Sometimes we fail to notice the most important and obvious facts, precisely because they are right before our eyes, or because they are unpleasant to acknowledge. There is one overriding fact about American policy toward Israel that has been ignored in this way.
In 1975, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told the Iraqi foreign minister, in a secret meeting:
We can't negotiate about the existence of Israel, but we can reduce its size to historical proportions. I don't agree that Israel is a permanent threat. How can a nation of three million be a permanent threat? They have a technical advantage now. But it is inconceivable that peoples with wealth and skill and the tradition of the Arabs won't develop the capacity that is needed. So I think in ten to fifteen years, Israel will be like Lebanon-- struggling for existence, with no influence in the Arab world. (see Kissinger tells Iraqis, "We Can Reduce Israel's Size")
Revelation of this cynical conversation produced confusion among Zionists. Kenneth Stein was unable to say if this represented United States Policy or Kissinger's opinion or if Kissinger was simply trying to entice the Iraqis back into the US orbit.
Stripped of some of the "icing," Kissinger was expressing what was no more and no less than US policy, and had been US policy since 1967 if not before and what remains US policy today. That is, to barter Israeli land for a peace deal, and to use US influence on Israel as a lever to gain influence in the Arab world. It was always the public policy of the United States, through administrations of both parties and under every presidency, and there was absolutely no reason to be surprised by Kissinger's promise to the Iraqis.
Kenneth Stein agonized somewhat over whether or not Kissinger really meant what he had said:
Kissinger's statement to Hammadi that the U.S. envisioned Israel as becoming small and non-threatening like Lebanon may have been U.S. foreign policy, or his personal view, or ingratiating diplomacy, or some combination of the three. Regardless, Kissinger's comments were what Hammadi wanted to hear.
Stein also quoted a statement by Nixon to Syrian President Assad:
President Richard Nixon told Syrian president Hafez al-Assad that Washington was committed to seeing an "Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied territories" (cited by Stein as taken from "Letter from President Ford to Prime Minister Rabin, September 1, 1975," reproduced in Michael Widlanski, Can Israel Survive A Palestinian State? (Jerusalem: Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, 1990).
For some reason, Stein is doubtful if this was the policy of the United States. The reason for his doubt is hard to understand. Both secret and public documents have made it clear that United States policy regarding Israel since the Six Day War was centered around the idea that the United States must get Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories in order to satisfy the Arab states. U.S. diplomats and legislators, beginning in 1967, bemoaned the fact that Israel had achieved the Six Day War victory without U.S. aid, and therefore the United States had no way to force its withdrawal. This is revealed, for example, in Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearings held on June 9, 1967:
It is a fact, is it not, that neither Soviet Russia nor the United States has given any material amounts of arms to Israel, and, if that is true, are they not relatively independent in their thinking at this point?
Secretary Rusk. No, we have provided tanks and Hawk missiles and certain other kinds of equipment to Israel, but their principal arms supplier has been France...
The Israeli air force is almost all French supplied.
It should be clear that "reducing the size of Israel" was always a goal of the United States since June 1967. On May 23, 1967, President Johnson had made a statement regarding US commitment to the territorial integrity of all nations, seemingly with the intention of reassuring Israel.. Following the June war, this statement was repeated, but now that Israel had conquered chunks of Jordanian, Egyptian and Syrian territory, it took on a new meaning: The US would pressure Israel to withdraw from the conquered territories in return for peace. In a State Department telegram sent on June 12 to the US Embassy in Israel, the following wording was included:
As far as the attitude of the US is concerned, our principal points of departure are (a) President Johnson's reaffirmation on May 23 of long-standing American policy that "the United States is firmly committed to the support of the political independence and territorial integrity of all the nations of the area"; ...(c) the vital interest of the United States in its own relations with the Arab and Muslim world, a relationship in which Israel itself has an important stake...
Source: 273. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel/1/ Washington, June 12, 1967, 10:37 p.m. /1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Eugene Rostow on June 11, cleared by Kohler and Battle, and approved by Katzenbach. Rostow had earlier initialed Rusk's approval. Repeated to Luxembourg as Tosec 20 for Rusk.
Ambassador Barbour replied on June 13 that he had in fact apprised Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban of these positions:
As to United States points of departure I mentioned President's reaffirmation on May 23 of our commitment to support the political independence and territorial integrity of all nations in the area, the necessity to establish a regime of peace eliminating claims by either side of the right to infringe on the rights of others because of belligerency, U.S. vital interests in relation to the Arab world, and the overriding necessity that through magnanimous and imaginative policies, the foundations laid for a genuine reconciliation among peoples of the area.
Source; 277. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State/1/ Tel Aviv, June 13, 1967, 1730Z. /1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Received at 3:16 p.m.
Yet again, from the same file, in response to Saudi and Aramco pressure on the U.S. regarding Israeli withdrawal, the following text was included in a telegram sent, also on June 13, from the U.S. State Department to the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia:
3. In connection problems growing out of recent Arab-Israel hostilities, you may call attention addressee governments to long-standing USG support for territorial integrity and political independence of all states of the Near East. This position was re-stated by President Johnson today./3/ The USG desires the maintenance of friendly ties with all the countries of the region. In our view it is of the first importance for all to take steps now to assure that there is an end to the periodic hostilities and the state of belligerency which have marked Near Eastern history in the last two decades. The USG is fully prepared to join the other states to work for lasting arrangements which will serve permanently to reduce tensions in this region.
Source: 282. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Saudi Arabia/1/ [Washington, June 13, 1967, 9:54 p.m. /1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Secret. Drafted by Brewer on June 12; cleared by Battle, Solomon, and Director of the Office of Fuels and Energy John G. Oliver; and approved by Eugene Rostow. Also sent to Kuwait and repeated to Dhahran and London.]
And, from a later file of declassified documents, we have this statement:
The tough question is whether we'd force Israel back to 4 June borders if the Arabs accepted terms that amounted to an honest peace settlement. Secretary Rusk told the Yugoslav Foreign Minister: "The US had no problem with frontiers as they existed before the outbreak of hostilities. If we are talking about national frontiers--in a state of peace--then we will work toward restoring them. But we all know that could lead to a tangle with the Israelis.
Source: 455. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/ Washington, October 3, 1967. /1/Source: Johnson Library, President's Appointment File, October 4, 1967. Secret; Nodis.
There was, therefore, every reason for both President Nixon and Henry Kissinger to make the statements they had made about Israeli withdrawal, and they were by no means expressing their private opinions, but rather the stated policies of the United States government.
The Johnson administration was unable to fulfill its ambition of forcing Israeli withdrawal. The Arab states under the leadership of Nasser were too intransigent to make even a show of peaceful intentions, and adopted the Khartoum resolutions. At the same time, the United States had no leverage whatever on Israel, since it had not supplied the arms with which the Six Day War was won, and had in fact, reneged on its promise to support Israel's navigation rights when it was put to the test. In order to force Israeli withdrawal, the United States would first need to gain some leverage on Israel. The US adopted a two fold approach to regaining its standing in the Middle East. The first part was to make Israel dependent upon it for arms and diplomatic backing, while at the same time working for a permanent peace settlement and Israeli withdrawal. The "peace settlement" part would be satisfactory to the pro-Israel faction that was generally in charge in the White House, while the Israeli withdrawal part would satisfy the rank and file career diplomats of the State Department, who never had excessive love for Israel or people of the Jewish persuasion.
This policy could be marketed to supporters of Israel as a pro-Israel policy that sought peace, and would, as Kissinger noted even to the Iraqis, oppose the destruction of Israel, while it could be marketed to Arab states and their supporters as US opposition to annexation of Arab territory, and reduction of Israel's size. The most complete public expression of the policy was the Harold H. Saunders testimony of 1975, which explicitly called for a settlement of the Palestinian issue through Israeli territorial concessions. Implementation of the policy was aided by the fact that Israel lost the backing of France, which meant that it had neither a diplomatic champion nor an arms supplier, and was greatly dependent on the US. Yitzhak Rabin, when he was ambassador to the US, understood and emphasized that US support for Israel was due only to the perception that such support served US strategic interests. The US supports Israel in order to use return of the territories conquered in the Six Day War to gain leverage with Arab states. This policy worked admirably for many years.
By 1975, the US had purchased the leverage on Israel by its role in the Yom Kippur War, in which it had agreed to resupply Israel through the air-lift. The Yom Kippur war made it clear to Israel that the scale of military engagements in the Middle East had changed radically since 1967, and that it could therefore no longer be militarily independent. The quantities of armaments and materiel consumed in a few short days of fighting necessitated a replacement capacity that could not be provided in a practical way by increasing the capacity of the Israeli military industries, and the technological innovations required were beyond the capabilities of Israel. Kissinger persuaded Nixon to resupply the Israelis in 1973, and Kissinger then used the leverage purchased by resupply to push for Israeli withdrawals in Sinai. The fruits of this policy for the US were the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and US displacement of Russian influence in Egypt, and eventually, the Jordanian - Israeli peace treaty and the Oslo process. In a masterly stroke, President Carter cemented both Israeli and Egyptian dependence on the US with large foreign aid deals.
It has been very important for the United States to maintain this dependence. The torpedoing of the LAVIE interceptor project in the 80s was a great victory for US policy and another nail in the coffin of Israeli political independence. Thanks to that defeat, every time Israel attacks Palestinians or Hezbollah, it must use US aircraft, allowing anti-Zionists to point out that the "Zionist war criminals" are using US supplied weapons.
In any case, what Kissinger told the Iraqis was apparently, a slightly "adapted" version of actual US policy. If it was shocking to some people, it is because they never understood and didn't want to understand what had been declared plainly many times. The same policy has been spelled out again quite recently by George Bush in his speech on the Middle East, and more recently by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in an interview with Sawa television. Israel will have to withdraw from the West Bank.
The evident facts about US policy in the Middle East, which are rarely if ever mentioned, have many implications. They have been obscured by traditional campaign malarkey about U.S. support for Israel and the "historic relationship" and the strategic alliance, and they have provided a fruitful field for demagogues.
Anti-Zionists who bewail American support for Israel and US aid to Israel and blame it on the Israel Lobby" are well aware of the reasons for American support for Israel, which have nothing to do with the "Jewish vote" or Christian Zionism.
Zionists in Israel and abroad who want Israel to keep the territories of the West Bank, and who sometimes label Israeli politicians as traitors because of concessions to Palestinians, need to understand that these concessions are concessions to the US government. In reality, the results and aftermath of the Six Day War are the full length novel version of the little episode of the 1956 Suez Campaign. After that campaign, President Eisenhower forced a precipitate Israeli withdrawal in return for "guarantees" that turned out to be worthless. Following the Six Day war, Israel has a better chance of getting guarantees that will not be worthless in return for withdrawal, but the withdrawal is evisaged by the US as equally inevitable.
Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, Benjamin Nethanyahu, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert all recognized this immutable factor in Israeli geopolitical calculations. Personal preferences do not come into the equation. For Israel, American policy is an elemental fact of political life like bar'hash flies and hot weather.
Peace in return for Israeli withdrawal would be a fair bargain, if it is really peace. Unfortunately, we should be well aware that the United States does not possess either the will or the means to guarantee continued peace after Israeli withdrawal, and on the other hand, pressures in the United States are growing to get any kind of settlement and call it "peace." Anti-Zionists have managed to blame the Iraq war on Israel, and as the Iraq war sours, pressure for the US to divest itself of its obligations to Israel, and its association with the occupation, has grown.
The aftermath of 9-11 and the miscarriage of the Oslo process poses a dilemma for the United States, especially as domestic pressure mounts for a gracious exit from Iraq. The conviction has grown in the US that somehow an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement will help to remedy US failures in Iraq, but such an agreement does not appear to be practicable. In the wake of 9-11, the US clearly cannot indulge Islamist extremism. The people in charge in a large part of Palestine as of 2007 are Islamist extremists. But where there is a will there is a way, and if it is deemed necessary to US policy commitments -- a euphemism for the flow of oil from the Gulf states -- Israel may find itself forced to withdraw in return for a token peace treaty.
Americans need to take into account that the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements did not necessarily gain power and influence as a result of the Israeli occupation itself. Rather, they gained power by capitalizing on opposition to the US sponsored peace process, and by labeling those Palestinians who participated in the process as traitors. This enabled them to garner the political support of extremist elements in Palestinian society. At the same time, they became the favored recipients of aid from Iran and other elements who want to see the peace process fail precisely because if it succeeds, it would be a great victory for American policy.
Acute analysts will note that if Israel ever does return all of the conquered territories, then Israel would be of no further use in American attempts to ingratiate itself with the Arabs. At the same time, America would have very little leverage with the Arabs unless it pressed Israel for further concessions. Without doubt, there are those in the US diplomatic corps who would not be averse to exerting such pressure.
Israeli politicians therefore have to think ahead to what American policy might be two days after the peace treaty is signed, when some Arab states, or Muslim groups, inevitably, nonetheless declare their objections to the presence of Israel in the Middle East. From the Israeli point, we will have no more territory to concede, but that may not necessarily be the American view. After all, in the early 50s, the US was behind a plan to get Israel to make concessions to Egypt in the Negev.
Original content is Copyright by the author 2007. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000406.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNNemail@example.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.
Replies: 3 Comments
Please read and contact me ASAP.
There is lots more if you need further proof.
please write to me and Roger Rancourt ASAP
An American Patriot who writes peace plans for the Palestinians and
for all the Children of the Book
Jeff Fisher, Friday, August 17th
With the Liberal Socialists & democrats screaming for, and legislating towards a complete surrender in Iraq, GWB has no choice but go to Phase II. Rather then outwardly Disarming Islam He'll have to do it side ways. Just arm both the Shia and Sunni and forment a ME civil War that will make the 80's Iran/Iraq war look like childs play.
Once the population of Arab/Persian breeders and unemployed Jehadis gets whittled down by a few million, expending all the bombs, bullets and missles in the process, the remainer can easily be handled by the limp wristed whoosie democrats and Israelis.
Americans rely on 10% of ME Arab Oil. Let the limo liberals, fat cat republicans and Michael Moore's ride bikes as the surrender Monkies watch the impending slaughter in silence.
Mike Hyland, Sunday, July 29th
I find this article both fascinating and disturbing; but ultimately persuasive. Along with a lot of other Americans, I had (perhaps somewhat blindly) always assumed that, as a matter of policy, the US had consistently supported the existence of Israel and protected it against the unreasonable hate-driven demands of your violent Arab neighbors. Obviously, considering some of the concessions we have tried -- and evidently are still trying -- to force you to make, for the sake of some pie-in-the-sky peace processes, this was a bit naive.
This is particularly troubling to read after 9/11. I should think that there could no longer be any reasonable doubt as to who our enemies are in this region and, conversely, whom we should support and protect. Evidently my assumptions are not based in fact.
I greatly admire your country and I wholeheartedly support your righteous cause -- which is of course your very existence. I am dismayed to learn that this support may not be reflected in my own government's policies.
Your article makes it quite clear to me how much I still have to learn.
Roger W. Gardner, Sunday, July 29th
Constructive comments, including corrections, are welcome. Do not use this space for spam, publishing articles, self promotion, racism, anti-Zionist propaganda or character defamation. Inappropriate comments will be deleted. See our Comment policy for details. By posting here, you agree to the Comment policy.