Israeli-Palestinian Peace – What’s Iraq got to do with it?
South Bay JVP –Feb. 27, 2003
The connections between the Bush administration’s drive to war with Iraq and its failure to promote Palestinian-Israeli peace are linked by the administration’s foreign and military policy, the domestic social base for that policy, and the convergence of the world views of the US and Israeli governments. Since the 1980s an Israel-centered view of the Middle East has become so entrenched in Washington and the mass media that it is now politically impossible for an American president – to say nothing of Congress – to effectively oppose Israeli policy, whether Labor or Likud is in power. In the 1990s, during the administrations of President Clinton and Prime Minister Barak, key members of the Bush II administration national security apparatus were installed in think tanks with links to the Israeli right wing: JINSA, CSP, PNAC, Hudson Institute, AEI. There they elaborated what has become our country’s radical new national security doctrine. Now that the Likud is back in power in Israel, its approach to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians has meshed with the foreign and military policy outlook of the Bush administration. Following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon a shared discourse on terrorism proliferated in both the US and Israel. The Bush administration accepted Israel’s definition of the second Palestinian intifada as consisting entirely of premeditated acts of terror inspired by Yasir Arafat. Under the guise of combating terror Israel has, with no significant criticism from the US, expanded its settlement activities in the West Bank, making a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict even more difficult.
The Israel lobby became a significant force in shaping public opinion and US Middle East policy after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Its power was simultaneously enabled and enhanced by Israel’s emergence as a regional surrogate for US military power in the Middle East in the terms outlined by the 1969 Nixon Doctrine. In the 1970s the lobby was already able to unseat representatives and senators who could not be counted on to support Israel without qualification. (Senator Percy in Illinois, Rep. Findley in Ohio, Rep. Pete McCloskey in Bay Area_
The establishment of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) in 1985 greatly expanded the lobby’s influence. WINEP’s founding director, Martin Indyk, had previously been research director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which focused much of its efforts on Congress. Indyk developed WINEP into a highly effective think tank devoted to maintaining and strengthening the U.S.-Israel alliance targeting the media and the executive branch.
On the eve of the 1988 presidential elections, as the first Palestinian intifada was underway, WINEP made its bid to become a major player in U.S. Middle East policy discussions by issuing a report entitled Building for Peace: An American Strategy for the Middle East. The report urged the incoming administration to “resist pressures for a procedural breakthrough [on Palestinian-Israeli peace issues] until conditions have ripened.”1 Six members of the study group responsible for the report joined the Bush I administration, which adopted this stalemate recipe not to change until change was unavoidable. Hence, it acceded to Israel’s refusal to negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organization despite the PLO’s recognition of Israel at the November 1988 session of the Palestine National Council.
After the 1991 Gulf War, the Bush I administration felt obliged to offer a reward to its Arab wartime allies by making an effort to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. It convened a one-day international conference at Madrid in October followed by eleven sessions of bilateral Palestinian-Israeli negotiations in Washington. These talks were fruitless, in part because Israel still refused to negotiate with Palestinians who were official representatives of the PLO. Then, as now, Israel preferred to choose the Palestinians with whom it would negotiate.
When Israel became serious about attempting to reach an agreement with the Palestinians it circumvented the U.S.-sponsored negotiations in Washington and spoke directly to representatives of the PLO in Oslo. The result was the 1993 Oslo Declaration of Principles. Thus, the adoption of WINEP’s policy recommendation to “resist pressures for a procedural breakthrough” by both the Bush I and Clinton administrations delayed the start of meaningful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, contributed to the demonization of the PLO, and multiplied the casualty rate of the first Palestinian intifada.
Despite what might reasonably be judged as a major policy failure, WINEP’s influence grew, especially in the mass media. Its associates, especially deputy director Patrick Clawson, director for policy and planning Robert Satloff, and senior fellow Michael Eisenstadt, appear frequently on television and radio talk shows as commentators on Middle East issues. Its board of advisors includes Mortimer Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report, and Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic.
Well before most Americans took note of radical Islam as a potential threat to their security, WINEP and its associates were promoting the notion that Israel is a reliable U.S. ally against radical Islam. After Israel expelled over 400 alleged Palestinian Islamic activists from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in December 1992, Israeli television Middle East analyst and WINEP associate Ehud Yaari wrote an op-ed in the New York Times summarizing his Hebrew television report of a vast U.S.-based conspiracy to fund Hamas.2 WINEP’s 1992 annual Soref symposium - “Islam and the U.S.: Challenges for the Nineties” – focused on whether or not Islam was a danger to the United States. At that event Martin Indyk argued that the United States ought not to encourage democracy in countries that were friendly to Washington, like Jordan and Egypt, and that political participation should be limited to secular parties.3 This is a policy Indyk would never dream of proposing such a policy for Israel, where ultra-nationalist religious parties are a regular and often decisive feature of the political arena. Moreover this seems like a formula for ensuring that Islamic forces would forsake the political arena and engage in armed struggle. And, to the extent that the U.S. was identified with this policy, it might be targeted as well. This is, in fact, what happened in Egypt from 1992 to 1997.
The Clinton administration was even more thoroughly colonized by WINEP associates than its predecessor. Eleven signatories of the final report of WINEP’s 1992 commission on U.S.–Israeli relations, Enduring Partnership, joined the Clinton administration. Among them were National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, UN Ambassador and later Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Undersecretary of Commerce Stuart Eizenstat, and Secretary of Defense, the late Les Aspin.
Shortly after assuming office in 1993, the Clinton administration announced a policy of “dual containment” aimed at isolating Iran and Iraq. The principal formulator and spokesperson for that policy was Martin Indyk in his new role as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council.4 As Indyk was raised and educated in Australia, he had to be quickly naturalized as an American citizen in order to join the Clinton administration. After his stint on the National Security Council, Indyk subsequently served as U.S. ambassador to Israel, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and then a second tour as ambassador to Israel. In all these positions Indyk was a significant player in Clinton administration policy towards the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations misleadingly known as the Oslo “peace process.”
Another WINEP affiliate with major responsibility for Palestinian-Israeli issues in the Clinton administration was Dennis Ross. Ross had been a key aide to Secretary of State James Baker in formulating Middle East policy during the Bush I administration and then became President Clinton’s special coordinator for the “peace process.” After retiring from government service, Ross assumed the directorship of WINEP.
As in the Bush II administration, more sophisticated voices in the Clinton administration repeatedly stated that “Islam is not the enemy.” However the “dual containment” policy of the Clinton administration and its overall Middle East policy record - the most pro-Israel of any U.S. administration to date since 1948 - were the forerunners of President Bush II’s “axis of evil” policy. Nonetheless, WINEP has not been as prominent a presence in the Bush II administration as it was in the previous two.
It has been replaced by individuals linked to more monolithically neo-conservative and hawkish think tanks like the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and the Center for Security Policy (CSP), which are very closely linked and the Project for a New American Century.5 Before they entered the Bush II administration, JINSA’s board of advisors included Vice President Dick Cheney, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton, and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. Twenty-two CSP associates secured positions in the Bush II national security apparatus. PNAC affiliates include Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff Lewis Libby, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, special envoy to the Middle East Zalmay Khalizad, Colin Powell’s deputy Richard Armitage, and Eliot Abrams, a rehabilitated Iran-Contra criminal who now serves as National Security advisor for the Middle East.
Richard Perle who is ensconced at the American Enterprise Institute, is a member of the JINSA board as well as the WINEP advisory board. He now chairs the Defense Policy Board, which advises the Department of Defense and reports to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz sat on the WINEP advisory board with Perle until he joined the Bush administration. Perle and Wolfowitz have been the loudest and most persistent proponents of a war with Iraq within the Bush administration.
As early as July 1996, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and special assistant to John Bolton, David Wurmser, sought to make common cause with Israel’s Likud for a war against Iraq. They, along with Paul Wolfowitz, concluded that the Bush I administration erred in failing to remove Saddam Hussein from power after the first Gulf War. On July 8, 1996, Perle presented a position paper prepared in consultation with Feith, Bolton, Wurmser, and others to newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The paper, written under the auspices of the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies based in Washington, DC and Jerusalem and entitled A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, advocates: repudiation of the Oslo accords and permanent annexation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Even more provocatively, it urges Israel to support Jordan in advocating restoration of the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq and elimination of the regime of Saddam Hussein - “an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right.”6
Two days after receiving a copy of the Clean Break paper, Netanyahu delivered an address to a joint session of the US Congress embracing several of its propositions. The Wall Street Journal published excerpts from the paper the same day and editorially endorsed it on July 11.
Soon after the September 11 attacks, the Defense Policy Board, chaired by Richard Perle, convened a two-day seminar. The consensus of those attending was that removing Saddam Hussein from power should be an objective in the U.S. war on terrorism despite the lack of any evidence linking Iraq to the attacks or to al-Qa’ida. The Defense Policy Board then sent former CIA director and JINSA board member James Woolsey to London to gather evidence linking Iraq to the terrorist attacks. He announced that Muhammad Atta, the alleged ring leader of the September 11 attacks, met with an Iraqi intelligence agent, Ahmad al-Ani in Prague. That claim has been repeatedly discredited, most recently by Czech president Vaclav Havel.7
On September 20 Perle and several other Defense Policy Board members sent an open letter to President Bush. "Even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the [September 11] attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq," they wrote. "Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism."8
Perle presided over the July 10, 2002 briefing of the Defense Policy Board at which RAND analyst Laurent Murawiec argued that Saudi Arabia is an enemy of the United States, "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" in the Middle East.9 This opinion ignores the historically close relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia and the enormous profits of U.S. corporations from oil and commercial exports to Saudi Arabia. It highlights the particular way that Usama Bin Laden and his followers appropriated the Wahhabi Islamic doctrine, which is the state religion of Saudi Arabia. Although the Bush administration repudiated his views, the hawkish pro-Israel, neoconservative media echoed Murawiec’s arguments shortly after the briefing.10
Murawiec’s opinions are taken seriously by members of Vice President Cheney’s staff and the civilian leadership of the Pentagon. They are especially attracted by his argument that regime change in Iraq is the key to altering Saudi behavior. “The road to the entire Middle East goes through Baghdad,” said one anonymous administration official, who favored a war on Iraq. “Once you have a democratic regime in Iraq, like the ones we helped establish in Germany and Japan after World War II, there are a lot of possibilities.”11 It is probably not accidental that Murawiec’s briefing was held and its contents leaked as the Bush II administration began seriously beating the drums for a war on Iraq.
Another source of pressure for a war on Iraq coming from neo-conservatives closely linked to the Israeli right wing is the Project for a New American Century – A neo-conservative think tank established in 1997 and chaired by William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard – the most influential neo-conservative publication of its sort. On January 26 1998 PNAC sent a letter to President Clinton urging that he launch a war against Iraq. The signers included Kristol, Dick Cheney, Lewis Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Richard Perle, Eliot Abrams, Zalmay Khalizad and Richard Armitage. This is a familiar cast of characters linked to JINSA, WINEP and other neo-conservative thing tanks. Unhappy that President Clinton did not take their advice, the same group repeated their proposals in letters to Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Senate majority leader Trent Lott on May 29, 1998. The result of efforts by PNAC and others was the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act of November 1998. This legislation announced that disarming Iraq was no longer US policy. Rather, it was to be regime change. This legislation was adopted weeks before the United States ordered the UNSCOM inspectors out of Iraq and launched Operation Desert Fox – four days of intensive bombing. The absence of UN supervised weapons inspections between December 1998 and December 2002 is entirely due to Anglo-American policy. Thus, there is a strong element of continuity between the policies of the late Clinton administration and the Bush II administration.
Let me be clear that I am not suggesting that Israel or its supporters in the Bush II administration have somehow hijacked US Middle East policy to promote a war with Iraq. Many of those involved in promoting an attack on Iraq are not Jewish – most prominently Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The link between Israel and the Bush II administration is based on interests and ideology, not ethnicity.
The underlying foreign and military strategy of the Bush administration is unilateral world domination through absolute military superiority. That strategy was elaborated and advocated throughout the 1990s by a group of policy intellectuals in the administration including Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Condoleeza Rice, and Douglas Feith. Colin Powell, who is usually cast as the moderate in contrast to these hard liners, shares their basic objective. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell declared in 1992 that the US requires sufficient power “to deter any challenger from ever dreaming of challenging us on the world stage.”
Despite the campaign rhetoric of adopting a more humble foreign policy, the advisors and associates of both the president and the vice-president were committed to this grand strategy well before the Supreme Court installed the Bush II administration in office. Early in the campaign, George W’s tutor in foreign affairs, Condoleeza Rice, elaborated the foreign policy vision of a Republican administration in an article in Foreign Affairs.12 Its underlying conviction is that “the United States and its allies are on the right side of history.” She argues against multilateralism and asserts that America is unique among nations because “America’s pursuit of the national interest will create conditions that promote freedom, markets, and peace.” This is because “American values are universal.” “Iraq is the prototype” of states not on board with this program. Therefore, “the United States must mobilize whatever resources it can to remove [Saddam Husayn].”
The rationale for regime change in Iraqi regime was elaborated later in the campaign in a paper prepared for Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Cheney’s future chief of staff, Lewis Libby, and Jeb Bush by the Project for a New American Century.13 The paper says, correctly, that “the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Husayn.”
These very radical ideas were formalized as the administration’s national security doctrine in a document entitled The National Security Strategy of the United States released in September 2002. The paper recalls earlier grand plans drafted by Paul Wolfowitz in the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance. That paper was leaked to the press and disavowed by the first Bush administration because it was considered too radical. The 2002 document confirms that the Bush administration seeks global US hegemony. The Bus administration seeks to abandon the strategies of internationalism, containment, and deterrence, embraced by Republicans and Democrats for more than half a century, in favor of a doctrine of unilateralism, pre-emptive attacks, counter-proliferation, and ridding the world of evil. The United States – alone among the nations of the world – now claims the right to attack any country we think might attack us first and to impose its values anywhere it chooses on the grounds that American values are universal.
The attacks of September 11, 2001 provided the opportunity to mobilize the fears and anxieties of the American people in support of this doctrine. They also provided a framework and sense of purpose for a foreign policy of endless war against an “evil” enemy just as was the case in the Cold War. As National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said, “The end of the cold war and Sept. 11 are kind of bookends…You have a long transition in there… [The President] now believes “terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and the potential links between them, are the key threats.”14
How does this policy work out in Israel and Palestine? The Clinton administration, having rebuked Arafat for the failure of the July 2000 Camp David summit, failed to take a strong stand against Israel’s repeated use of excessive force in response to the second Palestinian intifada, which erupted on September 29, 2000. Our collective memory of the fateful months of late 2000, which propelled Palestinians and Israelis into a maelstrom of rage and violence from which there is still no prospect of their emerging, has been shaped by events a year later – the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon of September 11, 2001. Most people have now forgotten that then opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary on September 28, 2000 – “to show that this place is ours,” as he told the French Press Agency – was the spark that set off the second intifada. Hardly anyone now recalls that Sharon’s visit was partly motivated by his need to demonstrate to the Likud Party faithful that he was more hawkish than Benjamin Netanyahu, anticipating that Netanyahu would challenge him as party leader. Few remember their shock at Israel’s use of overwhelming force – firing live ammunition at largely unarmed demonstrators – to suppress the intifada during the waning months of the Clinton and Barak administrations.
The Bush II administration ignored the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for most of its first year in office. The announced justification for this malignant neglect was the belief that President Clinton had overcommitted the prestige of the United States. “We cannot want peace more than the parties do,” administration spokespersons intoned repeatedly, just as Clinton administration officials has said before. Underlying this non-policy was satisfaction with how the newly installed Israeli government led by Ariel Sharon was effectively dismantling the Oslo accords and undermining the possibility of the emergence of a Palestinian state – that is, applying the policy advocated by Perle, Feith, and Wurmser in their 1996 Clean Break paper.
Ariel Sharon quickly identified with the Bush administration’s post-September 11 foreign policy focus, which was highly compatible with his own political outlook, and turned it to Israel’s advantage with great political skill. Announcing a day of mourning in Israel and appropriating rhetoric from the era of the Cold War, Sharon declared, “The fight against terror is an international struggle of the free world against the forces of darkness who seek to destroy our liberty and way of life. Together we can defeat these forces of evil.”15 After September 11 Sharon repeatedly equated Usama Bin Laden and al-Qa’ida with those he regarded as Israel’s more direct enemies: Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Lebanese Hizb Allah, Iraq, and Iran.16
Sharon’s full identification with the United States after September 11 and his efforts to strengthen the U.S.-Israeli alliance by pointing to radical Islam as a common civilizational enemy of both countries were welcomed by the Bush II administration. The enhanced U.S.-Israeli alliance was welcomed by the same group of neo-conservative ideologues with links to Israel-oriented think tanks who began aggressively promoting a war with Iraq after September 11. And they were urged on by the neo-conservative media.
As an expression of the new US-Israeli relationship based on a common policy of fighting terror and evil, the Bush administration did not press Israel to respond positively to the Arab League’s March 2002 announcement that it was prepared to recognize Israel in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967 and a resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue. However inadequate one may judge the details of the Arab League declaration to be, it is of historical significance. The entire Arab world (except Libya, which did not endorse the statement but took it seriously enough to announce its withdrawal from the Arab League) is now on record as willing to recognize Israel and to accept UN Security Council resolution 242. Proceeding from its unilateralist approach to foreign policy, the Bush administration, much to the relief of the Sharon government, elected not to pursue the possibilities of this diplomatic opening.
Instead it road tested its capacity for regime change in the Middle East by announcing that Yasir Arafat must be replaced before substantive Palestinian-Israeli peace talks can begin. The result was – quite predictably – that despite Arafat’s previously plummeting popularity, the Palestinian people rallied around him. We might pause to note that, for all his many faults, Arafat can still claim to be one of the few Arab leaders to have been elected in a remotely fair process. This raises at least a question mark over the nature of the Bush administration’s commitment to democracy in the Middle East. It appears to favor democracy only if likes the outcome of the process – a policy initially recommended by WINEP in 1992.
Israel, for its part, responded to the Arab League initiative by reinvading most of the West Bank cities which had been under the limited control of the Palestinian authority – the final nail in the coffin of the Oslo process. The new character of U.S.-Israeli relations was exemplified by Prime Minister Sharon’s ability to ignore with impunity President Bush’s call to withdraw from the territories Israel reoccupied in March and April 2002. Another indication was Secretary of State Powell’s one week detour before he arrived in Jerusalem in a mock effort to defuse the crisis in April. The failure to forestall Israel’s dismantling of the Oslo process made clear that, despite some differences over style, timing and the precise degree of permissible force, the Bush administration decided to allow Sharon to deal with the Palestinians as he sees fit short of massive atrocities or ethnic cleansing. President Bush’s advisors apparently concluded that it is not necessary to give even the appearance of attempting to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in order to pursue the war on terrorism or to launch a war on Iraq. There is a significant possibility that if the Bush administration ever does turn its attention to this question, the possibilities of a two-state solution will have been destroyed by continuing confiscation of Palestinian lands and expansion of settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that are sure to occur during the tenure of the new Israeli government Ariel has announced.
While he banished Arafat to the political wilderness, President Bush gave Ariel Sharon a certificate of purity he does not deserve by declaring him to be “a man of peace” as Israeli forces continued their reoccupation of the West Bank17 With due allowances for the president’s propensity for mis-statement, even Sharon’s closest friends and political allies would not dare to propose this characterization to an Israeli audience. Most Israelis are familiar with the string of atrocities linked to Sharon’s name beginning in October 1953, when he led a retaliation raid/massacre of sixty-nine Palestinian civilians in the West Bank village of Qibya (then occupied by Jordan).
The policy of the Bush II administration has not been well-received in the Arab and Muslim world, where outrage against U.S. Middle East policy has reached unprecedented levels. This is one of the reasons that, unlike in 1991, the United States has no public regional allies for a prospective war against Iraq. Moreover, the US insistence that Iraq must scrupulously obey UN Security Council resolutions is widely regarded as hypocritical. After all, US allies including Morocco, Turkey, and especially Israel, are also in violation of such resolutions.
In contrast, the Bush administration’s policy has been met with enthusiastic approval by the domestic Israel lobby and its political supporters in both the Democratic and the Republican parties.
Robert Satloff, WINEP’s director of policy and planning, co-chaired a 52-member group of “experts” and members of Congress who concurred with the Bush administration position “that circumstances were not ripe for high-level efforts to restart the peace negotiations, and that the most urgent task was to prevent a regional war while fighting terrorism and weapons proliferation.”18 The advice once again, is not to change until change is unavoidable – a policy which allows Israel to assert its overwhelming military advantage and to continue to create facts on the ground (i.e., settlements) which will make peace all the more difficult to achieve in the future.
Thus, the interests of Israeli lobby and the attack-Iraq caucus of the Bush II administration have converged and are to a significant degree represented by the same people. That is not to say that the interests they are pursuing overlap completely. For the neo-conservatives operating under the patronage of Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, the principle interests are demonstrating that the overwhelming military power of the United States can be efficaciously deployed to make and unmake regimes and guaranteeing access to cheap oil. Destroying the Iraqi regime and installing a long-term US military presence in the Persian Gulf of even greater magnitude than now exists will remove the present limited threat to US oil interests in the region. It would reduce the need to conciliate with Russia or to develop alternative sources of energy. In other words, it would establish, as President George Bush I said with extraordinary hubris, that “What we say goes.”
Israel’s interests as narrowly understood by most of its political leaders, from Meretz to the extreme right, will be served by the installation of a more forceful US presence in Iraq and the Persian Gulf. This would legitimate the principle of using preemptive force to resolve diplomatic and political problems, which Israel has already done on several occasions, most grandly in the wars of 1956, 1967, and 1982. A successful US war against Iraq would give the US and Israel a free hand to intervene anywhere in the Middle East. On this overriding question the US and Israel are at one.
Israel’s most immediate interest, and here there is some possibility of a difference with the Bush administration, is in the possibility of using the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime to resolve the Palestinian question. The political chaos that might be created by a US attack on Iraq could result in the rearrangement of the region in ways that would facilitate Sharon’s notions of a proper resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In the 1980s Sharon argued that “Jordan is Palestine.” Under his leadership it is not inconceivable that Israel would use the fog of a war with Iraq to expel West Bank Palestinians to Jordan and/or to the Gaza Strip. The former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti recently suggested that this might be afoot in an article in the Israeli daily, Ha-Aretz.19 Among the options considered by the Bush administration for a post-war Iraq are the reconstitution of the Hashemite monarchy (as proposed by the Clean Break paper). More fanciful scenarios include the partition of Saudi Arabia by occupying the oilfields in the western part of the Arabian Peninsula and the assignment of Mecca and Medina to the Hashemite family – a revised version of one of several British post-World War I plans for the region. Sharon would see a combined Jordanian-Iraqi Hashemite state, with perhaps some affiliated Palestinian cantons in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as obviating the need for a Palestinian state. One of the more extreme figures in Sharon’s cabinet, retired general and leader of the National Religious Party Effi Eitam, is a strong proponent of the notion that a US war on Iraq will permit the transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank. Thus, there is a confluence of views between the Israeli ultra-right and the Washington Iraq war hawks.
There is also a short and long-term domestic aspect to this coalition. The drive towards war on Iraq moved all the economic issues favoring Democrats out of the headlines during the 2002 congressional election season. This, not the pressing needs of national security, is why the new product was not rolled out in August, as White House political consultant Karl Rove, Jr. came close to admitting.
American Jews have been the most consistent supporters of the Democratic Party of any white ethnic group despite their nominal economic interests. A relatively small number of Jewish voters have been moving towards the Republican Party since the era of President Reagan. A Republican president who pursued a successful war against Iraq, a realignment of the Middle East, and a solution to the Palestinian problem that did not involve substantial pain to Israel could integrate a significant part of the American Jewish community into a Republican coalition that already includes the Christian right and the aerospace industry. Those forces are as enthusiastic supporters of a powerful and militaristic Israel as any based in the Jewish community. This strategy would resolve the long-standing contradiction between the economic interests of US-based oil companies (traditionally close to the Republican Party) and support for Israel. The Republican Party could emerge as the natural party of government, just as the Democrats were from 1932 to 1968.
Both the foreign and domestic aspects of the Bush administration strategy are nothing if not bold and audacious. Is that enough to ensure their success? That will depend on what you and I do in the coming weeks and months.
1 Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Building for Peace: An American Strategy for the Middle East (Washington, D.C., 1988), p. xx.
2 Ehud Yaari, New York Times, January 27, 1993.
3 Martin Indyk, “The Implications for U.S. Policy,” in Islam and the U.S.: Challenges for the Nineties (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington DC, April 27, 1992), p. 87.
4For example, Martin Indyk, “The Clinton Administration's Approach to the Middle East” Soref Symposium, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, May 18, 1993. http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/pubs/indyk.htm
7 Prague Post, July 17, 2002; New York Times, Oct. 21, 2002.
8 Time.com, September 14, 2002, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,339186,00.html
9 Washington Post, August 6, 2002.
10 Dan Quayle, “The Coming Saudi Showdown” TheWeekly Standard, July 15, 2002; Victor Davis Hanson, “Our Enemies, the Saudis,” Commentary, July/August 2002, p. 23 ff.
11 Washington Post, August 6, 2002.
12 Condoleeza Rice, “Promoting the National Interest,” Foreign Affairs 79: (no. 1, Jan.-Feb. 2000). pp. 45 ff.
13 Thomas Donnelly, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” (Washington, DC: Project for a New American Century, September 2000) http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf
14 New York Times, September 11, 2002
15 Jerusalem Post, Sept. 12, 2001.
16 For example, “Remarks by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Ceremony in Solidarity with the American People and the families of the victims on the first anniversary of the September 11th 2001 terror attack,” September 11, 2002, http://www.israelemb.org/articals/2002/September/2002091100.html