Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, “Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative”
January 9, 2024
The Gaza theatre!
*The track record of the Gaza Strip reveals that it lends itself to terrorism, as contended by the June 29, 1967 memorandum submitted by General Earl Wheeler, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff, to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.
*Gaza is contiguous to the largely lawless Sinai Peninsula, which has been a platform for anti-US ISIS-supported and Iran-supported Palestinian, Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan, Egyptian terrorists and drug traffickers.
*The Gaza reality is impacted by the unpredictably volcanic Middle East, especially by Iran’s Ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic terror entities.
*A postwar plan for the Gaza Strip must be based on exclusive Israeli military control, not on well-intentioned US guarantees and defense pacts, and not on non-Israeli peacekeepers, who would not be limited to observing compliance, but mostly to combatting terrorists. However, non-Israeli peacekeepers should not be expected to sacrifice their lives on the altar of Israel’s security.
*In 1983, Hezbollah terrorists car-bombed the US Marine barracks and US Embassy in Beirut, killing 260 Americans, prompting the withdrawal of US soldiers – who participated in the Multinational (peacekeeping) Force – from Lebanon.
US guarantees and defense pacts?
*According to Prof. Michla Pomerance, Hebrew University, international relations, US guarantees and defense pacts (dating back to the early 19th century) feature escape routes – highlighting the dominance of US interests over the interests of the guaranteed party – facilitating delay, suspension and non-implementation:
<Subordination to the US Constitution, which limits presidential power.
*In fact, the inherent ambiguity, non-durability and tentative nature of US guarantees and defense pacts have unintentionally tended to fuel conflicts.
<On December 5, 1994, the US, Britain, and Russia signed the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, guaranteeing the territorial integrity of Ukraine. It prohibited Russia from using military force or economic coercion against Ukraine, except in self-defense. It required Ukraine to give up its nuclear arsenal, which was at the time the 3rd largest in the world. Donald Blinken, the US Ambassador to Hungary and father of Secretary Tony Blinken, was in attendance.
The undeterred 2014 Russian occupation of Crimea and Donbas in eastern Ukraine and the 2022 invasion of other parts of Ukraine, and the resulting destruction of Ukraine, attest to the mirage-like significance of US and British guarantees, which were not ratified by the US Senate.
<In 1954, President Eisenhower signed a defense treaty pact with Taiwan, but in 1979 – when China sided with the US against the USSR – President Carter annulled the treaty unilaterally with the support of Congress, acknowledging the “one China position” with “Taiwan is part of China….” The US Supreme Court refrained from action, declaring it “non-justiciable.” The defense treaty was substituted with the 1979 non-diplomatic and militarily non-committal congressional Taiwan Relations Act.
The predominance of the US Constitution in the shaping of US domestic and foreign policy attests that US defense pacts are not iron clad.
<In November 1956, President Eisenhower issued a memorandum, compensating Israel for its full withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula: “No nation has the right to forcibly prevent free and innocent passage in the Gulf [of Suez] and through the Straits [of Tiran, leading to Eilat]…. The United States… is prepared to exercise the right of free passage and to join with others to secure general recognition of this right.” Israel was led to believe that the US would use all means to prevent Egyptian violations of demilitarized Sinai, blocking Israeli passage in the Suez Canal and blockading the access to the port of Eilat. However, in 1967, when the documentation of Egyptian violations were presented to President Johnson, he (rightly) claimed that the memorandum was not ratified by the US Senate, that there was no congressional support for military intervention, and “I’m a tall Texan, but without Congress, I’m a short President…. It ain’t worth a solitary dime.”
The Egyptian violations, the withdrawal of the UN Emergency Force, and the imminent Egypt-Syria-Jordan military offensive, along with the intrinsic unreliability of US guarantees, led to the preemptive 1967 Six Day War.
<US military guarantees are not carved in stone as demonstrated by the open-ended NATO treaty (article 5): “…The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them shall be considered an attack against them all….Each of them… will assist the party or parties so attacked by taking…such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force….”
*International peacekeeping forces are ineffective, not durable, nor politically and militarily sustainable. Just like US guarantees, it creates a false sense of security, eroding Israel’s posture of deterrence, yielding a tailwind to anti-US and anti-Israel Islamic terrorists and a headwind to Israel and the US. Non-Israeli peacekeepers would be targeted by Gaza and Sinai-based Islamic terrorists, which would severely undermine the relations with Israel and fuel anti-Semitism. Furthermore, the stationing of foreign peacekeepers on Israel’s borders would cripple Israel’s defense capabilities, requiring Israel to seek prior approval in preempting or countering terrorism, which would damage Israel’s ties with the peacekeepers, transforming Israel’s image from a unique force-multiplier for – to a burden upon – the US.
<On March 19, 1978, the US-funded UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was established, in order to restore peace and security in the aftermath of Israel’s war against southern Lebanon-based Palestinian terrorists. In 2006, UNIFIL was expanded to 10,000 soldiers, aiming to facilitate Lebanon’s effective authority in southern Lebanon, “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons, other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL…. To ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind….”
The inherent ineptness of international peacekeepers facilitated the Iran-supported Hezbollah’s takeover of Lebanon – especially southern Lebanon – and its systematic raining down upon Israeli civilians with rockets and missiles; thus, paving the road to the 2024 Israel war against Hezbollah terrorists.
<In 2007, when Hamas assumed full control of the Gaza Strip, the European Union observers fled the (Egypt-Gaza) Rafah Border Crossing, which exponentially expanded the smuggling of advanced military systems to Gaza.
<On May 18, 1967, the UN Emergency Force withdrew from Sinai and Gaza, in compliance with Egypt’s demand, and irrespective of the Egyptian violation of Sinai’s demilitarization and additional commitments made to the US and Israel, in return for Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula.
*The bottom line
There is no substitute for Israel’s exclusive military control of the Gaza Strip. Moreover, intangible, tenuous, open-ended and reversible security guarantees and an international peacekeeping force – whose implementation is not determined by Israel – would engender a false sense of security, compromising Israel’s existence. As stated by Prof. Alan Dowty, Notre Dame University: “The effectiveness of a guarantee depends upon the willingness of the guarantor to react to a threat, and upon his ability to react with sufficient force…. Fear of disrupting US relations with Arab states was a factor in the 1967 US decision not to force open the Red Sea Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships…. The effectiveness of a commitment depends on the underlying interests and capabilities of the guarantor [not the guaranteed!]…. Guarantees are not unambiguous blessings….”