A Callous Disregard
American interests in the Middle East have always been based upon the need for a continuous, uninterrupted, cheap supply of Arab oil. This has led to policies that have traditionally favored Arab despots and dictators whom (it was believed) could best ensure “political stability.” The “realists” in the Administration came to understand that with a significant portion of the world’s oil reserves controlled by millions of Arabs scattered throughout the Middle East and with the Saudis alone having almost $600B tied up in Americaâ€™s investments and equities markets, policies that favored the Arab world made perfect financial and political sense. Although the “stability” paradigm has been discredited many times by numerous Arab oil embargoes, exorbitantly high oil prices, innumerable insults from the Arab world, a multibillion dollar Saudi campaign to spread radical Islam globally (culminating on 9/11) all funded by our own petrodollars, this fundamental policy has never really changed…..and unfortunately, without exception, it has always worked against Israel’s interests.
Understanding the overriding importance of American oil interests in the Middle East explains why, in November, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice compelled Israel’s Minister of Defense Sha’ul Mofaz to sign a dangerous security agreement the effect of which placed untrustworthy European inspectors and Egyptian border guards on the Gaza-Egyptian border and strong-armed Israel into creating a transportation corridor between Gaza and the West Bank. This new â€œal Qaeda express bus serviceâ€ will drop Islamic terrorists at Hebron, Ramallah, Tulkarem and Jenin â€“ all convenient sites for striking targets in Tel Aviv, Kfar Saba, Hadera and Netanya, each of which has already been battered by Palestinian suicide bombersâ€¦â€¦and European Union inspectors have been instructed not to interfere either with the cargo or the passengers.
Immediately following the November meeting, word spread quickly that Secretary Rice could be heard “screaming” at Defense Minister Mofaz demanding that Israel carry out it’s commitments under the Roadmap (as they related to border security and crossings) despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority has not honored one single aspect of their commitments to date and that Israel had significant security concerns with the plan.
More disturbing is the fact that Secretary Rice came to Jerusalem already angered because she had just been rebuked by America’s erstwhile allies (led by Egypt) at a Pan-Arab conference in Bahrain that had been convened to push (unsuccessfully) for democratic reform in the Arab world. Rather than be insulted for a second time, she came to Israel determined “not to fail again”.
In the past, there has always been a tacit understanding with America that, with the departure of Yasser Arafat as a negotiating partner, the Americans would accept a certain Israeli unilateral approach regarding the establishment of its borders and keeping the large settlement blocs. It followed that the Sharon government hoped that this summer’s disengagement from Gaza would earn special consideration for Israel, particularly in view of the fact that the Palestinian Authority has not shown any positive cooperation in combating terror and reducing incitement through its media. What is now clear from November’s ugly episode is that the U.S. Secretary of State did not show much appreciation for Israel’s critical security needs nor respect for its sovereignty. Instead, she challenged the basic assumptions of defense and security that have guided Israeli policy for years.
From the State Department’s perspective, it has always been easier (and safer) to extract concessions from Israel than to force the Arabs to honor their commitments or to implement democratic reforms. No matter how little the Palestinian Authority does to discourage terrorism, or to educate its people to co-exist with Israel, it can rely on excuses being made on its behalf by an army of sympathizers throughout the West – in the press, on college campuses and, most disturbingly, in the foreign ministries of the Israelâ€™s democratic allies, most notably America.
This coercion is especially disturbing given the events that have transpired since Israel withdrew from Gaza a mere four months ago. Israeli intelligence has confirmed a dramatic increase in violent anti-Israel activities in the West Bank and Gaza. Al Qaeda and most of the Damascus-based Palestinian leadership of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are now in the process of transferring their operations to Gaza and the West Bank; advanced long-range Qassam and Soviet-era Grad missiles are now being launched from the ruins of the evacuated Israeli towns of northern Gaza (Dugit, Elei Sinai and Nisanit) into Israeli towns like Moshav Shuba, Kibbutz Carmia, Kibbutz Saâ€™ad and the city of Sderot. The major Israeli oil terminal of Ashkelon is now within missile range and this does not take into account the new Syrian Scud D missiles perched on the Lebanese and Syrian borders with Israel.
In December, Hamas swept 73% of the vote in the West Bank’s largest city (Nablus) and Gaza has become a terrorist statelet overrun by competing terrorist warlords who will soon have an open seaport and airport through which all forms of weaponry can be expected to flow.
No Arab State has ever been compelled to sacrifice its sovereignty and defense, as Israel is now required to do. That is because America has no problem with Arab states that supply them with oil even if those states do not exactly conform to the American interpretation of â€œdemocracyâ€ and â€œcivil rightsâ€. This has led to serious concern over the depth of U.S. involvement in everything related to negotiations with the Palestinians. American involvement today is considered an annoyance, with the U.S. interpreting the smallest details in favor of the Palestinians. The U.S. administration is involved in all facets of the negotiations on the opening of border crossings and on Palestinian convoys between Gaza and the West Bank, down to the number of guards on the buses, the nature of security checks, the elections in eastern Jerusalem, and other issues. In other areas, Israel has been forced to cancel a major military contract with China (that would have upgraded their Israeli-made armed drone aircraft) and another with Venezuela (that had been signed to upgrade Venezuelan F-16 fighters). America has also interfered with and opposed the construction of Israel’s security barrier* and sold Apache and Cobra attack helicopters to Israel while condemning Israel’s use of them in its counter-terrorism operations. Egypt, on the other hand, receives almost as much in American military grants as Israel does yet we hear nothing about American involvement in Egyptian internal and security affairs.
It is past time for this country to recognize Israelâ€™s contribution to America’s global war efforts and to allow Israel the leverage necessary to defend its security. Each day, Israel relays hard lessons of itâ€™s own urban warfare, battle and counter-terrorism activities to the US â€“ lessons that have reduced American losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, prevented attacks on US soil, upgraded American weapons, and contributed to the US economy. Senator Daniel Inouye has argued that the contribution made by Israeli intelligence to America is greater than that provided by â€œall NATO countries combinedâ€. Israel is responsible for over six hundred significant improvements in the US F-16 fighter and has saved the US billions of dollars in modifications (not to mention dozens of years in R&D).
In 2005, Israel shared with America its extensive experience in homeland defense and warfare against suicide bombers and car bombs. It’s roadside bomb detection technology has saved the life of Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff on at least three separate occasions not to mention countless American lives in our war against Islamic terrorism. American soldiers continue to train in Israeli facilities and Israeli-made drones continue to fly above the “Sunni Triangle” in Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan providing US Marines with vital, real-time battlefield intelligence. Innovating well out of proportion to its size, Israel has spawned companies that have designed guns that literally shoot around corners, developed urban warfare software that translates dog barks into English-language warnings, and lasers that can detect explosives from 100 feet away.
Working their way through Israeli labs now are intelligent robotic cameras, nanolasers, nuclear resonance imagers that can detect chemical and bioweapons from great distances and a new generation of nano-based protective armor that is five times stronger than steel and at least twice as strong as any impact-resistant material currently in use as protective gear. In recent tests, the material withstood the shock pressures generated by the equivalent of dropping four diesel locomotives onto an area the size of one’s fingernail yet the original material remained essentially unscathed. Untold American lives will be saved when this new technology is transferred to the US Defense Department.
Despite all this however, the Israeli defense establishment is browbeaten and forced to act contrary to the security needs of their country. It’s time for America to recognize Israel as a major strategic, military and intelligence asset critical to America’s national interests. Separate and apart from the fact that both Israel and America share a common democratic culture totally alien to that of the Arab world, there is a commonality of strategic interests that must be recognized if the war in which we are both engaged is to be won.
*Opposition to the security barrier is all the more upsetting when one considers what other nations have done based upon the Israeli model. India has adopted Israel’s barrier strategy with great success to reduce Islamist guerrillas infiltrating into Kashmir and is extending the concept to guard against Islamist incursions from Bangladesh as well. Saudi Arabia is using the Israeli example as a model for its own security fence to reduce al Qaeda and other Islamist infiltration from Yemen. No criticism has been made of these barriers.