Last week, in the context of the P5+1/Iran negotiations I wrote:
We’re familiar with the rules for buying a rug in the souk. If you want the rug more than he wants the deal, you will overpay; if he wants the deal more than you want the rug, you win. But either way, money and rug will change hands. Alternatively, if you want to buy a rug and he wants to sell a camel, no matter how ardently you bargain there will be no deal. Unless you change your mind and take the camel.
The P5+1 was negotiating an end to Iran’s nuclear program; Iran was negotiating the conditions under which it would continue to enrich uranium. Then the White House changed sides, agreeing with Iran on future enrichment and undermining the now P4+1.
Similarly, since Israel declared its independence in 1948, the U.S. has partnered with it to convince the regional neighbors to provide it sovereign legitimacy and the “secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of war” that are the promise of UN Resolution 242. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are negotiating the establishment of an independent state without the “end of conflict, end of claims” that would be a convincing, authoritative expression of peaceful intent and adherence to Res. 242. The White House has jumped to the Palestinian side, ready to go with Palestinian independence while “Palestine” remains in a functional state of war with Israel.
This is the upshot of the plan Secretary of State Kerry and Gen. John Allen are bringing to Jerusalem. Gen. Allen has been working to meet what Israel calls its security bottom lines: military forces along the Jordan River for an extended period; an Israeli presence at the Jordan River border crossing; continued Israeli control of the air space over the West Bank; the stationing of Israeli early-warning stations at strategic points in the West Bank; and more. These arrangements will be combined with “American security guarantees for Israel and proposed American military aid to the IDF,” according to an anonymous source.
The first problem is the implicit admission by the U.S. that the “peace process” to which the administration is wedded clearly does not envision “peace,” but rather an armed truce, as its best possible outcome. And a truce, like Iran’s agreement to “suspend” uranium enrichment, or Ho Chi Minh’s acceptance of South Vietnamese independence, is only good as long as the most aggressive party chooses to have it continue. Real peace emerges from a resolution of outstanding and competing claims. The American offer to increase the garrison for Israel presumes no resolution of competing claims, no friendlier — and maybe less friendly — relations with the Palestinians when they have an independent military and foreign policy.
The second problem is in the proposal itself. “Military forces” along the Jordan River implies a force other than the IDF. Would there be American boots on the ground? They are, after all, AMERICAN security guarantees. The American people are not likely to agree to a deployment of U.S. troops to stand in “Palestine” on behalf of Israel; nor should they. NATO forces? P5+1 forces? African Union forces? Organization of the Islamic Conference forces? Why or why not? Would they be mixed “international” forces, like the not-only-ineffective-but-blatantly-pro-Hamas-UNIFIL force that operates in Southern Lebanon? (To be fair, UNIFIL lives among Hamas, not among Israelis, so self-preservation may have a role here, but wouldn’t troops guarding the Jordan River line inside “Palestine” be living in “Palestine?”)
Gen. Allen — like Lt. Gen. Michael Moeller, Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, Lt. Gen. William Ward, and Gen. Anthony Zinni, his predecessors sent to find a mechanism for Israel to have security without peace — is an able soldier who well understands the nature of building a security architecture. But so does the IDF. In fact, all of the security parameters already exist, controlled by Israel. Why not leave it to those who are closest to the problem and who have the best intelligence? Why not leave it to those who have successfully defended the people of Israel for the past 65 years?
Why not leave Israel’s security to Israel?
American “security guarantees,” presume a) future conflict, and b) a steadfast American ally. Only the first is a sure bet; you have to go as far back as the cease-fire of the Korean War to find American security guarantees that have stood the test of time. At the moment and under the financial strain of sequestration, the U.S. has:
Compromised the international community’s demands of Iran, leaving long-time allies Israel and Saudi Arabia both feeling abandoned, particularly when the U.S. failed even to condemn the vicious rhetoric directed at Israel from Iran’s Supreme Leader (The irritated, “Well, of course we don’t like it,” offered by State Department spokesperson in response to a reporter’s question doesn’t count.)
Failed to follow through on either its call for Bashar Assad to step down or its red lines over the use of chemical weapons
Abandoned long-time Egyptian ally Hosni Mubarak, and alienated both of his successor regimes for different reasons. The Coptic Christian community felt the deadly effects of White House support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Declined to sanction Turkey for its open support of Hamas, internationally recognized as a terrorist organization.
Prepared to withdraw from Afghanistan as it did from Iraq, leaving both governments to the mercies of jihadist groups.
Announced a “pivot to Asia” with little in the way of resources to back up any increased interest we may have in the Western Pacific.
Israel is in the American bazaar, a dangerous place to trust in negotiations that rely on the U.S., not the IDF, as the guarantor of its security.