Israel Cannot Forget What Many Refuse to Remember
Repeated denials by U.S. officials of any intention to pressure Israel into a posture of appeasement in the interest of approving nods from Yasser Arafat are refuted by their own actions. The heat is on Israel to acquiesce to Washington’s get-tough formula for surrendering more land than Israel can afford to lose—or else! Generally speaking, the attitude sounds something like this: “Shape up quickly, or we may just wash our hands of the whole affair.” This, of course, encourages Yasser Arafat to respond with greater intransigence and more bellicose threats to soak Israel in Jewish blood if he does not get what he wants.
While the administration apparently speaks from its own political frustration, it raises a voice welcomed most enthusiastically by only a dovish fringe—people uninformed or unconcerned about the truth of what’s happening in the Middle East. The now-aroused Congress does not agree, and they are speaking up. Informed Americans do not agree, and, in increasing numbers, they are being heard. Arabists in our government and members of the media, who conduct themselves more like Arafat’s advocates than competent journalists, are, hopefully, beginning to lose the day. Perhaps their spin on the issues is beginning to fray.
Most Americans who are factually exposed to the problems faced by Israel understand words like “reciprocity” and “security,” as enunciated by Prime Minister Netanyahu. That is, when you give something, you have a right to expect in return equal measure in volume and quality. We also comprehend, with facts in hand, that Yasser Arafat has given virtually nothing while garnering a great deal—promises not kept in return for cities that too often become havens for terrorists.
Perhaps the greatest potential danger we face in looking at the Middle East conflict in its totality is the failure to remember the past. It is an easy thing to do, in light of our current state of saturation by material affluence. This is particularly problematic for those who are a generation removed from the horrors of World War II and the death camps. For this reason, revisionist perverters of history are finding a hearing for the “Holocaust did not happen” absurdity.
But what the historically illiterate or blandly indifferent refuse to remember, Israel cannot forget. Nor should we. Millions of Jews have died in the past; thousands of Israelis have died in our own lifetime. Israel cannot open doors that will invite it to happen again. Therefore, America cannot go the way of other nations that have sought temporary political advantage or relief by walking away from the Jewish people and Israel.
When the Clinton administration passed the negotiations on to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as it had done with U.N. Ambassador Kofi Annan on another issue vitally within the sphere of American international interests, an old specter was raised. Blair, representing Britain and the European Union, tried to take a tough tack with Israel. Behind his “diplomatic initiative” was a threat to immediately recognize Arafat’s announcement of Palestinian statehood should Netanyahu refuse to come around. Thus, the page was turned back to bare images of other ominous times.
During the days of the British Mandate over Palestine following World War I, the British became great benefactors of Jews. Men like David Lloyd George and James Balfour sponsored the Balfour Declaration, recognizing the right to a Jewish national home in the land of their fathers—territory that initially included land from Iraq to the Mediterranean. After a splendid beginning, however, British sympathies for the Jewish state began to cool. Consequently, 73 percent of the land promised to Israel was ceded to the Jordanians for a Palestinian state. Then came World War II and Britain’s series of White Papers, which, for all practical purposes, closed Palestine to Jewish immigration, while six million of Europe’s Jews, with few places to go, were turned into ashes in Hitler’s ovens.
Like Britain, America manifested bedrock solidarity with Israel when, in the 1940s, President Truman put the full weight of his personal prestige and national force on the line by endorsing the birth of the modern State of Israel. Through the years, the United States has stood by its only democratic ally in the hostile world of the Middle East with admirable tenacity. Never was the issue of Israel’s survival taken into American hands. Now, that has changed. The administration has publicly issued its plan and is mounting considerable pressure for Israel to comply. There is a question that must be addressed: Does this represent—as in the case of the British during the war years—a substantial change of heart and attitude toward Israel?
Should this be the case, our leaders will be charting a course that neither the United States nor Israel can afford. Israel’s contemporary foes are no less committed to obliterating Israel from the face of the Middle East than was Adolf Hitler in Europe. Thus, the current question of Israel’s national security looms as large as it ever has in the history of the nation and the Jewish people. Israel’s survival is, as has always been the case, based on strength. We can neither contribute to diminishing that strength nor detach ourselves from the conflict.
So, we appeal to President Clinton, our leaders, allies in Great Britain, and friends of Israel across the Western World: Let us remember what Israel cannot afford to forget.