to grab them. Richard Nixon saw the conflict through a cold-war prism, with the Middle East as a place to win client states and avoid a superpower war. But even he tried to push the disengagement agreements after the 1973 Yom Kippur war into something more substantial. Jimmy Carter, with a Christian faith in the possibility of peaceful compromise, tried hard to turn Anwar Sadat’s stunning trip to Jerusalem into a broader Arab-Israeli settlement. He drafted the first version of the Camp David agreement, and pored over maps of the Sinai. As a reward for the 1979 Egypt-Israel treaty, Congress gives Israel $3 billion of aid a year and Egypt $2 billion.

    Ronald Reagan, though an admirer of Israel, bitterly opposed Menachem Begin’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and sent American marines, some of whom were killed, to oversee the evacuation of the PLO from Beirut. After the eruption of the first Palestinian intifada in 1987, George Shultz, his secretary of state, offered to start talks with the PLO if Mr Arafat renounced terrorism. When at last Mr Arafat did so, the administration of George Bush senior, no fan of Israel, brushed aside the protests of Yitzhak Shamir, Israel’s Likud prime minister, and authorised the State Department to begin a “substantive dialogue” with the PLO. In 1991, after the Gulf war, Mr Bush dragged a reluctant Mr Shamir to a peace summit in Madrid.

    There is a myth that American policy in the Middle East has been hijacked by AIPAC, the mighty Jewish lobby in Washington. But presidents beat foreign-policy lobbies, if they can be bothered to try. When AIPAC tried to stop Mr Reagan from selling AWACS aircraft to the Saudis, the president won handily. In 1989, James Baker, George Bush senior’s secretary of state, went to AIPAC’s annual convention and denounced Mr Shamir’s belief that Israel should hold on to the West Bank and Gaza. In 1991 he brushed off AIPAC’S objections when America threatened to withhold loan guarantees if Israel continued to expand its settlements.

    Camp David, and before

    This is not the record of a superpower with no interest in peace or justice. That is why much of the present criticism of America homes in on the past decade. In one such article, Anatol Lieven, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, accused America of sticking to policies which were needed when Israel’s existence was threatened but are no longer justified.

    Strange, though, that Americans should face such a charge now, when they have just invested ten years of diplomacy in an attempt to create an independent Palestine alongside Israel in the West Bank and Gaza. Bill Clinton, in particular, made a supreme effort. He brought Mr Arafat and Mr Rabin together on the White House lawn, and presided over a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. He was fond of Israel and especially Yitzhak Rabin, but thrilled the Palestinians by visiting the Gaza strip in 1998. At Camp David last July, he came within fingertip reach of mediating a final deal between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat.

    What went wrong? The answer is hidden in a fog of recrimination. The Palestinians say that the summit was premature, bungled, and that Israel conceded too little: not really a proper state. Dennis Ross, the senior American diplomat involved, says that Israel put a generous offer on the table and that Mr Arafat, trapped in a mythology of victimhood, failed to respond. But Mr Clinton has left little doubt about his own preference. He proposed the creation of a Palestinian state.

    This state would be created in Gaza and on 95% of the West Bank. It would also get a sliver of Israel proper, to compensate it for some settlement blocks that would be annexed to Israel. Settlers outside those blocks would come under Palestine’s sovereignty. The new state would have its capital in East Jerusalem, and divided sovereignty on the Temple Mount. Palestinian refugees would be resettled either in the Palestinian state or in other countries, with some tens of thousands returning to Israel proper.

    Appealing to the Arab worldReuters.If this was the American position, does it reflect a bias towards Israel? Bias is in the eye of the beholder. What is plain is that the Clinton plan is consistent with the principle of self-determination and with the land-for-peace principle enshrined in Resolution 242. This, by the way, does not call, as is sometimes alleged, for Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from all of the territory it occupied in 1967. It says that Israel should withdraw, in the context of a peace agreement, to secure and recognised boundaries. By design, it leaves open the possibility of altering the 1967 borders. Despite this, American administrations have declared over the years that they foresee only minor border rectification; and Mr Clinton stood by this at Camp David.

    To judge by the wails that went up on the Israeli right when Mr Clinton’s ideas were published, America was not serving just then as Israel’s stooge, pursuing obsolete policies. So America’s alleged guilt presumably arises not from Camp David, but from the six years before it, when the Oslo peace process appeared to stagnate.

    This is the wisdom of hindsight. In 1993, when it became known that the Israelis and Palestinians had at last been holding secret talks with one another, instead of working through intermediaries, it made sense for the intermediaries to step back. Moreover, helped along by the Americans, Oslo did produce an agreement—and big changes on the ground. Israel withdrew from the main populated areas, the PLO returned from exile and Mr Arafat set up his Palestinian Authority. The expectation was that five years of self-rule and confidence-building would culminate in an independent Palestine.

    That this timetable slipped was hardly America’s fault. Progress was disrupted by violent events, notably the assassination of Labour’s Yitzhak Rabin and the election—after a campaign of suicide bombings by Hamas terrorists—of an obstructive Likud-led government under Binyamin Netanyahu. By 1999, however, a new Israeli government under Mr Barak was impatient to negotiate a final peace on all fronts. Mr Barak turned first to Syria and Lebanon, without success. By the following summer he was putting his own offer of statehood to Mr Arafat at Camp David.

    Camp David, and after

    When George Bush became president this year, things had fallen apart in style. Camp David had failed, the Palestinians had launched a new intifada and Ariel Sharon, a hardliner from the Likud Party, had replaced Mr Barak. Having watched Mr Clinton bash against a brick wall, the new president was reluctant to dive straight after him. By Mr Clinton’s exacting standards, he has been relatively disengaged. This, predictably, has given rise to a new charge of bias. America fiddles while Gaza burns, pounded by Israel with American-made weapons. Why don’t the Americans simply instruct their client to stop the carnage?

    Easy to say. But the violence is not one-sided. It has, in point of fact, been initiated by the Palestinians. Justly or not, they believe themselves to be fighting for national liberation. Their aim is to drive Israel from the territories by force, and their means include shooting Israeli soldiers, ambushing motorists, planting mines and car bombs, and—in the case of Hamas and Islamic Jihad—suicide bombings of youth clubs and pizza parlours. Israel’s aim is to stop them. Its means include blockades, curfews, lethal gunfire against demonstrators and the assassination, often by helicopter gunship, of alleged ringleaders. America can blow a whistle, and hope for a pause, but neither side has been keen, during this trial of strength, to retreat under fire.

    Now that America needs allies, it is working harder than ever to make a ceasefire stick. Mr Arafat has been quicker than Mr Sharon to spot the advantage to be gained by announcing compliance. But the Americans were blowing their whistle well before September 11th.

    Since the start of the intifada, the State Department has called many times on the Palestinians to cease their attacks and on Israel to cease its “excessive” reactions. George Tenet, the director of the CIA, travelled to the region to revive security co-operation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. An American-led commission under former Senator George Mitchell has put forward the only existing route map from a ceasefire, via confidence-building measures, back to political negotiations. Again, the record does not point to an America that has turned its back insouciantly on a region in flames.

    Israel’s crimes

    Some critics of American policies take a different tack. America’s problem in the Middle East is not that it is biased but that it strives to be even-handed in an uneven conflict. In a quarrel where one side (the Israelis) is strong and wrong and the other (the Palestinians) is weak and right, the proper job of the superpower is not to split the difference but to impose justice.

    Fine—if you accept the premise, and can work out where justice lies. But this is to treat the past decade of peacemaking, and the upheavals it has caused inside Israel, as if they had never happened.

    Back in the days of Begin and Shamir, Israel’s Likud governments really did hope for eternal Jewish dominion over the whole of the West Bank and Gaza. But during the past ten years Israel has had two prime ministers—Mr Rabin and Mr Barak—convinced of the need for Israel to let an independent Palestine clamber to its feet in the West Bank and Gaza. Both tried to forge such an agreement with Mr Arafat. Mr Rabin put his faith in the gradualism of Oslo, and is now criticised for his caution. Mr Barak pushed for a final deal at Camp David, and is now criticised for his impetuosity.

    And still it goes onEPA.The failure of Camp David, and the subsequent election of Mr Sharon as prime minister, do not mark a return to the folly of Greater Israel. His election was a product of the intifada, not a cause of it. Though a Likudnik, with territorial ambitions, he leads a broad coalition united mainly by a desire to subdue the uprising in a way that betrays no weakness. His harsh tactics in the territories are supported, by and large, by Mr Barak and other Labour politicians.

    The peace camp in Israel has been gravely weakened by Mr Arafat’s rejection of what Israelis considered a fair settlement, and even more by the spectacle of the Palestinian Authority, created to “build confidence”, turning its guns on Israel. But the intifada has also made it plainer than ever to many Israelis that perpetual rule over the territories is an impossibility.

    If the guns fall silent, Israel’s debate about what to do about the territories will flare back to life. Hope may flare, too, but much will depend on America. It has already played an indispensable role in peacemaking: giving Israel the weaponry to make the radical Arab states realise that destroying Israel is not a near-term option, brokering peace with Egypt and helping to close the Oslo deal, giving cash inducements to Egypt and Jordan as a reward for their peacemaking efforts, helping Israelis overcome their feelings of isolation and abandonment by the non-Jewish world.

    When he has completed his war against terrorism, and debts fall due from his Arab helpers, Mr Bush may show less patience than previous presidents towards Israel’s fears. With America’s own security at stake, Mr Bush will care less about Israel’s. But in that case, America will not be paying for the crimes of Israel; Israel will be paying for the crimes against America.

  10. flat5
    November 17, 2011 at 16:44

    absolute bullshit

    • Eddie
      November 17, 2011 at 23:57

      Hey hasbarat, nice of you to preface your below remarks with this concise two-word summary.

      • Aaron
        November 18, 2011 at 10:07

        They’re not even his own comments. Flat5 is only copying and pasting articles from other Hasbara websites.

    • jack
      November 27, 2011 at 00:44

      Yeah man, let’s drivil on ten thousand pages at a time about garbage,,,, me first, pick me, getting paid by the letter now, & still yet, ya spew yet say nothing, I second the motion,,, garbage,,, what tyme has no value, spewing ngr fq smucked out trash,,, through & through,,, really glad I read the headline,,, in 4 words or less, oh wait, I got some more spewing imfo , never ending,,, me first , pick me, I’m a pig

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