By David Isaac and Shmuel Katz z”l
In his article “Surrender to Washington” (May 20, 1983), Shmuel Katz wrote:
There are serious psychological reasons for Israel’s repeated defeats in the diplomatic field, more specifically in relations with the U.S. They deserve special examination. What is more apparent is the “economic” reason; the perceived “dependence” of Israel on the U.S.
It is not true that Israel is “dependent” on the U.S. There exists, in fact, a state of mutuality – but Israel’s benefits are immediate and visible, while its contributions are long-term and less tangible.
There exists, however, among many Americans, a conviction of Israeli dependence. What is worse, many Israelis have a sense of dependence; worst of all, it is a sense that exists also among Israeli leaders.
This sense of dependence was on display on the Sunday, April 4th edition of CNN’s weekly “State of the Union,” when host Candy Crowley asked Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren to describe, in one word, the current state of Israel-U.S. relations.
“Great!” Michael Oren said.
Of all the words in the English lexicon that Oren might have chosen, “Great!” would not be the first to spring to mind to any sane observer of Mideast affairs.
Barely a week before, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was left to stew, unfed, in the White House after President Obama walked out in the middle of their meeting to enjoy dinner with his family – behavior on the part of the president that everyone agrees was unprecedented.
Obama wanted Netanyahu to affix his signature to a written concession on settlements. “I’m still around. Let me know if there is anything new,” Mr Obama was quoted as saying as he walked out.
The president’s remarks were reminiscent of those made by Secretary of State James Baker in 1990. Baker expressed his displeasure at Shamir’s government by saying in House testimony: “Everybody over there should know that the telephone number [of the White House] is 1-202-456-1414. When you’re serious about peace, call us.”
Shmuel Katz would have been quick to point out the parallel. A theme he often repeated was that, regardless of the administration, U.S. policy toward Israel hewed to the same line. In “It’s Time to Start Fighting Back” (April 3, 1992), Katz wrote:
In fairness to Mr. Bush, it must be said that every American administration since 1967 has in effect brushed off Arab aggressions and genocidal threats and articulated the unchanging purpose of an Israeli surrender – given a few meters one way or another – of Judea, Samaria, the Golan, Gaza and (usually) Jerusalem. The essence of all the “plans” of successive presidents – such as the “Rogers plan” of 1969 and the “Reagan plan” of 1981 – was precisely that surrender.
And in “Lessons of History,” (June 21, 1985), Katz’s remarks sound as if they could have been written today.
These undignified maneuvers by Washington tend unfortunately to divert the attention of many people, including Israelis, from the crucial fact: that the conflict derives from Arab determination to deprive the Jewish people of its only homeland; that every suggestion requiring Israeli surrender of territory is designed to reduce it as a first step, to the indefensible borders of 1949 (once described by Abba Eban as a “death trap”).
Instead of pointing out this simple truth, Israel’s leaders insist America is a close friend and proclaim that all is “Great!” The truth is Mr. Oren knows it’s not. Three weeks before his remarks to Candy Crowley, he said as much in a conference call to Israeli consuls general. The ambassador “sounded extremely tense and pessimistic. Oren was quoted as saying that ‘the crisis was very serious and we are facing a very difficult period,’” said consuls who discussed the call with Haaretz.
Oren’s volte-face no doubt was at the direction of Mr. Netanyahu, who wishes to play down the crisis, which really stems from the Obama administration’s desire to make political hay out of Israel’s ill-timed announcement of new construction in Jerusalem. This modus operandi was bluntly enunciated by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”
Unfortunately, the manufactured crisis does represent a deeper one. It reflects the behavior and attitudes of what columnist Ralph Peters rightly describes as America’s “first anti-Israeli president.” It’s clear that Obama, who stated before the UN General Assembly, that “the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” accepts holus-bolus the monstrous fiction of the Palestinian Arab narrative.
The failure of Israel to call the president out on his outrageous remarks, and the ease with which it is manipulated into humiliating situations, after which it pretends, like a battered housewife, that the relationship is a healthy one, puts its sense of dependence out for all to see.
This reaction, naturally, only encourages more of the same. The more dependent Israel acts, the freer the Administration feels to treat it like a wet rag. America can safely expect no negative repercussions as Israel has shown time and again that it won’t risk anything that will rock the boat.
What would Shmuel say? Three things – he would call for: 1) Israel to state boldly that there is no answer to the Arab-Israel conflict so long as the Arabs are intent on Israel’s destruction 2) the establishment of a Ministry of Information capable of carrying out a global mission of countering the massive amounts of anti-Israel propaganda, and 3) a national belt-tightening campaign.
In his 1983 article, “Surrender to Washington,” Katz concluded:
The moral health of the people of Israel requires in any case that they live within their means and that they reduce and finally cease their requests for American handouts.
A drastic change in Israeli economic policy is urgent – along the lines tried by Yigal Hurvitz [Minister of Finance] three years ago – both for that moral health and as a vital corrective to the way Israel has been handling its relations with the U.S.