What America wants

It is hard to believe, but it is happening. The primary US interest in the Arab countries has always been oil. And yet today, when conservation programs, solar energy, and other by-products of advanced technology have reduced the world’s dependence on oil, the Arab bias in American foreign policy has grown instead of being reduced.

It does not make sense. There is no question in anyone’s mind that Israel is America’s only reliable friend in the Middle East. No one has forgotten that less than a decade ago Arafat, Assad, and others were openly declared enemies of American policy. Their speeches are on record. All that is necessary to do is open the archives of any newspaper. Indeed, anti-American slogans are so much a part of their rhetoric that even today they occasionally voice them. And yet, in three-way negotiations, they are getting the upper hand.

So what happened? The fundamental difficulty is that Israel has not had the strength to stand up against pressure. What she has won on the battlefield, she has surrendered at the negotiating table.

It is true that America pressured Israel. But America did pressure or would have also pressured the Arabs. When an American president or negotiator sits down with Arabs and Israelis, his intent is the bottom line: that an agreement be signed. He is not so much concerned with the nature of the agreement. He assumes that each party will watch out for its own self-interest. What he is concerned with is that the parties walk out of the room having signed an agreement. And to make sure that objective is reached he will use both a carrot and a stick.

What has happened? Time and time again, the Israelis have buckled under pressure. Even when all the cards were in their hand, they have given in to Arab demands. Take, for example, the Camp David agreements: Carter needed a treaty for his election campaign. Sadat needed a treaty to put himself in the American camp. He had already burnt all his bridges behind him. Who had the strongest position? Begin. And yet he gave in to all the Arab demands.

Of course there was pressure, intense pressure. But if Begin had said “No,” that same pressure would have been exerted on Sadat, and he could not have afforded to say no. Nevertheless, Begin conceded.

This did not happen only once. On the contrary, a pattern was established. When an agreement was necessary, pressure was applied on Israel, and almost inevitably, she conceded.

And so, it became almost a knee-jerk reaction in the State Department: Apply pressure to Israel; it works.

Also, the logical basis for the Israeli position became weakened, for the red lines were always being redrawn. The Americans never really knew what was really not up for negotiation.

The proof of the argument is that on several occasions, Israel has stood firm, and refused to compromise her position; for example (until the rise of the Peres government), on the status of Jerusalem. In these instances, despite the fact that there were Arab demands and American pressure, when the Arabs saw that Israel was firm and would not compromise on these issues, they were removed from the agenda.

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