By David Isaac and Shmuel Katz z”l
What would Shmuel say to the Obama administration’s plan to convene an international conference on achieving Mideast peace should direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs fail to reach a breakthrough by the fall?
In “The Looming Danger of Annapolis,” (November 22, 2007) written a year-and-a-half before his death, Katz wrote, “The Jewish state is in greater danger than anytime since the 1948 War of Independence.” The danger wasn’t Arab violence, but the Annapolis conference, “conceived and promoted with almost frenetic enthusiasm by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.”
Katz described the lopsidedness of the approaching conference, where on one side stood delegates from the Arab states, the Palestinian Authority, and the Mideast Quartet – the U.S., UN, European Union and Russia – all “committed to the diminution of Israel and some, frankly, to her consequent extinction” – and on the other side, an Israeli delegation led by the irresponsible and incompetent Ehud Olmert.
Fortunately, the Annapolis conference did not live up to its hype and ended more as news brief than banner headline. But if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again and the Obama administration has revived the idea of an international summit, and it is likely to do a better job applying pressure against Israel than did the Bush administration, if for no other reason than that this president believes more in the cause.
According to Haaretz, “The officials said the conference would be run by the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers – the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia – in a bid to forge a united global front for creating a Palestinian state.”
And so the trap is set.
If Netanyahu permits it, Israel will find itself engaged in direct talks with the PA’s Mahmoud Abbas for a “two-state solution.” These talks will fail. Israel will not agree to forfeit all of Judea, Samaria, Gaza and East Jerusalem while allowing an influx of millions of Arab “refugees”. Abbas will agree to nothing less. What incentive has he to do so? Were he agree to less, he would be subject to violent attacks from Hamas. By simply waiting, he’ll gain what he wants anyway, with the “world” handing it to him a few months later – and offering him additional cover against attacks from his rivals (If the proposals fall short, he can easily distance himelf from them by saying they’re the summit’s proposals and not his own).
As for Israel? Should it go along with these negotiations and wind up at that international conference, it will find the entire world arrayed against it – and unlike Iran which has China and Russia to run interference – there will be no one to take her side. Internationally isolated, divided from within, Israel will sit in a trap from which it will not easily break out.
What would Shmuel say? “Bring the phony negotiations to an end. Prevent the conference from happening.” Though the situation appears bleak, there is hope. First, Israel must change its behavior. It has been given many opportunities to exit the talks, none of which it seized upon. Only last week, Israel complained of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad lobbying the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) against admitting Israel into the organization, accusing it of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. This is incitement, an activity the PA was explicitly censored from doing by President Obama. Here, Israel could have said the PA is clearly not serious. It can’t fulfill even the miminal demands placed upon it and so we are putting a stop to talks. Israel would explain why the entire peace process is, and always has been, a fraud. Netanyahu has the eloquence, even the underlying conviction. Let him use it on Israel’s behalf.
But turning the tide of world opinion is not a job for one man. Shmuel was a tremendous advocate for a program of information to present Israel’s case to the world. (In our video section you can see an interview of Shmuel discussing his idea for a Ministry of Information.) Imagine how much better off Israel would be were it not sunk continuously in a defensive posture, but, instead, capable of boldly answering the continual lies of its enemies.
As Shmuel wrote in “Countering Propaganda” (Sept. 26, 1984):
Israel is confronted in the West not just by hostile criticism but by a many-faceted propaganda-war machine with long-range objectives, operating at every level of society.
Israeli governments have evidently not come to grips also with the nature of the war. It is not designed to achieve a change in this or the other policy of the Israeli government. Its aim is to put an end to the Zionist entity, to delegitimize Israel – by the assertion, endlessly repeated, that the Jewish people has no right to Palestine, and the Jewish State has no right to exist at all, that the land is Arab territory usurped by the Zionists with the aid of the imperialists.
This propaganda is a powerful auxiliary to the aim of the physical elimination of Israel. It provides the infrastructure of justification in the mind of a brain-washed public for the launching of a future war to achieve that unchanging annihilatory purpose.
The answer is for Israel to have a propaganda machine of her own. In “A Crying Need” (Aug. 6, 1982), he wrote:
HAD ISRAEL such a ministry, the first drastic change would be the presence at the cabinet table of the minister absolutely dedicated to the task of information. His battles would never end as long as newspapers and T.V. and radio stations chatter on around the world. The minister, absorbed in the conduct of that war in all his waking hours, must examine every subject put on the cabinet table with an eye to the hasbara challenges and tasks that may be involved. He will see to it his ministry should take action accordingly.
Friends of Israel have noticed the glaring failure of Israel’s public relations. Columnist Ralph Peters (New York Post, May 17) remarks, “Israel needs to rediscover public relations. With the global media rabidly pro-Palestinian, Israel had better get back in the information fight.”
Even were such a ministry started today, it would be many months before it became effective. Netanyahu can start the process now by speaking the truth about the fraudulent peace process and the true aims of the Arabs. Such a step would go a long way to energizing Israel’s allies, from the powerful evangelical base frustrated at Israel’s passive response to constant attack to Jewish Democrats grown uncomfortable with Obama’s high-handed tactics against Israel.
Obama’s position is not as strong as it would seem. Already there are cracks in the wall. Last month, Jewish senators led by Chuck Schumer sent a letter to the president, criticizing his treatment of Israel. Jewish Democratic donors have also expressed their dissatisfaction. And there are reports of rifts developing in the administration, as well. “There is the first sign of a schism in administration policy over the Middle East,” Steven Rosen, a director at the Middle East Forum, said in a recent news report.
Israel must exploit the situation without delay. As Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick recently wrote:
“By using support for Israel as a wedge issue in the upcoming elections, Republicans will do more than simply constrain Obama’s ability to harm the Jewish state. They will be setting a course for a Democratic return to strategic sanity in the years to come. And nothing will guarantee the return of bipartisan support for Israel more effectively and securely than that.”
Preventing the international summit – that must be the paramount goal of Netanyahu, however uncomfortable it makes Israel-U.S. relations in the short term. Social security is considered the third rail of domestic politics. With any luck, the political fallout will be such that solving the Arab-Israel conflict will become the third rail of foreign politics, a subject so politically volatile that Obama will not want to touch it again.