Why Can’t Israel Support People In Egypt?


[Ed. Note: Looking at the world as it once was, as it is today and how it could be tomorrow, one of the most vexing questions I have is “How can Israel be so blind to what it has become?”

I will forever remember a television interview many years ago in which Shimon Peres retold how the Oslo negotiations with Yasser Arafat started off poorly. Peres and Yitzhak Rabin were frustrated by Palestinians disinterest in details of various Israeli proposals.

The breakthrough, however, didn’t come from details of any particular proposal.

What changed the tone of the negotiations and ultimately led to the Oslo Accords, Peres said, was the realization that the Palestinians weren’t pursuing details. What the Palestinians wanted from Israel was respect.

That insight, Peres said, dramatically changed the tenor of the talks and was what led to the agreement.

The commentary that follows, written by MJ Rosenberg of Foreign Policy Matters (the link is on the blogroll), addresses the issue of Israeli blindness, both vis-à-vis peace negotiations with the Palestinians but also to the difference between peace with all of Egypt’s people, rather than just one of them.]

Why Is Israel So Blind? by MJ Rosenberg
The last several decades have shown that left-leaning politicos have been right about the nuances of the peace process.

Those of us in the pro-Israel, pro-peace camp do not enjoy being proven right — although we invariably are.

Our standard recommendation to Israel is that it should move quickly to achieve agreements with the Arab states and the stateless Palestinians before it is too late.

And the Israeli response is that there is no urgency to make peace — except on Israeli terms — because Israel is strong and the Arabs are weak.

The most egregious example of this phenomenon comes from Egypt, where in 1971 President Anwar Sadat offered to begin negotiations toward peace in exchange for a two-mile wide Israeli withdrawal from the east bank of the Suez Canal, which Israel had captured along with the rest of the Sinai Peninsula in the 1967 war.

Learning from history
The Nixon administration told the Israeli government to explore the idea because Sadat was intent on going to war if he did not get his territory back.

The peace camp in Israel and its allies here urged Israel to follow Nixon’s advice and hear Sadat out. The lobby, of course, told Nixon to mind his own business.

As for the Israeli cabinet, it told Nixon’s emissary, Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco, that it had no interest in discussing Egypt’s offer. It voted for keeping all of the Sinai Peninsula and sending Egypt a simple message: no. After all, the Egyptians had shown just four years earlier that they were no match for the IDF.

Two years later, the Egyptians attacked, and within hours all of Israel’s positions along the canal were overrun and its soldiers killed. By the time the war ended, Israel had lost 3,000 soldiers and almost the state itself. And then, a few years later, it gave up the entire Sinai anyway – not just the two-mile strip Egypt had demanded in 1971.

The peace camp was proven right. But I don’t recall anyone being happy about it. On the contrary, we were devastated. 3,000 Israelis (and thousands more Egyptians) were killed in a war that might have been prevented if the Israeli government had simply agreed to talk.

Reneging on Oslo
This pattern has been repeated over and over again. The Oslo Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which gave Israel its safest and most optimistic years in its history, collapsed after Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak repeatedly refused to live up to its terms.

During the Oslo process, Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority did what it was supposed to do: it combated terrorism so effectively (Hamas had launched a series of deadly bus bombings to thwart the peace process) that Netanyahu himself telephoned Arafat to thank him. By 1999, terrorism was effectively defeated in Israel. It was an amazing time, with the free and safe movement of goods and people from Israel to the West Bank and back again – not the way it is today with a towering wall separating Israelis from Palestinians and dividing Palestinians on one side from Palestinians on the other.

But the temporary end of terrorism did not achieve the transfer of any actual territory to the Palestinians. Netanyahu and Barak nickeled and dimed the Palestinians to death – actually, to the death of the peace process, which for all intents and purposes is now buried. By the time Clinton convened the Camp David summit in 2000, any good will between the two sides was gone.

One could go on and on. According to President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Ehud Barak could have had peace with Syria in 2000 until, at the very last minute, Barak chickened out. He was afraid of the settlers. The opportunity for full peace with Syria, which would almost certainly also mean peace with Lebanon, as well as a lowering of tensions with Syria’s ally, Iran, came again in December 2008.

Missed opportunity
The Turks had brokered a deal with the Syrians that Prime Minister Olmert celebrated with a five-hour Ankara dinner with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Olmert went home. The Turks waited for Israel’s final approval.

And then this is what happened next, according to Israeli New York University professor Alon Ben-Meir:

Complete article via Al Jazeera English.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: