by Jonathan Rosenblum
Jerusalem Post International Edition
January 26, 2001
The newly retired Bill Clinton has been frequently described as Israel’s best friend ever in the White House. Certainly the squealing matrons who besieged him for his autograph and reached out to pinch their favorite boychick’s cheeks, after his Middle East valedictory address to the Israel Policy Forum, had no doubts.
If Clinton has been Israel’s best friend, however, it is far from clear that Israel has been better served by the relationship than other special friends of Bill over the years. The overwhelming majority of Israel’s Jews feel less secure today and less confident about the future than they did eight years ago at the beginning of his watch.
In one recent poll, nearly 70% exrpressed fear about the future existence of the state. Nearly three-quarters tell pollsters that the Oslo process, of which Clinton has been the most tireless promoter, was misbeggoten and cannot lead to peace.
No president has ever involved himself to such a degree in Israeli politics, even dispatching his closest political advisors to ensure Ehud Barak’s victory last year. Once Barak was safely ensconced in office, Clinton showed all a practiced roue’s instinctive understanding of others psychological vulnerabilities and needs: Barak’s entire foreign policy has been predicated on maintaining the president’s favor.
Clinton dangled in front of Barak wild promises of massive American aid, technology transfers, American troops to ensure the peace that no Congress would ever have approved. Meanwhile ``Israel’s best friend" has sought to destroy Israel’s own defense industries by demanding a veto over military sales and requiring military aid dollars to be spent on American, not Israeli, products, even where the latter are superior. Those industries are Israel’s only guarantee of a qualitative edge in technology, especially as America now transfers to Egypt and Saudia Arabia the same technology it sells to Israel.
The repeatedly proferred, but never delivered, upgrade in the the American-Israeli strategic relationship was sufficient to coax from Barak concessions that would, as Chief of Staff Brigadier-General Shaul Mofaz bluntly told the Knesset Foreign Relations and Defense Committee recently, leave Israel indefensible. The Clinton blueprint, Mofaz said, would render Israel far more vulnerable to terrorist attack, threaten dozens of Jerusalem neighborhoods with the fate of Gilo, and weaken Israel’s eastern flank by destabilizing Jordan.
Czechoslovakia’s fate, sealed at Munich, should have taught once and for all that small nations that give away territory at the behest of superpowers, out of a belief that they will thereby secure the protection of those superpowers, do so at their own peril. Superpowers have their own interests – lessening the threat of terrorism, lower oil prices, the prestige of ``solving" longstanding problems – and risking their own troops is not one of them. Yet Barak has set Israel up to play the abandoned maiden.
Clinton, it turns out, had many others equally beloved in his eyes. In his final summing up of the Israel/Palestinian conflict, he spoke evenhandedly of commitments broken by both sides and of both sides as having accepted his basic parameters.
Yet the Palestinians have not budged an inch from any of their demands in 1993, and Palestinian negotiators, in fact, explicitly rejected every aspect of the Clinton blueprint. Even as the Palestinians received far more West Bank territory than ever contemplated by the Oslo or Hebron agreements and the 10,000 member Palestinian police force provided for by Oslo grew to a 40,000 man, well-trained army, Israel has not received the one thing that could have made sense of Oslo: Arafat’s willingness to educate the Palestinian street for peaceful coexistence with Israel and to prepare them for the necessity of compromise.
To this day, not one Palestinian Authority publication or textbook has portrayed Israel on the map. The Palestinian media and schools daily describe all of Israel – Jaffa, Acco, and Haifa – as part of the Palestine that will one day be theirs. PA-sponsored summer camps train children as young as eight in terrorist tactics, and celebrate jihad. Today 52 % of Palestinians oppose any further negotiations with Israel. Three times, the Palestinian Authority has engaged in open warfare on Israel: in September, 1996, May of this year, and again in September.
Somehow I doubt that the mess Israel finds itself in today, after more than seven years of the Oslo process, is what Clinton’s pastor had in mind when he adjured him in his dying words: Never do anything to endanger Israel.
Related Topics: Israeli Society
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