For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Ettinger - Just say 'no'
06 April '12..
Israeli leaders are capable of repelling U.S. President Barack Obama’s relentless pressure on several fronts, including: to refrain from launching a preemptive strike against Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas; to freeze Jewish construction in east Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria; to retreat to the 1949 cease-fire lines, which would include the repartition of Jerusalem; and to placate Mahmoud Abbas, while ignoring the Palestinian Authority's hate education, non-compliance and terrorism.
Contrary to the ironclad support Israel has received from the U.S. public and Congress, presidential pressure has always been a part of U.S.-Israel relations.
That being the case, contemporary Israeli leaders should emulate Israeli prime ministers who served from 1948 (David Ben-Gurion) to 1992 (Yitzhak Shamir). They rejected (in most cases) U.S. presidential prescriptions for Israel’s national security, yet during their terms, bilateral strategic cooperation surged in spite of, and probably thanks to, their steadfastness.
Israeli leaders from 1948 to 1992 realized that pressure from the U.S. was part of the job; that sometimes saying “No” was critical to Israel’s posture of deterrence; that rebuffing that pressure would upgrade bilateral relations. They were not concerned with popularity or convenience, but rather with respect and conviction. They did not alter their strategy to evade pressure.
In 1948, for example, the U.S. imposed a regional military embargo, while the British supplied arms to the Arabs in order to force Ben-Gurion to accept a U.N. trusteeship rather than declare independence. The U.S. demanded that the Jewish state end the "occupation" in the Negev, internationalize Jerusalem and absorb and compensate Palestinian refugees. According to the first U.S. ambassador to Israel, James MacDonald, “[Ben-Gurion] warned President Truman and the Department of State that they would be gravely mistaken if they assumed that the threat would force Israel to yield on issues considered vital to its independence and security …” Ben-Gurion’s defiance forced the U.S. to reassess its policy toward the Jewish state and recognize its strategic viability.
On May 26, 1967, President Lyndon Johnson warned Prime Minister Levi Eshkol against attacking Egypt and Syria preemptively: "Israel will not be alone unless it decides to go it alone." Eshkol defied Johnson and Israel’s military devastated Egypt, which aimed to topple the pro-U.S. regimes in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. concluded that – irrespective of differences over the Arab-Israeli conflict - Israel was capable of pulling chestnuts out of the Middle East fire, for the U.S., without a single American boot on the ground.
On Dec. 20, 1981, Prime Minister Menachem Begin summoned the U.S. Ambassador to Israel and reproached him: “On June 7, we destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor near Baghdad …You announced that you were punishing us [by imposing a military embargo and cancelling military procurement in Israel] … Not long afterwards, after a slaughter was committed against our people … we bombed the PLO headquarters in Beirut … You suspended delivery of F-15 planes. A week ago, the Knesset passed the Golan Heights Law. Once again, you declared that you are punishing Israel … Are we a vassal state of yours? Are we a banana republic? You have announced that you are suspending consultations on the implementation of the memorandum of understanding on strategic cooperation … The people of Israel have lived 3,700 years without a memorandum of understanding with America, and they will continue to live for another 3,700 years …”
In 1982, Begin rejected Ronald Reagan's plan for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. However, an expanded memorandum of strategic cooperation was concluded in 1983. In 1991, then secretary of defense, Dick Cheney, thanked Israel for bombing Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981, which spared the U.S. a nuclear confrontation with Iraq a decade later.
Prime Minister Shamir had his share of clashes with Presidents Reagan and (especially) George H.W. Bush. However, a 1988 agreement significantly upgraded strategic cooperation between the two countries, and a series of 1991-92 Congressional initiatives further enhanced bilateral relations, in spite of the White House.
On a rainy day, the U.S. prefers a defiant ally over a “punching bag."
U.S.-Israel relations have not evolved around the Arab-Israeli conflict, but around shared values and mutual regional and global threats and interests. While rebuking Israel over the Arab-Israeli conflict, the U.S. has recognized Israel's unique contribution to counterterrorism, missile defense, intelligence-gathering, battle tactics, the upgrading of U.S. defense and commercial industries (expanding employment and exports), deterring rogue anti-U.S. regimes in the Arab world and supporting weak pro-U.S. regimes.
Submitting to U.S. presidential pressure while ignoring the unique support the American people have granted Israel (71 percent according to a February 2012 Gallup poll) in addition to Congress (about 75% and 80% support in the House and Senate, respectively) would amount to a slap in the face of U.S. democracy. It would also undermine Israel's most vital interests.
Today, as Israel faces a clear and present Iranian threat, will Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu learn from history by following in the footsteps of Israel's defiant statesmen, or will he subject Israel’s survival to pressure from the White House?
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I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"