Focus on Issues Carter’s Relations with Israel Ending Much Like They Started
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Focus on Issues Carter’s Relations with Israel Ending Much Like They Started

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In the closing weeks of its four mainly dispute-ridden years of relations with Israel and its friends, Carter Administration policy-makers reverted publicly from a form of “even-handedness” towards Israel-Arab affairs during the presidential election campaign to renewed backing of the Rogers Plan proposals of 1969.

In addition to adherence to the plan that calls for Israel to return to its 1967 borders and abandon Jerusalem, Carter Administration aides went further. To accomplish this purpose, they now again good Israel’s American friends to lessen their support for the Middle East’s only democracy and cast aspersions on its freely-elected government.


This apparent swing back to old perceptions indicates what a second Carter term might have meant for Israel. Evidence is in the post-election U.S. attitude in the United Nations; the comments of State Department spokesmen; the personal remarks of the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Donald McHenry; the views of former Ambassador to Egypt, Hermann Eilts; and the outline of U.S. psychological operations towards Israel offered by Dartmouth Prof. Ian Lustick, who worked in the State Department on Middle East issues in 1979-1980 and accurately reflect U.S. policy as it has been carried out most of the Carter term.

In a post-election address at the dinner given last month by friends of Israel to AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland, President Carter characteristically lauded Israel’s devotion to political democracy and hailed the Camp David agreements.

But he omitted such elements as the unity of Jerusalem, opposition to a Palestinian state and dealing with the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Jewish life and Israeli security related to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. This presentation essentially was in keeping with the Lustick formula of limited support for Israel a formula the President outlined in Clinton, Mass. in 1977.


The Administration’s vacillating treatment of Israel in its fourth year is illustrated by pre-election and post-election developments. On March 1, the U.S. voted in the UN Security Council for Israel to abandon Jerusalem but in the subsequent Congressional storm, much like after the Soviet-U.S. agreement Oct. 1, 1977, Carter repudiated the U.S. vote but the State Department never changed it formally at the UN.

After that, the Administration did not cast any votes against Israel in the Security Council until mid-December–after the Presidential elections when the U.S. voted along with the other 14 members of the Security Council on a resolution cal

ling upon Israel to allow two West Bank Arab mayors to return to their homes after they had been deported by Israel following the terrorist ambush attack last May in Hebron in which six yeshiva students were killed.

Immediately after the vote took place, McHenry delivered a statement that might well go down as the quotation of the year: “Cynics may claim that we would have voted differently before November 4, but I can’t be hostage to cynics.” The resolutions on the mayors was one of six anti-Israel resolutions the Security Council passed the same day. Through it all, the U.S. delegation allowed Israel to be mercilessly browbeaten.


There was also an element of vacillation on the part of the U.S. when Secretary of State Edmund Muskie addressed the Security Council on Aug. 20 when that body voted to censure Israel for proclaiming united Jerusalem as its capital and urged all states that had embassies in the holy city to withdraw them.

Muskie told the Council that the resolution “is illustrative of a preoccupation which has produced this series of unbalanced and unrealistic resolutions on Middle East issues. It fails to serve the goal of all faiths that look to Jerusalem as holy.” He urged that “debates and resolutions that are not germane to the peace process– and even harmful to it–should stop. Elsewhere in southwest Asia, and in southeast Asia, warfare is a present reality. The aggressor nations make no effort to find peace. Yet this Council is continuously drawn to the Middle East, where authentic work for peace is underway.”

But Muskie, instead of vetoing the measure as his words seemed to indicate he would, instead abstained.

When Jordan’s delegate engaged in anti-Semitic abuse of a kind not expressed by any government in any international forum since the time of the Nazis, the U.S. delegation was silent. Only Israel’s envoy responded to it.


The focus of blame for Middle East problems constantly is put on Israel. In an interview published Dec. 12 in the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, McHenry said Israel’s policies provide “ammunition” to Israel’s enemies. “We don’t believe Israel’s actions on settlements, on Jerusalem, in southern Lebanon, in the repressive actions in the West Bank are in the interests of Israel, the interest of peace. ” He rejected Israel’s role in U.S. strategic interest. “I don’t use the language strategic ally, ” he said.

McHenry, 44, who leaves office Jan. 19, presumably to take an academic post, called for debate in America about Israel’s policies. “There is a frequent tendency among supporters of Israel in the U.S. to take a position that comes very close to my country, right or wrong”, he said. His words, some noted here, come very close to calling on Americans to denounce Israel.


The winter issue of Foreign Policy magazine, published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, contained two attacks on Israel. Under the title, “Saving Camp David, “Eilts hinted Israel deceived the U.S. at Camp David. On the Jerusalem issue and settlements, Eilts said “the Americans had misunderstood or had been misled.”

Agreeing most of the way with McHenry about the PLO, Eilts said “only through open U.S. contacts with the PLO leadership will it be possible to guage whether the PLO would be willing and able to participate responsibly in broader peace negotiations.” Eilts added that “in return, the PLO must renounce terrorism.” He did not mention adherence to Security Council Resolutions 242 or 338.

He regards Camp David as having given Israel too much despite its return of all the Sinai to Egypt. “At some point in the future, “Eilts noted, “the U.S. may find it prudent to shelve quietly the Camp David imprimatur, which has become a psychological barrier to broader Arab participation.” Although “such a decision should be made only with Egyptian and Israel,” the implication is that Israel should be leaned on to give more.

Lustick plainly called for the U.S. to treat Israel with disdain. “A policy of steady, public, and convincing disassociation from Israel’s policies in and toward the West Bank and Gaza would help create” an “international political context supportive of those elements in Israel that already are or will become aware of the necessity to reach a political accommodation with the Palestinians.” He did not identify those elements.


“A policy of disassociation rather than mediation or pressure, “he said, “would help the growing numbers of those both in Israel and in the U.S. Jewish community, who are striving to frame Israel’s choices in a way that focuses attention on the long-term costs of fulfilling maximalist ideological commitment.”

Under the policy of “disassociation, “Lustick wrote, “the U.S. would continue current very high levels of military and economic aid to Israel but would publicly, concretely and regularly express its opposition to settlements, land expropriation, deportations, seizure of water sources, annexation of East Jerusalem, or any other aspects of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza reflecting Israeli ambitions that go beyond insuring order and security.”

Like other Administration articulations legitimizing the PLO, Lustick suggested altering Camp David’s provisions because the peace processes “weaken U.S. credibility in the Arab world” and “an atmosphere develops in which Syria, Saudi Arabia and the PLO become less convinced of the possibility of a political accommodation with Israel.”

Pentagon figures issued New Year’s Day disclosed that in fiscal 1980 that ended Sept. 30, U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia totaled $4.5 billion compared with $1.9 billion in 1977. Three years ago, Egypt obtained only $1.7 million in U.S. military equipment. In 1980, the total reached $2.4 billion–15 times as much.

While Israel received a Congressional appropriation of $1 billion for fiscal 1980 for U.S. weapons, it actually purchased only $298 million because, the Pentagon told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, it needed to catch up on payments of previous acquisitions. Jordan acquired $450 million in equipment in 1980.

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