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Stability Requires Unequivocal Support for Israel

“The Arabs will never make peace with Israel if they think there is a chance of eliminating Israel by force. That is why U.S. unequivocal support for Israel is necessary for stability in the Middle East”

-Henry Kissinger former U.S. secretary of state and Nobel peace prize winner

I steadfastly defend the right to free expression and freedom of speech, as guaranteed by the Constitution. It was refreshing to finally see some political debate at HBS. I have to confess that one of the things that surprised me most about HBS is the lack of political debate that is present around campus. One would think that in a community of close to 2,000 highly diverse, well-educated intelligent individuals there would be a plethora of political give and take, instead general apathy reigns.
How disappointing then that the first column I read here on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be so poor, based on unfounded arguments and makes assertions that are based on neither fact nor analysis. Right from the beginning, even from the title, the “Sharon v Arafat” article makes so many errors it is a wonder how it ever got published.

I was under the impression that when one sees a heading entitled “Sharon v Arafat” one can reasonably conclude that the article that follows will outline the situation and present the pros and cons of each viewpoint followed by a conclusion based on the facts presented. What we got instead, though, was a list of all the negatives associated with Sharon and nothing else. None of his arguments or views, As for Arafat, none of his neither a critique of him nor his policies were presented. A heading “A personal attack on Sharon” would have been a more appropriate title.

Like the sound of car horns in a Manhattan street, daily accounts of atrocities in the Middle East, at this point in time, barely arouse one’s interest.

How sad is the claim that tales of the deliberate murder of innocent civilians by crazed fundamentalists does not arouse one’s interest. How sad that the exploits of terrorists that have the USA in their radar sights no longer arouses interest. So let me get this straight: there is no longer interest because too many people have died now, there is too much carnage, too many terrorist incidents for people to care?

Books can be written on the definition of terrorism and fail to reach a conclusion. For the purpose of this article I will take terrorism to mean “the deliberate targeting of civilians with the aim of inflicting physical damage.” To clarify, the two key words here are “deliberate” and “civilian.”

So taking a plane and ramming it in the world trade center is terrorism because a) it was deliberate and b) it was targeted towards civilians. A bombing raid over Afghanistan that targets an Al-Qaeda cell but also causes civilian casualties is not terrorism because, though it satisfies the first criteria, (it is deliberate), the target is fighters and not civilians.
Of course ,as in all conflicts, there are always regrettably civilian casualties. What is important to distinguish here is the initial target. By no means am I saying that this is the definition of terrorism that ought to be used by all. Rather, for the sake of consistency, this is the meaning I will attach to it in this article.

Recent reports that Yasser Arafat has shown himself to be an untrustworthy participant in the peace process have assumed the plausibility that attaches to any claim that is repeated often enough, whether or not it is true. But the facts show that it is Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who stands in the way of peace.

And as this article relies on fact and not unsubstantiated claims (like the previous one), it will prove that the oft-repeated claim that Arafat is a peacemaker and Sharon a warmonger is the one that is untrue and that the reality is actually quite the contrary.

In a recent fit of candor, quickly recanted, he mused that he should have killed Arafat in Lebanon 20 years ago-hardly words of peace, and unconscionable coming from the head of a government.

While the statement above taken abstractly can be read negatively by people without a full understanding of the history, and weight behind it, in recent history there is another leader who has said a similar thing, when being in a very similar position – open conflict with the head of a terrorist organization.

He said that he wanted the guy “dead or alive.” He would “go after him till he was captured or killed.” I’ll give you a clue as to who this second leader is. His father was president of the U.S., he is an HBS alum, his surname has 4 letters, starts with a “B” ends with an “H.”

After orchestrating Israel’s disastrous and bloody invasion of Lebanon, his career was interrupted in 1983 when an Israeli tribunal found him complicit in the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in Lebanese refugee camps

Israel’s venture in Lebanon was a split success since it achieved its main aim of removing PLO terrorists who were averaging a terrorist attack a week by sneaking across the border into Northern Israel. The downside however was that following the murder of the Christian president-elect Bashir Gemayal (by either Syrians or Palestinians, it has never been proven), the Lebanese proved unable to impose authority themselves and became subjected to Syrian rule who gave the terrorist group Hizballah free rein to conduct its activities.

The massacre in question was a revenge killing by Christians, following Gemayal’s murder. While there is no decent human being on earth that can fail to be shocked by the brutality of the reprisals, they were sadly disturbingly common in Lebanon in those days (and despite their frequency, still generated the interest and sorrow of this author).

Sharon’s role in them was marginal at best, and he was found “indirectly responsible,” not “complicit.” The tribunal said that even though Sharon had no intention of this outcome, he should have foreseen that it could happen and thus found him indirectly responsible. He is as liable as the U.S. is for reprisal attacks by Northern alliance members on Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

He returned to prominence during the malaise following the collapse of Clinton’s Camp David talks in a stage-managed appearance on the disputed Temple Mount, an act of provocation that won him political points but at the price of setting off a new intifada. Coming at a sensitive point, his appearance allowed him to derail the peace process and topple the more dovish administration of Ehud Barak

It is common knowledge now that the intifada had been prepared well in advance, sometime in the summer of 2000, following the failure of the Camp David peace talks and Arafat’s return from his tour of the world and his failure to obtain global support for his unilateral declaration of a state. To think that one man visiting a holy place can set off such a chain of events is ludicrous, laughable at best. It is like saying that the murder of the Archduke was responsible for World War I; not helpful sure, but let’s face it, World War I would have happened regardless. In any case, this act of so-called “provocation” was coordinated between the Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership that led the Israeli leadership to believe it would pass with no violence.

Sharon has consistently opposed the return of occupied territory to Arab sovereignty, and was the architect of Israel’s settlement program.

Sharon has played key roles in past peace agreements. In 1998 Sharon was a key architect of the Wye River accord and it is common knowledge that, despite the rhetoric and posturing, he has kept in contact with various Palestinian leaders and even Yasser Arafat throughout the intifada through his son, who has visited Arafat on his father’s behalf on numerous occasions.

Sharon personally dismantled Jewish homes in the Sinai and returned the land to Egypt following the signing of the peace treaty between the two and in fact it was the late Y
itzhak Rabin who was actually the force behind the return of Jews to Judea and Samaria (commonly referred to as the West Bank in the western press).

It is crucial to note that Jews have lived in the area now referred to as “settlements” since the beginning of recorded Jewish history; after all, even Jesus was born in Bethlehem! The only time Jews were not there was between 1948 and 1967 when Arabs controlled those areas and prohibited their presence. To refer to Jewish villages as settlements is puzzling, wrong and presents a biased and distorted view of history.

o o o o o ArticleName, page xxxFor Sharon, the threat from the Palestinian uprising justifies outrageous and criminal acts of Israeli aggression: extra-judicial assassinations, attacks on refugee camps, reprisals using tanks and fighter jets.

When Israel attacks terrorist targets situated in general population areas (as unfortunately most terrorists choose to place their headquarterss there), it is accused of indiscriminate random violence. When it goes directly after the terrorist leaders, it is accused of targeted assassination. When small units of soldiers fire in self-defense at mobs (which if they got any closer will kill the soldiers with their bare hands, as was witnessed in the early stages of the intifada), Israel is accused of failing to show restraint.

When Israel does not use violence and instead employs punitive measures like border closures, it is accused of humiliation. When Israel asks for a cease-fire before returning to negotiations, it is accused of making an unrealistic demand (though Barak continued negotiating until his last day in office, always with the unfulfilled promise that the Palestinians would cease violence, and Arafat has repeatedly shown his ability to turn on and off the violence when it suits him).

Basically, Israel’s critics will criticize her for whatever actions she may take in defending herself. In the critics’ eyes, Israel can only misbehave. Can someone please suggest some other alternatives to try that will reduce the terrorist threat which will satisfy those critics?

As his country’s ultimate strongman, continued insecurity is, needless to say, in his political interest.

Continued insecurity is not in Sharon’s interests. Israel is a democracy and Sharon is the 5th Prime Minister to deal with Yasser Arafat since the beginning of the Oslo peace process. Should Sharon fail to deliver security, early elections will be called and he will be booted out.

Insecurity has been the downfall of two of Sharon’s predecessors, Peres and Barak, so there is no reason to think that Sharon might be immune. With elections coming up, Sharon has all the motivation in the world to live up to his election promise: peace and security.

By continuing and accelerating the settlement program in the territories that Israel conquered by force and occupies illegally, he hopes to outrun the peace process, making the Israeli presence on the Palestinians’ land permanent and irrevocable.

Let’s have a look at how these territories came under Israeli control. In 1967 the Arabs announced that they wished to destroy Israel – and to translate from the accompanying Arabic rhetoric at the time – “fill the Mediterranean sea with the blood of Jews.” If one has an enemy on your doorstep proclaiming one’s imminent death (as Nasser, then the Egyptian leader, was doing in 1967), I believe it would be wise to take pre-emptive measures to prevent that from happening in the same way that the U.S. is now taking pre-emptive strikes against terrorist bases worldwide.

It was only in 1991, upon realizing that the world was moving on and he was becoming irrelevant – ignored even by the Arab countries furious with him for having supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait – that Yasser Arafat decided that he did in fact recognize Israel’s right to exist, in the hope of getting back into the spotlight.

Through the Oslo accords Israel agreed to give up land in return for peace while Arafat agreed to give up violence and use negotiations to resolve differences. Against conventional wisdom and better judgment, Rabin took a chance and believed this former terrorist could be reformed, that a leopard could change his spots. It was never going to be easy, and though there were numerous ups and downs along the way, by the end of the decade Arafat had gone from being a forgotten pariah to back in the spotlight, wined and dined in the White House and in charge of his people.

Well over 90% of the Palestinian population lived under Palestinian rule and hopes were high for a final settlement. Unfortunately Camp David failed to bring about a final accord (I will not go into the rights and wrongs of the deal on offer as there is too much hear-say about what was actually offered, suffice it to say that this was another bump on the road, to be resolved through mutual negotiations and not violence) and discussions had to go on.

It was at this point that the leopard re-discovered his spots. The game of brinksmanship that Arafat played to such disastrous effect in Jordan and Lebanon (explained further later) was played out once more. A much deadlier intifada was launched. Palestinians did not revolt using stones this time but rather mortars and machine guns (which ironically Israel had supplied to them supposedly for their police force!), with a much higher casualty toll on both sides.

The final element in his strategy is the elimination of Arafat, if not by murder then by marginalization. Sharon simultaneously accuses Arafat of failing to suppress the violence committed by Palestinian extremists and hems him in with tanks, rendering him powerless.

Again, although this argument sounds logical, the evidence proves otherwise. Violence began erupting in September 2000, but Sharon did not become Prime Minister until February 2001. During that time Barak had left Arafat with free reign to carry out his repeated promises to crack down on terrorists, although Arafat never really did.

In fact, even when Sharon came to power, he continued to rely on Yasser Arafat to eliminate the terrorist infrastructure, but instead Arafat turned a blind eye resulting in yet more suicide terrorist attacks, the most infamous one being at a disco in Tel Aviv. That incident is significant because the world waited for a severe military response following the murder of over a dozen teenagers. Yet Sharon did nothing militarily, thus giving Arafat one more “last chance.”

It was only after a year of Arafat doing nothing while Palestinian groups continued to wage deadly attacks against Israel that Israel’s policy of looking for alternative Palestinian leaders with whom to talk began to emerge. The commonly held myth that Arafat is incapable of acting because either his infrastructure is being destroyed or because he is being hemmed in by tanks is not plausible because Arafat spent the first year of the intifada, when he still had all his infrastructure in place, inciting violence instead of suppressing it.

By unquestioningly supporting Sharon’s policies, America is complicit in brutal oppression and injustice. This should be enough to provoke outrage and a radical change in policy. But the current conduct of U.S. Middle Eastern policy is worse than a crime; it is a mistake. The truth is that the alliance-without which Israel can do precious little-is a gift to America’s opponents, and outrage at the travails of the Palestinians provides a rallying cry and a pretext for anti-American action. As long as the Israeli tail wags the American dog, U.S. interests are jeopardized by the radicalization of Arab sentiment, fomenting the very movements that the U.S. military and intelligence services are being pressed into action to quell and subjecting U.S. citizens to the menace of terrorist action. Further, allegiance to Israel forces the U.S. into bed with brutal and oppressive regimes in the Arab world-chief among them Saudi Arabia-for fear that truly representative democracy will translate latent resen
tment into the formation of radical Islamic states, endangering American strategic interests (read: oil).

This paragraph is blatantly wrong, based on historical inaccuracies rather than facts. The point that “the alliance – without which Israel can do precious little” is a perfect illustration of arguing using myth rather than fact. From 1948 to 1967 – arguably the most “expansionist” of Israel’s years – the U.S. was at best a distant observer; at worst it cut short Israel’s defensive capabilities.

In 1948 the U.S. recognized Israel only after the Soviet Union had indicated it would do so, and even then the U.S. refused to help Israel for fear of antagonizing the Arab states. Instead, Israel relied primarily on the then Czechoslovakia for most of its defense needs. In the 1956 Suez crisis Israel joined the Anglo-French armies, who were restrained by a sharp rebuke from the U.S. in favor of the Arab armies.

Up to the 1967 war it was De Gaulle and the French that were the main supporters of Israel. It was only after the 1967 war that the U.S. saw an opportunity in having a democratic ally in the Middle East that the U.S. began to forge an alliance. Since the formation of this alliance, in fact Israel has been kept in check through the guarantee that the U.S. would not let it die.

Indeed, the 1973 war, when Arab armies invaded the Jewish day of atonement, was the most disastrous for Israel because though it had received intelligence that the Arabs were preparing to launch an attack, president Nixon indicated to Prime minister Golda Meyer that the U.S. would only come to Israel’s aid if it was attacked first, but that if Israel launched a pre-emptive strike (much more efficient in terms of minimizing your casualties and maximizing your chances of winning), it would turn its back on Israel. Against conventional wisdom, Israel refrained from even mobilizing its troops, with the result being one of the heaviest personnel losses it had ever faced.

The notion that the alliance is a gift to America’s opponents and the blaming of Israel for the radicalization of the Arab world is such a fallacy and so unfounded that one must question the research that went into the article. Is it Israel’s fault that Iraq invaded Iran? That Iraq invaded Kuwait? That Algerians murder innocent civilians? That the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan? That the Abu Sayaff Islamic extremists kidnap and murder people in the Phillipines? That the Ayatollah Khomeinei overthrew the Shah?

The sad fact is that most of the Arab governments do not really care about the Palestinians (some examples being Kuwait’s expulsion of all Palestinians following the Gulf War, the 2nd class citizenship afforded to them in Lebanon and the lack of aid provided to the Palestinians by the oil rich Arab countries), but they do need a scapegoat to stay in their dictatorship positions.

Jews, having been convenient scapegoats for centuries, will do. Rest assured though, in the absence of Israel something else will be concocted. The absence of the only democracy in the region will not result in all the others becoming overnight democracies.

It is interesting to note that the most horrific of terrorist incidents – those perpetrated by Osama bin Laden – had the primary aim of removing western forces from the Islamic holy land of Saudi Arabia and nothing to do with the Palestinian cause. The latter was only adopted later as a cause celebre to try and drum up the Arab street a la Saddam Hussein following the invasion of Kuwait. To say that American support of Israel is why the U.S. has to support the brutally oppressive Saudi Arabian regime is so far-fetched that I will not even dignify that with a response.
With regard to America’s financial support for Israel, a closer look at it clearly shows that a) it is comparable to support given to Arab countries and b) it is in reality an indirect subsidiary to the U.S. defense industry since 75% of the funds has to be spent in the U.S.

American policymakers should recognize that an opponent is neutralized most effectively by destroying both its capacity to act and motives for doing so.

Hallelujah, finally something we agree upon. Considering his past actions however, how can one expect Yasser Arafat to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure? I would rather trust Israel with that. The motive for Islamic fundamentalists conducting terrorism is that they want the whole world, country-by-country and starting with the Middle East, to come under Islamic Sharia law.

So yes, removing Israel would certainly remove one motive for attacks, but after Israel is gone, more attacks against America and the Western World will not be far behind as the fundamentalists seek to expand their influence. Israel is the frontline in the free world’s war on terrorism and against fundamentalism

This is supposed to be a “Sharon vs. Arafat” piece, so a few more words on Arafat are needed now. On the “anti side,” Yasser Arafat is not a very pleasant guest. In 1970, he repaid Jordanian hospitality by trying to overthrow King Abdullah in a bloody revolt, leading to the death of thousands of Palestinians (“Black September”) and Arafat’s expulsion to Lebanon.

Yasser Arafat is the man who repaid Lebanese hospitality by creating an armed militia in Lebanon, a state within a state, and ignited the Lebanese civil war by attacking the Lebanese government and the Christian factions in Lebanon, with massacres of hundreds of Christians, including the senseless slaughters of hundreds at Jiyey and Damhour in January 1976. In fact, the massacres of Palestinians referred to earlier were in large part revenge killings for these earlier massacres. Yasser Arafat is the inventor of modern day terrorism – airplane hijackings, blowing up of school buses, killing athletes at Olympic games – you name it, he, or one of the many factions linked to him, has done it.

On the “pro side” he is a very shrewd manipulator of public opinion – he had me fooled for a long time – and like many a dictator gives great speeches. Too bad people in the West don’t get the Arabic versions of his speeches and interviews that are the polar opposite of what he tells western media. Another plus is that Arafat is not a racist. He is an equal opportunity mass murderer, from Christians in Lebanon to Muslims in Jordan and to Jews worldwide.

It would be a grave mistake for America to marginalize Arafat even further.

Arafat is far from being the only Palestinian hope for peace. The Palestinians are actually among the most pragmatic and modern Arab people. It is not, as is often presented in the media, a choice between the terrorist Arafat and the likes of Islamic Jihad or Hamas that are even worse.

There is a strong movement of modern pragmatic Palestinians largely overlooked in Arafat’s 40-year dictatorship. People such as Abu Ala and Dahlan command a large following and are respected by the Palestinian population. It would be a grave mistake to rely too much on Yasser Arafat, whose only consistency over forty years has been his inability to deliver on behalf of his people and his ability to “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

The Palestinian people deserve better than what has been dealt them by the world. Arafat can be exiled to Tunis again, punished for his terrorist activities, and left to spend his final days like many dictators, forgotten. That such a course of action would also be just and almost costless is only icing on the cake.

February 25, 2002
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