by Gerald A. Honigman
Former Lebanese patriot and Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, was recently assassinated in Beirut. While he had other enemies, this has the mark of Syria all over it. Hariri had recently become vocal in demanding the withdrawal of thousands of Syrian forces from Lebanon, and the Syrians had dealt with others of Hariri’s persuasion in a similar way. Many, if not most, Syrian leaders have never really recognized the legitimacy of an independent Lebanon. The civil war a few decades back (which they had connections to as well) gave Damascus the excuse it needed to reassert at least part of age-old “Greater Syria” schemes and machinations.
Meanwhile, on another front Syria is deeply involved with, consider the following…
An American President–the first since Harry Truman in 1948–finally took a political stance in April 2004 that might, in the long run, actually further the peace process between Arab and Jew in the Middle East… if given half a chance. Since his reelection in November, however, Dubya has already appeared to back off from this just and courageous move.
Regardless of some serious potential drawbacks, President George W. Bush’s earlier public announcement that Israel should not be expected to slit its own throat by absorbing millions of real or fudged descendants of Arab refugees nor have to return to the U.N. imposed Auschwitz/armistice lines of the post 1948 fighting was–and still can be–a positive development.
Dubya’s new Secretary of State’s lectures to Israel lately about the contiguity of the Arabs’ proposed 22nd state, however, seem to send a signal that the President’s earlier, alleged concern for just borders for the Jews’ lone, miniscule state was simply a campaign ploy.
I hope I’m wrong…I voted for him this time.
While the precise wording and such of U.N. Resolution 242 has been known for quite some time, the State Department has now spent decades trying to distort the interpretation of it to require Israel to return to its fragile, 9-mile wide armistice line existence. I had hoped–everybody was saying it–that Dr. Condoleeza Rice could resist the typical Arabist Foggy Bottom sway in moving ahead on such issues.
The main problem that immediately followed in the wake of the President’s April 2004 announcement has been all the derriere-kissing and pandering to the predictable Arab “rage” by the media, anti-Israel academia, and such. And with the sweet-talking “let’s destroy Israel, but by other, more acceptable means” Mahmoud Abbas now on the scene, there is even more pressure on Israel to make unilateral concessions and to forsake sanity and its own interests.
The Foggy Folks continuously muddy the waters here. No surprise. They actively opposed President Truman’s recognition of Israel in the first place back in ’48, and not a few multinational oil and other big business folks, with lucrative ties to the Arab oil sheikhs, have made it into the highest ranks of the State Department.
If Dubya followed through with his April formula, then Arabs–faced, at long last, with the reality that America’s policy will not reincarnate that of Allied Europe, when Czechoslovakia was sacrificed by its “friends” at Munich in 1938 over the issue of a heavily German-populated Czech Sudetenland–the Arabs (when the dust finally settles and Abbas and other leaders realize that they can’t have it both ways) will likely have to either fish or cut bait if they expect to ever gain anything beyond simply killing Jews from all of this mess. Again, that is if the Foggy Folks and their new chief (who evidently adopted or concurs with their line) don’t emasculate the potential here.
A few New Years’ ago, the President spent the holiday hunting quail with George Sr. and James Baker, a close family friend. Chances are pretty good that they traveled farther to do this than the State of Israel is in width. I’ve heard that Dubya once said that some Texas driveways were longer than the latter. He needs to remember this.
Now I have nothing against hunting per se, as long as it’s done in a sustainable way to put food on the table. Only vegetarians have a right to protest, and I’m not quite there yet. Furthermore, while I voted for the other guy the last time around, I’m no Bush-basher either. And again, although I have problems with the family’s oil ties and related worrisome environmental record, I wound up voting for Dubya anyway this past November.
So what bothers me here isn’t the quail that are being hunted nor the hunters.
My problem lies with the influence James ” _ _ _ _ the Jews, they don’t vote for us anyway” Baker continues to have on the Presidential family, and an even more bothersome worry that the family really shares many of these same ideas with or without his influence. I have a feeling that Daddy and James are peas of the same pod, but I was hoping, despite the odds, for something better from the son. Dubya quotes, after all, from Joshua in the Hebrew Bible…but then (up until his recent public announcement) apparently espouses Judea becoming mostly Judenrein in the next breath.
To anyone concerned about Israel not being shortchanged in terms of justice, it is indeed worrisome to see the reemergence of James Baker III on the political scene. He has evidently been appointed as Dubya’s personal envoy to the Middle East, and now that he has been reelected, apparently anything goes. Witness Dubya’s own recent statements and those of Dr. Rice’s, for example.
Bush now has nothing to lose in terms of angering a large segment of his supporters–Christian Evangelicals–if he follows Baker’s and Foggy Bottom’s lead since this will be his last term in office. On this same issue, however, the Democrats have been even worse…Mr. Peanut, for example, was likely their future main man in the Middle East and has never met an Arab disemboweler of Jewish babes and grandmas that he didn’t blame the Jews themselves for. Headaches…
Baker has been in the background for decades, especially since his close friends, the Bushes, gained ascendancy in American politics. His law firm represents Saudi Arab interests in this country and typifies how people move through the revolving doors of businesses tied to Arab interests back and forth into government positions–especially those in Foggy Bottom. Baker’s law partner, Robert Jordan, was appointed ambassador to Saudi Arabia by President Bush in 2001. Casper Weinberger and many others have been through these lucrative doors as well. Most often, their influence has spelled trouble for an Israel trying to get a fair hearing.
While Bush the First was at the helm, widespread published reports circulated that Secretary of State Baker promised Hafez al-Assad the same deal on the Golan Heights as Egypt’s Sadat received in the Sinai Peninsula…a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces. And this was prior to negotiations between the parties themselves…a promise Baker evidently made to Saddam’s twin butcher, author of the “Hama Solution,” and such. Hama was the town that dared oppose Assad and suffered tens of thousands of casualties within a few months as a result…far more than Arabs have suffered after several years of intifada and suicide bombings launched against Israel. And with no United Nations’ inquiries or trial in Geneva either. I won’t even get into Syria’s past and renewed atrocities against its own non-Arab Kurds a la Saddam in Iraq.
In a Time magazine article on February 13, 1989, Baker spoke of Israel as being a turkey to be hunted and carefully stalked. He has referred to Jews working for him and doing his bidding (including the current American Ambassador to Israel) as his “Jew boys.”
What most folks don’t realize is that the Golan was a hotly contested region ruled by many different peoples–including Jews–over the millennia. Furthermore, it was part of the original Mandate of Palestine Britain received after World War I until imperial politics prompted a trade off with France in 1924. Up until then, the Ottoman Turks–not Arabs–were the latest imperial power to rule over it…and for four centuries. And when the Arabs ruled over it even earlier, it was also as a conquering, imperial power.
Presidents Bush and Baker know full well how modern Syria used its acquisition and position on the Golan prior to ’67 to rain death on Israeli kibbutzim and fishermen in the Sea of Galilee below. And they also know the losses Israel took to end that state of affairs when war was forced upon it–largely via Syria’s instigations and game playing with Nasser’s Egypt–in 1967.
A bit later, had it not been for Israeli forward positions on the Golan, it was an easy downhill assault into Israel proper when Syria attacked in the Yom Kippur War in 1973. And if you believe that Israel was attacked to simply retrieve “occupied lands,” I have two bridges to sell you.
The passes Israel now controls greatly prevent a renewed Syrian assault. Additionally, much of Israel’s water supply originates in this area…a vulnerability Syria is well aware of and has tried to cash in on in the past. Indeed, when Israel later offered almost an entire retreat from the Heights, negotiations broke down because of Syria’s insistence that it be allowed to hold Israel virtually captive this way. As usual in negotiations with Arabs, Israel was expected to make all the hard, concrete concessions, in return for “promises” of good behavior (made to be broken) from the Arabs.
What’s particularly even more worrisome is that if Syria had not blundered into supporting Saddam against America in Iraq, the Administration–with Baker’s and Foggy Bottom’s active prodding–would be all set to turn the screws on Israel vis-à-vis the Golan.
So what gives here?
Up until now, it looked like our President was able to distance himself from the troublesome record of the past.
His Dad’s venomous attack against Israel when the latter launched its surgical strike against Saddam’s Osirik nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981 still haunts my memory. It angered too many of his Arab oil buddies and their State Department allies. Just think where all of us may have been now had Israel not done this…including the Iranians, who fought a long war with Iraq soon afterwards, and who now lead the pack in anti-Israel fulminations.
But as the months progressed after the toppling of Saddam in Iraq, the President’s line in the Middle East sounded more and more like the same one constantly pushed by Daddy, Baker, and Foggy Bottom: “Justice for Arabs and _ _ _ _ everyone else.” Dr. Rice’s lectures about bantustan, contiguity, and such are a case in point.
Has anyone heard of a roadmap, for instance, for some thirty million truly stateless Kurds yet…America’s best friends in Iraq, and the folks whom the Arabs are likely to slaughter yet again when America finally withdraws? Arabs must have some two dozen states, but Kurds are forbidden even one. What’s wrong with this picture? Nauseating…but “justice,” Foggy Bottom style. At an earlier press conference when Condy was asked about Kurdish aspirations, she quickly shot them down. Imagine if someone had asked this of her on behalf of Arab aspirations? But we don’t have to imagine…
So, while the President’s earlier remarks were promising, as we have seen, there appears to be very serious backsliding regarding them. Nothing he said, after all, was even legally binding. The Foggy Folks were quick to point that out. Israel had received promises before from American Presidents in return for important concessions it was coerced into making, only to see them evaporate when they were needed in the crunch.
Think about this…
America can acquire, conquer, or whatever land and manipulate, topple, or whatever governments in the name of its own national security interests, and the Brits can fight a war off the coast of Argentina in the name of their own interests, and so forth, but how dare Israel build a fence to keep Arab bombers from blowing up its kids that does not precisely cling to its pre-’67, 9-mile wide Auschwitz/armistice line existence or insist that a compromise is in order to assure that Baby Assad doesn’t follow in Papa’s footsteps. Right now he has an incentive not to do so: Israeli long range artillery on the Golan are in a position to potentially do unto Damascus what Damascus actually did unto Jews for two decades prior to ’67. Think of all the shameful flak Israel has caught over these issues.
Not wanting to be left out in light of the recent, mostly sham Israeli-Arab summit and such, Baby has also made some noise lately regarding allegedly wanting to renew negotiations with Israel. Arab mortars and rockets continued to hit Jews as soon as the Arab leaders left the “summit” proclaiming their “ceasefire.” Also keep in mind Assad’s ties to Hizbullah and its thousands of rockets aimed at Israel in Lebanon (where Syria still has thousands of troops) and the Iranian would-be nuclear mullahs. Guess who their primary target is?
Every military expert who has visited the Golan from abroad has given the same advice: Israel would have to be suicidal to return to the status quo ante here. Israel doesn’t have the wriggle room on the Golan or in Judea and Samaria/West Bank that it had in the Sinai. Yet reports have recently been coming out that Washington is concerned that Israel is solidifying its position on the Golan and will undoubtedly eventually put the squeeze on here as it has done vis-à-vis the West Bank.
Keep in mind Baker’s earlier statements and manipulations… He’s back.
Of course, one could hope that if Mr. Bush eventually stands by and solidifies his April 2004 position regarding Israel being entitled to meaningful territorial compromise on the West Bank, he’ll also take the same position regarding the Golan. Only time will tell here. But, meanwhile, there’s plenty to be concerned about.
Gaza, after all, since the days of the Pharaohs, has been historically used as an invasion route into Israel proper and is currently a rejectionist terrorist stronghold which smuggles weapons to slaughter Jews in from the modern Pharaoh across the border. Yet it is poised to become ethnically cleansed of Jews who lived on their own, not “Arab,” land. And it still remains to be seen just how much of the strategically important West Bank Israel will actually “be allowed” to retain.
All of this, however, has the potential of another Baker/State done deal scheme in the making, with G_d knows what kind of behind the scenes’ pressure that has been exerted on Ariel Sharon. Again, think about what might very likely be going on right now–given Baker & Co.’s track record–if the Syrians weren’t so stupid. And think about what might happen if things go sour for America in Iraq. Israel will likely, yet again, be the sacrificial offering to improve Arab relations.
No, the problem really has nothing to do with quail.
But it has everything to do with demanding that Israelis remain forever as sitting ducks, for that is what a return to the pre-’67 armistice lines amounts to, whether in Judea, Samaria or on the Golan.
It is a matter about justice for somebody else besides Arabs in the region for a change.
Hopefully, this message will eventually, and in a lasting manner, finally sink in to Mr. Bush and he’ll deal appropriately with those who still don’t get it.