Will the Real Secretary of State Please Stand Up?
Will the Real Secretary of State Please Stand Up?

By Israel Zwick

(Authors Note: The following article was inspired by the website “Is the US an Ally of Israel?” http://emperors-clothes.com/gilwhite/ally2.htm. The website was written by Francisco Gil-White, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Deputy Editor at Emperor’s Clothes. Though not Jewish himself, Professor Gil-White has become a staunch advocate of Jewish rights. He is currently working on a book about anti-Semitism and describes himself as “an anthropologist of the wonderful Jews.” For weeks, Prof. Gil-White had been urging me to review his documents. I procrastinated because of their length and complexity. Finally, I printed out all 150 pages and reviewed them. When I expressed some skepticism about the conclusions, Prof. Gil-White challenged me to conduct my own independent research. I accepted his challenge and reviewed over a hundred documents obtained from proprietary databases provided by EBSCO and ProQuest. To my surprise and dismay, I came to the same conclusion that he did. This article, dealing with the role of James A. Baker III, is only a brief excerpt from my research. If I get positive feedback, I would be willing to continue this as a series of several installments. As with my previous articles, the material presented here is not intended to be exhaustive or conclusive. It is intended to stimulate thought, discussion, and action. For those who would like to read more, please visit http://www.bakerinstitute.org/Pubs/workingpapers/BakerInstituteWkspReport.pdf )

When CBSnews.com reported the meeting between President Bush and Mahmoud Abbas on May 26, 2005, they titled the article, “Palestinians Leave D.C. Happy.” The Palestinians had good reason to be happy. Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser Al-Kidwa commented afterwards, “It was a success for the Palestinian side…I don’t think we’ve heard such a clear and comprehensive U.S. position in the past.” What Al-Kidwa was referring to was Bush’s statement, “Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 Armistice lines must be mutually agreed to. A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity of the West Bank, and a state of scattered territories will not work. There must also be meaningful linkages between the West Bank and Gaza…All parties have a responsibility to make this hopeful moment in the region a new and peaceful beginning.”

When Condoleeza Rice held a press conference with Mahmoud Abbas on June 18, 2005, she spoke about a “vision that recognizes the right of the Palestinians to live in peace and security, and of Israelis to live in peace and security.” In an article in the Jerusalem Post on June 24, 2005, Caroline Glick observed that the Bush-Rice “visions” of a Palestinian state, “has no relation whatsoever to the realities on the ground. The reality on the ground is that Palestinian society is unified by a dedication to the destruction of Israel, not the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Despite the inherent dangers, proponents of the disengagement-roadmap plan are still citing its advantages. Yossi Klein Halevi stated their arguments succinctly in an article in the Spring, 2005 issue of Azure Magazine. According to Halevi, “Reducing the demographic threat to Jewish majority, preempting the threat of an international campaign to isolate and demonize Israel, and establishing consensus borders of defense are goals that require serious debate, not dismissal.” In the May, 2005 issue of Foreign Affairs, David Makovsky was even more optimistic, “A successful withdrawal will shatter old taboos, undermine extremists, embolden moderates, and facilitate further withdrawals. A failed effort, meanwhile, will condemn both Israelis and the Palestinians to many more years of violence and despair.” Makovsky and Dennis Ross continued this reasoning in an article in Financial Times on June 21, 2005. According to them, “Israel’s disengagement is about securing Israel’s future as a Jewish democratic state and not holding it hostage to Palestinian behaviour.” They argue that the disengagement plan will prevent the “demographic time bomb” that would destroy Israel. What Makovky and Ross failed to recognize is that the disengagement-roadmap could actually exacerbate the demographic problem, rather than prevent it. The plan would encourage an influx of Arabs who would want to take advantage of opportunities in the economic development of Gaza. It would encourage an exodus of young Israelis who would not be able to find affordable housing within the confining 1967 borders. Then when there are 5 million Jews and 5 million Arabs living in the 1947 borders of British Palestine, there will be international pressure to unite the three fragments into one binational state.

In her article, “Disengagement or Suicide?” in Arutz Sheva on June 16, 2005, Cinnamon Stillwell argued that “the truth is the much-heralded Disengagement Plan that is supposed to bring peace and harmony to the region is likely to have the opposite effect.” Ironically, on the same day that Stillwell’s article was published, the Jerusalem Post reported that “Scores of unidentified gunmen in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night went on a rampage inside a medical center run by Jalilah Dahlan, wife of Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Minister Muhammad Dahlan.” Jalilah Dahlan commented, “This attack reflects the state of anarchy and lawlessness which endangers the lives of people. About 70 gunmen raided the hospital, shooting into the air and destroying everything in their way.” Several days later, in his article, “Nine Questionable Premises of the Disengagement Plan,” David Bedein refuted all of the major arguments presented by the proponents of the plan.

The strong arguments against the Disengagement-Roadmap plan suggest that external factors unfavorable to Israel are fueling and driving this plan. In the popular book “Boomerang,” Israeli journalists Raviv Drucker and Ofer Shalach suggested that Sharon devised the Disengagement Plan to avoid indictment in the Greek Island scandal. Despite the thorough research of the authors, it is difficult to accept that a man like Sharon who devoted the last 60 years of his life to defend Israel, would sacrifice the security of the State to avoid indictment for financial improprieties in his family. Also, there are many other Members of the Knesset and the IDF who are supporting this ill-conceived Disengagement Plan. Does that mean that they are all involved in financial improprieties? Another troubling question is “Why is this plan being implemented so hastily?” After holding these areas for 38 years, is it really necessary to evacuate them in five weeks between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashona? What crime did these 9000 settlers commit that they should be expelled the way Rabin expelled 400 Hamas terrorists to Lebanon in 1992? Haven’t they been loyal citizens of the State of Israel? Haven’t they contributed to the security and economy of the State? Haven’t they served with distinction in the Israeli military? If it is really necessary to destroy these communities, couldn’t it be done over a longer period of time so that the residents can be resettled with the honor, dignity, and respect that they deserve?

All of these questions suggest that there are external influences that are fueling and driving this roadmap plan, which are not in the best interests of the State of Israel. To explore this issue, it is first necessary to go back to the time when there were no Jewish communities in the West Bank and Gaza. Between 1948 and 1967, Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip and Jordan controlled the West Bank. President Nasser publicly called for the destruction of the State of Israel and used the Gaza Strip to stage numerous terrorist acts against Israel. Jews weren’t permitted to live in the West Bank and the Jordanians desecrated and destroyed Jewish cemeteries and synagogues in the area. Jewish students in day schools throughout the world were taught about the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and the Tomb of Rachel near Bethlehem. They were also taught that “Today these areas are controlled by Arabs, and Jews are not allowed to go there.” Yet there was no international effort at all to correct this injustice. Jews were not permitted to step foot into ancestral homelands where they lived for thousands of years.

In May, 1967, President Nasser blockaded the Straits of Tiran to continue his military plan to destroy Israel. In June, 1967, Israel staged a preemptive strike against Egypt. Jordan was warned by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to stay out of the fight. Instead, King Hussein decided to attack Israel. In a difficult battle, costing many Jewish lives, Israel captured Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israelis and Jews around the world were jubilant. They immediately rushed in to see their holy sites. When it soon became obvious that the Arabs were still unwilling to make peace, Jews were eager to reestablish communities in their ancestral lands that existed prior to the 1948 War of Independence.

The reaction of the United States was swift and oppositional. The United States government repeatedly expressed its opposition to any Jewish resettlement in the Jerusalem environs. On July 1, 1969, US Representative Charles Yost told the UN Security Council, “The United States considers that the part of Jerusalem that came under the control of Israel in the June war, like other areas occupied by Israel, is governing the rights and obligations of an occupying Power…the occupier must maintain the occupied area as intact and unaltered as possible, without interfering with the customary life of the area.” Nobody said this when Jordan destroyed Jewish cemeteries and synagogues.

US Ambassador William Scranton told the UN Security Council on March 23, 1976, “Substantial resettlement of the Israeli civilian population in occupied territories, including East Jerusalem is illegal under the [Geneva] convention and cannot be considered to have prejudged the outcome of future negotiations between the parties on the locations of the borders of states by the Middle East.”

On March 21, 1980, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, “US policy toward the establishment of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories is unequivocal and long been a matter of public record. We consider it to be contrary to international law and an impediment to the successful conclusion of the Middle East process.” Several weeks later, President Carter repeated, “Our position on the settlements is very clear. We do not think that they are legal.”

Relations between the United States and Israel took a turn for the worse during the administration of George H.W. Bush beginning in January 1989. Bush appointed James A. Baker III to be his Secretary of State. Baker served as White House chief of staff and Secretary of the Treasury during the Reagan administration when Bush was Vice President. In March, 1989, prior to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s visit to Washington, Baker said, “Now if you cannot have direct negotiations that are meaningful that don’t involve negotiations with the PLO…we would then have to see negotiations between Israelis and representatives of the PLO.” This suggests that Baker now perceived the terrorist PLO as a valid player in the Arab-Israeli dispute.

Shamir responded to this firmly in a speech in Washington on April 6, 1989: “The Arab inhabitants of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza don’t want us in these areas. We cannot risk the life of our country by leaving. The slogan ‘territories for peace’ is a hoax…If we leave, there will almost certainly be war. But we do not want to run the lives of the inhabitants. We want them to have self-rule. We want them to be able to express their national aspirations through the Palestinian state on the east bank of the Jordan. And above all, we want to end the hostility and bloodshed by negotiating with a leadership they elect to represent themselves, not with a terrorist organization based in Tunisia.”

Baker responded with an address to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on May 22, 1989. Baker was careful not to ruffle any feathers in his lengthy policy speech, “Neither the United States nor any other party, inside or outside, can or will dictate an outcome. That is why the United States does not support annexation or permanent Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza, nor do we support the creation of an independent Palestinian state.” Instead, Baker supported, “self-government for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in a manner acceptable to Palestinians, Israel, and Jordan.”

In an article in the New Republic on June 18, 1990, Fred Barnes argued that the Bush Administration’s attitude towards Israel is the biggest impediment to a Middle East peace settlement. According to Barnes, Bush adopted the Carter policies towards Israel instead of the Reagan policies, “Like Carter, Bush thinks the Israelis need to be leaned on to make concessions…Before Israel gets the $400 million loan guarantee, Bush still wants assurances that none of the money will promote expansion of settlement in the West Bank.”

James Baker had a different view about impediments to peace. In testimony to the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on May 22, 1991, Baker said, “I don’t think there is any greater obstacle to peace than settlement activity that continues not only unabated but at an advanced pace.” So according to Baker, Islamic fundamentalism, intolerance, and terrorism were not significant obstacles to peace, but young Jewish families who want to live in their historical homeland were a significant threat to peace.

An editorial in the New Republic on June 17, 1991, titled “The Baker Fallacy,” was highly critical of the Baker statement: “The enlightened orthodoxy in this country that no Jews should be permitted to live among the Palestinian Arabs is a strained conceit. Would the same people be arguing that Palestinian Arabs be similarly banned from living in Israel?…it is absurd to believe that their existence is the linchpin to progress in the region, and that if they were to disappear tomorrow, all problems would be easier to solve…For Mr. Baker, the settlements are a convenient alibi for his failure to produce any Arabs at all for serious negotiations…his vision really asks nothing of the Arab states.”

Baker’s term as Secretary of State ended when Bill Clinton defeated George Bush in 1992. Yet Baker remained involved in Middle East affairs. On December 5, 1996, Baker presented the keynote address at a daylong conference sponsored by the Center for Middle East Peace & Economic Cooperation. According to reporter Shawn Twing, “Baker criticized the Clinton administration for recently abandoning the US government’s long-standing position that Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are ‘obstacles to peace,’ and instead dismissing them as merely “complicating factors.”

According to Baker, “It’s a mistake to change the rules if you want to make progress.” The next day, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns told reporters, “Settlements are a complicating factor, and they’re unhelpful in the Middle East peace negotiations.”

On April 7, 2003, the Toronto Star, reported on an address that Baker gave to the Empire Club of Canada. The Arab American Institute reprinted the article on its website as “Must-Read News.” Baker said, “Land for peace under United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 and 238, therefore, is the only basis upon which the dispute can be settled…Any decision to reopen the roadmap to substantive amendment, for instance, is an open invitation to interminable delay. And there should be no conditions whatever to Israel’s obligation to stop all settlement activity…the United States must press Israel – as a friend, but firmly – to negotiate a secure peace based on the principle of trading land for peace in accordance with UNSC resolution 242.” The implication here is that if only the State of Israel would relinquish a few thousand square kilometers of its vast holdings to the poor, land starved Arabs, then peace would follow shortly.

Baker’s involvement in Middle East affairs continued in the administration of George W. Bush. Naomi Klein wrote a lengthy article on “The Double Life of James Baker” in the November 1, 2004 issue of Nation. According to the abstract, “The article focuses on the conflicts of interest of former US Secretary of State James Baker, who was sent by President Geroge W. Bush as an envoy to Iraq in 2003…There was widespread concern about whether Baker’s extensive business dealings in the Middle East would compromise that mission…Of particular concern was his relationship with merchant bank and defense contractor the Carlyle Group, where Baker is senior counselor and an equity partner with an estimated $180 million stake…The Carlyle Group does extensive business with the Saudi Royal family, as does Baker’s law firm, Baker Botts.”

Even more disconcerting for the State of Israel is a report released on February 4, 2005 by the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. http://www.bakerinstitute.org/Pubs/workingpapers/BakerInstituteWkspReport.pdf

The report was titled, “Creating a Roadmap Implementation Process Under United States Leadership.” The report was based on a workshop chaired by Baker Institute Director Edward Djerejian, former US Ambassador to Syria and Israel. He is currently on the Board of Directors of several companies doing business in the Middle East. The 29-page report focuses on the Disengagement Plan and “An International Plan for Palestinian Economic Rehabilitation.” According to the plan, “The strengthening of the PA is therefore understood to be a necessary precondition to the success of the Roadmap, and at the same time is a precondition for the creation of a permissive environment for economic rehabilitation and international support for economic growth…Palestinian economic rehabilitation over a sustained period of time is necessary for the well-being of the Palestinian people, the success of the first phase of the Roadmap, and the Israeli Disengagement Plan.”

Several statements from the report pose a direct threat to the security of the State of Israel. On page 19 it says, “In order to encourage Palestinian trade, the possibility of establishing Palestinian storage and customs facilities in the Israeli harbors of Ashdod and Haifa and at Ben Gurion Airport should be examined.” On page 21 it states that to “make it possible for the Palestinian people to establish a viable state in the West Bank and Gaza, there is a decisive need for a comprehensive Israeli settlement freeze and the eventual evacuation of Israeli settlements behind a negotiated and agreed border…The US should establish a Settlement Monitoring Office to monitor the settlement freeze and outpost removal.”

The implications of the report should be obvious:

  1. Jews will be confined to living within the 1967 borders, with perhaps minor adjustments.
  2. There will be massive economic rehabilitation of the West Bank and Gaza for the Palestinian people.
  3. There will be a large influx of Arabs into the Palestinian areas to take advantage of economic opportunities.
  4. With limited opportunities for affordable housing in a congested Israel, young Jewish families will be discouraged from living in Israel.
  5. In a short time, there will be 5 million Jews and 5 million Arabs living in the 1947 boundaries of British Palestine.
  6. There will be international pressure to unite the three small fragments of land into one binational state of Arabs and Jews.
  7. The State of Israel will be dissolved and Jews will live under the domination and mercy of an Arab majority.
  8. There will be a mass exodus of Jews to more favorable environments in North America, if they are allowed to emigrate.
  9. Eventually, Jews will be only a small minority in the new Arab state. Perhaps they will be given visitation rights to their holy sites.

Sharon’s rush to implement the Disengagement Plan now makes more sense. By sacrificing a few hundred square kilometers in Gaza, he’s hoping he will be able to stall or prevent the implementation of the rest of the Roadmap plan. However, his plan may backfire. On Sunday, June 26, 2005, Palestinian sources confirmed that leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian radical groups now based in Lebanon and Syria are planning to move to the Gaza Strip after Israel evacuates the area. Also, on the same day the Palestinian Authority warned Palestinians not buy any evacuated land. The PA Interior Ministry said, “These lands belong to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people and no one has the right to trade in them.” This raises the question as to whether these lands will actually be used for peaceful purposes. Even after evacuation, the Gaza Strip will continue to be a big thorn in the side of the State of Israel.

Before the 1967 war, there was a popular song by Barry McGuire called the “Eve of Destruction.” Some of those lyrics seem to be appropriate to the current situation:

Don’t you understand what I’m tryin’ to say

Can’t you feel the fears I’m feelin’ today?

If the button is pushed, there’s no runnin’ away

There’ll be no one to save, with the world in a grave

Take a look around you boy

It’s bound to scare you boy

And you tell me

Over and over and over again, my friend

Ah, you don’t believe

We’re on the eve

Of destruction.

Israel Zwick

(c) 2005, I. Zwick, NYC

Israel Zwick is a commentator on the Middle East based in New York.

Reprinted by permission.