US Secretary of State John Kerry has recently used the Sharon legacy to pressure Israel to sign a ‘peace’ treaty with the Palestinian Authority (PA). Kerry called Sharon a leader who made ‘tough decisions’: he surrendered Gaza for peace.
Kerry wants current Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make the same ‘hard choice’: surrender (Judea-Samaria) for peace.
Netanyahu himself echoes Kerry. He has suggested he is ready to make ‘difficult decisions’. He suggests that those ’difficult decisions’ refer to land he will surrender.
But is surrendering land the ‘difficult’ decision? Look at how Israel responds to Kerry. Perhaps surrendering is the easy decision. Perhaps the difficult decision is to say, no.
To understand what will be ‘difficult’ or ‘easy’ for Netanyahu, consider US President George Washington during the period 1794-97. His experience might help Netanyahu distinguish ‘easy’ from ‘difficult’.
By 1794, two super-powers were at war—Britain and France. America was not a super-power. It was new. It was weak. It needed help to survive—and having British soldiers still on American soil didn’t help.
America needed to increase exports. It needed to get rid of those British troops. But too many Americans remembered the Revolutionary War, which had formally ended only recently (1783). They were not inclined to be friendly to the British.
Washington had a problem. According to a study of American Presidents by historian Michael Beschloss (Presidential Courage, Simon & Schuster, 2007), Washington wanted to sign a Treaty with Britain--The Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, Between His Britannic Majesty and The United States of America, also called, Jay’s Treaty. But he faced enormous pressure to say no.
Washington recognized that surrendering to that pressure was the easy thing to do. He understood that surrendering to pressure is always the easy way. But according to Beschloss, Washington did not take the easy road. He did not yield to that pressure.
Netanyahu faces his own pressure. But for him, the pressure is to say yes. No is the hard decision. For example, if Netanyahu says no to a US-brokered ‘peace’ deal, the US and the European Union (EU) have already laid out the consequences he will face: the EU would boycott Israel, the PA would start a Third Intifada and Israel will suffer ‘isolation on steroids’ at the United Nations ("Kerry warns of third intifada, Israel's isolation, if peace talks break down", Jerusalem Post, September 7, 2013).
It is pressure which determines what is easy or difficult: the easy decision means, the pressure you face will be released. The difficult decision means, the pressure will (supposedly) destroy you.
Beschloss says Washington chose to make the tough decision. He ignored the pressure. He said yes to the Treaty. He did that for four reasons.
First, America was weak. She was free but she needed commerce to grow strong enough to remain free. The Treaty gave America that money. For example, soon after 1795, American exports to the British Empire increased 300% (see “Challenging American Expansion 1789-1792” – Coweta at County).
Second, British troops occupied American soil. The Treaty would end that occupation (ibid).
Third, England was at war with France. While England fought France, a British-American Treaty meant England would leave America free to grow strong.
Fourth, America and Britain were already close. The two countries spoke the same language. They shared the same religious practices. They shared the same culture. They shared the same commercial interests.
By contrast, Netanyahu will see no such tangible benefits from a ‘yes’. Arabs seek to kill Jews, not join with them. A Treaty would put enemy soldiers closer to Jewish homes, not farther away. Arabs reject commercial cooperation. A Treaty will weaken Israel militarily, not make it stronger.
Nevertheless, Netanyahu faces enormous pressure to sign. That pressure means saying yes is the easy decision.
To paraphrase a saying, follow the pressure to find the easy road. For Washington, the pressure was to say no. For Netanyahu, the pressure is to say yes.
If Netanyahu yields to that pressure, many of his troubles with the US and EU will disappear; that’s the easy road. Go against that pressure, and he will suffer. That’s the difficult road.
The sub-title of Beschloss’s book is, “brave leaders and how they changed America.” He begins his study with this 1794-7 Treaty because, he says, if Washington had yielded to pressure—taken the easy road--there might not be an America today.
Netanyahu faces a similar consequence: if he yields to pressure and makes the easy choice, the Jewish State could disappear.
Washington taught us something: find the source of the pressure and you find the easy choice. Right now, Netanyahu buckles under pressure from the US. He may declare that saying yes to the US is the difficult choice, but he’s wrong. Saying yes is the easy choice.
Americans celebrate George Washington as a great President for a reason. He had courage. He refused to buckle under pressure. He risked everything to make the difficult choice.
Does Netanyahu have that courage?