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Morris J. Amitay
Column for December, 2008
WHAT LIES AHEAD
Anyone who is presumptuous enough to predict which problems our next president will have to deal with during his first “one hundred days” has not been living on this planet long enough. By now we should anticipate that events will drive the agenda rather than policy prescriptions. We may be certain that the flagging economy will merit attention. But natural disasters, terrorist attacks and actions by foreign governments affecting our interests, all of which cannot be anticipated will have to be dealt with. So given the unsettled nature of today’s world, we can expect that the new Chief Executive and his closest advisers will be tested early—and often—with a minimal honeymoon period, and with campaign rhetoric quickly forgotten.
For those who follow developments in the Middle East, particularly as they affect Israel’s security, it is important to reflect on recent history, which has shown how close advisers and bureaucrats can sometimes prevent Presidential directives from being carried out expeditiously—or at all. So a president needs to have a great deal of self-assurance, grasp of the facts, and superb communication skills to overcome this eventuality. Judging from how he ran his successful campaign, it would seem that we will have a president who runs a tight ship, aided by a no-nonsense chief of staff. The past views enunciated by his “centrist” appointees may not be a portent of future policies as they affect Israel. Instead, those individuals chosen so far who in the past have provided a measure of comfort to those fearing undue pressure put on Israel to make dangerous concessions may actually be used to provide convenient cover based on the erroneous notion that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the root of Middle East instability.
An example of this wrongful thinking was demonstrated in a recent Brzezinski/Scowcroft op-ed which would essentially have Israel going back to its indefensible pre-1967 borders, with an international force created to ensure Israel’s security. As an inducement for Israel to acquiesce to this unworkable proposition, the two former national security advisers call for a demilitarized Palestinian state. At the same time, paradoxically, the two authors write of the need to train Palestinian “troops”. Nowhere is there any discussion of how to prevent a new sovereign Palestine from inviting foreign forces from entering a nascent Palestinian state. And included, of course, is Israeli return of the Golan Heights to Syria in order to wean it away from Iran—another dubious proposition. Given its culture of “accommodation” (which some might describe as appeasement) it is not difficult to envision our new Secretary of State, captured willingly or not by her bureaucracy, going along with this plan. If you add to this a National Security Adviser already on record for having NATO take over the job of enforcing the peace, Israel would have some tough choices to make.
The mantra of the “two-state solution” has now been accepted by many of Israel’s friends, along with a substantial number of Israelis, with the assumption of the creation of a peaceful Palestinian state. While some current Palestinian leadership might certainly be considered more moderate than Arafat, pushing for such a solution now with Hamas unrepentant and with a weak and ambivalent Palestinian Authority could be disastrous for Israel, and for US interests. American-trained Palestinian security forces have begun to crack down on criminal activity in the West Bank. But attempts to go after the terrorist infrastructure, except for some Hamas operatives, have been feeble, and the PLA’s terrorist wing still operates freely. So while Israel’s supporters in the US Congress and the American Jewish Community could be expected to rally in opposition to such an initiative—one must first ask what will the Israeli government’s position be? With Israeli leadership epitomized by a Golda Meir, Menachem Begin, and Yitzhak Rabin, one could imagine a resolute Israel standing up to American pressure to agree to terms which endanger its security.
But if the pathetic stewardship of Ehud Olmert is any indication of Israel’s future mettle, Israel’s American friends could be in the unenviable position of appearing to be “holier than the pope”. Hopefully, our new policymakers will see how premature and unrealistic pushing for a two-state solution at this time must be—particularly with other more pressing matters on their plate, such as Iranian nukes. And also hopefully, the people of Israel going to the polls next February will get leadership whose policies will be based upon bedrock Israeli security interests, instead of acquiescing to unrealistic solutions advanced by its closest ally and most important friend.
Morrie Amitay, a Washington attorney, is a former Executive Director of AIPAC and founder of the pro-Israel Washington PAC (www.washingtonpac.com).