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August 12, 2016 4:17 am

Could a South China Sea Dispute Affect Palestinian Statehood?

avatar by Rafael Medoff /

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Abba Eban. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Abba Eban. Photo: Wiki Commons. – Could satellite photos of a tiny island in the South China Sea affect the debate over creating a Palestinian state?

The photos, released earlier this week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), show that China is building military aircraft hangars on the disputed Spratly Islands. That violates a promise China’s president, Xi Jinping, made to President Barack Obama less than a year ago, that “China does not intend to pursue militarization” of the islands.

Moreover, a United Nations tribunal ruled last month that China’s claim to the Spratly Islands and other nearby territories is “unlawful.” Yet the international community has taken no action against either the illegal Chinese occupation or China’s militarization steps.

Israeli policymakers might want to keep an eye on these developments. Israel’s leaders have said any future Palestinian state would have to be completely demilitarized. But can Israel rely on the international community to enforce the demilitarization rules if the Palestinians violate them?

Perhaps the most infamous experiment in demilitarization involved the Rhineland, an area of western Germany along the border with France, Belgium and Holland. The 1925 Locarno Pact, signed in the aftermath of World War I, required that the Rhineland be permanently demilitarized. But when Hitler sent his troops to occupy the Rhineland in March 1936, the Locarno signatories — Britain, France and Italy — stood idly by.

Pacifist sentiment was strong in England; treaty or no treaty, the Brits were in no mood to confront the Nazis. Lord Lothian, the veteran British diplomat, rationalized the militarization of the Rhineland as “no more than the Germans walking into their own backyard.” The French, who now found themselves within shooting distance of the Wehrmacht, were not quite so sanguine about the latest developments. But with France mired in economic troubles and national elections just months away, French Prime Minister Albert Sarraut was unwilling to risk a costly conflict with Hitler.

The United States was not a party to the Locarno agreement, but what President Franklin Roosevelt said mattered in the world arena. In this case, he didn’t say much. Determined to maintain friendly relations with Germany, FDR refrained from explicitly condemning Hitler’s Rhineland action. He would not even send US observers to a League of Nations discussion of German aggression. Shortly after the Rhineland crisis erupted, Roosevelt headed off for a two-week fishing trip in the Bahamas, which coincidentally helped him evade questions about the controversy.

Israelis don’t need to go back to the 1930s for examples of how the world might respond if a Palestinian state began importing tanks or missiles. They have had some bitter experience in this area in recent decades.

The late Israeli diplomat and politician Abba Eban describes in his autobiography how the Nixon administration pressured Israel to accept a ceasefire in the 1970 War of Attrition, promising that Egypt would not be allowed to move its missiles close to the Suez Canal. “Within a few days of the conclusion of the cease-fire agreement,” Eban writes, “our head of military intelligence…was reporting…the Egyptians had begun to move their missiles forward as soon as the ink was dry on the agreement.” Nixon’s response “was evasive,” Eban charitably recalled. The US administration “professed not to know that the violations were taking place.” No action was taken against the Egyptians.

An even more current example presents itself. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which consists of 10,506 soldiers (and 848 civilian advisers) is pledged to ensure that southern Lebanon is kept “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL deployed in this area.” That commitment from the international community is supposed to protect Israel’s northern border. Yet Hezbollah has stationed more than 100,000 missiles in that area, according to Israeli military estimates. The missiles are aimed at Israel. And UNIFIL refrains from intervening.

All of which leaves some Israelis wondering how international promises would fare if a demilitarized Palestinian state decided to remilitarize. When push comes to shove, would world leaders decide, as FDR did, to go fishing?

Dr. Rafael Medoff is author or editor of 16 books about Jewish history, including The Historical Dictionary of Zionism (with Chaim I. Waxman).

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  • Yaakov

    “Going fishing” means much more than engaging in a leisure activity. It implies a lack of respect for life.

  • William C. McKee

    Dr. Medoff, your analogy only holds together with your historical and current day conflict and potential conflict zones, if some mineral, land or water resource are involved. Does the region of Palestine have any of these? More likely outside players might want to weaponize Palestine, less for avoiding “harming (the flow of) wine and the oil” as the book of Revelation seemingly lays down as being an obvious motivation for “super power” conflicts, than as a staging area to recover “Holy dirt” promised to Abraham. Remember the odd request of a healed foreign general to an Israeli prophet, for wagon loads of what amounts to Holy dirt. Perhaps to put in a Japanese-like rock garden to walk in, and meditate upon matters of infinity. That being evidently his desire, despite being a powerful general.

    Your enemies desire your Holy dirt, because God blessed it. And because their Holy men say that they have a greater right to this meditative rock garden type dirt, than you do. That they have a greater right to finding the peace of God’s blessing than you. And would be willing to turn the earth into an utter ruin, in seeking after this great peace — this city of Jerusalem say “literally City of Peace”. This seeking after inward peace (with transcendent God), according to scripture, the very (seeming) motivation of the earth’s first murder.

    Yet without harming anyone (perhaps the opposite really), the God of the OT promised in Jeremiah Chapter 49, that those of Islam (the inhabitants of Elim (anyway) — today’s modern Iran) [could] have a blessing even greater than the prized dirt of Israel. The very throne of God itself residing upon their land. Which is it that you most desire, dirt blessed of God, or even God in your very presence?

    Why did I say that Elim [could] have this profound blessing Dr. Medoff? I say it, because depending upon what is in their heart, they can save and bless all of the earth without a limit to it, or kill every living thing upon the earth. In [both] cases, the choice of what to do, is or will certainly become quite obvious.

    Note that in your opening arguments, that you have China after some natural resource — oil. Well, you didn’t say it. But everyone knows that this is what the want in the South China Sea. China itself doesn’t have so much oil, but they openly speculate that vase amounts of that resource are there. We open speculate that there is maybe 1/10 th of the oil there, that they claim. But then, why do we otherwise wish to butt heads over their currently installing oil rigs on the island that you mention. For the past 100 years or so, lies and wars have been generated over holding or obtaining oil. Today, in this region of the world nothing different is going on. But a change [could] happen.

    Iran with its 400 million in unmarked currency could weaponize Palestine, and take on arch-foe Saudi Arabia, which did them and Russia economic harm recently. A lot of money back in their pockets they can change the tables. As noted in this e-magazine Saudi Arabia and Israel could tag-team against Iran and Russia. And unknown is how ISIS might play, who actually wants to destroy the Holy cube structure in Mecca (established by their prophet ironically), about as much as to gain Holy brownie points, with reducing The Pyramid of Giza to gravel, with a nuke from Pakistan (the only thing likely that could do the task).

    It is Iran’s choice to kick off that football, if they wish. They are heavily motivated to do that, as by his own free will (and contrary to Congress), Reagan gifted land mines an such to Iran/Iraq’s conflict that got perhaps 1 to 2 million children killed in efforts to clear them out. He willfully ignored the Beatitudes of Jesus. And the Iranians thus desire “an eye for an eye”. That simple. [A dispute over a completely trivial volume of oil, under an island, while the contesting countries resided over entire seas of oil.]

    Should all this kick off, then as might be expected oil exports from the ME will shrink to practically nothing.

    To compensate for the lack of this resource, otherwise being fought over in the ME and most likely South America as well, then fracking methods in America will be employed. But while there is a vast amount of oil that can be recovered by this method, it becomes progressively more expensive to do so. The fracked volumes tend to un-frack, and additional horizontal drilling has to take place to compensate. Canadian Tar Sand Oil, does not have this limitation. So, by economic pressure this resource will be greatly exploited. And grow to a market of hydrocarbons that are on about the same scale of production as coal.

    Power plant exhaust from coal, emits mercury and sulfates that dissolve in the earth’s at least 160 million cubic miles of sea water. These chemicals (as well as a matching tonage from volcanoes) are consumed by anaerobic bacteria to harm high order fish. Except to the extent that the EPA holds [Me]2Hg and Na[Me]Hg production in check.

    The same thing of course will happen with Canadian Tar Sand Oil’s, the extracted minerals also quite rich in mercury and sulfates. With adequate anaerobic bacteria also present. And with exactly nothing like the EPA to even monitor or regulate matters. Result? Revelation 16:3 “And the second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like that of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died.” You do get the point don’t you? If the same mass of mercury and sulfates are in holding ponds (effectively bowls), but are in terms of a couple of cubic miles at most in volume. Then their toxin mass is many millions of times greater than that of the oceans. Spilling (or leaking them) could indeed kill all life in the seas. And the later and slower process of the ocean generating limitless volumes of hydrogen sulfide finishing off all life on land as well. Ask geologists about an odd band of yellow iron sulfide in the story of the earth’s rocks. A massive near to total die off of life once happened. And could certainly happen again.

    I’m running short on allowed posting space (if I have enough even now), but Iran and China have the unique means to save the earth — if they but employ them. Then things like in Jeremiah Chapter 49 could take place, and we do not need to fight over the inferred blessing of standing on Holy dirt. The actual Spirit of God would be much closer to obtain. Simply freely in our hearts.

  • Jonah

    No they would decide to go golfing. If you put confidence in any thing Obama promises you….you will go the way of the dodo bird. Why does China lie to Obama because his narratives are nothing but deception to mask his obtuse goals such as eradicating Israel and expanding the caliphate to include subversive acts and world wars to accomplish his end. China does not have a left wing liberal media to calm them down until Obamas jihadist army’s destroy them. They have their antennae up, their ear to the ground, their finger on the trigger and are ready to join with Russia in a cyber war against an Islamic lunatic. Armageddon is the soup of the day for the Russians and Chinese whereas the west is being fed Islamic slop by the liberal media as Obama raises tares for the harvest.

  • fred

    Israel should do what is best for Israel. As your article shows international treaties or promises are nothing to be realised on,not worth the paper it written on. One example after another in above article is proof about the unreliability of false unenforceable promises that cost million of lives. Those who promised just walked away once the fire got going.

  • Holy Shirt

    Obama went golfing. Hit two of the best balls of his life. Stepped on a rake in a santrap!

  • ART

    The world has proven, beyond a doubt, that international agreements especially in respect to Israels security are not worth the paper they are written on. The UN forces in the Sinai were withdrawn at Nassers request in 1967 leaving Israel in a dangerous position. Fortunately, Israel preempted the egyptians. UNIFIL has been a total disaster It is clear that as a “sovereign” nation the pa would have the right to arm, that means SAMs, missiles, aircraft, tanks, a navy and mutual defense pacts with other nations and even “foreign” troops on their territory