Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Vic Rosenthal's weekly column


Binyamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by prize recipient Lord David Trimble, who got it in 1998. Trimble was honored for his part in negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement that brought relative peace to Northern Ireland.

In my opinion, the Abraham Accords represent the first ray of light in the darkness of the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1948, and if I were a Nobel recipient I would have nominated Donald Trump and Jared Kushner as well.

Of course the chances of Netanyahu receiving anything but abuse from the “international community” of which the Nobel committee is a pillar, are close to zero. The United Nations and the human rights industry, much of it set up in direct response to the industrial murder of European Jewry by the Nazis and their enthusiastic helpers over almost all of Europe, have ironically embraced the would-be genocidaires of the PLO, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the revolutionary Iranian regime. Especially since the year 2000 (see this brilliant analysis by Mark Pickles and Richard Landes), international institutions and NGOs have picked up and carried the flags of misoziony and Judenhass relinquished by the Soviets and the Nazis.

The USA was more or less neutral with respect to Israel (although its Jewish community strongly supported her) until the 1973 war, when it adopted Israel as its Cold War proxy. But soon after, thanks to OPEC’s devastatingly effective “oil weapon,” US policy became ambivalent. Henry Kissinger negotiated multifaceted agreements with the Arabs which resulted in ending the oil boycott; but one of the conditions was that the US would work to restore all territory conquered by Israel in 1967 to Arab control. Until Trump’s presidency, this was firm American policy, followed by relatively pro-Israel presidents like Clinton and Bush II, less friendly ones like Bush I, and anti-Israel ones like Carter and Obama alike.

The policy required a certain degree of cognitive dissonance from American politicians (not to mention the liberal Jews that supported them). It was necessary for them to advocate the transfer of strategically essential territory from Israeli to Arab control, while still at least appearing to support Israel’s continued survival. This they did by providing military aid. A master stroke, the massive aid package for Israel and Egypt that began with the Camp David agreement got Israel out of the Sinai, provided the US with leverage to control Israel’s behavior, and enriched American defense contractors. Later, it served as a fig leaf to hide the dangers of withdrawal inherent in demands for Israel to leave Gaza, the Golan, and Judea and Samaria.

Anti-Israel politicians like Barack Obama had less of an internal struggle than friendly ones. With the help of the Israeli Left, he argued counterfactually that security would come from territorial concessions. His policy was to weaken Israel while pretending to help her, for example by phasing out the portion of the military aid that could be used to buy from Israel’s own military industry. No matter what he did to damage Israel’s strategic position, he could always point to those billions of dollars in military hardware as proof of his support for the Jewish state. But whether an administration was friendly or not, the policy was always fundamentally incoherent. It also distorted internal Israeli politics, leading to disasters like the Oslo Accords.

Trump turned everything upside down. New technology that increased oil production in North America and various other developments had defused the oil weapon. In addition, some of the important Middle Eastern oil producers were worried about Iranian expansionism and its nuclear program, and realized that Israel could be an indispensable ally in opposing it. American interests were now seen to lie with a strong Israel, in truth and not just in rhetoric.

So for the first time since 1973, Trump’s administration was able to introduce a reality-based policy, affirming the rationality of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and Jerusalem, and ending the obsequious treatment of the frankly terrorist PLO and its dictatorial Palestinian Authority. Under the Trump plan, the Palestinians would be required to give up their maximalist demands and make real compromises, if they wanted a state of any kind.

But as almost everyone finally admits, the clock has run out. There will not be a second Trump Administration. The new one, depressingly, seems firmly wedded to the old paradigm. Although most (not all!) of his appointments do not appear to be overt enemies of the Jewish state, Biden seems likely to restore the traditional deference (and funding) to the Palestinians, as well as to try to reopen negotiations about the JCPOA with Iran, which at the very least implies that sanctions on Iran will be reduced.

This is not because Biden and his people are idiots. They are fully aware that things have changed, and that the oil weapon no longer threatens America. But now the pressure comes from the home front. They can’t afford to alienate the misozionist left wing of the Democratic party, which has grown stronger in Congress. They don’t worry about American Jews, for whom Israel has little weight when they vote. They can ignore the Evangelicals, who will support Republicans anyway over social issues like abortion and LGBTx rights. And of course, they want to wipe out any traces of Trumpism. Staying in power and achieving domestic objectives is more important to them than logical consistency, or the negative consequences for America’s allies in the Middle East.

So we will go back to hearing platitudes about the “unbreakable” US-Israel relationship, while the administration complains about Israel building apartments in Jewish neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem. What appeared to be a real possibility that Israel would extend sovereignty to the Jordan Valley – an area of extreme strategic importance – will fade away. We’ll watch as the US goes back to pretending that the failed and antisemitic United Nations can play a positive role in any sphere, and that the PLO can be made into a peace partner. Sanctions on Iran will be relaxed, emboldening the regime to push ahead on the ground and with its nuclear and missile programs.

A dark picture. Israel has a difficult four or eight years ahead of her, at least. There will be little room for mistakes and missed opportunities. It looks like we will shortly go through yet another round of elections. Is it too much to ask that we end up with a government equal to the task?




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