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January 31, 2014 3:38 pm

Can Israel Say No to the Kerry Peace Plan?

avatar by Yoram Ettinger


Secretary of State John Kerry with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (left) and Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni (right) on July 30 in Washington, DC. Credit: State Department.

The assumption that Israel must accept the Kerry plan as a basis for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority — lest it risk a rift with the U.S. — should be assessed in light of the full context of U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, the imploding Arab street, the unique foundations and nature of U.S.-Israel ties, the U.S. political system, the ineffectiveness of prior U.S. plans and Israel’s own security requirements.

U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation transcends the Palestinian issue. Despite the 66-year-old disagreement between the two governments about the ways and means to resolve the Palestinian issue, strategic cooperation has catapulted tounprecedented heights.

Notwithstanding Arab talk— but based on the Arab walk — the Palestinian issue does not preoccupy the attention of Arab policy-makers, does not significantly impact vital U.S. interests and does not play a key role in destabilizing the Middle East, as reaffirmed by the tectonic Arab tsunami that is unrelated to Israel or the Palestinian issue.

The Palestinian issue has been superseded by regional and global mutual threats, interests and benefits, shaping the increasingly two-way mutually beneficial U.S.-Israel agenda: the U.S. supply of critical military systems to Israel and the Israeli battle-tested laboratory, which enhances the performance of U.S. military systems and the U.S. defense industries; the joint development of ballistic, space, UAV, cyber and other critical technologies; Israeli innovations upgrade the competitive edge of U.S. high-tech industries; Israel provides intelligence on Iran’s nuclear threat and Islamic terrorism on the U.S. mainland and beyond; Israel trains elite American units in counter-terrorism and urban warfare, shares battle lessons and helps shape U.S. battle tactics; Israel’s power-projection deters rogue regimes, which threaten pro-U.S. Arab regimes such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia; and so on.

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Israel’s role as the most consistent, capable and willing ally of the U.S. gains in importance, as the Arab street becomes increasingly anti-U.S., Islamist, unstable and unpredictably violent. While the U.S. cuts its defense budget and withdraws its military from the Middle East, Russia and China deepen their presence in the region and West Europe is preoccupied with domestic challenges.

The disagreement over the Palestinian issue is, also,superseded by shared U.S.-Israel Judeo-Christian values, which have strongly influenced U.S. morality and its legal and political systems. This dates back to the pilgrims in the 17th century, the Liberty Bell’s inscription from Leviticus, the founding fathers, the biblically driven anti-slavery movement and the statues of Moses in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Supreme Court.

American constituents have established a unique bottom-up, systematic, positive attitude toward the Jewish state. They disassociate themselves from the executive’s moral equivalence toward Israel.

In 1948, charismatic U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall pressured Israel to accept his plan of a U.N. mandate for Palestine as a substitute for independence. Marshall considered the Jewish state a liability and the Arabs an asset. He assumed that Israel would join the communist bloc and would be unable to defend itself against the invading Arabs, thus triggering a second Jewish Holocaust in less than 10 years. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion refused to negotiate Marshall’s proposal.

When threatened with U.N. Security Council sanctions, which dictated a withdrawal from the “occupied Negev,” Ben-Gurion stated: “What Israel has won on the battlefield, it is determined not to yield at the [U.N. Security] Council table.” Ben-Gurion’s principle-driven defiance and steadfastness produced short-term pressure, but long-term strategic respect, transforming Israel into the most reliable, stable, capable, democratic and unconditional ally of the U.S. in the Middle East and beyond.

In 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower pressured Israel to evacuate the Sinai Peninsula. Senate and House leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, threatened Eisenhower with legislative paralysis, and convinced Eisenhower to reduce his pressure. However, Israel pulled the rug from under their feet by accepting the Eisenhower plan.

In December 1969 and June 1970, then-Secretary of State William Rogers introduced his plan calling for Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines, allowing Arab refugees to return to Israel and joint Israeli-Jordanian rule in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Golda Meir rejected the plan, initializing the construction of three large new neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, home to over 100,00 people. Rogers tolerated Egypt’s advancing surface-to-air missiles in violation of commitments, which facilitated the deterioration to the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter pressured Israel to participate in an international conference, highlighting the Palestinian issue and a full Israeli withdrawal. Prime Minister Menachem Begin dismissed the idea and initiated the dialogue with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, which led to a peace accord.

In September 1982, President Ronald Reagan announced his plan calling for a full Israeli withdrawal and an immediate settlement freeze. Begin rejected the plan, expanded settlements and laid the foundation for the November 1983 upgrade of U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation.

Accepting Kerry’s plan would revert Israel to the pre-1967 situation, in which Israel is only a nine to 15-mile sliver along the Mediterranean, dominated by the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, which would be controlled by thePalestinian Authority, a systematic violator of agreements, perpetuator of hate education and generator of terror. The irreplaceability of the Judea and Samaria mountain ridges for Israel’s national security has been reinforced by the Arab Tsunami. It has made the Middle East — the most conflict-ridden region in the world — more violently intolerant, unpredictable, unreliable, unstable and treacherous.

Accepting the Kerry plan requires the subordination of long-term vision and security to short-term convenience, and the subjugation of realism to wishful thinking, thus jeopardizing the very survival of the Jewish state, transforming Israel from a unique asset to a burden. Rejecting the Kerry plan may create short-term tension but no long-term rift. On a rainy day, the U.S. prefers a defiant, rather than a submissive, ally.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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