By EFRAIM HALEVY
Published: October 23, 2012
ON Monday, in their final debate, Mitt Romney denounced President Obama
for creating “tension” and “turmoil” with Israel and chided him for
having “skipped Israel” during his travels in the Middle East.
Throughout the campaign, Mr. Romney has repeatedly accused Mr. Obama of
having “thrown allies like Israel under the bus.”
But history tells a different story. Indeed, whenever the United States
has put serious, sustained pressure on Israel’s leaders — from the 1950s
on — it has come from Republican presidents, not Democratic ones. This
was particularly true under Mr. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.
Just one week before the Iraq war began in March 2003, Mr. Bush was
still struggling to form a broad
international coalition to oust Saddam
Hussein. Unlike in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, Russia, a permanent member
of the United Nations Security Council, decided to opt out, meaning that
the United Nations could not provide formal legitimacy for a war against
Mr. Hussein. Britain was almost alone in aligning itself with America,
and Prime Minister Tony Blair’s support was deemed crucial in
Just as the British Parliament was about to approve the joint venture, a
group of Mr. Blair’s Labour Party colleagues threatened to revolt,
demanding Israeli concessions to the Palestinians in exchange for their
support for the Iraq invasion. This demand could have scuttled the war
effort, and there was only one way that British support could be
maintained: Mr. Bush would have to declare that the “road map” for
Middle East peace, a proposal drafted early in his administration,
the formal policy of the United States.
Israel’s prime minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, had been vehemently
opposed to the road map, which contained several “red lines” that he
refused to accept, including a stipulation that the future status of
Jerusalem would be determined by “a negotiated resolution” taking into
account “the political and religious concerns of both sides.” This
wording implied a possible end to Israel’s sovereignty over all of
Jerusalem, which has been under Israeli control since 1967.
On March 13, 2003, senior Israeli officials were summarily informed that
the United States would publicly adopt the draft road map as its policy.
Washington made it clear to us that on the eve of a war, Israel was
expected to refrain from criticizing the American policy and also to
ensure that its sympathizers got the message.
The United States insisted
that the road map be approved without any
changes, saying Israel’s concerns would be addressed later. At a long
and tense cabinet debate I attended in May 2003, Mr. Sharon reluctantly
asked his ministers to accept Washington’s demand. Benjamin Netanyahu,
then the finance minister, disagreed, and he abstained during the vote
on the cabinet resolution, which eventually passed.
From that point on, the road map, including the language on Jerusalem,
became the policy bible for America, Russia, the European Union and the
United Nations. Not only was Israel strong-armed by a Republican
president, but it was also compelled to simply acquiesce and swallow the
bitterest of pills.
Three years later, the Bush administration again pressured Israel into
supporting a policy that ran counter to its interests. In early 2006,
the terrorist group Hamas ran candidates in the Palestinian legislative
elections. Israel had been adamant that no leader could campaign with a
gun in his belt; the Palestinian party Fatah opposed Hamas’s
participation, too. But the White House would have none of this; it
pushed Fatah to allow Hamas candidates to run, and pressured Israel into
allowing voting for Hamas — even in parts of East Jerusalem.
After Hamas won a clear majority, Washington sought to train Fatah
forces to crush it militarily in the Gaza Strip. But Hamas pre-empted
this scheme by taking control of Gaza in 2007, and the Palestinians have
been ideologically and territorially divided ever since.
Despite the Republican Party’s shrill campaign rhetoric on Israel, no
Democratic president has ever strong-armed Israel on any key national
security issue. In the 1956 Suez Crisis, it was a Republican, Dwight D.
Eisenhower, who joined the Soviet Union in forcing Israel’s founding
father, David Ben-Gurion, to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula after a
joint Israeli-British-French attack on Egypt.
In 1991, when Iraqi Scud missiles rained down on Tel Aviv, the
administration of the first President Bush urged Israel not to strike
back so as to preserve the coalition of Arab states fighting Iraq. Prime
Minister Yitzhak Shamir resisted his security chiefs’ recommendation to
retaliate and bowed to American demands as his citizens reached for
their gas masks.
After the war, Mr. Shamir agreed to go to Madrid for a Middle East peace
conference set up by Secretary of State James A. Baker III. Fearful that
Mr. Shamir would be intransigent at the negotiating table, the White
House pressured him by withholding $10 billion in loan guarantees to
Israel, causing us serious economic problems. The eventual result was
Mr. Shamir’s political downfall. The man who had
saved Mr. Bush’s grand
coalition against Saddam Hussein in 1991 was “thrown under the bus.”
In all of these instances, a Republican White House acted in a cold and
determined manner, with no regard for Israel’s national pride, strategic
interests or sensitivities. That’s food for thought in October 2012.
Efraim Halevy was the director of the Mossad from 1998 to 2002 and the
national security adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon,
from October 2002 to June 2003.
In case you're wondering, the current rumors are that a terrorist was captured in the Modiin mall - which is about 1/4 of a mile from my house. I'm there almost every day. (My daughter's gymnastics class is there, for example).
correction - may have been more than 1.
My understanding is that the thing or things that were caught was/were responsible for planting a bomb on a bus in Tel Aviv, injuring 23 people.
just learned about 'roof knocking' - its rarely(not) mentioned in the media...
Glad he was captured - and glad you and your family are safe, TriL!!
Yes, a cool practice. They also drop leaflets in advance of many attacks, too. Would be interested to know of even one other country of any world that does that....
I think they do it on Nebula 9 in the Andromeda Galaxy, but they drop the leaflets *after* they bomb...
Actually, I think the US has done it in Afganistan and Iraq, but I'm not sure.
I was referring to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd worlds. But Andromeda should really step up to the plate, too. ;-)
Yes, a cool practice. They also drop leaflets in advance of many
attacks, too. Would be interested to know of even one other country
of any world that does that....
That's often been the practice of the US as well, for example when we levelled Dresden.
Those were the days ... when we had the backbone to simply wipe the bad guys off the map.
hey tril, how's your snowblower doing? ;-)
My snowblower's fine... My brother's kids, OTOH, are totally loving the snow-hot cocoa-fresh cookies triad...
(When you get one storm a year - at most- snow is just fun)
You know, Aahz, you should really work on that training program....
Please! Send more ninjas!
Sat Jan 12 2013 11:11:24 AM EST from zooer @ UncensoredDo the Israeli ninjas throw Stars of David instead of Shuriken stars?
A few less points, but effective, nonetheless!!!
The truth is, cats don't make very good ninjas. Especially not the kind of cats that you'd like to keep around to double as house pets.
Are you guys hearing about the rocket attacks in Southern Israel?
I'm just curious if it's being reported.
No loss of life over the past couple of days, but it's a matter of time before Israel's forced into another incursion into Gaza :(
Boston marathon went off under the Israeli flag but I couldn't tell for sure.