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Jewish World Review Oct. 23, 2001 / 6 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

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Getting history, and the future, right -- ISRAELI Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recently infuriated President Bush by drawing a parallel between the sell-out of Czechoslovakia by Britain and France before World War II and the demands for dangerous concessions being made of his country by the U.S. government today. While there are certain similarities, on reflection, a more accurate analogy would be between what Britain did to her principal ally, France, rather than what they both did to the Czechoslovaks.

Israel today, like France in the early-to-mid-1930s, is the mightiest military power in its region. As was also true in France before World War II, Israel has been led for years by weak governments under the sway of leftists convinced that unilateral disarmament and appeasement constitute a reliable alternative to conflict with increasingly dangerous neighbors.

In addition, for much of the past decade, American administrations have been encouraging -- and, from time to time, extorting -- concessions from Israel, much as the Baldwin and Chamberlain governments in pre-war Britain endorsed and occasionally induced declining French defense spending and military preparedness. In 1934, Winston Churchill famously declared that "I cannot imagine a more dangerous policy" than one of deliberately weakening an important ally, upon whose strength one's own security may significantly rely.

The question the government and people of the United States must address immediately is: Should we regard Israel as a vital strategic ally in the war on terrorism and refrain from repeating the mistakes made by Britain towards France six decades ago? Or can we safely indulge in a deceit similar to that earlier time's -- that concessions that weaken, perhaps mortally, one of our most important bulwarks against a common enemy can be made at no peril to our security?

The American people appear to have few illusions on this score. A survey conducted on 12-13 October by pollster John McLaughlin suggests that they continue overwhelmingly (72.9%) and strongly to support Israel. The Congress has been at least as supportive. In fact, in recent hearings before the House International Relations Committee, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs William Burns was bitterly assailed by legislators from both parties for his department's recent denunciations of Israeli efforts to defend themselves -- efforts identical in purpose, if not method or success (to date), to our own against Osama bin Laden and Company.

For his part, President Bush has made clear that he is committed to the security and well-being of Israel. His refusal to meet with Yasser Arafat so long as the Palestinian Authority remains a sponsor of terror against the Jewish State -- a tangible sign of Mr. Bush's determination not to coerce Israel into making compromises with which it cannot live -- has been commendable and one of the most dramatic departures from the failed foreign policies and practices of his predecessor.

Yet, in the wake of the September 11 attacks and the war on terror they unleashed, the Bush Administration has come under intense pressure not only to pick up where Bill Clinton left off in squeezing dangerous concessions from Israel, but going where even he dared not go. According to the Boston Globe of October 10, "The Bush Administration is prepared in the next few weeks to publicly increase pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to accept not only a Palestinian state but a viable Palestinian homeland that includes a 'shared Jerusalem as its capital.'" Forcing Israel to "share" not just suburbs of Jerusalem but the city itself would surpass any "vision" previously embraced by the U.S. government.

The pressure to take such steps comes from a number of quarters. First, there are influential figures with close ties to the Arab world like the Mr. Bush's father and his National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft, who was recently given an official advisory function as chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Then, there are the Arabists in the State Department, who have as clients more than two-dozen Arab/Islamic countries while there is, of course, only one Jewish State -- and its desk is manned by foreign service officers whose future advancement will depend on good postings elsewhere in the region.

Next, there are the so-called "moderate" leaders in the Arab world. Thus far, their diplomatic stroke has been undiminished, if not actually enhanced, by the war on terror. This is all the more extraordinary insofar as many Americans have recently learned to their horror about such "friends'" thoroughly immoderate, but longstanding, practice of using virulent anti-Israeli and anti-American propaganda as a sort of social safety valve. This device may allow the anger of these countries' burgeoning populations of poor young males to be diverted away from their generally repressive governments -- but only at our expense.

Finally, there are the Islamic organizations in this country that the President has been encouraged to cultivate -- despite the solidarity some of their leaders have long expressed with terrorist groups responsible for the murder not only of Israeli women and children, but of American citizens, as well.

At the moment, the foregoing appear to be advancing a common agenda with considerable sympathetic treatment from the international press: Israel's occupation of Arab lands helps legitimate Islamist terror against her ally, the United States. If only the Jewish State ended that occupation, we are assured, Israel could live in peace and much of the anger felt towards us around the world would dissipate. Create a Palestinian state, these influential forces insist, and we will be assured of Arab support, bases, oil and solidarity in the war on terror.

The problem is that the Arab "street" -- and particularly the Palestinian Arabs -- to which we are supposedly appealing have been thoroughly indoctrinated to believe that Israel's presence on any territory amounts to its occupation. Arafat has repeatedly assured his constituents that the peace process is not a basis for legitimating a permanent Jewish State in the Arabs' midst. It is, instead, the instrument for realizing a twenty-seven-year-old "phased plan" for the destruction of Israel and the liberation of all "Palestine."

As with Hitler before the war, further weakening of an important Western power in the face of intimidation -- and a growing ability to act on it -- will be an invitation for aggression, not a formula for real peace. Rewarding terror by forcing more territorial and other concessions on Israel risks repeating Britain's mistake with respect to France, turning a valuable ally into a strategic liability and gravely weakening our shared ability to contend with a common -- and ever more lethal -- danger.

JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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05/23/01: Pearl Harbor, all over again
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04/17/01: The 'hi-tech for China' bill
04/10/01: Deal on China's hostages -- then what?
04/03/01: Defense fire sale redux
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03/13/01: The Bush doctrine
03/08/01: Self-Deterred from Defending America
02/27/01: Truth and consequences for Saddam
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02/13/01: Dubya's Marshall Plan
02/05/01: Doing the right thing on an 'Arab-Arab dispute'
01/30/01: The missile defense decision
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01/17/01: Clinton's Parting Shot at Religious Freedom
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01/02/01: Secretary Rumsfeld
12/27/00: Redefining our Ukraine policy
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12/05/00: Preempting Bush
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11/21/00: HE'S BAAAACK
11/14/00: The world won't wait

© 2001, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.