Robert Eisenman is the author of James the Brother of Jesus, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, Islamic Law in Palestine and...
Wed,Jul 30,2014 3 Av 5774
This article is actually part of a series, I have been doing, which should probably be called, “Downhill from Sinai.”
As an example, let us follow one particular string of decisions – or, better perhaps, “lunacies” – made by ostensibly intelligent people, long on tactical and political, short-range vision but short on strategic, long-range vision. These concern the question of “Palestine” and its origins – of course, now and always ‘in the news’ – since the Israelis themselves ‘created it’ in the aftermath of the 1967 War and, more particularly, the 1973 one. Prior to 1967, there was no “Palestine” as such – “Jordan” having already ‘gobbled it up’ – shall we say between 1948-50? But ‘officially’ in 1949.
Still, ‘the downhill slide’ I am speaking of really accelerated in the wake of the Disengagement Agreements, promoted by Kissinger, et. al., in January, 1974-75 and finalized by Carter and his Polish National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski in 1978-79 as the after-effects of the Six-Day War began to ultimately unravel. But before this, more particularly vis-a-vis “Palestine” itself, in the “refugee camps” of “Jordan” – a situation which has, once more, come into play in the now celebrated “Arab Spring” (wait till “Winter”) and in the protest demonstrations going on, even as we speak, in “Jordan,” some of which as in Cairo centering around the Israeli Embassy.
Nevertheless, before 1968-69 the so-called “PLO” – which had really only just begun to function under the more docile Ahmad Shukeiri as something of a political action committee in “Jordan” in 1964 – was not as militant as it became after Arafat’s take-over with his “Fatah Organization” after the Six-Day War. The “PLO” itself was not officially recognized as the representative body of “the Palestinian People” by the Arab League meeting in Morocco until 1974, but by that time, it was really all over but the shouting.
The ‘key’ moment really came in September, 1970 and “Black September” – ending in 1971 with the PLO being ‘expelled’ to Lebanon. This set up a new configuration of circumstances, whose after-effects are still being felt there today and everywhere. At the time, it was clear to the writer that the Israeli Government should have intervened on the side of “the Palestinians” – if one can call them this. One might call this hindsight, but it was not. The writer really thought, advocated this, and wished he could have shouted it in the ears of the Israeli Government at the time.
Instead, what did they do – perhaps at the behest of the U.S. Government, who knows? – but certainly their own. They warned the Syrians not to intervene and, for all intents and purposes, prevented them from entering Jordan to turn the tide in what was basically a Civil War, thereby saving the present-day Kingdom of Jordan. Of course to the Israeli Government at the time, this seemed perfectly rational as certainly the Jordanian Government of the day was far less militant and extreme than a Yasser Arafat-headed PLO.
But that didn’t matter. It was not rational. It was short-sighted. This is not to say, they should have allowed the Syrians to intervene, though this would have been better than what eventually occurred and what they eventually did. No, they should have intervened on the side of the Palestinians themselves, as Israel did not need a peaceful State in Jordan. It didn’t get one until much later anyhow. What the Israelis needed was a “Palestinian” one as the Mandate had originally called for in 1921 before the whole portion East of the Jordan River became “Transjordan” and two-thirds of “the Palestine Mandate” was cut away by misguided British leaders (i.e., Lawrence and Churchill) “to reward” the family of the Sherif of Mecca for some dubious support, powered by monetary rewards, in the First World War.
This unilateral ‘re-arrangement’ of the Mandate, of course – as many writers have since come to understand – forced the whole of the Palestinian-Jewish/Palestinian-Israel problem on to “the West Bank” and eventually “the Gaza Strip.” Setting up a Palestinian State in Jordan in 1970-71 would have had immeasurably positive effects instead of setting up the militant “Black September” Terrorist Organization in Lebanon, which then focused its ire – for peculiar reasons of its own – not on Jordan but on Israel. One knows the horrific effects of this, which have continued with ever-increasing efficacy and bloodthirstiness up to this day.
It can be objected, how would the Israelis have managed with a militant State in Jordan? They would have managed – as they always have managed; but then, at least, this militancy would have had an address and not become an ever-transmogrifying, footloose, and endless succession of terrorist outrages. Eventually a “Peace” would have been established, but the so-called “Palestinians” would have had their “State” and the area in between would and could have eventually ‘been negotiated.’
But what happened instead? After the “Disengagement Accords” of 1974-75 and the Carter–Brzezinski “Peace Agreements” or “Sinai Accords” of 1978-79, “Palestine” as such was left on the table and, in addition – of all the possible imbecilities – the Israelis allowed themselves to be saddled with “Gaza” even in the face of the status quo ante of 1967, i.e., they became responsible for all of the future “Palestine.” I have already been through the folly and self-destructive imprudence of giving up the whole of the virtually uninhabited Sinai, including all its airbases, early-warning-time potential, and recreational paradises, while retaining Gaza and, moreover, allowing the question of “Palestine” to remain on the table, in an article I posted previously, “The Stupidity of Sinai.”
So let us travel through the step-by-step “imbecilities” that ensued. First there was the bulldozing of Yamit, the first bulldozing of a “settlement,” and all the other installations the Israelis had built in Sinai and the handing over of the ‘recreational paradises’ of Ophira, Nueiba, and the whole unspoiled and incredible Sinai Red Sea Coast – one of the best skin-diving locales in the world – to say nothing of the fabulous Mt. Sinai itself, to the Egyptians for basically ‘a kiss on the cheek’ and ‘a handshake’ from the seemingly well-intentioned but also extremely clever Anwar Sadat – who was before too long himself then assassinated by this same, now-famous Muslim Brotherhood (1981 – one of the members of which, Amin al-Zawahiri, the co-founder or al-Qaeda), ultimately to morph into Hamas and any number of incipient offshoots up to the present – the “Palestinian issue” and, more particularly, “Gaza” remaining on the table.
But one thing the Egyptians were well clear of (which they had not been in the 1967 status quo ante as indicated) was the ruinous, insoluble problem of “Gaza,” which was left completely ‘on the Israeli plate,’ as it were.
Imbecility nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5? – you name them. We all know what is happening today, how Egypt can act as if it has no part in Gaza commerce, security, or supply matters – to say nothing of smuggling through so-called “tunnels” – while Israel is forced into the Public Relations nightmare (among other nightmares emanating from “Gaza,” also newly-emerged as a vast missile operations and storage center) and now being exploited by Israel’s former partner in the region, Turkey, to regain the former ascendency it enjoyed in Ottoman Days over the whole of the Middle East. If Egypt had been left in control of Gaza, as she had been previously, instead of just Sinai; how many of these things would or could have emerged as issues and been exploited in the way they have been for the last 20 odd years?
But we get ahead of ourselves – besides leaving all the oil and gas supplies in Sinai completely in the hands of the Egyptians (in the wake of “the Arab Spring,” now accompanied by the well-known outcries against such “commerce,” “generosity” and, in any event, presently interrupted), what did our “geniuses” come up with next? Why just a few years later, of course, the 1982 Campaign, chasing the PLO into Lebanon in an attempt to root them out there – to some degree to make up, seemingly, for the perceived weakness of the humiliatingly total withdrawal from Sinai.
And why was this? What did this do? Well, first of all, it got a lot of Israelis killed (nor is this to forget, where Ariel Sharon personally was concerned – not to speak ill of the semi-departed – the above-mentioned bulldozing of Yamit accompanied by its concomitant, the first instance of “settler” resistance and/or wrath). Second of all, instead of dealing with the PLO in “the Palestinian State” of Jordan and doing any occupying, that might have had to be done, there; it dealt with them in the formerly, at least superficially, previously “peaceful” State of Lebanon, to where the Jordanian Government had so cannily “exiled” them after “Black September.”
What did this create? Well, aside from the impression of being a bully and world-wide outrage coupled with international condemnation so that even the Reagan Administration had to call a halt to it (but which has continued and grown ever since); it destroyed the status quo there and the Christian/Druse quasi-hegemony in Lebanon – not to mention “Sabra and Shatilla,” the assassination of Bashir Gemayal, and the first actual Syrian intervention in Lebanon and not the earlier one threatened in Jordan.
But most of all, it awoke the previously quiescent “sleeping giant” of Southern Lebanese, martyr-loving Shi’ism and we all know what became of that – a new and potentially more lethal terrorist organization than the PLO, followed by a Government, Hezbullah, and the PLO, still not destroyed, but rather rescued now (again by the Reagan Administration) and relocated to Tunisia.
So two lethal opponents had now been created and developed, with a third and fourth, ‘Hamas’ and ‘al-Qaeda,’ on the way – all taking inspiration from and imitating the original 1970-71 “Black September” – while, all the time, Jordan sat undisturbed, ostensibly at peace, and the West Bank and Gaza beginning to seethe. All this – including the international outcries which, in the aftermath of this invasion, have grown stronger and stronger and never ceased – and all these things connected to and outgrowths of the PLO and the original “Palestine” Problem from 1969-74.
So then what? We can skip the humiliations of the First Iraq War from 1991-92, when Israel under the George Bush Sr./James Baker Administration was not even allowed to defend itself and the Oslo “Peace Process” really got underway; and hurry along now into the 2000’s, as the rest grows clearer. So you say, you really want “Peace”? Ok, we will give you “Peace” and unilaterally withdraw from South Lebanon (May, 2000). But this did not bring “Peace” but, rather, basically a Hezbullah/Syrian-controlled State in Lebanon, in which the former power-brokers – the Druse and the Christians – were almost completely eclipsed. Forget the assassination of Rafiq Hariri in 2005, still unsolved and unresolved.
The result of this state of affairs and unilateral withdrawal with no quid pro quo brought in 2006, the Second Lebanon War as prosecuted by Ehud Olmert, where Israel was, once again, perceived as an even bigger bully and involved in the complete lunacy of bombing civilian population centers in Beirut – all a total nightmare for Public Relations and a Godsend to the Shi’ite control of Lebanon, now with the addition of militant Iran backing it and Lebanon become yet another and even greater armed missile repository.
Ok, this didn’t work; so what do we try next – again relating to the fact of the “Palestinian-Gaza” problem being still left on the table? Why Sharon’s further unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the protective ring of settlements, he personally had helped establish there – another defeat, humiliation, and trauma almost as great as Yamit. Then “Ha-Shamen” was felled by a stroke (p.b.u.h.). But how did this work out? Well, everyone knows. Gaza has become an international cause célèbre. Plus, the range and potential of its missile storehouse has increased exponentially – yet still Israel remains responsible by both its own lights and in the eyes of the world, now through a sea blockade.
So, enter Turkey into the fray and her Gaza flotillas, not to mention its copycat exploitation of the issue to dominate the whole Arab Middle East and a potential clash at sea with a real military power (empowered and supplied by NATO), not a cardboard one. All this and Israel still being blamed for its attempt to exercise a modicum of control over Gaza, which should have been “returned” to Egypt to deal with in the Sinai Accords way back in 1979.
Oh just great and all brought about, almost always, by one’s ‘shooting oneself in the foot’ (to coin an Americanism) by our “geniuses” – and I haven’t even mentioned helping the Turks capture PKK Leader, Abdullah Ocalan, in 1999 and arming the Turks with Israeli-made drones to hunt down Kurdish Revolutionaries when, all the time she should have been clandestinely arming the Kurds on either side of the border and pouring in arms to the protestors in both today’s Iran and Syria.
So what would backing the 1969-71 Palestinian Revolt in Jordan have achieved? In the writer’s view, almost all of this and none of it – even the 1973 Yom Kippur War might have been avoided by the surprise and audacity of such an unexpected gesture but, as they say, hindsight is twenty-twenty. Still, it was all so obvious then. Instead, what has Israel achieved – why the abandonment of almost all its early “Zionist” dreams, including even the Temple and the Temple Mount, while gradually reducing itself in land mass and extent to present-day atom bomb target numero uno.
Would all of these things have been avoided by a few intelligent decisions? The writer, whom many might designate as “simplistic,” thinks so because then, at least, Israel would have had an address to which to direct its concerns and complaints, instead of flailing out mindlessly in all directions. Moreover, the original intent of “the Mandate” would have been fulfilled. Nor is this to mention the “breathing space” a less-constricted and restricted “Israel” would have been able to enjoy – always important for a healthy citizenry.
Still, if “the Arab Spring” should now come to Jordan, as it presently shows signs of doing, the Israelis should take lessons from all of the above – but, honestly-speaking, it may already be ‘too late.’ The situation is that dire.