Op-Ed: Plus ça Change, Plus c'est la Même Chose
Ted BelmanThe author is a retired attorney and the editor of Israpundit. In 2009...
As a result of the 1967 War Israel came into possession of the “territories” which included Judea and Samaria, Sinai including Gaza and the Golan. UNSC Res 242 provided that Israel should withdraw from territories, specifically not the territories or all territories, at such time as she had secure and recognized borders.
Israel accepted this resolution because she didn’t want to keep all the land with its Arab inhabitants, preferring to keep only some of the land. The Arab countries rejected the Resolution because they wanted 100% of the land to be returned to them, i.e. Egypt, Jordan and Syria. No one contemplated the creation of another Arab state in Judea and Samaria.
In 1970 the US abandoned this resolution and embraced the Arab demand that Israel retreat from 100% of the territories. This was reflected in the Rogers Plan that Nixon authorized. Nevertheless Israel began to build communities on these lands for security purposes. One such town was Yamit which was set up just south of Gaza in the Sinai. I remember when Yamit was being promoted to potential Olim. I was attracted to the idea and though it would be fun to participate in the development of this town. Other considerations kept me rooted in Toronto.
Pamela Schrieber , was not deterred by other considerations and made aliya from the U.S. and was among the first to sign up. She loved being part of this growing community and felt betrayed when, as part of the Camp David Accords in 1978, PM Begin agreed to vacate every inch of the land including Yamit. She was devastated and, when the time came to evacuate, returned to the U.S.
I just finished reading her book, Love and Betrayal, about her experience and enjoyed it thoroughly.
In it she quotes a speech from PM Begin to the residents of Yamit:
“I believe that the Jewish people have the inalienable right to our land which includes Judea, Samaria and the Sinai. But the leader of the free world believes differently. He is convinced that in order to have peace with Egypt, Israel must return every centimeter of the land gained in 1967 no matter how important it is to our defense and religious beliefs. Since there was no possibility of our returning Judea and Samaria which would usher in negotiations for Jerusalem, the only bargaining chip we had was Sinai.
“My partner in peace, President Sadat, was adamant on the return of the Sinai, including the evacuation of all our settlements. President Carter was in absolute agreement. Since I entered negotiations knowing that Pres. Carter had made the statement that the Palestinian refugees needed a homeland, I was not shocked at the intransigence of the American president.
“..Although I cannot prove it, at the time of negotiations, I had the distinct impression that there was collusion between the Americans and Egypt. If not collusion, then a bias towards the Egyptian demands. For though I bared my soul to the American President, Mr Carter was intractable…..This was a man who clearly had his mind made up before he went into negotiations. This was a man who clearly cares nothing about the survival of our state.”
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. I couldn’t help but see a parallel in President Obama’s position on the current peace process; but more about this below.
I remember thinking at the time, that though Israel giving up all this land and the oil that she had discovered there, that it was worth it as Sadat was breaking the mold of Arab rejectionism and that others would follow. Little did I realize how cold the peace would be.
I remember also that Sadat and Carter pressed Begin to sign a second agreement in which Israel would agree to create a Palestinian State within five years in Judea and Samaria. Begin was adamant in his refusal and would agree only to giving them autonomy. That agreement was never signed. Begin was wrong in his belief that there was no “possibility of our returning Judea and Samaria”. The US thought otherwise.
When the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 and 1995, Israel didn’t commit to creating a Palestinian state or giving over 100% or the land or stopping settlement construction. She felt she could enter these agreements because she was in the driver’s seat and could press her demands.
Arafat, on the other hand, accepted these terms because he was not in a strong bargaining position and besides, he and many of his fellow terrorists were to be admitted into Judea and Samaria as part of the deal. What Israel didn’t anticipate was that America and Europe would side with Arafat, strengthening his position as they did with Sadat. In hindsight this was a grave mistake. They also didn’t anticipate that Arafat would never abide by the Accords.
Ever since the oil embargo in the seventies, the Saudis made it clear to successive US administrations that they required that “the political struggle [between Israel and the Arabs] is [be] settled in [a] manner satisfactory to [the] Arabs.” By the time Pres George Bush was inaugurated in 2000, this meant the creation of a Palestinian Arab state.
Prince Bandar told Bush a week or two before 9-11, “Starting today, you go your way and we will go our way. From then on, the Saudis would look out for their own national interests.” It seemed the United States had made a strategic decision to adopt Sharon’s policy as American policy.
Within thirty-six hours, Bandar was on his way to Riyadh with a conciliatory response from Bush.
Because of this pressure, Bush agreed to do it, but 9-11 intervened. It wasn’t until 2002 that he made his speech in which he envisaged a Palestinian state. Saudi Arabia announced the Saudi Plan, which I believe the State Department drew up, requiring 100% withdrawal. Bush, in subservience to the Saudis put it into the Roadmap which was being drafted in 2002 and 2003. It was tabled a week after the invasion of Iraq. Sharon objected to its inclusion to no avail.
In 2004, PM Sharon announced his Disengagement Plan from 100% of Gaza. The best he could get out of Bush was a letter which said “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949…”. This was far from a commitment. Even so the Saudis screamed blue murder and Bush backed off.
What makes this cow towing all the more shocking was that Bush knew that Saudis were very much behind the 9-11 attacks due to the report he commissioned. He chose to cover up their culpability and conduct business with them as usual.
I did not know all this when the Disengagement Plan was being debated. While I liked the idea that Israel was getting rid of the responsibility for 1.4 million Gazans, I was against giving up every inch. It was a continuation of the Camp David Accords precedent. I favoured keeping the northern 5 miles of the strip where the Jewish communities of Gush Katif were for two reasons, 1) it would set a new precedent and 2) we would not have to uproot 8,000 Israelis. I also favoured staying in the Philadelphi Corridor to prevent smuggling into Gaza. Secretary Rice intervened and forced Israel out of the corridor.
President Obama, on taking office rejected the Bush letter saying it was not binding. He particularly wanted to void this commitment, contained in it, “The United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan” than the Roadmap. He wanted to impose a solution if necessary. Like Carter he supported the Arab position requiring negotiations to be based on ’67 lines plus swaps. Obama also rejected our security demands.
Like Carter, he is “a man who clearly cares nothing about the survival of our state.”
After writing this article I wrote to the author about the speech and she said “That was creative license.I used my own research to construct something close to what I think he should have said or could have said.” Nevertheless Carter and Obama have much in common and in my opinion, the alleged speech nails it.