President Clinton's Middle East machinations in the waning days of his presidency meant much more than just "sound and fury signifying nothing." His desperate attempts to cobble together yet another meaningless agreement between Barak and Arafat also demonstrated the serious damage inflicted on Israel during his administration.
The ramifications of the President's bridging proposals, which now become part of our country's stated foreign policy positions, hold great danger for Israel's future well-being. The latest enunciation of U.S. policy on a divided Jerusalem and Israel's indefensible borders is a natural progression from the Camp David fiasco, as Barak displayed pathetic naivete in relying upon Clinton's promises and blandishments. No match for Clinton's persuasive powers to begin with (and heaven knows whose advice he was relying upon), Barak has been played by Clinton like a violin. A prime example of this was that up until the very last day before the 106th Congress finally adjourned, Barak still believed that he could get the $450 million in additional aid the President had promised him, notwithstanding the near unanimous opinion of Washington insiders that this had always been a non-starter.
Barak had not only erased all his own "red lines," thereby whetting Arab appetites for even more concessions, but he convinced many of Israel's most stalwart followers here that he would now do anything to be re-elected. As columnist Cal Thomas put it, "Barak regrets that he has only one country to give for his political life." In going down the slippery slope of appeasement which Churchill once described as choosing dishonor over war -- and in the end, having both -- successive Israeli governments have been aided and abetted by Bill Clinton. Described by deluded souls in the "peace camp" both here and in Israel as "Israel's best friend ever in the White House," it may be argued that Clinton has done more lasting harm to Israel than any other Chief Executive. But Israel should not take this personally. Clinton has had a way of being all things to all people, with the bedrock principle of his presidency having been political expediency.
If, as alleged, he has been Israel's best friend, he has also been the Palestinians' savior and helped found what will be another terrorist state. His visit to Gaza for the phony repudiation of the PLO Covenant, his ad nauseam hosting of Arafat at the White House, and his compulsive evenhandedness in treating Israel and the Palestinians, have all but demolished Israel's once "special relationship" with the United States. Seeking a role as an honest broker, he showed no partiality toward a long-time democratic ally over a corrupt regime which openly despises our country and our values. All during the recent months of violence and terrorism directed against Israeli soldiers and civilians, administration spokesmen repeatedly "deplored the cycle of violence" and assessed blame equally on "both sides of the tragic conflict." When Israel really needed a true friend, it got instead a dishonest broker in the person of a President desperate to be remembered in history for bringing Middle East peace rather than for the stain of his impeachment.
Surely, one part of the Clinton legacy will be the institutional and blatant meddling in Israel's internal affairs and its democratic process. Not content to have openly rooted for Shimon Peres and later for Barak, or the U.S. Embassy's efforts to mobilize Israeli Arabs for relinquishing the Golan in a referendum, Clinton also despatched his closest political operatives to Israel with their polling, focus groups, and smear tactics. No wonder, then, that Barak "went negative" early, resorting to the most despicable demonizing of his opponent, Ariel Sharon, a man who embodies a spirit of patriotism (and realism) so many in Israel seem to have lost.
Sharon embodies a patriotism so many in Israel seem to have lost.
A combination of Israeli loss of will, Palestinian perseverance, and U.S. policies have created today a nightmare situation for Israel. Under the Clinton plan, Jerusalem is to be divided, with the Temple Mount under Palestinian sovereignty. There are no Israeli security guarantees or any definition of Palestinian "demilitarization" as Israel goes back to essentially its pre-1967 (Auschwitz) borders. And, if you look at Clinton's proposals closely, the Palestinians can indeed maintain their "right to return" to Israel itself as one option. Israel, of course, under Clinton's proposal, can always limit the number of returnees, which is a sure prescription for continued conflict. For the President to state that these proposals would disappear when he departed was not only disingenuous, but insults one's intelligence. But Barak, it seems, cannot be insulted.
William Safire, New York Times columnist and a long-time genuine friend of Israel, put it best recently when he wrote:
"Assume that Clinton's ill-advised brinkmanship and Barak's unending concessions are not driven by legacy lunacy or political desperation, but are intended only to end unending conflict. Ascribing to them even the best of motives, these two lame ducks are doing Israel irreparable harm."
Unfortunately, it is difficult to disagree with this
(Continued on p.4)
February 2001 - 3 - Outpost