STILL DOESN’T GET IT!
By Yoram Ettinger
April 7, 2002:
President Bush and his administration have outflanked Israel from the
their hawkish battle against terrorism. During his March 30, 2002 press
conference in Crawford Texas, the President repeated five times his
support of "Israel’s right to defend itself," refraining from
any explicit or implicit arm-twisting of Israel. In fact, for the first
time since Sept. 11, 2001, he has publicly lumped together the US war
on Islamic terrorism and Israel’s war on Palestinian terrorism.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY
AND SECRETARY OF DEFENSE RUMSFELD have often expressed their belief
that PASSIVITY IN FACE OF THREATS BREEDS MORE VIOLENCE. They support
the principle of unilateral – rather than multilateral – military actions
in face of threats (ballistic missiles or terrorism), even if the US
receives little or no support from its allies. They have frequently
heralded the 1981 Israeli bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor in Baghdad,
as a role-model for unilateral and justifiable military actions. Both
consider Arafat and the PLO a destabilizing and a treacherous factor
fueling terror and supporting Iraq, Iran and other terrorist regimes.
The Administration’s policy toward Israel has been at odds with the
entrenched bureaucracy of the Department of State and the traditional
editorial policies of the New York Times and the Washington Post.
INCONSISTENCY AND INDECISIVENESS IN ITS BATTLE AGAINST TERRORISM AND
IN THE DEFINITION OF ITS STRATEGIC GOAL (eradication of the PA/PLO/HAMAS
infrastructure? separation? autonomy? annexation? Palestinian state?)
AND THE OPEN DOOR LEFT FOR RESUMED NEGOTIATION WITH THE PA/PLO (terrorists?
partners? systematic violators of commitments? murderers? negotiators?
hate-mongers?) HAVE MADE IT DIFFICULT FOR PRESIDENT BUSH TO SUSTAIN
HIS POSITIVE ATTITUDES. Moreover, the lack of clarity on the part of
Israel, has nurtured the counter-productive Zini Mission, which has
constituted a major departure from President Bush’s coherent policy
of: No Negotiation With Terrorists, No Distinction Between Terrorists
And Those Who Harbor Terrorists, and You’re Either With Us Or Against
Us In The Fight Against Terrorism!
RATHER THAN IMPLEMENTING
A "SIX DAY WAR" STYLE SWIFT TACTIC, ISRAEL SEEMS TO HAVE CHOSEN
THE SURGICAL APPROACH, IN ORDER TO MINIMIZE COLLATERAL DAMAGE. HOWEVER,
THE LONGER THE ISRAELI WAR ON PLO/PA TERRORISM, the deeper the impact
of the simplistic media coverage, which highlights the pain of the Palestinian
population, while minimizing the critical role/responsibility of Palestinian
terrorism and the unprecedented scope of its Jewish victims. As the
war on Arafat’s, and Arafat-harbored, terrorists lingers on, the speedier
the erosion of Israel’s image as The Fastest and The Most Decent Gun
In Town ("Six Day War", Entebbe’s "Jonathan Operation",
the bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, etc.). The more cautious and
protracted is the Israeli war on Palestinian terrorists, the more exposed
is the Texan President to pressures by former President Bush, Jim Baker,
Brent Scowcroft, Secretary of State Powell, major oil companies, Saudi
Arabia, West European countries and the UN. So far, the President has
adhered to his PRINCIPLE-DRIVEN AND STRATEGICALLY-MOTIVATED POLICY ON
ISRAEL. However, one should recall that the setback to President Reagan’s
policy on Israel was accelerated as the 1982/3 war in Lebanon was lingering
on. A protracted war of attrition undermines Israel’s self-confidence
and posture of deterrence, Israel’s economy and Israel’s personal and
national security. It undercuts Israel’s strategic alliance with the
US, weakens Israel’s friends and emboldens Israel’s foes and critics.
NEVER HAS THE WASHINGTON
POLITICAL ARENA BEEN AS SUPPORTIVE OF A COMPREHENSIVE SWIFT MILITARY
CAMPAIGN TO COMPLETELY OBLITERATE THE PLO/PA/HAMAS political and terrorist
infrastructure, as it has been since 9/11. President Bush has repeatedly
echoed a key element of his war on Islamic terrorism: "Any regime
that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the
USA as a hostile regime." He has recently added that the Al-Aqsa
Brigades, which are led by Arafat, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are
harbored by Arafat, are terrorist organizations. The obvious conclusion
has been that Arafat/PA/PLO should be regarded by the USA as a hostile
regime. Bush is not ready, yet, to pronounce such a conclusion publicly,
partly because Palestinian terrorism is not the overriding priority
for the USA (which it is for Israel). But, Israel has disappointed Bush,
Cheney and Rumsfeld, awaiting an explicit Green Light from the "Washington
Nanny." Israel is mistaking Green Light for Yellow/Red Light.
IS CURRENTLY MISINTERPRETING A GLIMPSE OF PRESSURE TO BE A BRUTAL PRESSURE.
Thus, when Clinton exerted pressure on Netanyahu, he conducted a smear
campaign to tarnish Netanyahu’s reputation, he threatened to cut foreign
aid, to suspend joint military exercises and to cut bi-national projects.
When the Bush/Baker team pressured Shamir, they suspended $400MN loan
guarantees, denied Israel $10BN loan guarantees, froze a series of legislation
which were supposed to expand US-Israel strategic cooperation, brutally
criticized AIPAC and viciously attacked Shamir via malicious leaks and
briefings. When Reagan pressured Begin following the 1981 bombing of
Iraq’s nuclear reactor, he suspended the supply of aircraft and tanksfor
six months. When Ford pressured Rabin in order to produce anIsraeli
withdrawal from critical passes in Sinai, he conducted a reassessment
process (marshalling the support of US "elite" media), designed
to reduce the scope ofUS-Israel relations. When the Truman/Marshall
team pressured Ben-Gurion to postpone the 1948 Declaration of Independence,
they imposed an arms embargo on the region (while Britain shipped arms
to Jordan and Iraq), threatened to alter the legal status of Jewish
contributions to Jewish causes overseas, and suggested to Ben-Gurion
that a declaration of independence would trigger a war, which would
cause a second Jewish holocaust within less than a decade. THAT’S PRESSURE!
However, when President
Bush "pressures" Sharon he states that Israel’s military operation
against Palestinian terrorism is not helpful, and requests that the
operation be suspended until the Iraqi Chapter is over. No sanctions,
no arm-twisting, no suspension of projects and no ugly psychological
warfare. THAT’s PRESSURE???
NEVER HAS THE USA
BEEN AS SENSITIVE TO THE MUTUALITY OF THE ISLAMIC THREAT TO ITSELF AND
TO ISRAEL, as has been the case since 9/11. Never has the public standing,
in the USA, of Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians been as low as it has
been since the WTC and Pentagon Islamic terrorism. Never has Israel’s
predicament benefited from such a sympathetic ALL-AMERICAN COMBINATION
of a President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense, National Security
Advisor, Congress and most importantly, the American public. Never has
the USA gone through such a drastic and a hawkish mental, operational,
legal and legislative reassessment of its counter-terrorist effort,
as it has since losing almost 3,000 persons to Islamic terrorists.
BUT, THE IRRESOLUTE
AND VACILLATING ISRAEL OF OSLO-WYE-CAMP DAVID2-MITCHELL-TENET-ZINI IS
YET TO LEVERAGE THE POTENTIAL STORED IN POST-9/11 USA. Something is
flawed in the strategic thinking of a government, which does not conduct
a DRASTIC change of course (away from Oslo/PA/PLO) in response to a
DRAMATIC American reassessment and to the murder of 700 Israelis (since
the Oslo Accords were concluded), which is equal proportionally to the
murder of 35,000 Americans!