Friday, June 20, 2008

Diplomatic Theatre

By Alan Caruba

Recently, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a lightning visit to Israel met with Mamoud Abbas of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, a group purporting to represent Palestinians, but which is now confined to the West Bank, having been driven out of Gaza by Hamas, a militant group whose goal remains the destruction of Israel.

Secretary Rice made it clear that U.S. policy opposed the building of new housing developments in the West Bank. One must pause and ask what right does the U.S. have to meddle in the affairs of a sovereign nation that has been under attack by the Palestinians and neighboring Arab nations for the entire sixty years of its existence? Maybe, though, the protest was just some form of diplomatic theatre? Like pretending that Mamoud Abbas is in charge of anything?

A recent military exercise conducted by Israel in which bombers and fighters demonstrated they could fly 900 miles, about the distance between Israel and Iran, was characterized by U.S. sources as appearing to be directed against Iran. Well, duh! Given the repeated threats to the existence of Israel by various Iranian leaders, plus the likelihood that it will soon have nuclear warhead capabilities for its missiles, Israel would have to be suicidal if it did not demonstrate its ability to lay waste to Iran’s nuclear and military facilities. Didn’t it recently flatten an alleged nuclear facility being built in Syria?

From the day the U.S. recognized Israel’s independence it has gone back and forth between support and criticism. The diplomacy of the two nations often seems baffling. Most certainly the U.S. has come to the aid of this lone democracy in the Middle East, providing the arms it needs for self-defense as well as loans to help its development into an economic dynamo. Our allies often benefit from such policies.

Zionists who had worked since the end of the 19th century to establish a Jewish homeland were, following the Holocaust, recognized as having a legitimate right to the land from which they had been exiled in 70 C.E. by the Romans.

This right had first been formally recognized by Britain’s Balfour Declaration of 1917. The land to be ceded to Israel included the West Bank, then under the control of what would come to be known as Jordan, just one of the Arab nations invented by the Treaty of Versailles following the end of World War I. In order to reward the Hashemite Arabs that had fought with Britain against the Ottoman Empire, Winston Churchill was instrumental in stripping away the West Bank from the original territory that was to be Israel.

According to Wikipedia, from 1948 until 1967 the West Bank was under Jordanian rule and Jordan did not formally relinquish its claim to the area until 1988. Jordan's claim had never been recognized by the international community. The West Bank was captured by Israel during the Six-Day War. With the exception of East Jerusalem, the West Bank has not been annexed by Israel. Most of its residents are Arabs, but Israelis have been moving there because, in a very small nation, they have to live somewhere. The West Bank, integral to ancient Israel, is a natural location. Historically, the West Bank, known to Jews as Samaria and Judea, had always been a part of Israel.

Israeli settlements have been built in the area since 1967 in response to the large number of Jewish immigrants who flooded into Israel, many fleeing Arab nations where their families had lived for several generations. Others came from Russia after restrictions on their immigration were ended.

After sixty years of failed efforts to destroy Israel it remains a mystery to me why Israel has not annexed the West Bank, but that has been its official policy, perhaps to avoid having to enfranchise its Arab population. It is generally unknown that over a million Arabs are Israeli citizens and their growing population could prove a problem for an avowedly Jewish nation.

In May, writing in the U.S. News & World Report, Fouad Ajami, said, “The Arab imagination could never reconcile itself to the permanance of the Jewish State”, adding that, “In its short history, Israel has held up a mirror for the Arabs, who have not liked what they have seen.”

In point of fact, Arab nations have all but abandoned the so-called Palestinians, a designation that has no basis in history since there never was a state called Palestine. The Arabs living in the area prior to the establishment of Israel largely considered themselves to be living in southern Syria. If there is anything that could be called a Palestinian state, it is Jordan.

The so-called Palestinians have been sustained largely by the United Nations which created UNRA, an agency that has spent billions and succeeded only in making them the oldest refugee group in history! They are now into a third generation of refugee status.

The politics of Arab nations who refuse to recognize Israel turned these refugees into a group of people whose sole purpose was to resist the reality of Israel. For this they have suffered greatly. Only the moral restraint and reluctance of Israel to militarily crush them has kept the so-called Palestinians a factor to be dealt with. Over time, both Egypt and Jordan signed ceasefire agreements with Israel and extended formal recognition.

All of which brings me back to the question of why the U.S. believes it has a right to demand that Israel stop building settlements to meet the demands of its growing population. Could such demands merely be a charade understood by both American and Israeli diplomats? Could the notice taken of the military exercise actually be a way for the U.S. to emphasize what Iran faces if it continues to threaten Israel and its neighbors?

The pursuit of a two-state agreement is a mirage. Witness that the PLO and Hamas now war with each other.

The West Bank? It belongs to Israel. The U.S. knows it.

And Iran, which uses Hezbollah, composed of Palestninans, as its proxy in a war against Israel may wake up some morning to discover that America’s proxy, Israel, has destroyed their nuclear dreams of hegemony.

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