The well-intentioned US mediation between Israel and its Arab neighbors was initiated in 1949 in order to advance the cause of peace and enhance US leadership and power-projection in the Middle East and beyond. It has failed on both accounts, debilitating vital US economic and national security interests.
US mediation has yet to produce a single Israel-Arab peace treaty. The only two Israel-Arab peace treaties were initiated directly between the parties without US mediation.
The 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty was initiated by Prime Minister Begin and embraced by Sadat, in defiance of President Carter’s preference for an international conference over direct Israel-Egypt negotiation. However, he was quick to jump on the bandwagon, attempted to derail the initiative – by pressuring Israel on the Jerusalem and the Palestinian issues – but then played a critical role in sealing the peace treaty.
The 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty was the brainchild of Prime Minister Rabin, adopted by King Hussein and codified by President Clinton during the signing ceremony.
Similarly, the 1993 Israel-PLO Oslo Accord was introduced by Prime Minister Rabin and Foreign Minister Peres, surprising President Clinton, who then facilitated the signing of the agreement.
In contrast, several US peace initiatives failed to produce peace, but inadvertently fueled Arab belligerence. They were based on the morally-wrong and strategically-flawed “Land-for-Peace” concept, which does not penalize – but rewards – aggressors, thereby fueling further aggression, while punishing the intended victim.
Failed US peace initiatives include the 1949-50 bullying of Israel to “end the occupation of the Negev,” to internationalize Jerusalem and to allow Arab refugees to resettle in Israel; the 1970 Rogers Plan; the 1973-75 Kissinger-orchestrated initiatives; the 1982 Reagan Plan; the 1989-1992 Bush-Baker “foreswear Greater Israel” initiative, culminating in the 1991 Madrid Conference where Shamir rejected “Land-for-Peace”; the 1998 Wye River Conference; the 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh Conference; the June 2000 Camp David Summit and the December 2000 “Clinton Parameters”; the January 2001 Taba Summit; the 2002 “Road Map”; the 2007 Annapolis Conference; and the 2009-2012 enshrining of the 1949 ceasefire lines, the repartitioning of Jerusalem and the freezing of Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
The attempt to be an honest-broker between Israel and the Palestinians has defied reality and US interests. While Israel has been an unconditional ally of the US and the role model of countering-terrorism, the Palestinians have actively and ideologically sided with US enemies and rivals: Nazi Germany, the Soviet Bloc, Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden, North Korea, Iran, China and Russia. They celebrated 9/11; condemned the execution of Saddam and Bin Laden; participated in the murder of 300 US Marines during the 1983 bombing of the US Embassy and Marines headquarters in Beirut; murdered two US Ambassadors in Khartum in 1973; and established a horrendous anti-Semitic and anti-US hate-education system – a manufacturing line of anti-US terrorists and suicide bombers.
US mediation has been based on the false assumption that the Arab-Israeli conflict is a root cause of Middle East turbulence, creating a delusional linkage between the 100 year old Arab –Israeli conflict and the overarching endemic 1,400 year old Mid-East intra-Muslim turbulence. It has diverted US resources from primary – to secondary – causes of Middle East instability, thus undermining the US posture of deterrence. It has radicalized Arab expectations for sweeping Israeli concessions, thus inflaming Arab belligerence and terrorism and intensifying tension between US and Israeli Administrations. It has clouded US-Israel strategic cooperation while threats are intensifying; the anti-US Arab Street is boiling; the US reduces its military presence in the Mid-East and cuts its defense budget; the Russian and Chinese deepen their penetration of the Mid-East; and Iran’s nuclearization is advancing. All of these developments are independent of the Palestinian issue, the Arab-Israeli conflict, or Israel’s policies and existence.
In 1967, Saudi Arabia welcomed Israel’s devastation of pro-Soviet Egypt and Syria, which aimed to topple the House of Saud. In 1990, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were focused on the imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein, but the Bush-Baker team was preoccupied with Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. In 2012, Saudi Arabia and most Arab countries yearn for a US, or Israeli, military preemption against Iran, which they consider a clear and present lethal threat. They are anti-Israel and wish its destruction, but they do not consider the Arab-Israeli conflict, or the Palestinian issue, to be their primary concerns. They understand that when smothered by a sandstorm, one should not be preoccupied with tumbleweeds!
The enhancement of Arab confidence in US leadership necessitates that the US focus on regional sandstorms such as Iran, Islamic terrorism, the Islamic threat to pro-US regimes and the recent seismic turmoil on the increasingly anti-American Arab Street.
The enhancement of US power projection in the Middle East requires that the US upgrade cooperation with stable, predictable, reliable, capable, democratic and unconditional allies, such as Israel. The US should not subordinate such a viable cooperation to mediation of secondary Middle East conflicts.