A Callous Disregard
-by Mark Silverberg
American interests in the Middle East have always been based upon the need for a continuous, uninterrupted, cheap supply of Arab oil. This has led to policies that have traditionally favored Arab despots and dictators whom (it was believed) could best ensure "political stability." The "realists" in the Administration came to understand that with a significant portion of the world's oil reserves controlled by millions of Arabs scattered throughout the Middle East and with the Saudis alone having almost $600B in our investments and equities markets, policies that favored the Arab world made perfect financial and political sense, click. Although the "stability" paradigm has been discredited many times by numerous Arab oil embargoes, exorbitantly high oil prices and a history of broken Arab promises, this fundamental policy has never really changed.....and unfortunately it has always worked against Israel's interests.
Understanding the overriding importance of American oil interests in the Middle East explains why, in November, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice compelled Israel's Minister of Defense Sha'ul Mofaz to sign a dangerous security agreement the effect of which placed untrustworthy European Union and Egyptian border guards on the Gaza-Egyptian border and strong-armed Israel into creating a transportation corridor between Gaza and the West Bank. Immediately following the November meeting, word spread quickly that Secretary Rice could be heard "screaming" at Defense Minister Mofaz demanding that Israel carry out it's commitments under the Roadmap (as they related to border security and crossings) despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority has not honored one single aspect of their commitments to date and that Israel had significant security concerns with the plan.
More disturbing is the fact that Secretary Rice came to Jerusalem angered because she had just been rebuked by America's erstwhile ally (Egypt) at a Pan-Arab conference in Bahrain that had been convened to push (unsuccessfully) for democratic reform in the Arab world. Rather than be insulted for a second time, she came to Israel determined "not to fail again".
In the past, there has always been a tacit understanding with America that, with the departure of Yasser Arafat as a negotiating partner, the Americans would accept a certain Israeli unilateral approach regarding the establishment of its borders and keeping settlement blocs. It followed that the Sharon government hoped that this summer's disengagement from Gaza would earn special consideration for Israel, particularly in view of the fact that the Palestinian Authority has not shown any positive cooperation in combating terror and ending incitement. What is now clear from November's ugly episode is that the U.S. Secretary of State did not show much appreciation for Israel's critical security needs nor respect for its sovereignty. Instead, she challenged the basic assumptions of defense and security that have guided Israeli policy for years. From the State Department's perspective, it has always been easier (and safer) to extract concessions from Israel than to force the Arabs to honor their commitments.
This coercion is especially disturbing given the events that have transpired since Israel withdrew from Gaza three months ago. Israeli intelligence has confirmed that al Qaeda and most of the Damascus-based Palestinian leadership of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are in the process of transferring their operations to Gaza and the West Bank, advanced long-range Kassam missiles have now found their way to Gaza's northern border with Israel (not to mention the new Syrian Scud D missiles perched on Israel’s northern border), Gaza itself has become a terror statelet overrun by competing warlords (the most powerful of which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel - Hamas) and will soon have an open sea and airport through which all forms of weapons can be expected to flow. Worse, Palestinian terrorist groups are poised to move freely through the new land corridor between Gaza and the West Bank and have openly stated their intention to renew terrorist operations against Israel from both areas after the Palestinian elections scheduled for January are held……and this is all the more distasteful given the December 4 Netanya suicide bombing immediately after which Palestinian leader Saeb Erekat casually responded: "I believe that this harms Palestinian interests and is another act to sabotage efforts to revive the peace process and to sabotage the Palestinian elections." But is it wrong? Is there anything morally wrong with slaughtering innocent Israelis? Israelis can hardly ignore the fact that the most popular Palestinian groups and individuals seem to be those most associated with terror against Israel.
No Arab State has ever been compelled to sacrifice its sovereignty and defense, as Israel is now required to do. That is because America has no problem with countries that supply them with oil even if these countries do not exactly follow the American interpretation of 'democracy' and 'civil rights' and the Bush Doctrine is no exception.
As a result, unlike the Arab nations that surround it, Israel has been forced to cancel a major military contract with China (that would have upgraded their Israeli-made armed drone aircraft) and another with Venezuela (that had been signed to upgrade Venezuelan F-16 fighters). America has also interfered with and opposed the construction of Israel's security barrier*, interfered with the exit points from Gaza thereby exposing Israel to mortal danger, forced Israel to comply with dangerous provisions in the Roadmap without demanding similar compliance from the Palestinian Authority, and sold Apache and Cobra attack helicopters to Israel while condemning Israel's use of them when used in its counter-terrorism operations. Egypt, on the other hand, receives almost as much in American military grants as Israel does, yet we hear nothing about American involvement in Egyptian internal and security affairs.
This is all the more disturbing when one considers the strategic importance of Israel to America's global war efforts. Each day, Israel relays hard lessons of it’s own urban warfare, battle and counter-terrorism activities to the U.S. that reduce American losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, prevent attacks on U.S. soil, upgrade American weapons, and contribute to the U.S. economy. Senator Daniel Inouye has argued that the contribution made by Israeli intelligence to America is greater than that provided by "all NATO countries combined." Israel is responsible for over six hundred improvements in the F-16 fighter jet and has saved the U.S. billions of dollars in modifications (not to mention dozens of years in R&D).
In 2005, Israel provided America with the world's most extensive experience in homeland defense and warfare against suicide bombers and car bombs. It's bomb detection technology has saved the life of Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff on at least three separate occasions not to mention countless American lives in its war with Islamic terrorists. American soldiers continue to train in Israeli facilities and Israeli-made drones constantly fly above the "Sunni Triangle" in Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan providing U.S. Marines with vital, real-time battlefield intelligence. Innovating well out of proportion to its size, Israel has spawned companies that have designed guns that literally shoot around corners, urban warfare software that translates dog barks into English-language warnings, and lasers that can detect explosives from 100 feet away. Working their way through Israeli labs now are intelligent robotic cameras, nanolasers and nuclear resonance imagers that can detect chemical and bioweapons from great distances.
Despite all this however, the Israeli defense establishment is browbeaten and forced to act contrary to the security needs of their country. It's time for America to recognize Israel as a major strategic, military and intelligence asset critical to America's national interests. Separate and apart from the fact that both Israel and America share a common democratic culture totally different from that in the Arab world, there is a commonality of strategic interests that must be recognized if the war in which we are both engaged is to be won.
*The security barrier issue is all the more upsetting when one considers what other nations have done based upon the Israel model. India has adopted Israel's barrier strategy with great success to cut back on Islamist guerrillas infiltrating into Kashmir and is extending the concept to guard against Islamist incursions from Bangladesh as well. Saudi Arabia is using the Israeli example as a model for its own security fence to cut down on al Qaeda and other Islamist infiltration from Yemen. No criticism has been made of these barriers.