Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September 17, 1984, Page 2
This month, members of Congress are vying to transfer taxpayer dollars to Israel via U.S. aid and to export U.S. jobs to Israel via the preferential trade bill (see our new "Congress" feature on page 5). Some congressmen are calling on the President to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and thus change a policy the U.S. and every major nation in the world has supported for 37 years.*
Meanwhile, President Reagan—whose peace plan was rejected out-of-hand by Israel two years ago—is competing in expressions of esteem for that state with Walter Mondale, who doesn't talk about how, when he was Vice President, the Israeli government misled President Carter—into thinking that Israeli settlement activity was to be frozen under the Camp David agreement.
All this election year activity is to ensure that the candidates engaged in it will be rewarded by pro-Israel campaign contributors and more than 50 pro-Israel political action committees. Every election year the Israeli lobby in the U. S. wins an awesome series of such victories. Like Israel's military victories, however, each has the potential for disaster.
Israel's most breathtaking military victory followed its 1967 "preemptive" attack on Egypt and Syria. Arab rhetoric provided the pretext. Arab unpreparedness made it possible to finish off both countries as well as Jordan in only six days. The U.S. forgave Israel everything—even the killing of 34 Americans and the wounding of another 171 during its attack on the USS Liberty —and Israel ended up occupying the West Bank and Gaza, the Golan Heights, and Sinai.
The "victory," however, may prove to be the biggest disaster in Israel's history. It changed the psychology of that tiny state's people, who suddenly perceived themselves as military giants, no longer constrained by political or economic realities, or by international law.
When Israel was presented, via Arab acceptance of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, with the opportunity to exchange the land seized in 1967 for Arab recognition of secure Israeli boundaries, Israel opted to keep the land and forego the opportunity for peace. Israel's growing reliance on force was not even shaken by the 1973 war, when only a bridge of U.S. planes, tanks and ammunition averted a battlefield catastrophe.
By 1982, Israel's militarists had formally assumed power and, when they could not provoke the PLO into providing a pretext for attack, they simply rolled into Lebanon without one. The short term result (ignoring 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians dead, most of them civilians) was the seeming defeat of Israel's Syrian enemy, evacuation of Yasser Arafat's fighters from a shattered Beirut under international guarantees and, as soon as the U.S. withdrew its protecting force, the massacre of the women and children the PLO had left behind in Beirut's refugee camps.
The long-term result, however, was the withdrawal of the U. S. from a direct role in the area after it had lost nearly 300 of its own civilians and soldiers in Beirut, the complete rearming of Syria by the Soviet Union, and the conversion of formerly indifferent Lebanese Shiites into formidable enemies who have helped bring Israel's own death toll to around 600 soldiers.
Israel's military "victories," and the resulting decisions to hold and colonize all but the desert areas seized, have turned Israel into an economic disaster area—totally dependent upon U.S. subsidies—and have polarized its own citizenry. Those raised in western traditions and represented by the Labor coalition that governed Israel during its first 30 years are in a state of despair. If they cannot reverse the country's present course many will leave, joining perhaps half a million Israeli Jews who already have. Those who remain will be those who have learned nothing from the history of their previous "victories," and are therefore doomed to repeat them.
How will this fall's "victories" in the U.S. help Israel? The Jerusalem bill, if passed, could further complicate U.S. political and military relations with NATO partners in Europe and disastrously affect U.S. trade with some, perhaps all, Islamic countries. Results of the preferential trade bill and others providing unique benefits to Israel could show up even sooner in terms of American jobs lost. Meanwhile, the contemplated U.S. aid changes may bring the direct U.S. government grant beyond $1,000 per Jewish Israeli.
Even that astonishing annual aid figure is only the tip of the iceberg. Last year Joseph C. Harsch, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, calculated that "if all forms of support are lumped together, Israel draws somewhere around $10 billion a year from the U.S. and its citizens." By Harsch's reckoning, last year each American family of five contributed an average of $225 to provide an annual subsidy of $15,000 for each Jewish Israeli family of five. When Israel has won all of its "victories" in Congress this month, you can raise Harsch's estimate by another 20 percent.
Should Israelis be concerned about the effect of all this on Americans who, along with white South Africans, now are Israel's only remaining supporters in the world? Many in Israel think so, and there are American Jews who are concerned as well. We introduce you to one of them on page 7 with the hope that we'll soon be hearing many more voices like hers, speaking up to save Israel from more such "victories," and their consequences.
* The U.N. General Assembly in 1947 partitioned Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state but left Jerusalem in a "Corpus Separatum" in recognition of its status as a city sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. Israel's "annexation" of all of Jerusalem is contrary to this U.S.-sponsored resolution, and to the basic principle of international law barring the acquisition of territory by force.