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Friday, November 24, 2006

We are vassals, but alive

We are vassals, but alive
By Avraham Tal

Israel is an independent country, and as an independent country, it has the
right to make decisions that limit its freedom of action in certain areas. The
decision that has always been the basis of its foreign and defense policy -
that policies should be coordinated with the United States - is one such
decision. This is a correct decision, because doing otherwise could cause us
serious, if not existential, harm. But in fact, contrary to what is argued by
critics from the left, no real sacrifices are demanded of us as a result of
coordinating policy with the U.S. What, after all, are we being asked to do?

- Boycott Hamas, or any government in which it participates, as long as it
does not adhere to the Quartet's three principles (recognizing Israel's right
to exist, accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements and abjuring
terror). Is there any point in any other policy? Day and night, Hamas declares
that it will never recognize Israel's right to exist, conducts a terror war
against it and even conditions a proposed 10-year truce on impossible
conditions (withdrawal to the 1967 borders, freedom of action for Hamas in
Jerusalem and immediate action to solve the refugee problem). Even if the
"moderate" faction of Hamas would like to reach some sort of temporary
agreement with Israel, it is clear that Iran and Syria would thwart it; both
countries have the desire and the ability to do this. From Israel's
perspective, there is nothing to hope for from Hamas as long as it persists in
these positions.

- Stick to the American-sponsored road map. As long as there is no other plan
that can realistically promise progress toward a final-status solution, an
interim agreement or a truce under acceptable conditions, with a Palestinian
government that recognizes Israel, there is no point in abandoning the road
map, about which there is a broad consensus. If and when an alternative plan
exists, there is no doubt that the U.S. will be a partner to it, together with

- Do not open negotiations with Syria. If Syrian President Bashar Assad
seriously intends to negotiate without prior conditions (and not "from the
point that was reached in previous negotiations"), then it is within his power
to make a small gesture that would calm the suspicious - not coming to
Jerusalem, of course, but declaring his readiness to meet with an Israeli
leader in a neutral place (and if even this is excessive, what about a small
humanitarian gesture, like returning Eli Cohen's remains?). But he will not
make any gestures toward negotiations, apart from talk, because the return of
the Golan Heights is not his top priority, and an agreement with Israel
contradicts the essence of his policy as (perhaps the last) standard bearer of
Arab nationalism: working toward Israel's disappearance from the Middle East
in the long run. This is clear from Syria's consistent support for extremist
terror organizations in general and Hezbollah in particular. For Syria,
regaining control of Lebanon is a goal that takes precedence over, and is
preferable to, regaining the Golan, which can wait until Israel is weakened by
the combined pressure of Palestinian terror and the Iranian threat.

None of these issues justify damaging our close ties with the U.S., and the
advantages of lining up with it are clear:

- If agreements are ever achieved between the U.S. and Syria and/or the U.S.
and Iran, it is worth reading a sensible article in this week's Economist
magazine to see how slight the chances are that Israel would be hurt by this.
On the contrary: Its interests as a faithful ally of the U.S. will be taken
into account in any such agreements.

- The U.S. coordinates, and will continue to do so as long as there is no
fundamental change in the circumstances, with the bloc of moderate Arab
states. Thus via the U.S., Israel is "annexed" to this bloc.

- For years, Israel has received American cover for its nuclear program, and
this protects it from international pressure. And coordination with the U.S.
will be even more essential if Iran's nuclear plans come to fruition. In that
case, Israel will need an arrangement that provides it with an American
umbrella for deterrence purposes.

- There is no need to expand on the importance of continuing American support
in the international arena, and particularly at the United Nations. American
military aid also continues to be essential - less from the financial
perspective (Israel is capable of raising the equivalent of the military grant
from its own resources) than from the military perspective (relatively free
access to advanced weaponry, etc.).

Israel is often depicted by its enemies abroad and its critics at home as a
"vassal" or even a "satellite" of the U.S. Being a vassal of a foreign power
does not sound nice, but it must be remembered that the U.S. is an
enlightened, democratic feudal lord committed to Israel's security and its
territorial integrity. It is not its close relationship with the U.S. that is
Israel's main problem in 2006, but rather serious problems in the conduct of
government, blunders in the security sphere, neglect in the social sphere and
corruption. The focus must be on these. Devaluing our relations with the U.S.
would be a stupid and misconceived act of unparalleled proportions.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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