Freeze debate should take into account some facts about settlements, US politics
by Yoram Ettinger
1. The complex nature of Jewish construction in the settlements:
* If Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria prejudges the outcome of negotiation, wouldn't Palestinian construction in Judea and Samaria have the same effect?!
* If the uprooting of Jewish communities advances peace, why would the uprooting of Arab communities undermine peace?!
* The call for uprooting Arabs is immoral; isn't the uprooting of Jews just as immoral?!
* If the 300,000 Jews, among 1.5 million Arabs, in Judea and Samaria constitute an obstacle to peace, how would one define the 1.5 million Arabs, among 6 million Jews, within pre-1967 Israel?!
* If Jewish settlements/communities in Judea and Samaria (established1967) constitute the obstacle to peace, why was the PLO established in 1964?! Why did anti-Jewish Palestinian terrorism flare up during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s?! Why did the Arab-Israel wars erupt in1948/9, 1956 and 1967? Why did an unprecedented Palestinian terrorism surge follow the 1993 Oslo Accord and the 2005 uprooting of 25 Jewish communities in Gaza and Northern Samaria?!
* Past freezes, slowdowns and dismantling of Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria intensified pressure and exacerbated terrorism – what would be the impact of another freeze?!
2. White House promises, guarantees and commitments by US presidents are evasive and illusive:
They are replete with escape routes, ambiguity, non-automaticity, and always subject to US' – and not the recipient's – interests. Even the tightest US treaty – with NATO – allows the US to consider the activation of military force.
3. Precedents of US commitments raise doubts:
* The 1954 US-Taiwan defense treaty was concluded by President Eisenhower and terminated by President Carter in 1979.
* In 1957, Israel retreated from the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for President Eisenhower's Executive Agreement, which committed US military deployment should Egypt violate Sinai's demilitarization and blockade Eilat.
* In 1967, Egypt violated Sinai's demilitarization and blockaded Eilat, but President Johnson declared his predecessor's commitment non-binding.
* In 1975, President Ford sent an official letter to Prime Minister Rabin, declaring that the US shall give great weight to Israel's position that the Golan Heights should remain under Israel's control. In 1979, President Carter declared Ford's letter non-committal.
* In 1982, President Reagan stipulated – in order to overcome Congressional opposition – that the F-15s sold to Saudi Arabia would not be stationed in Tabuq, south of Eilat. In 2003, President Bush justified the Saudi deployment of the fighter planes to Tabuq by altered strategic regional circumstances.
* In 1991 President Bush promised Prime Minister Shamir – in return for Israeli restraint in face of Iraqi Scud missiles - to favorably consider granting Israel $10 billion loan guarantees for the absorption of one million Soviet Jews, and to dedicate 30% of the bombing in West Iraq to the destruction of the Scud launchers. Prime Minister Shamir kept his side of the bargain; President Bush did not!
* In 2000, President Clinton promised Israel $800 million for the retreat from Southern Lebanon, none of which has reached Israel.
4. An American president is not omnipotent, and Congress has the capabilities to enhance US-Israel cooperation:
An American president represents one third of the US government, equal in power to the other third, the US Congress. Unlike the Parliamentarian system, a US president does not determine the list of candidates to the Legislature, the identity of congressional leaders, nor the slate of legislation to be introduced in Congress. A president is constrained by a robust system of checks and balances and by a complete separation of powers between the Executive and the Legislature.
It was Congress – sometimes in defiance of presidents - which terminated US military involvement in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Angola and Nicaragua, facilitated the Jewish Exodus from the USSR (the "Jackson-Vanik Amendment"), cut foreign aid to Turkey following the latter's invasion of Cyprus, accelerated the fall of South Africa's White Regime (overriding Reagan's veto), etc.
In 1991, Congress forced President Bush to transfer to Israel $700 million worth of military systems, in addition to a $650 million emergency grant and the refurbishing of the port of Haifa for the benefit of the Sixth Fleet.
5. Congress shares policy-making power, while possessing exclusive legislative power:
Congressional posture is bolstered during economic crises (e.g. currently) and presidential posture is enhanced during wartime.
In 1995 and 1999, Congress intended to force the president to transfer the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but Israel's prime ministers urged Congress to temper the legislation, thus dooming the effort.
In October 1998 – a few days before the convening of the Wye Plantation Conference – Democratic congressional leaders told Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: "When it comes to opposing pressure on Israel, we are with Newt (Gingrich)." However, an Israeli prime minister pulled the rug from under their feet….
The US Congress – equipped with the Power of the Purse – has the Constitutional capabilities to initiate, suspend, amend and rescind policies. Congress can direct presidents to exercise the veto power at the UN Security Council, supply Israel with vital military systems in face of mutual threats, etc.
Will Jerusalem learn from history by repeating – or by avoiding – critical errors?!
More Quotes About "Palestine"
"There is no such country as Palestine. 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. 'Palestine' is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it".
- Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, Syrian Arab leader to British Peel Commission, 1937 -
"There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not".
- Professor Philip Hitti, Arab historian, 1946 -
"It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria".
- Representant of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations, 1956 -
Concerning the Holy Land, the chairman of the Syrian Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in February 1919 stated:
"The only Arab domination since the Conquest in 635 c.e. hardly lasted, as such, 22 years".
"There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent (valley of Jezreel, Galilea); not for thirty miles in either direction... One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. For the sort of solitude to make one dreary, come to Galilee... Nazareth is forlorn... Jericho lies a mouldering ruin... Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and humiliation... untenanted by any living creature... A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent, mournful expanse... a desolation... We never saw a human being on the whole route... Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil had almost deserted the country... Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes... desolate and unlovely...".
- Mark Twain, "The Innocents Abroad", 1867 -
"In 1590 a 'simple English visitor' to Jerusalem wrote: 'Nothing there is to bescene but a little of the old walls, which is yet remayning and all the rest is grasse, mosse and weedes much like to a piece of rank or moist grounde'.".
- Gunner Edward Webbe, Palestine Exploration Fund,
Quarterly Statement, p. 86; de Haas, History, p. 338 -
"The land in Palestine is lacking in people to till its fertile soil".
- British archaeologist Thomas Shaw, mid-1700s -
"Palestine is a ruined and desolate land".
- Count Constantine François Volney, XVIII century French author and historian -
"The Arabs themselves cannot be considered but temporary residents. They pitched their tents in its grazing fields or built their places of refuge in its ruined cities. They created nothing in it. Since they were strangers to the land, they never became its masters. The desert wind that brought them hither could one day carry them away without their leaving behind them any sign of their passage through it".
- Comments by Christians concerning the Arabs in Palestine in the 1800s -
"Then we entered the hill district, and our path lay through the clattering bed of an ancient stream, whose brawling waters have rolled away into the past, along with the fierce and turbulent race who once inhabited these savage hills. There may have been cultivation here two thousand years ago. The mountains, or huge stony mounds environing this rough path, have level ridges all the way up to their summits; on these parallel ledges there is still some verdure and soil: when water flowed here, and the country was thronged with that extraordinary population, which, according to the Sacred Histories, was crowded into the region, these mountain steps may have been gardens and vineyards, such as we see now thriving along the hills of the Rhine. Now the district is quite deserted, and you ride among what seem to be so many petrified waterfalls. We saw no animals moving among the stony brakes; scarcely even a dozen little birds in the whole course of the ride".
- William Thackeray in "From Jaffa To Jerusalem", 1844 -
"The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is of a body of population".
- James Finn, British Consul in 1857 -
"The area was underpopulated and remained economically stagnant until the arrival of the first Zionist pioneers in the 1880's, who came to rebuild the Jewish land. The country had remained "The Holy Land" in the religious and historic consciousness of mankind, which associated it with the Bible and the history of the Jewish people. Jewish development of the country also attracted large numbers of other immigrants - both Jewish and Arab. The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts... Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen... The plows used were of wood... The yields were very poor... The sanitary conditions in the village [Yabna] were horrible... Schools did not exist... The rate of infant mortality was very high... The western part, toward the sea, was almost a desert... The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants".
- The report of the British Royal Commission, 1913 -