President Bush and his administration have outflanked israel from the Right in their hawkish battle against terrorism. During his March 30, 2002 press conference in Crawford Texas, the President repeated five times his support of “Israel’s right to defend itself,” refraining from any explicit or implicit arm-twisting of Israel. In fact, for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001, he has publicly lumped together the US war on Islamic terrorism and Israel’s war on Palestinian terrorism. VP Cheney and Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld, have often expressed their belief that passivity in face of threats breeds more violence. They support the principle of unilateral – rather than multilateral – military actions in face of threats (ballistic missiles or terrorism), even if the US receives little or no support from its allies. They have frequently heralded the 1981 Israeli bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor in Baghdad, as a role-model for unilateral and justifiable military actions. Both consider Arafat and the PLO a destabilizing and a treacherous factor fueling terror and supporting Iraq, Iran and other terrorist regimes. The Administration’s policy toward Israel has been at odds with the entrenched bureaucracy of the Department of State and the traditional editorial policies of the New York Times and the Washington Post.
However, Israel’s inconsistency and indecisiveness, in the battle against terrorism, and in defining its strategic goal (eradication of the PA/PLO/HAMAS infrastructure? separation? autonomy? annexation? Palestinian state?), and the open door left to resumed negotiation with the PA/PLO (terrorists? partners? systematic violators of commitments? murderers? negotiators? hate-mongers?) have made it difficult for President Bush to sustain his positive attitudes. Moreover, the lack of clarity on the part of Israel, has nurtured the counter-productive Zini Mission, which has constituted a major departure from President Bush’s coherent policy of: No Negotiation With Terrorists, No Distinction Between Terrorists And Those Who Harbor Terrorists, and You’re Either With Us Or Against Us In The Fight Against Terrorism!
Rather than implementing a “Six Day War” style swift tactic, Israel seems to have chosen the surgical approach, in order to minimize collateral damage. However, the longer the Israeli war on PA/PLO terrorism, the deeper the impact of the simplistic media coverage, which highlights the pain of the Palestinian population, while minimizing the critical role/responsibility of Palestinian terrorism and the unprecedented scope of its Jewish victims. As the war on Arafat’s, and Arafat-harbored, terrorists lingers on, the speedier the erosion of Israel’s image as The Fastest and The Most Decent Gun In Town (“Six Day War”, Entebbe’s “Jonathan Operation”, the bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, etc.). The more cautious and protracted is the Israeli war on Palestinian terrorists, the more exposed is the Texan President to pressures by former President Bush, Jim Baker, Brent Scowcroft, Secretary of State Powell, major oil companies, Saudi Arabia, West European countries and the UN. So far, the President has adhered to his principled-driven and strategically-motivated policy toward Israel. However, one should recall that the setback to President Reagan’s policy on Israel was accelerated as the 1982/3 war in Lebanon was lingering on. A protracted war of attrition undermines Israel’s self-confidence and posture of deterrence, Israel’s economy and Israel’s personal and national security. It undercuts Israel’s strategic alliance with the US, weakens Israel’s friends and emboldens Israel’s foes and critics.
Never has the Washington political arena been as supportive of a comprehensive swift military campaign to completely obliterate the PA/PLO/Hamas political and terrorist infrastructure, as it has been since 9/11. President Bush has repeatedly echoed a key element of his war on Islamic terrorism: “Any regime that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the USA as a hostile regime.” He has recently added that the Al-Aqsa Brigades, which are led by Arafat, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are harbored by Arafat, are terrorist organizations. The obvious conclusion has been that Arafat/PA/PLO should be regarded by the USA as a hostile regime. Bush is not ready, yet, to pronounce such a conclusion publicly, partly because Palestinian terrorism is not the overriding priority for the USA (which it is for Israel). But, Israel has disappointed Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, awaiting an explicit Green Light from the “Washington Nanny.” Israel is mistaking Green Light for Yellow/Red Light.
Moreover, Israel is currently misinterpreting a glimpse of pressure to be a brutal pressure. Thus, when Clinton exerted pressure on Netanyahu, he conducted a smear campaign to tarnish Netanyahu’s reputation, he threatened to cut foreign aid, to suspend joint military exercises and to cut bi-national projects. When the Bush/Baker team pressured Shamir, they suspended $400MN loan guarantees, denied Israel $10BN loan guarantees, froze a series of legislation which were supposed to expand US-Israel strategic cooperation, brutally criticized AIPAC and viciously attacked Shamir via malicious leaks and briefings. When Reagan pressured Begin following the 1981 bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, he suspended the supply of aircraft and tanks for six months. When Ford pressured Rabin in order to produce an Israeli withdrawal from critical passes in Sinai, he conducted a reassessment process (marshalling the support of US “elite” media), designed to reduce the scope of US-Israel relations. When the Truman/Marshall team pressured Ben-Gurion to postpone the 1948 Declaration of Independence, they imposed an arms embargo on the region (while Britain shipped arms to Jordan and Iraq), threatened to alter the legal status of Jewish contributions to Jewish causes overseas, and suggested to Ben-Gurion that a declaration of independence would trigger a war, which would cause a second Jewish holocaust within less than a decade. That’s pressure!
However, when President Bush “pressures” Sharon he states that Israel’s military operation against Palestinian terrorism is not helpful, and requests that the operation be suspended until the Iraqi Chapter is over. No sanctions, no arm-twisting, no suspension of projects and no ugly psychological warfare. that’s pressure?
Never has the USA been as sensitive to the mutuality of the Islamic terrorism threat to the USA and to the Jewish State, as has been the case since 9/11. Never has the public standing, in the USA, of Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians been as low as it has been since the WTC and Pentagon Islamic terrorism. Never has Israel’s predicament benefited from such a sympathetic all American combination of a President, Vice President, Defense Secretary, National Security Advisor, Congress and most importantly, the American public. Never has the USA gone through such a drastic and a hawkish mental, operational, legal and legislative reassessment of its counter-terrorist effort, as it has since losing almost 3,000 persons to Islamic terrorists.
But, the irresolute and vacillating Israel of Oslo-Wye-Camp David-Mitchell-Tenet-Zini is yet to leverage the potential stored in post-9/11 USA. Something is flawed in the strategic thinking of a government, which does not conduct a DRASTIC change of course (away from Oslo/PA/PLO) in response to a DRAMATIC American reassessment and to the murder of 700 Israelis (since the Oslo Accords were concluded), which is equal proportionally to the murder of 35,000 Americans!