No surrender. Frank Gaffney confuses our pragmatic flexibility with unconditional surrender. He seems to assume that if one is flexible on anything one will give up everything. But even he acknowledges that we do not support giving up safeguards such as Israeli overflight rights or Palestinian demilitarization. Neither, by the way, will the new prime minister of Israel whomever is elected. Gaffney assumes that any Israeli who moves forward toward peace will cave in to ever-accelerating Palestinian demands once they have "pocketed" the latest concessions. This insults the intelligence of Israeli leaders to negotiate a viable deal for their country and is inconsistent with the history of the last five years: after all, Palestinians do not now have a state and they know that Israel will not return to its pre-1967 borders.
Offensive rherotic. Morton Klein is so preoccupied with quoting Yasir Arafat's offensive statements that he fails to acknowledge anything the Palestinian Authority (PA) does that is positive. He provides a long -- and often correct -- litany of inflammatory language (but fewer inflammatory acts) by Arafat and his Palestinian Authority cohorts in the post-Wye season. We, too, oppose inflammatory rhetoric (and support the anti-incitement process set up under Wye). But to put the name-calling in proper perspective, recall also Arafat's positive statements, the polling data that consistently finds public Palestinian support for the peace process in the 60-75 percent range, the Palestinian National Council's abrogation of the anti-Israel aspects of its charter in a process accepted by the Netanyahu government, and the escalating security cooperation between the two sides that is thwarting terror attacks in Israel. Nor does Klein mention the behavior and actions of extremist Israeli settlers; or the fact that Hamas and the fundamentalist Muslims are the only political alternative to Arafat.
How does Klein account for Binyamin Netanyahu's telephone call to Arafat in March 1999, thanking him for information which made it possible to thwart a major terrorist attack, the explosives for which had already been smuggled into Tel Aviv?1 How does he explain the growing litany of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) professionals who applaud PA counter-terror efforts?2 Put another way, surely Klein would not argue that there would have been less offensive Palestinian rhetoric, textbooks, and maps without the peace process; or that Israel would have been more effective fighting terrorism if it faced an intensified intifada, with Palestinian opposition instead of security cooperation?
Change of heart. Klein and Gaffney want to hold back on what they call concessions until the Palestinians have had a change of heart and accept Israel. As Klein puts it, "Both sides that sign agreements must sincerely want peace. Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have not yet proven that they do." But how are the Palestinians to prove that to his satisfaction? As the saying goes, only the Shadow knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men; Klein cannot plumb the recesses of the Palestinians' souls and know what their goals are.
In addition, to some extent it does not matter what the Palestinians want, for even a malign Arafat cannot present an existential threat to Israel. Klein ought to be seeking ways, through an energized peace process, to encourage more positive Palestinian conduct.
We are somewhat mystified that Efraim Inbar sees in the PA "an embryonic state with a large territorial appetite ready to use force for getting a better deal." If he means that a Palestinian state would resort to force to destroy Israel, perhaps in league with Iraq or other Arab states, then he must explain how that state would evade the strict oversight and scrutiny central to any successful final status settlement, neutralize any Israeli counteraction, and undermine the moderate government in Jordan which stands as a buffer against Iraq. In reality, the Palestinians have less than they expected when Oslo was signed and yet they still continue to support the peace process.
Peace process not so important. Inbar also argues that Israeli isolation in the region is tied not to the peace process but to American standing in the Arab world. But while Israel's economic, political, and other relations with every Arab state have deteriorated since Likud took over in 1996, it is hard to find a comparable deterioration of U.S. standing to account for it. Does he really believe that if American forces had ousted Saddam Husayn, the Arab states would have overlooked Netanyahu's policies?
It baffles us that Inbar argues we "exaggerate the importance of the Palestinian issue for Israel improving relations with Arab countries." Look at how the Arabs' willingness to cooperate with Israel evaporated once the government changed in Jerusalem, and that government at first refused to even meet with Yasir Arafat. On issues from economics to water, rapidly expanding ties stagnated or dried up. Where a deterioration had already set in before Likud came to office -- the multilateral arms control talks -- serious discussions had been underway to resolve the disputes in question; and even here, the difficulties have only increased since 1996. While we chide the Arab states for not demonstrating the kind of creativity demonstrated by the late King Husayn, the record shows that Israel's diplomatic strategy since mid-1996 has not improved Israel's diplomatic and security situation.
Threat to Jordan. Gaffney writes that a Palestinian state will threaten Jordan. Perhaps, but failure in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will likely shake Jordan much worse. It would inspire a more severe intifada than the last time, one that will surely spill over into Jordan given its majority Palestinian population, and will cause severe instability possibly even leading to a regime change or at least a change of the present regime's peace policies, thereby compromising Israel's vital strategic security.
Accepted Oslo. Inbar states that Likud has bought into Oslo. We used the term Likud to represent the entire range of views that constitute the nationalist camp in Israel. These are somewhat difficult to chart, as Likud has already split into four camps (Netanyahu's Likud, Ze'ev Begin's Herut, Yitzhak Mordechai's Center Party, and David Levy's Gesher), and their positions range from the old Greater Israel point of view to alignment with Labor. But if Inbar is correct, we are delighted and say "welcome aboard."
The problem with Inbar's overly cautious approach is that most of those in the nationalist camp who accept the peace process do so begrudgingly and suspiciously. The last three years suggests that they end up with the worst of both worlds: they make concessions but in so halting a manner that the bitterness they stir up among Palestinians deprives Israel of the benefits it justly deserves for making sacrifices. Nor do they satisfy the expectations of the world community. Further, their actions spoil precious openings for peace: leaders such as King Husayn die and Arab support for accommodation diminishes.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Not gullible doves. Gaffney finds it difficult to imagine any security rationale that justifies the peace process. Therefore, analysts like ourselves who support it must be gullible doves who perforce oppose the efforts to "seek more civil defense, a second-strike capability, antiballistic missiles and a reliance on deterrence". But we do support an increase in the Israel Defense Forces' budget and building a theater missile defense. We simply don't believe that weapon-brandishing tactics alone brings peace. As the security establishment in Israel never fails to point out, only a political solution will resolve outstanding issues between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Samson option. Inbar states that efforts to establish a functional coalition of moderate western oriented states "ignores contemporary Middle Eastern history." His answer to the possible acquisition of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by Israel's adversaries is to point to Israel's own capabilities, expecting Israel to face down rogue regimes by brandishing its own nuclear arsenal. Having aknowledged that these regimes are at the brink of nuclear capability, what is his prescription? Preemptive strikes along Israel's 1981 bombing of the Iraqi installation cannot be repeated again and again. Further, Inbar ignores the "poor man's" atomic arsenal -- chemical and biological weapons.
Inbar wants Israeli nuclear hegemony in the region, which has served as a cornerstone of Israel's security for the past three decades. But it is expiring as several of Israel's adversaries are acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Unlike the cold war, where the fact that both sides had second strike capabilities enhanced stability, a Middle East nuclear environment will almost certainly be more volatile, creating a situation by comparison with which the cold war standoff looks almost benign (because of the presence of second-strike capabilities on both sides). Proliferating weapons and no mechanisms of mitigation leaves states with the "Samson option." Does Inbar really want to rely on Saddam Husayn's rationality in maintaining the pillars of Middle East stability?
The virtues of cooperation. Inbar says collaboration with other states in the region cannot work; but does he really think that Israel is better off as a pariah state? We have in mind not a replay of the failed and poorly conceived post-Kuwait war coalition, but understandings and quiet security arrangements that can only fall into place as the peace process moves forward. As for Gaffney, he fails to comprehend that these kinds of arrangements will create a region which is less conducive to those who would develop WMD options.
Inbar correctly states that "even a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli peace will not eliminate the potential use of force against Israel." But is it not better to rely on peace and strength, giving it two "weapons" in its arsenal, rather than on machismo alone? Besides, the policies our critics advocate are more likely to alienate the United States than bring it closer to Israel's side -- an ever more-important consideration in the new era of peril that we foresee.
More generally, our critics offer two vague alternatives to our policies: Inbar endorses a go-slow approach. He goes light on the carrots and accentuates the sticks but he has no clear endgame vision. In contrast, Gaffney and Klein seem to have nothing in mind other than constant conflict. Like former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, they intimate a conflict that will continue for generations. The people of Israel will not wait that long. How do either of these approaches enhance Israel's security? While no state can pursue peace at any price, to advocate holding off until there is no price to pay at all is not a viable alternative. No adversary will agree to such terms. Such utopianism will doom Israel to continual regional chaos.
Our critics appear to be influenced by the way the cold war ended with an American victory; cannot Israel, like the United States, stand fast, not compromise, and win the collapse of its adversary's aggressiveness? The analogy does not hold. The United States and U.S.S.R. were not neighbors, and their conflict was primarily over ideological issues (capitalism, human rights, democracy). By comparison, the Arabs and Israelis are indeed neighbors with very concrete issues in dispute. Moreover, the U.S.S.R. collapse ended the conflict; this will not happen in the Middle East, where the collapse of one anti-Israel party leads to the emergence of another one (e.g. 1979, when Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel and an anti-Israel regime took power in Tehran). If the Israelis wait for all their enemies' aggressiveness to dissipate, they will miss opportunities for accommodation and find themselves in a more dangerous situation than they are in now.
As for the Palestinians, what do our critics propose to do with the more than one million Arabs in the occupied territories (and over another million in Israel proper)? What would Klein do other than police their rhetoric? Under what conditions would he accept the territorial compromise reflected in the Wye agreement? How can he justify refusing them voting rights (or even zoning rights)?
Our critics consider themselves realists and suggest we are fanciful. But their realism strikes us as equivalent to confrontation for its own sake. We hold, in contrast, that pragmatism must be central to any prescription of realism. While we personally subscribe to the view that God loves all the children of Abraham, including both Isaac and Ishmael, our arguments are not based on any such religious views but on Israel's geopolitical and strategic interests. We draw wisdom from such "realist" analysts of international relations as Hans Morgenthau, who warned that "only a rational foreign policy minimizes risks and maximizes benefits."3 We suspect Morgenthau would react to our critics' Manichean approach by calling it "more ideology than policy."
Many present and former security officials, who used to target Arafat and his associates, now advocate accommodation with the Palestinian Authority as being in Israel's interest. David Kimche, a former senior operative in the Mossad, wrote recently that Arafat "is the only Palestinian leader capable of delivering major concessions to Israel while still retaining power and domestic support."4 A sober and calculated security calculus leaves Israel no choice but to energetically pursue the peace process.
Marshall Breger is an adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Steven Spiegel is professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles.1 Israel Wire, Mar. 23, 1999; Ha'aretz, Mar. 24, 1999.
2 Ma'ariv, Apr. 2, 1999.
3 Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics among Nations, 4th Ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1967), p. 7.
4 David Kimche, "Arafat Is Israel's Best Hope," The New York Times, Mar. 29, 1999.