Behind the Headlines the Crisis in Cyprus Opens a Pandora’s Box for Israel
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Behind the Headlines the Crisis in Cyprus Opens a Pandora’s Box for Israel

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The ongoing fighting in Cyprus with the continuing military advances by Turkey has created widespread anxiety in Israel that what is happening in the war-torn eastern Mediterranean island may be a mirror of its own future. This anxiety is aggravated by a growing concern that the United States government and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger are both suffering loss of prestige in the West as a result of the Cyprus crisis and that this loss may have disastrous consequences for the Middle East.

The loss of prestige is focal to Israel because of her dependence on the U.S. to help establish a lasting peace — not merely disengagements — in the Middle East. There is also concern in Israel that the Soviet Union is taking advantage of America’s diplomatic setback to fill the breach as peace-maker in Cyprus and, if successful, will continue from there to find a way to play a more preponderant role in the forthcoming Mideast peace talks. America’s inability to help halt the fighting in Cyprus and her inability to persuade Turkey from continuing its military advances comes at a particularly perilous time for Israel in view of the Soviet Union’s re-arming of Syria.

Political analysts close to the Israeli scene here note that basic questions are now being pondered by Israel: If the U.S. has been unable to swing its diplomatic weight to heal the split in Cyprus and has been unable to prevent Turkey from seizing on the military field what it was unable to get at the Geneva talks, what weight can the U.S. be expected to muster in the Geneva Mideast peace talks?; if the U.S. can “tilt” toward Turkey, as so many European analysts claim despite U.S. denials, how will she “lean” in the Mideast peace talks?; and if Turkey was able to ignore the peace talks and grab some 40 percent of Cyprus, what will prevent the Arabs from pursuing a similar policy toward Israel in the future?


In short, just how willing is the U.S. at this time to become involved in pulling some one else’s political chestnuts out of the fire? Moreover, if the U.S. has been involved in a juggling act between two indispensable allies — Greece and Turkey — what are the chances for a straightforward U.S. policy in the Mideast? Kissinger has served notice all through the Cyprus crisis that the world should not expect the U.S. to intervene every time there is a crisis and that he personally has no intention of taking responsibility for resolving all conflicts.

The Secretary made this painfully clear last week when he told an American Legion convention in Miami Beach that the American attitude towards turmoil in many parts of the world, including Cyprus, would be “that we cannot be the world’s policeman but that we will always listen to reason. We will act in foreign policy as trustees of the future, conscious that we will be judged on how well we built an enduring peace and not how often we bowed to emotional demands of the moment.”

According to observers, Israel can draw little consolation from this statement in view of her own imperative needs. The unease experienced in Israel about what appears to be a new Washington line on international conflicts was echoed last week by Rabbi Israel Miller, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. He told reporters representing the Israeli and Jewish press that he was concerned over events in Cyprus because the mystique of Kissinger has worn off and because the nation with military power presents facts — as Turkey has done — and the world accepts it.

The lesson of Cyprus is a lesson, as one source noted, of botched U.S. diplomacy, the inability to have recognized potential trouble after Archbishop Makarios was overthrown (July 15) and the lackadaisical, almost indifferent attitude, the U.S. displayed after Turkey enlarged its hold on Cyprus after the breakdown of the Geneva peace talks two weeks ago.”


Another observer noted that the Soviet Union’s proposal for an international conference — which calls for all 15 members of the United Nations Security Council, Greece and Turkey and Greek and Turkish Cypriotes — to take over the task of seeking a solution for divided Cyprus may also be a harbinger of Soviet demands in the Mideast peace talks.

“If the U.S. has not been able to use its clout with Turkey what will she do if Russia flexes her political muscles regarding future Mideast talks?” this observer asked. “If America knuckled under once, will she do it again?” Influential European analysts have noted in the past two weeks that if the example of Turkey — ignoring the Geneva peace talks and flaunting them with a military fait accompli — is successful, “it would have devastating consequences.”


There is already widespread anger and mounting anti-American feelings in Greece and Cyprus. These feelings reached a tragic climax last Monday when U.S. Ambassador Rodger Paul Davies was shot to death when an angry crowd of Greek Cypriotes stormed the U.S. Embassy building in Nicosia to protest U.S. policy in the strife between Greece and Turkey.

The U.S. has also been a target of demonstrators in Athens. An Associated Press photo from the Greek capital several days ago showed a group of demonstrators holding a placard reading, “Kissinger Killer.” These feelings have also spilled over into anti-Israel feelings. The JTA reported last Friday from London at least one leading Athens newspaper repeatedly refers to Kissinger as “the German Jew Kissinger.” The Aug. 16 editorial of the left-wing daily, “Athenaiki,” accused the U.S. of having treated the Greek government and people as “serfs,” and declared: “We no longer want to be the ‘sole means of survival’ for any more Israels.”

For Israel, therefore, the crisis in Cyprus underscores its own vulnerability should the U.S. find it expedient to adopt a policy of indifference to “small conflicts” being settled by force. Observers note that Israel is beginning to wonder whether the U.S. might not begin to abandon its international commitments to help achieve peace in conflict-torn areas and begin to reassess her relationships between former friends and foes. If the friendship the U.S. had for Greece over the decades did not prevent her from stopping Turkey’s military inroads on Cyprus might not the U.S. adopt a similar stance in the future should the Arabs make similar inroads in Israel?

Observers also note that Israel is beginning to feel that there are forces in the new Administration in Washington that may try to force the Jewish State to surrender to Arab demands in order to offset its diplomatic setbacks in Cyprus. This feeling was underscored last Sunday when President Ford and King Hussein signed a joint communique in Washington calling for continuing consultations between Amman and Washington “with a view to addressing at an appropriately early date the issues of particular concern to Jordan, including a Jordanian-Israeli disengagement agreement.


Israel and Jewish leaders in the U.S. have indicated that the U.S. is being “too friendly” to the Arabs. Miller, for example, noted that U.S. statements after Administration officials conferred with Hussein and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmy went beyond “good friendship.”

Israelis are wondering whether in the future if the U.S. is forced to choose between her indispensable ally Israel and her new found friends among the Arabs, the Middle East will become another “Cyprus test” for the U.S. Will Israel be viewed as another Greece or another Turkey by the U.S.? No one is claiming that the U.S. will permit the Arabs to cut a swath through Israel as it has by inaction permitted Turkey to do in Cyprus. But the gnawing question is there, observers note, and it is exacerbated by the ambiguity in Kissinger’s speech to the American Legion in his statement that “for the Arabs there can be no peace without a recovery of territory and the redress of grievances of a displaced people. For Israel, peace requires both security and recognition of its neighbors of its legitimacy as a nation.”

Meanwhile Syria is being armed to its eyeballs by the Russians while the U.S. is playing down reports of this development, Israel has conducted a mobilization of its reservists, and war tensions are gripping all the nations of the Middle East. Less than a year after the Yom Kippur War, Israel is entering a new year fraught with uncertainty and fear.

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