Shmuel to Bibi: Fight back!

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.

A Sense of Dependence

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.

Confronting American Pressure

By David Isaac and Shmuel Katz z”l

In a 1983 article, “Washington’s ‘Arab mistake,’” Shmuel Katz writes, “The ignorance displayed by today’s world statesmen about elementary, often crucial, facts – particularly in foreign affairs – has lost the power to astonish. The Middle East, about which they all pontificate so readily, is a specially fertile field for their fatuities. Most important here inevitably are the pronouncements of American spokesmen, directly involved as they are in its problems.”

Katz was referring to statements by Former Secretaries of State Alexander Haig and George Shultz and Former President Jimmy Carter. But he would have said the same thing of Vice President Joe Biden, who stated at a press conference with the PA President, that:

“Our administration is fully committed to the Palestinian people and to achieving a Palestinian state that is independent, viable, and contiguous. … Everyone should know by now, that there is no viable alternative to a two-state solution, which must be an integral part of any comprehensive peace plan.”

This outrageous plan, which, if put into effect, would mean stripping Israel of its historic heartland in Judea and Samaria, robbing it of its strategic depth and returning it to the 1949 Armistice lines – what even the noted pacifist Abba Eban described as “Auschwitz borders.” On top of which, no one seems bothered by the fact that a “contiguous” Palestinian State means cutting the Jewish State in two.

To add insult to injury, Biden condemned an announcement by Israel’s interior ministry that same day to build 1,600 new homes in “East Jerusalem.” “The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now,” Biden said. To show his disapproval, he arrived 90 minutes late to a dinner, snubbing Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Shmuel would say, as he had many times before, that this should finally put to rest the dangerous notion that America is, or ever was, an “honest broker.” What emerges from an examination of American-Israel relations is that regardless of whether the U.S. administration is friendly toward Israel (George W. Bush), or hostile (Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama),  each one accepts the same false premise that a two-state solution – which returns Israel to the dangerously vulnerable borders of 1949 – is the answer.

What Shmuel wrote in a 1983 article “Lessons for Reagan” is equally applicable now:

“American policy hitherto has taken no account of the fact that for 19 years (1948 to 1967) Judea and Samaria were in the hands of the Arabs, illegally annexed and ruled by Jordan.

“Yet nobody (not even the PLO) then even hinted that here was the home of a “Palestinian people,” thirsting for self-determination. Nor do the American policy-makers remember that precisely the control of the territory by Jordan made attractive the idea of war on tiny Israel.

“The absence of Jews from Judea and Samaria after 1948 did not bring peace. It brought war – in 1967.

“For an American president to persist in the demand that Jews refrain from making their homes in Judea and Samaria because it is not helpful to the peace process is not only to perpetuate one of the great hoaxes of the century, and an attack on the national rights of the Jewish people in its homeland; it is an insult to the intelligence.”

As destructive as American pressure is, worse is Israel’s repeated collapse in the face of such pressure, which merely invites more. Take the reaction of Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai to Biden’s criticism of the planned construction:

“We had no intention, no desire, to offend or taunt an important man like the vice president during his visit,” Yishai told Israel Radio. “I am very sorry for the embarrassment. We need to remember that approvals are done according to law even if the timing was wrong. … Next time we need to take timing into account.”

And Netanyahu, after being kept waiting 90 minutes by a sulking Vice President, reportedly apologized for the timing of the announcement, too, which he said also took him off guard, and assured Biden that he had no intention of sabotaging his visit, nor did he have any plans to begin construction soon.

That this is how sovereign leaders of a supposedly nationalist government should react after being told that they can’t build homes in their own capital beggars belief. Whatever the reason, whether Israel’s leaders don’t feel they can stand up to America, or fear losing economic assistance – that the “tap might be turned off” – the truth is that their weak-kneed response betrays the real, broad American support they have.

As poll after poll demonstrates – most recently one by Gallup on Feb. 26 showing 63% of Americans favor Israel over Palestinian Arabs in the conflict – America is squarely in Israel’s camp. It’s American policy crafted by the State Department that favors the Arabs. The State Department is not America. It can be faced, and with the help of the American people, defeated.

Only the day before Biden’s visit, Netanyahu addressed a summit of Christian Zionists in Jerusalem. He told them to stay the course in their defense of Israel. No doubt, his words boosted their morale. But wouldn’t it boost it still more to lead by example?

Biden’s visit was a missed opportunity in a long line of missed opportunities to put the lie to the scam that is the two-state solution. Netanyahu should have explained that the two-state solution is nothing more than the two-phase solution for Israel’s destruction. Indeed, in his conversation with Vice President Biden, the prime minister could have quoted nearly verbatim from Shmuel Katz:

“If the United States wishes to avoid further embarrassing debacles it must make up its mind first of all that at this moment there is no “solution” to the Arab-Israeli dispute; and that if it wishes to help bring about a solution in the course of time it must insist that the Arab nation give up its purpose of annihilating the Jewish state; that it content itself with its own 22 component states, and that the Arabs of Palestine content themselves with their one state in eastern Palestine, called Jordan.”

“Holding out such a prospect is purely more closely in keeping with the American ethic than its present promotion of Arab doctrines and policies which, it so happens, aim at the destruction of the State of Israel and the attempted dispersal or genocide of its people.”

WHAT WOULD SHMUEL SAY?

By David Isaac and Shmuel Katz z”l

Where Israel is concerned, the secular New Year is not off to an auspicious start. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently stated that “all matters” would be up for discussion in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. It’s a dramatic break from past Israeli policy, in which Jerusalem was declared off limits. Apparently, Netanyahu has crossed that red line.

According to reports, it’s only one of several red lines Netanyahu has crossed following his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on the first of the year in which they discussed ways to get Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table, an outcome ardently wished by the United States.

What would Shmuel Katz say to the latest in what have been a series of collapses that have characterized Netanyahu’s leadership since he assumed power – a leadership which must be a grave disappointment to the Israeli electorate who supported him in the hopes of seeing a leader of firmer resolve.

A prolific columnist, Shmuel never minced words, taking both Likud and Labor governments to task for failing to stand up to international pressure, or make Israel’s case to the world. Likely, he would have decried Netanyahu’s government as one more in a string of administrations that pursued a policy of appeasement.

Indeed, he would have described Netanyahu’s behavior as the very epitome of appeasement. How else to describe the prime minister’s near-immediate collapse in the face of the American president’s call from a Cairo University auditorium to end all settlement construction in Judea and Samaria? Or his most recent signal that he is willing to place Jerusalem on the bloc?

In a pamphlet he co-wrote with Eliezer Livneh, titled “Will Appeasement Lead to Peace?” (available on this site), Shmuel raised the question of whether the prospects of peace would be better if Israel were to retain her borders or hand over territory to the Arabs. The pamphlet, written in the early 1970s, dealt with the possibility that the Arabs would, like Hitler at Munich, “offer a ‘political settlement’ in exchange for the territories they lost through their aggression” – an approach they eventually would adopt 20 years later.

Shmuel warned that succumbing to this stratagem would “restore the enormous strategic advantage they [the Arabs] enjoyed before the Six Day War… The restoration of these strategic advantages to the Arabs will moreover serve as a temptation for renewed aggression. To the Arab rulers it will be a clear indication that it pays to attack us, for if they fail, they can always have their losses returned to them…  There is no more certain way of ensuring renewed warfare than by making territorial concessions to the Arab rulers.”

In 2008, Netanyahu spoke at Shmuel’s funeral, recognizing Shmuel’s historic role in the Irgun’s leadership. But what Netanyahu seems incapable of recognizing are the lessons Shmuel taught when he was alive. Rather than move Israel to a position of principle and strength, Israel’s prime minister has chosen to repeat the failed appeasement policies of administrations past.