EDITORIAL: Does Israel fear its friends more than its enemies?

Does Israel fear its friends more than its enemies?

On December 18, 2008, Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies welcomed an honored American guest who participated in the 2nd Annual International Conference: Security Challenges of the 21st Century.

Former US Senator George Mitchell presented, “The American Perspective.” Note the definite article — Mitchell was not simply presenting an American perspective. Indeed, Haaretz reported yesterday that the institute’s director, Oded Eran, “found out on the eve of the conference that Mitchell had been chosen as the next Mideast envoy, though the envoy-designate did not discuss his new position.”

Did Mitchell’s anticipated imminent return to the region as President Obama’s Middle East envoy provide an added incentive for Israel to launch its assault of Gaza? After January 20 the strain on US-Israeli relations would have been severe.

But what could be so threatening about such a renowned American elder statesman? How could someone with Mitchell’s track record — a pivotal role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland — not provide an invaluable contribution to a moribund peace process?

Among Israel’s leaders and some of its most influential supporters it is Mitchell’s virtues that present the most ominous threat.

In The Jerusalem Post, under the headline, “Mitchell: Every conflict can be solved,” Herb Keinon candidly exposes Israel’s fear of an honest broker. Citing the findings of Mitchell’s 2001 report on the causes of the Second Intifada, Keinon writes:

    The Mitchell Report called for an immediate cessation of violence and a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian Authority security cooperation, and a series of “confidence-building measures” to follow the cease-fire. The two key measures were that the PA had to “make clear through concrete action to Palestinians and Israelis alike that terrorism is reprehensible and unacceptable and that the PA will make a 100-percent effort to prevent terrorist operations and to punish perpetrators”; and that Israel had to “freeze all settlement activity, including the ‘natural growth’ of existing settlements.”
    One government official said Mitchell’s position on zero settlement construction, together with new National Security Adviser James Jones’s previous articulation of frustration at Israel’s inability to dismantle outposts, would likely put Israel and the new administration on a collision course.
    The official said that while Mitchell had been considered “a friend of Israel” when he was Senate majority leader from 1989-1995, his tenure as head of the Mitchell Committee left some in Jerusalem with the feeling that he was trying to be “too balanced.”
    The official said the apparent selection of Mitchell as special envoy, over more high-profile Jewish Middle East experts surrounding Obama – such as Dennis Ross, Daniel Kurtzer, Martin Indyk and Richard Holbrooke – might indicate that for the sake of balance, Obama did not want a Jew in that position.

Echoing the same fear that Mitchell’s appointment puts Israel at risk because he will be “too” fair, one of Israel’s most prominent American defenders was equally frank in revealing his doubts:

    “Sen. Mitchell is fair. He’s been meticulously even-handed,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “But the fact is, American policy in the Middle East hasn’t been ‘even handed’ — it has been supportive of Israel when it felt Israel needed critical U.S. support.
    “So I’m concerned,” Foxman continued. “I’m not sure the situation requires that kind of approach in the Middle East.”

In as much as George Mitchell provokes fear among Israelis, he also crystallizes what should now be under debate.

The peace process has become a facade. Behind this facade, inside Israel, there has arisen a hardening conviction that peace is not possible. Mitchell poses a direct challenge to that conviction because he comes in with the opposite view:

    …from my experience in Northern Ireland I formed the conviction that there is no such thing as a conflict that can’t be ended. Conflicts are created and conducted by human beings. They can be ended by human beings. I saw it happen in Northern Ireland although admittedly it took a very long time. I believe deeply that with committed, persevering and active diplomacy it can happen in the Middle East.

The real question that confronts Israel is not, what can advance the peace process? The question is much starker: does Israel still believe in the possibility of peace or has it become resigned to existing in a perpetual state of war?

Yet to pose this question is to expose the fragility of the security bubble inside which Israel currently chooses to reside. For as much as Israel likes to assume the posture of an indomitable military power, the simple truth is that Israel’s military might is utterly dependent on America’s patronage — hence the threat posed by America as honest broker, as opposed to loyal defender. As honest broker, America cannot perpetually provide Israel with the option of choosing war instead of peace.

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Comments

  1. delia ruhe says:

    Excellent article; however, “does Israel still believe in the possibility of peace or has it become resigned to existing in a perpetual state of war?” is perhaps the wrong question.

    Specifically, the word “resigned” seems a bit inappropriate here, given that–according to Henry Siegman, “The Great Middle East Peace Process Scam,” 2007–a perpetual state of war is precisely what Israel wants. According to quotations in Siegman’s article, no solution is the best solution–at least, as Moshe Dayan and his successors have articulated it.

    Not until American “peacemakers” come to terms with this Israeli preference will anything fruitful come of the so-called peace process. In other words, I think we can look forward to many more years of this “perpetual war for perpetual peace.”

  2. Some Israelis want perpetual war. Some want their neighboring nations in chaos. My concern is the Israeli supporters in the United States Government who all seem to want war and chaos in the middle east.

  3. UN Resolution 242 would be a starting point that is “meticulously even-handed” and by no means “too balanced.”.

    Read it here …the actual document.

  4. I agree completely with delia ruhe’s comment. The truth is that Israel does not want peace. it does not want a two state solution and it does not want a one state solution. It wants the status quo-which is to be the permanant oppressor of the Palestinians and for them to know that they are a subject people under the rule of the Israelies indefinitely. A peace process facing this reality will only work if the US stops the financial bonanza it gives to Israel that enables it to thwart peace all the time.

  5. NoOneYouKnow says:

    Abe Foxman isn’t sure that a “meticulously even-handed approach is necessary in the Israel/Palestine conflict? Well, that lays the situation bare, doesn’t it. In the view of Foxman and his ilk, the “peace process” is supposed to be tilted in Israel’s direction: just far enough that Israel never had to do anything it doesn’t want to.
    As a Jew, I’m disgusted by these people. If they want war and expulsion of the Palestinians, let them say and try it. If they claim to want peace, the best thing the US can do for everyone concerned is call their bluff. Let them go to hell their own way.

  6. About time! The US can not afford to continue loosing credibility and respect in international affairs for the sake of an occupying, immoral, unjust, apartheid, blood thirsty, and undemocratic country hellbent on igniting World War III. And while the US is at it, seeking balance and all, it ought to do some housekeeping too.

  7. I agree with Delia,

    I don’t think Israel has been resigned to existing in a perpetual state of war so much as seen it as the only means to maintain it’s identity. Both Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky have alluded to Israel’s attacks against peace initiatives. In 1982, the peace initiative came from the PLO in the form of their support for a two state solution. Similarly, the attack on Gaza was an attempt to maintain the divide between Hamas and Fatah and to circumvent the continuation of the truce.

    Just prior to the attack, Hamas were due to meet with Fatah to discuss forming a unity government. For Israeli hard liners, this would have posed a serious diplomatic threat.

  8. Israel is the most despised nation state on earth… They are rightfully paranoid, as they know what the world thinks of them.

  9. Sadly, the peace process has been little more than an enabling cover for Israel’s “Drive to the east” in its continuing expansion and conquest of Palestine. Two steps forward, one back, repeat.

  10. Major Domo, Republic of Vermont says:

    As a politically interested thirteen year old I cheered Israel as the Six Day War progressed.
    Since then I have noticed that the State of Israel has done everything it possibly can to maintain a “warm war” in the region in order to facilitate its expansion and maintain its lucritive war economy.
    If it truely is Israel’s intention to maintain this “warm war” then the reason for this latest incursion is clear, and the timing with regards to the US is obvious. If World Opinion with regards to Israel as a State in the Community of Nations was the objective, then it has been a miserable failure. General consideration towards Jews in general worldwide has probably been set back many years, and reinforced the efforts of antisemites.
    George Mitchell and the new Obama Administration will be allowed some progress in the Arab-Israeli conflict; Israel has some necessary back-pedling to do….. But real progress in this area will be comprimised as it always has, eventually.
    I’m 53 years old now. I don’t expect to see true peace/cooperation between Israel/Palestine before I die of old age.

  11. “I think we can look forward to many more years of this “perpetual war for perpetual peace.”

    Agreed. There is no single thread to pull that will unravel this sweater. The karma is too ancient, the blindness too ingrained.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Truly sad. Eventually, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Israeli Right and Center Left come out in favor of perpetual war or a one-sided peace. I can see their arguments now, “we won these lands fair and square, why should we give them back?” Of course, the corrupt, U.S. corporate media will tow the line and “educate” the general American public so we swallow this hook, line and sinker.

    The solution is for those who see through the charade to work hard to bring even-handedness to the American media, to contact our elected representatives and demand a fair and just solution to the Palestinian problem. We need to organize and make our voices heard because, as a result of the Iraq war, this has become an American problem. If we have any chance of making sure we are not bled to death in the Middle East in blood and treasure, we need to solve this problem!

  13. I agree that Israel wants perpetual war. Two goals starkly support this preference. One is the goal of a Jewish State. Since the highly educated, euro-american jewish population is close to zero population growth, they cannot fulfill this goal if others are in their state having babies. Killing them off is certainly one strategy. The other goal is the vision of a Greater Israel extending throughout the near east. Syria and Lebanon must go, Jordan must go, and Egypt must surrender the Sinai. This is the sort of Racist insanity American dollars support. Mr. Mitchell might also consider what good it does America to unilaterally support such blatant and inhumane injustice. Our own national soul is at risk in this bondage to Israel.

  14. Clear Eyes says:

    To Major Domo: You Sir, are far too pessimistic. If you live to the age of 80 you will see a Peace in Israeli simply because of the following. Israel can either choose now to a solution which ensures peace with the Palestinians, or continue it’s war for perhaps another year. Here’s why.

    The USA is now bankrupt. Worldwide, we are in deflation. Irrespective of government actions, the USA will be forced to halt all foreign aid and subsidies due to the current Economic Pearl Harbor (Warren Buffett’s words). An Economic Pearl Harbor implies an enemy that has engaged in destroying the world financial system. That enemy is the Central Banks.

    At this rate, due to the quadrillion dollar derivatives implosion, no economy will survive with sufficient funds, thus scaling back any and all efforts to fund further wars. Now, even if this doesn’t force the end of war, the other will be Israel’s arab israeli population. They are currently 20% of Israel’s population.

    Much like the black people of the USA during the 1960’s, they too are agitating for full rights as israeli citizens. In about 10 years, Israel will be forced to have to deal with this situation, and it will be back to where it started before the six day war. This is pure and simple demographics. Israel can either accept a two state solution, or, and I know this is radical, I’m not sure if I’m the only one who thinks this way, they can choose to fully reinstate the Palestinians as fully fledged israeli citizens, form a true democracy with full rights to all israelis (muslim, jewish, and christian), and instead of jewish state of jewish nationalism, choose to form an israeli state, of israeli nationalism, with hebew as it’s national language, thus preserving in tact the majority jewish culture.

    Either way, the demographic changes are on their way. Aside from Israel’s atrocities against the palestinians, this has also proven that the palestinian’s enemies are also the states of the Middle East. It would be in the Palestinian’s best interests, and the Israeli’s best interests to join forces and form a true israeli democracy, as opposed to the current Israeli apartheid. Only then will their be a true peace in Israel, and a golden era.

  15. I believe Israel will never make peace until the US stops their overwhelmingly one-sided support.

    The world needs to know that not all Americans or Jewish people agree with what the state of Israel has been doing.

    It’s a sad state of affairs.

  16. Boycott Israel!!!

  17. The irony of this entire mess is that, if you read your bible correctly, the Jews attacked and occupied the area long before the current crisis — attacked and occupied, ladies and gentlemen, attacked and occupied. Of course our current crop of “Christians” conveniently avoid this interpretation, preferring the more nebulous “God gave it to them.”

    What more can I say other than “baloney?” Oh, wait, there’s another “B” word I could use, but today, after all, is Sunday — kids’n stuff.

  18. I have been an observer of the Israeli-Palestinian problem for many years and have traveled throughout Israel and Palestine. A friend sent me the link to your post on Geogre Mitchell and I’m glad he did. You seem to be a reflective and thoughtful individual.

    I would like to add to the comments section the following:
    Israel does not fear the US and I suggest that expressions of concern over Mr. Mitchell’s being “even-handed” by the likes of Abe Foxman are the political equivalent of crocodile tears. At least two of the US government’s three branches, the executive and the legislative, are owned by the Israeli lobby. Good recent examples of the servitude of our lawmakers were the resolutions passed by the US Senate and House overwhelmingly supporting the Israeli slaughter in Gaza. The lobby is hardly afraid of an elderly Middle East envoy who is not part of the tribe. Mitchell is a convenient and temporary smoke scrren for change. I wish this were not the case. But it is. The very speech to which you link gives evidence of this. If I have time, I may address it on my own blog.