Conrad Black: One step closer to Israeli normalization

The last piece of the puzzle is now visible. If it fits, Israel could become a nation like the others, at last

By Conrad Black, NATIONAL POST

Jared Kushner speaks during a meeting with leaders of Israel and UAE announcing a peace agreement to establish diplomatic ties with Israel and the UAE, in the Oval Office of the White House on Aug. 13, 2020 in Washington, DC. DOUG MILLS-POOL/GETTY IMAGES

The announcement on Thursday of the finalization of talks to normalize and tighten relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is an important step toward general Arab acceptance of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. Often forgotten in the endless and bitter wars and arguments over Israel’s status is the fact that it was specifically set up by a unanimous vote of the founding members of the United Nations on the motion of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s ambassador, seconded by U.S. President Harry Truman’s ambassador, at a time when they already agreed on little else, that Israel was being established from the League of Nations mandate as a homeland for the Jews.

This development in 1948 was effectively an acknowledgement by the international community that the unspeakable atrocities inflicted upon the Jewish people in Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe required action by the whole world to give the ancient and talented Jewish people a national home where they could give refuge to their persecuted coreligionists. Vivid in the recollections and the consciences of all Western nations were the pathetic and horrifying travails of the persecuted Jews of Europe in the 1930s.

That had been far from the finest hour of the British Empire. The declaration by foreign secretary and former prime minister Arthur James Balfour in 1917 that after the British had expelled the Ottomans from what had been called in Roman times Palestine, a Jewish homeland would be created that would not compromise the rights of the Arab people already there was a desperate ploy in dark hours of the First World War, as Russia folded, for accelerated American and international Jewish support. The British did not then occupy any of Palestine and Turkey, despite having been reviled for a century as “the sick man of Europe” and “the abominable Porte,” was holding its own and had outlasted Russia in the greatest war in history. But in effect, the British sold the same real estate (which they did not own) to two different and antagonistic parties, and throughout the British occupation of Palestine under a League of Nations mandate, it did a poor job of conciliating the conflicting ambitions of the Jews and Arabs. (In my capacity as a member of the House of Lords in 2002, I felt it my duty to point out to my noble friends, who weren’t enthused to hear it, that given the British performance as overlords of the area it did not lie in the mouths of the British government or Parliament to disparage the efforts of the United States to resolve the proverbially intractable problems of the Middle East.)

Were it not for the strategic importance of the immense oil reserves discovered in Arabia and nearby between the world wars, the view of the world powers toward the Middle East would have been akin to what Otto von Bismarck thought of the Balkans, which he famously asserted were not “worth the bones of one Pomeranian grenadier” (he further declared that the great powers “must not become involved in the quarrels of these sheep stealers”). But the unimaginably barbarous destruction of half of the entire Jewish population of the world in Nazi camps (and although it has been under-recognized, an approximately equal number of non-Jewish victims) made the survival, concentration, legitimization and effective renascence of the Jews an overwhelming practical and moral imperative. The Jewish population of what is now Israel, though it has been present there for nearly 6,000 years, was at one time reduced to only about 30,000 people. The origins of the enduring antagonism between Jews and Arabs, Christian Arabs as much as Muslims, are buried in the mists of antiquity, but it seems that apart from increased general prosperity, the only method of de-escalating that antipathy is the approach of a common threat.

Enhancing the prosperity of the Arab states that are not petroleum-rich, especially Egypt, has generally proved an elusive goal, even as Israel flourished and has advanced in two generations from a mostly undeveloped to a North American standard of living. But the Arabs’ ancient foes, the Turks and the Persians (who have historically been relatively indulgent of the Jews), have now re-entered the theatre and their ambitions are having a halcyon placatory affect on anti-Semitic passions. The militant Palestinian movements, the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Hamas, failed to recognize that the Arab powers were supporting and encouraging them not out of unshakable devotion, but primarily to distract the Arab masses from the misgovernment that they were inflicting upon them. With the Turks and Iranians meddling in Syria and Iran dominating parts of Iraq and promoting civil wars in Lebanon and Yemen, Arab solicitude for the Palestinians has effectively evaporated. At any time in the last 50 years the Palestinians could have had their state, though it would be a diminutive country, but they preferred the worldwide notoriety achieved by Yasser Arafat and some of his entourage than to be the leaders of another dusty little Middle Eastern country.

Now that ship has sailed. At the announcement of the agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the imperishable but tedious Palestinian spokesman Hanan Ashrawi wanly declared that, “We are no one’s fig-leaf.” Perhaps not, but they have no influence either. Mercifully, almost the entire Palestinian public relations campaign against Israel, all the nauseating rubbish about boycotts and disinvestment of the “Jewish apartheid state,” is now almost inaudible. U.S. President Donald Trump, with his often annoying bluntness, recognized these realities in moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, recognizing permanent Israeli control of the Golan Heights and producing with Israel a peace agreement that provided for a sketchy Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip connected by a tunnel, but with most Israeli West Bank settlements consolidated into Israel. The Palestinians rejected it before it was announced, but the Arab powers were circumspect.

It is now clear that Trump, as he showed in leaving an extended period for subsequent negotiation, was prepared to counsel the Israelis to be flexible. The agreement with the U.A.E. specifically postpones any Israeli annexations in the West Bank. Given the close relationship between the U.A.E. and most of the other petro-states, it is reasonable to hope that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman will all be climbing up on this bandwagon soon, and joining Egypt and Jordan in full relations with and recognition of Israel. The North African states will follow them; Syria and Iraq have effectively disintegrated and their official opinions are at present not relevant.

The last piece of the puzzle is now visible: as long as Trump is re-elected, which is likely despite the wishful conjurations of the international Trump-hating media, he will maintain such economic pressure on the ayatollahs, backed up by the explicit threat of military action to prevent Iran becoming a nuclear power, that it will abandon its jihadist crusade and cease meddling in the Arab world. At that point Syria and Iraq could be patched somewhat back together, and in diplomatic terms, Israel could become a nation like the others, at last. Never again.

National Post

August 19, 2020 | 10 Comments » | 495 views

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10 Comments / 10 Comments

  1. “a Jewish homeland would be created that would not compromise the rights of the Arab people”!
    But expelling Jew from every state of N Africa and the ME was/is fair game!

  2. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a unanimous vote, but a bare 2/3rd majority. I know that many abstained (the dirty dogs) and there were about 14-15 against.

  3. I also meant to say that it is far less concise than the usually meticulous and carefully researched articles that Black send in. Like the”6000 years ” of Jewish life there, and a few other very loose and ragged points.

  4. @ Edgar G.: Yes, as best I can recollect only 32 nations actually voted for the partition resoltion, 13 against, and the rest abstentions. The chair of the general assembly at that time ruled that the abstentions should not be counted in determining whether the resolution had received the necessary two-thirds vote.

    Black is confusing the U.N. general assembly vote of 1947 with the League of Nations vote to ratify the mandate document proposed by Britain. That vote was 54-0 in favor, or unanimous. U.S. did participate in this vote, however, because it never joined the League. I don’t think Soviet Russia was a member oof the League at that time, either, although it did join eventually.

    6,000 years is also incorrect. However, if we count Abraham as a Jew, then the Jewish presense in Eretz Israel, assuming that the Biblical narrative is accurate, or at least approximately accurate, is about 5,000 years old.

    I have been following Conrad Black’s articles about Israel for many years, going back to the time more than 25 years ago when he owned the Jerusalem Post. He has made factual mistakes in discussing Israeli history many times. I don’t know why he doesn’t do a little research. He has a problem with fact-checking.

  5. @ Adam Dalgliesh:
    I seem to recall there were 2 votes, and the first one was a vote short. Some time later the second vote passed with 33 for and I think you are correct in saying that there were 13 against, and the rest abstained.

    As for Jewish presence in Israel, Abraham, if he existed must have been around 4000 year ago. Biblical chronology is very inaccurate and can only be “estimated”, as you know. ( like the amount of time the Children of Israel spent in Egypt before Moses led them out). Bishop Ussher (who later went mad) was convincing enough in his day, to have his chronology printed in the margins of all the King James Versions.

    (I think I mentioned here before that one of our factories in Dublin was exactly next door to the Bishop’s former Palace, which still stands, solid as ever..)

    I recall reading that although the US was not a Member of the League because Wilson’s 14 Principles were not adopted. But he did most of the work on it, and produced a copy of the League’s intent, which contained the plan for Mandates, to the Paris Peace Conference. He was the major mandate planner, but became ill. Jan Smuts then carried it forward..

    In fact I seem to recall that he became so ill because of the overwork he did on the Mandate system. I read about it a very long time ago, and likely am not exactly accurate, but…close.

  6. @ Sebastien Zorn:

    I have written this myself many times, and am glad to see it again, from you. What the US Houses endorsed and ratified unanimously (also signed by President Harding, and later conclusively by Calvin Coolidge) was the League of Nations British Mandate for Palestine, in which the Balfour Declaration was embedded , later accepted by the UN as valid and irrevocable-in their Article 80 of their Founding Charter where they accept and carry on all valid League of Nations declarations and agreements..

    The EU, UK and UN mamzerim have had sudden memory losses about this vital matter, as have the vast majority of US politicians, most of whom never heard of it.

  7. @ Edgar G.:
    Yes, they behave as if Non-binding resolutions and personal opinions over-rule actual international law. And, if you point this out to them, they will say that the League of Nations only had 54 members, was guided by the victorious imperialist western powers, and didn’t yet include all the genocidal third-world kleptocracies and Communist states so it’s not REAL international law. Apparently, international law is in the mind of the beholder, not to mention, history.

    I just had a “debate” with the moderator of a group entitled something like 2G children of Holocaust survivors who had posted a pro-Harris article with her in Israel gushing about useful Israel is in combatting climate change and helping Africa and whatnot, and in the course of my defending and her attacking Trump in a stream of general epithets, the only substantive thing she said was that Trump was going to deliver Afghanistan to Russia. I should have pointed out that the Bin Laden with the Taliban drove Russia out of Afghanistan in the 80s, where it had been stuck in a simllar quagmire. But, instead I asked if she also felt we should not have left Vietnam and Iraq and she accused me of gaslighting her.

    This expanded site, which I believe Ted had in his links, at one point, has more detail.

  8. @ Sebastien Zorn:

    At most, in peace time, when the dust had settled, with reparations and treaties made, after the War it could have been about 56…that is, adding Austria, Hungary, Germany, Turkey and Russia. The States under Mandate would not have been included. I think France had Algeria and Tunisia, Italy had Libya, and maybe another. Others although later States, hardly knew what a state was, in relation to modern Europe and the US.

    The UK was able to do what it did because it was the “Brrittish Empiah on which the Sun never set, by Gad sir…!!” And it had much more influence than any of the other powers, as France had been bought off after much haggling. Talk about shouks and casbahs. The British were master hagglers..

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