War and Peace in the Middle East
Clausewitz: “War is the continuation of policy by other means,”
Regarding the stand of Arab nations against Israel, we may as well change the order of words, to emphasize the contemporary state of affairs: “Policy is the continuation of war by other means.”
The idea of Zionism – which is in a simplified definition means the Jewish statehood – was born at the dawn of the Twentieth century, out of desperation. Jews living in Russia and Poland, and some other East European countries, could not take humiliation and senseless bloodletting anymore. Two millenniums of existence without their own country was a vivid evidence that there was no end to their suffering, and eventually their total extermination. Quickly the idea of Zionism grew to a more complex ideology, akin to religion, as the common denominator between the two was the absence of commercial, materialistic considerations. As any ideology or belief, it had some wrong assumptions in the outset, influenced by the communist and socialist postulates, widely spread at that time. One of them was particularly dubious, leading to numerous mistakes of the Israeli leadership and the nation as a whole. This was the assumption that the prime antagonism between the people of all walks of life was the class division – the Marxist definition of it – and the resulting income disparity between the rich and the poor. Ideological animosity and national hatred – a mighty force during all history of humanity – was either ignored, or considered insignificant, to be dealt with in the future. Unfortunately for Israelis, this assumption was a part of the Israeli policy from the day of its official statehood declaration up to the present time. The leadership of the country built their policy on the premise that a peaceful coexistence with the neighboring Arab countries was possible, and more so, desirable to all, as it would lead to mutual prosperity and happy co-existence. In passage of time the reality proved to be the opposite. Even before the establishment of the state, the more Jews arrived at Palestine, the more progress Jewish settlements had, the more hostile the Arab population became. Hatred to Israel spread over the whole Arab world. As a result, the war of 1948 had erupted. Israel won. Hatred to Israel began spreading through the Western Europe.
After following succession of threats, wars and terrorist activity it became clear that the goal of Arab world to destroyIsrael was its first priority. All other considerations dwarfed in comparison. Events of everyday life through all history of Israeli-Arab relations proved without any shade of doubt that hatred toward Israel was forever. When Israel built hospitals and schools for Arabs, they responded with suicide bombers and terrorist attacks. When Israelis made concessions, endangering their own security, they got wars. And yet, in spite of all this, almost half of Israeli population, and often the majority of their leaders, stuck tenaciously to the old idea that peace with Arabs was possible if enough concessions were made.
It is interesting to notice in this respect that with all outstanding mental capacity of Jewish people in all fields of intellectual activity, this nation lacks political maturity and understanding of obvious trends. Its leaders, with rare exceptions, have no vision, no understanding of social, political and ideological trends, shaping the history of humanity in general and the Middle East in particular. So far as the population is concerned, we can call it naïve. But naïveté in leadership is not permissible and has another term: stupidity. The most striking example of wrong assumptions, or rather political blindness, was the peace treaty with Egypt, initiated by Anwar Sadat and happily supported by Jimmy Carter, one of the most hostile presidents of the US toward Israel. In contrast to Begin, Sadat was a leader of poorly educated nation of a Third World country, but with vision, ideas, and enormous diplomatic and political skills. Begin, the leader of one of the most educated nations in the world, had no ability to comprehend long term consequences of the peace treaty as it was finally formulated: it was an agreement with Israel and Anwar Sadat, not with Israel and Egypt. Anwar Sadat, as well as all his country, remained hostile to Israel. Sooner or later Egypt would merge into the wide river of Islamism, and join forces with its aggressive leaders.
In his speech before Israeli Knesset Sadat stated his goal with remarkable precision: “There are facts that should be faced with all courage and clarity. There are Arab territories which Israel has occupied by armed force. We insist on complete withdrawal from these territories, including Arab Jerusalem.”
At that time nobody in Israel had courage to remind him that before 1967 war Israel did not dispute the ownership of these territories, and had no intention to capture them. The war was initiated by the Arab coalition, spearheaded byEgypt, with clearly expressed goal to destroy Israel and reshape the map of the Middle East once and for all. They lost the war: Israel had no choice but to destroy their armies and occupy these territories, and keep them as a safety buffer for its tiny proper. Returning them to Arab countries meant total political defeat and retreat to the precarious situation of the pre-1967 stand-off, and to encourage another attempt of the Arab world to undertake a massive assault. Why not? In case of another defeat, they would re-claim the lost territory by political means.
Sadat took the liberty to instruct Israel what size it supposed to be: “First, ending the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories, occupied in 1967.” If it were not Israel, such demand from the country that lost the war would have sounded ridiculous, if not insane. Can someone reclaim his territory from Russia, or United States? Would the States negotiate with Mexico the return of California in exchange of Mexico’s promise not to stage the war against the US? Can Japan or Germany demand fromRussia the return of their lost territories, or call them ‘occupied’? What would have happened if Egypt won the war and occupied a part of Israeli territory? Would it call this territory occupied? Would it return this territory in exchange of Israeli promise for peace? Would Jimmy Carter help Israel? There is no need to answer these questions.
Further, Sadat insisted on the rights of Palestinian people to return to and live in Israel after it shrunk to the pre-war borders. These demands set a framework of negotiations: how much Israelis, who won the war, would give up back to Sadat and others, or else…
Israel put itself in a position of a loser begging for piece at all cost. It was a total political capitulation after a total military victory. Never before had been any single case in history of humanity when a victorious country gave up the conquered territory. But unthinkable happened: Sadat won. In exchange of returning all Sinai, which would have been the most reliable safety buffer in case of war, Sadat gave Israel a piece of paper, which may, or may not last long, depending on caprice of politics and circumstances.
Sadat’s hostility toward Israel, as well as the hostility of Jimmy Carter, culminated in a final accord of the treaty, one condition of which was America’s military aid to Egypt. It was substantial, almost matching American help to Israel. Since then America supplied Egypt military hardware, know-how, and army training by America’s military personnel. Why Egypt needed such a well-trained army? Who among its neighbors was a serious threat to this country? One does not have to be a genius to realize that this was the politics of war, not peace. American president understood it, Sadat understood it, but Begin… Perhaps he understood it as well, but he decided to give peace a chance at the expense of Israeli security.
To his defense it should be noted that pressure on Begin from Jimmy Carter was enormous. So was the complexity of negotiations. Nonetheless, should Begin have had a clear understanding of historical trends, he would have never signed a peace of paper, which at that time was called Peace Treaty.
The whole world congratulated Israel for its loss and stupidity. Anwar Sadat and Begin got Nobel Peace Prize, one for gain, another for loss. This set a trend: whenever Israel made concessions or became a looser, it got praise from the UN. Whenever it became a winner, or tried to defend itself, it triggered an outrage and outcry of international community.
Now, the agenda of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is to abolish the peace treaty. That simple. “The David Camp accord is over,” Dr. Ayman Nur, the leader of the Tomorrow Party, told the Egyptian radio. What is next?