Time for Another Reassessment
MK Dr. Arieh Eldad
The term “Reassessment” entered the diplomatic discourse between Israel and the United States in 1975. U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger sought to pressure the then prime minister Yitzak Rabin into an “interim agreement” with Egypt, by which Israeli forces would withdraw from the Yom Kippur War ceasefire lines to the Mitla and Gidi passes in Sinai. Kissinger froze U.S. arms shipments and hinted that more drastic measures would follow. Rabin was unfazed and took his case to the Senate. President Gerald Ford and Kissinger relented.
Even at the height of that crisis, the United States did not dare to endanger the heart of its strategic understanding with Israel: Israel’s ambiguous nuclear policy. President Lyndon Johnson and Prime Minister Golda Meir set the policy in 1969 that has been followed by all the presidents and prime ministers since. This policy has often been articulated in written agreements between them but occasionally simply by mutual understanding. “Israel will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East,” said prime ministers Levi Eshkol and Shimon Peres, Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin, and all who followed. U.S. presidents have come and gone; sometimes they had questions, sometimes they asked for clarifications, but ultimately they all accepted the formula and agreed to abide by it. Until Obama.
After his election, Obama promised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to maintain the ambiguity Israel’s ambiguous nuclear policy. Two weeks ago he betrayed Israel.
On May 28, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, which meets once every five years, called unanimously – with America’s support – for Israel to sign the non-proliferation treaty and open its nuclear installations to external supervision. Israel is not a signatory to the treaty; Iran is a signatory, yet Iran is rushing towards production of nuclear weapons. Syria and Libya are signatories, but their signatures have not prevented them from building uranium enrichment plants for military purposes. North Korea built a bomb and tests nuclear weapons, mocking the entire world supposedly opposed to it. Pakistani scientists led by the “father of the Pakistan’s nuclear bomb” Abed Qadeer Khan sold nuclear secrets and technology necessary for the building of nuclear weapons to Iran, Syria, Libya, and possibly North Korea. In the face of this burgeoning industry, the United States gave in to an Egyptian initiative and agreed to single out Israel as the country the world should be worried about. Israel alone was mentioned in the NPT Review Committee’s report. Apparently only its installations need to be examined.
The time has come for a reassessment of U.S.– Israeli relations.
Israel may want the billions of dollars it receives in military aid from the United States, and in the event of a long war, Israel may need the U.S. munitions reserves currently stored in Israel and re-supply lines for the Israeli army; the U.S. market is also of great importance for Israel’s economy; and U.S. intevention often limits Israel’s international isolation. But the fact is, Israel can no longer rely on the support of the United States.
Israel must reassess the value of all American promises, whether they be in writing, made ceremoniously at public festivities, or whispered privately in a room of the White House. He who without batting an eyelash has betrayed Israel on the nuclear issue, a matter whose existential importance to the Jewish state is obvious given the Iranian dash for bomb, will not hesitate to deny other commitments. Obama is currently pressuring Israel to accept dictates that would lead to a Palestinian state in the heart of its country. In return, he offers to guarantee our security, preserve our technological advantage, and ensure the Palestinian state will be demilitarized. Why would anyone in Israel be willing to take existential risks while relying on the commitment of an American president who has betrayed and denied the commitments of his predecessors and forgotten even his own?
One might think that as Israel’s military and political situation worsens, our ability to maneuver opposite the United States decreases. But with our back to the wall and knowing full well that we have no one to rely on, Israel can turn this lack of maneuverability into resoluteness and the dearth of options into strength. When doubts are resolved, fortitude may emerge. The knowledge that American promises are without value is of itself quite valuable. Even a pauper will not agree to give the little he has in exchange for a guarantee openly declared to be worthless.
Obama is no more frightening than Ford. Clinton dislikes us no more than Kissinger did. The sea we are threatened with being thrown into is the same sea. The Arabs are the same Arabs. But the wall our backs are up against is much closer and more dangerous. The depth of Obama’s betrayal must be made known to the American public today. As the November elections approach in the United States, Netanyahu has the opportunity to replicate Rabin’s achievement of 1975.