by Yoram Ettinger
1. The complex nature of Jewish construction in the Settlements.
If Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria prejudges the outcome of negotiation, wouldn’t Palestinian construction in Judea and Samaria have the same effect?!
If the uprooting of Jewish communities advances peace, why would the uprooting of Arab communities undermine peace?!
The call for uprooting Arabs is immoral; Isn’t the uprooting of Jews just as immoral?!
If the 300,000 Jews, among 1.5MN Arabs, in Judea and Samaria constitute an obstacle to peace, how would one define the 1.5MN Arabs, among 6MN Jews, within pre-1967 Israel?!
If Jewish settlements/communities in Judea and Samaria (est. 1967) constitute the obstacle to peace, why was the PLO established in 1964?! Why did anti-Jewish Palestinian terrorism flare up during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s?!
Why did the Arab-Israel wars erupt in1948/9, 1956 and 1967? Why did an unprecedented Palestinian terrorism surge following the 1993 Oslo Accord and the 2005 uprooting of 25 Jewish communities in Gaza and Northern Samaria?!
Past freezes, slowdowns and dismantling of Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria intensified pressure and exacerbated terrorism – what would be the impact of another -freeze?!
2. White House promises, guarantees and commitments by US presidents are evasive and illusive.
They are replete with escape routes, ambiguity, non-automaticity, and always subject to US’ – and not the recipient’s – interests. Even the tightest US treaty – with NATO – allows the US to consider the activation of military force.
3. Precedents of US commitments raise doubts.
The 1954 US-Taiwan defense treaty was concluded by President Eisenhower and terminated by President Carter in 1979.
In 1957, Israel retreated from the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for President Eisenhower’s Executive Agreement, which committed US military deployment should Egypt violate Sinai’s demilitarization and blockade Eilat.
In 1967, Egypt violated Sinai’s demilitarization and blockaded Eilat, but President Johnson declared his predecessor’s commitment non-binding.
In 1975, President Ford sent an official letter to Prime Minister Rabin, declaring that the US shall give great weight to Israel’s position that the Golan Heights should remain under Israel’s control. In 1979, President Carter declared Ford’s letter non-committal.
In 1982, President Reagan stipulated – in order to overcome Congressional opposition – that the F-15s sold to Saudi Arabia would not be stationed in Tabuq, south of Eilat. In 2003, President Bush justified the Saudi deployment of the fighter planes to Tabuq by altered strategic regional circumstances.
In 1991 President Bush promised Prime Minister Shamir – in return for Israeli restraint in face of Iraqi Scud missiles – to favorably consider granting Israel $10BN loan guarantees for the absorption of one million Soviet Jews, and to dedicate 30% of the bombing in West Iraq to the destruction of the Scud launchers. Prime Minister Shamir kept his side of the bargain; President Bush did not!
In 2000, President Clinton promised Israel $800MN for the retreat from Southern Lebanon, none of which has reached Israel.
4. An American president is not omnipotent, and Congress has the capabilities to enhance US-Israel cooperation.
An American president represents one third of the US government, equal in power to the other third, the US Congress. Unlike the Parliamentarian system, a US president does not determine the list of candidates to the Legislature, the identity of congressional leaders, nor the slate of legislation to be introduced in Congress. A president is constrained by a robust system of checks and balances and by a complete separation of powers between the Executive and the Legislature.
It was Congress – sometimes in defiance of presidents – which terminated US military involvement in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Angola and Nicaragua, facilitated the Jewish Exodus from the USSR (the “Jackson-Vanik Amendment”), cut foreign aid to Turkey following the latter’s invasion of Cyprus, accelerated the fall of South Africa’s White Regime (overriding Reagan’s veto), etc.
In 1991, Congress forced President Bush to transfer to Israel $700MN worth of military systems, in addition to a $650 emergency grant and the refurbishing of the port of Haifa for the benefit of the Sixth Fleet.
5. Congress shares policy-making power, while possessing exclusive legislative power.
Congressional posture is bolstered during economic crises (e.g. currently) and presidential posture is enhanced during wartime.
In 1995 and 1999, Congress intended to force the president to transfer the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but Israel’s prime ministers urged Congress to temper the legislation, thus dooming the effort.
In October 1998 – a few days before the convening of the Wye Plantation Conference – Democratic congressional leaders told Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: “When it comes to opposing pressure on Israel, we are with Newt [Gingrich].” However, an Israeli prime minister pulled the rug from under their feet….
The US Congress – equipped with the Power of the Purse – has the Constitutional capabilities to initiate, suspend, amend and rescind policies. Congress can direct presidents to exercise the veto power at the UN Security Council, supply Israel with vital military systems in face of mutual threats, etc.
Will Jerusalem learn from history by repeating – or by avoiding – critical errors?!
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