Patrick Tyler writes: Over six decades and through as many wars, the U.S. has escalated its commitment to Israel’s security, but it has neglected a corresponding insistence that Israel develop the institutions of diplomacy, negotiation and compromise necessary to fully engage the Arabs during a crucial period of Arab awakening. Every president since Eisenhower has pressed Israel to make the kind of concessions that are necessary for peace.
President Nixon said he would give Israel the “hardware” of weapons if Golda Meir would supply the “software” of diplomatic flexibility.
“The philosophical underpinning of U.S. policy toward Israel,” President Ford said, “had been our conviction — and certainly my own — that if we gave Israel an ample supply of economic aid and weapons, she would feel strong and confident, more flexible and more willing to discuss a lasting peace.” But after serial wars and a strong aversion within the ruling elite to compromise, Ford lamented, “I began to question the rationale for our policy.”
Israel deserves our attention and protection. But 60 years after its founding, it remains in the thrall of an original martial
impulse, the depth of which has given rise to succeeding generations of leaders who seem ever on the hair trigger in dealing with their rivals, and whose contingency planners embrace only worst-case scenarios in a process that magnifies the sense of national peril, encourages military preemption and covert subversion, and undermines any chance for a more engaging diplomacy based on compromise and accommodation.
Israel’s second prime minister, Moshe Sharett, a lifelong diplomat whose political career was destroyed by the circle of strong militaristic figures who coalesced around David Ben-Gurion in the 1950s, admonished his countrymen that “the question of peace must not be lost sight of for one single moment.” Yet Israel in the modern era has lost sight of peace.