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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January 1991, Page 6

Special Report

Shamir's Manipulation of American Jewish Groups: A Disaster For All

By Dr. Israel Shahak

A lot can be said about Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. He rose in the ranks of the terrorist organization LEHI (Stern Gang), after having a walk with his commander, Eliyahu Gil'adi. From that walk, Shamir returned alone, convened a meeting of other LEHI commanders, told them he had killed Gil'adi, and, as a reward, was promoted to a higher rank.

During World War H, LEHI approached Hitler with proposals of an alliance, reminding Hitler in obsequious letters of an ideological kinship between their movement and his. Shamir supported this search for an alliance with Hitler loyally.

Consequently, during the whole of World War II, Shamir waged terrorist warfare against the Allied powers fighting Hitler. In the process, he masterminded the assassination of Lord Moyne, the British minister in charge of the Middle East. There were many similar exploits.

No one, whether Shamir's friend or foe, should dismiss a man with such a past as either a fool or an egomaniac. Shamir is a shrewd and experienced politician. Throughout his 75-year lifespan, he has been boundlessly devoted to the ideology which he adopted in his youth. He has always planned methodically, and although his usually quite sinister schemes occasionally fail, when judged in strictly tactical terms, they are always flawless.

Shamir's American Policy

This certainly applies to his American policy, whose beginnings were manifested in the "Solidarity Conference" of World Jewry with Israel, held in Jerusalem in March 1989. American Jewish leaders find it difficult to understand why Shamir insists on provoking the United States, even on nonessential issues, when Israel urgently needs American money for the absorption of Soviet Jews, and American political support for its hard-line policies.

But Shamir's policy concepts are clear and consistent. They rest on three principles:

  1. Not to retreat from any part of the territories and to prevent any alteration in the character of rule over the territories.
  2. To conquer as much land as feasible.
  3. To attack any Arab state which develops into either an economic or military power, and to strive for Israeli hegemony over the whole of the Middle East.

The last of these aims, which Shamir shares with Ariel Sharon, conflicts with long-standing policies of the United States in the region. Nevertheless, Shamir anticipates that he will be able to muster sufficient American support, political as well as financial, to carry out his policies and neutralize opposition within the United States to them.

How does he suppose this can be achieved? Essentially, he relies on the power of the "pro-Israeli lobby" to manipulate the American political system in the Israeli interest, irrespective of Israel's actual conduct. The lobby has a solid power base in the organized Jewish community in the US.

Inside Israel, Shamir's plans are no secret. Israeli journalist Khami Shalev, writing in the Oct. 26 Davar, quoted Shamir aides as explaining, "in Shamir's estimate the support of Jews, of the Congress, and of the majority of the [U.S.] public for Israel is assured in perpetuity."

A Foregone Conclusion

Most decisive is the support of American Jews, which is a foregone conclusion, Shalev writes, since "the Presidents' Conference [of Major Jewish Organizations] is now headed by Seymour Reich and Malcolm Hoenlein, who receive their instructions directly from the private office of the Prime Minister in Jerusalem. "

That support works, according to Shalev, by exploiting the lengthy election campaigns which have become a permanent fixture and a dominant factor in US politics in recent decades.

Accordingly, "Shamir lives from one American election day to the next. In recent years, every political assessment produced by his office about the prospects for (Israeli] relations with the US has revolved around the date of the next elections in the US as the most crucial factor. " After the "assured in perpetuity" loyalty of American Jews, the next most important factor working in Israel's favor is "the desire of a given person to be elected president of the US."

In the Hebrew press, explanations along these lines have appeared often enough to be widely relied upon by the Israeli public, including the fervent opponents of Shamir's policies, who blame American Jews for abetting them. The Israeli establishment, including the army, takes these factors for retaining US support so much for granted that it refrains from doing any contingency planning for the event of their failure. This testifies to the extent of the faith the Israeli government and Israeli public institutions have developed in the success of Shamir's policies.

Whatever could be said about the longrange feasibility of these calculations, it is clear that at present they work. Not only Shamir but also the Israeli public at large have been, as Shalev reports, deeply impressed by the fact that Bush addresses requests to Shamir rather than the other way around, and by "the almost desperately entreating tone" of those requests. Consequently, Shalev explains, Shamir can regard his assumptions as "axiomatic." The conviction by the Israeli public that Shamir's policies are successful forestalls the formation of any effective opposition to them, for at least as long as these policies work.

Short-Term Success, Long-Term Failure

Shamir's policies must, in my opinion, be discussed on two separate levels. In the long run, there can be absolutely no doubt that those policies will, in the end, produce unmitigated disaster for all concerned. The disasters will encompass Arabs and Israelis alike, and also American influence and interests in the region.

Shamir's policies cannot avoid leading eventually to a devastating war, initiated by Israel for reasons having nothing to do with its security or the welfare of its citizenry. Even in strictly military terms, the outcome of such a war cannot be predicted. Finally, inside the United States, Shamir's policies are bound to generate a backlash. This is because his scheme involves cultivation of corruption in the American political system, and the use of a relatively small group of Americans to serve as carriers of that corruption. In other words, in the long run American Jews will inevitably become the first victims of the same policies of Shamir they at present so abjectly support by flocking to the major American Jewish organizations.

In the short term, however, Shamir's policies are quite likely to succeed. For example, the best informed Israeli commentators now hint that Shamir may, in the near future, use Israeli nuclear weapons against Iraq in order to destroy its economic and military infrastructure, and that he might do this without any coordination with the US and its allies.

How will the Congress react if this happens? Will it keep increasing financial aid to Israel or cut it? How will it react if Israel invades Jordan? Let us suppose that in the foreseeable future some Jewish terrorist group blows up the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif mosques, and that the Israeli government does not allow their reconstruction. Can the real (as expressed in the flow of cash) American reaction to such an event be predicted?

In the meantime, as the occupation of the territories continues and conditions there deteriorate, Israel receives more and more money from the United States. It is perhaps not as much as Shamir would like to receive, but it is no less than Israel has ever received in the past.

The conclusion is inescapable that, thus far, Shamir's policies have worked and have produced their intended results. Neither Shamir nor the Israeli public at large will understand their long-range unfeasibility without an open confrontation between the US and Israel.

Such a confrontation could, in turn, help free the Congress from its subjection to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAQ and other organzational arms of the pro-Israel establishment and the American Jewish community. Such a confrontation, however, may come too late to protect the entire Middle East from disaster if Shamir has already been permitted to pursue his calamitous course too far. He must be stopped, and the sooner, the better.

Dr. Israel Shahak, a Holocaust survivor and retired professor of chemistry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is chairman of the Israeli League of Human and Civil Rights. His monthly translations From the Hebrew Press are available to Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, readers for $25 a year from the American Educational Trust.