Posted on: March 10, 2007 Posted by: Mitchell Plitnick Comments: 24

For the second time in a span of six months, the United States has expressly forbidden Israel from pursuing a potential peace deal with Syria. This time, it was Condoleeza Rice doing the dirty work and she brought a simple message on the subject: Don’t even think about it.condoleezza-rice-7.JPG

The action is not surprising. Despite the fact that peace between Israel and Syria is in the best interests of Israel, Syria AND the US, it’s not necessarily in the best interests of the Bush Administration.

The US would benefit because a Syria at peace with Israel would be likely to use other measures instead of backing Hizbullah to influence matters in Lebanon and it would be much more reluctant to act in congress with Iran.

But the Bush Administration’s entire program is based on regime change in “enemy” countries; diplomacy is not desirable except as a last resort, as in Iraq. If they can work with previously antagonistic countries, it undermines the very basis of their entire Middle East strategy for the past six years. Also the needs of the moment play into this. As the US sits down with Syria and Iran to try to find some way to fix the mess the Bush Administration has made in Iraq, they need an absolutely antagonistic Israel to hold over Syria. The idea is that this will make Syria more open to working with the US, lest the Bush Administration let the Israelis loose upon Syria.

But what is surprising, or at least a cause for serious concern in my view, is the complete lack of any response to this American action from the American Jewish community.

Once upon a time, the central American Jewish tenet when it came to Israel was that the Israelis knew better than anyone how to handle their own affairs and thus, American Jewry should be pushing the US to back Israeli decisions on matters of their own security.
Those days are gone. While the overwhelming majority of American Jews back negotiations for peace with all of Israel’s enemies, as well as a quick exit from Iraq, the American Jewish leadership continues to buddy up to the failed Bush Administration and their discredited, neo-conservative-inspired strategies.

Granted, these are tough times for Israeli leadership. Never in Israel’s history have so many of the top people in its government been so obviously incompetent. It has nothing to do with the various policies, or the particular parties, or the balance between left and right of center in Israel…these have not changed so much. It is simply that Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz and former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz are or were literally not competent to hold their positions.

Nonetheless, the fact that the US can forbid peace negotiations with no response from either the Israeli or the American Jewish public is simply appalling.

Even if one opposes peace talks with Syria, is there actually a Jew who believes it is perfectly ok for the United States to forbid Israel from pursuing peace? One would think that it would be the most passionate, lock-step, knee-jerk supporters of Israel who would be the first to cry foul about this.

In fact, there has been a general silence about it, one that stretches all the way around the global Jewish community.

I have long advocated an active American role in peacemaking between Israel and its various adversaries. I’ve advocated American pressure on Israel that is equal to that put on the Palestinians in order to achieve the compromises that both sides need to make for a just peace that can lead to a productive future for all concerned. I have also long claimed that the United States’ involvement has largely prevented such progress rather than promoted it (with some exceptions at various times).

But this is a whole new page. The massive failures of the Bush Administration in the Middle East are already legion. Now they have set a new precedent and a new high in low by forbidding Israel from seeking peace with a neighbor. That should be an unconscionable and unpardonable sin to anyone who cares at all about Israel. Yet all the folks who are so quick to shed crocodile tears about attacks on Israelis in order to support occupation and war are absolutely mute when the US stops Israel from seeking peace.

Brit Tzedek, Jewish Voice for Peace, Americans for Peace Now and such writers as MJ Rosenberg have spoken out about this cold and Machiavellian behavior on the part of the US. So has Gush Shalom and other peace groups. It is no coincidence that those who respect the human and civil rights of the Palestinians are also the ones who are truly concerned about Israelis. The so-called “pro-Israel” groups are, in fact, anything but, as they have proven once again.

24 People reacted on this

  1. I do not understand the silence, particularly in Israel. It’s such an appalling thing perhaps people simply have trouble believing it.

  2. The Bush administration has always been pro-war and anti-peace. I remember being ALMOST shocked that Bush urged Israel NOT to have a cease-fire with Lebanon during the 2nd Lebanese war, but to “wait,” which resulted in so much tragic and unnecessary loss of life. I was horrified, but not completely shocked, because this has always been Bush’s policy; his policies in Iraq, New Orleans and everywhere else reveal a level of contempt for human life that I have never before seen in a U.S. president or administration. Israel would do well to distance itself from this administration and deal with its neighbors independently, or with the help of the EU, which as a sovereign state it has every right to do.

  3. Jill – Regarding Bush ‘urging’ Israel not to have a cease fire with Lebanon last summer. Can you direct me to any sources documenting this ‘urging’. There was certainly a perception in many circles that this was the case. I met a high ranking US Air Force officer at a social event in Israel recently and suggested to him that the US had encouraged Israel to finish off Hizbullah before a cease fire. this was emphatically denied and I was informed that the US military in Israel, was working very hard to bring about a cease fire at the earliest possible date. There was also an implication that the US political echelon and the US military were not in sync about this matter.

    Regarding Syria. The US would do well to consider the anti-israel implications of their refusal to permit (how dare they!) our government to pursue any negotiations which could open the door for a peaceful settlement. Syria presents an ever present danger to israel, and any chance to sit at the table and seek common ground must be taken. Does the US want to see a war between Israel and Syria.? It is starting to look that way. Back off Bush!

  4. Fred – regarding documentation, I think one will only find anonymous leaks. Here’s an example from the article I linked above,

    “Rice reportedly favoured a request by Olmert for Washington to discreetly contact Syrian President Bashar Assad about securing the release of two Israeli soldiers captured by the Lebanese group. Abrams not only strongly opposed such a move, but in a meeting with a “very senior Israeli official” in Jerusalem within 48 hours of the outbreak of hostilities, also suggested that Washington would have no objection if Israel extended its military offensive from Lebanon to Syria, a well-informed source who received an account of the meeting from one of its participants told IPS.”

    There was similar information leaked last week (?) in Israel from the Inquiry Commission, as reported by Uri Avnery, though the instructions from Washington re: Lebanon itself were not an unequivocal green light:

    “According to Olmert’s leaks, Condoleezza Rice called him just after the outbreak of the war and conveyed to him the up-to-date American orders : it was indeed desired that Israel should deal a crushing blow to Hizbullah, the enemies of Siniora, but it was absolutely forbidden to do anything that would hurt Siniora, such as bombing Lebanese infrastructure outside Hizbullah’s territory.”

  5. All of this is very strange. Mr. Plitnick asks “Where’s the outrage?” and I ask, where’s the story? Is there any news link to clarify (news, not innuendo-mongering);
    1. Who approached whom (Israel or Syria)?
    2. Where has it been documented that the Bush admin. has blocked or urged blocking of such peace talks?
    If (I repeat IF) Mr. Plitnick’s allegations are factual, then, it is somewhat outrageous, though, it should NOT be surprising to anyone.
    I agree that the present Israeli administration can fairly be characterized as incompetent, but, what government nowadays is competent? Sometime around the year 2,000 people started taking stupid pills (or perhaps larger doses). I have no better explanation than that.

  6. The linked story appears to have a base level of credibility. However, one of the problems is that the assertions are compounded. The story first asserts that the dentist-dictator (Dr. Assad) has begun to send messages to Israel across diplomatic channels. There is no official confirmation. The story further suggests that the USA has forbad any peace talks between the governments of Israel and Syria. This is again based on un named sources and is presently unconfirmed. The story lastly suggests that this call by Syria is merely a propaganda tool, or at least that is what the USA believes.
    One thing I LOVVVVVVVE about this story is that it appears to suggest that the USA controls the Israeli government, not the other way around, as profuse peaceniks like Chomsky and Sheehan have all but convinced the young and impressionable. On that basis alone, I am (sadly) eager for this story to be proven quite true. So, I’m not sure I would have any “outrage” after all, even if each and every allegation turns out to be exactly correct. On another more magnanimous level it would be outrageous, just not to me.
    I will get to the bottom of it.

  7. I find it interesting that even someone as well informed as Isador has not heard the news. This was a big deal in Israel, but not the USA. Why not?

  8. Fred:
    Are you asking me a question or am I in the 3rd party tense?
    I don’t know the complete answer. I was out of town without internet or cable for a long weekend. But I just don’t think the story got that much publicity, so it really is not so much a matter of how ‘well informed’ I might (or might not) be.
    Rule # 1: Always blame the Hebrews.
    Rule # 2: (See rule # 1).
    Rule # 3: CAN’T YOU READ??
    The news story would (as I said earlier) tend to deflect the general complaint from the far-left AND the far-right, namely, that ‘Paul Wolfowitz is the king of all vampires, who has lived since the Crusifiction of Jesus and still controls the (unwitting) U.S. public — on behalf of the “Zionist” movement, aimed on total world domination.’
    As such, this story is not that fashionable.

  9. …but not the USA. Why not?

    For one thing, it was based on leaks from senior Israeli officials. Our reporters are chasing local leaks.

    For another, the mainstream media in this country is corporate media and as such is loath to point out that the President is lying. If you signed a recent JVP petition, you probably got a letter from the WH which said, “The President has pledged that America will be an active partner of every party that seeks true peace.” But here we have a story which says that Israel is attempting to do that and the Secretary of State says “Don’t even think about it!” Liar, liar, pants on fire.

    The Times and the Post are also not likely to send reporters to Israel to check out a story that suggests the Syrians might actually be seeking peace.

  10. John:
    Good try. My explanation may not be perfect but yours is held together by ‘spit and baloney-skins.’
    Of course, your explanation is nearly opposite of my own. Why am I not surprized? The New York Times is a regular critic of both Israeli policy and the Bush administration. A story like this would be vigorously printed in a Hollywood second, if it would work for either effect. The problem is that while it holds the Bush administration in a negative light, it shows the Israelis as somewhat helpless and possibly even victims themselves (God forbid). There is nothing that the left leaning U.S. media WOULD LIKE BETTER then to: “send reporters to Israel to check out a story that suggests the Syrians might actually be seeking peace.” By the way, I do have some back-channel confirmation of the reliability of the story.
    Regarding the much repeated theme of Bush-W being a liar:
    Your statement is erroneous in two separate places — in one sentence.
    The U.S. media is about 50% left leaning, 30% center and 20% right leaning (not counting talk radio). Most agencies would have zero problem reporting that Mr. Bush is a liar, were that even close to factual. Bush-W is many things and some are undesirable. I did not vote for him. Out of all his positions, I agreed with 1/2 of one thing he ever did, but I complement him on how it did those things. He IS NOT a liar. Quite the contrary. He was elected (or appointed) but at any rate, the people who voted for him did so because they were sick of the bull-jive, which is stock in trade of the lawyer controlled Democratic party. Leftists who call Bush-W a liar are most likely themselves, prolific bull-jive-misters. They are PROJECTING. Of course, no politician can be judged to be 100% truthful. Besides, life often brings no-win propositions, wherein someone identifies a circumstance — where either answer will not be 100% correct. This is done to exploit.
    Bush told us EXACTLY how we were going to get screwed and guess what? He screwed us EXACTLY the way he promised. There is neither ambiguity or dishonesty in him.
    When he made a case to invade Iraq, it was based on information he was given by several NATO intelligence agencies. He has been EXTREMELY strait and that is his core nature and may be his best quality. Lets compare him to Mr. Clinton:
    “I did not have sex with that woman”
    DNA evidence emerges:
    “It depends on what your definition of sex is”.
    Caught lying:
    “It depends on what the definition of IS is”.
    John Kerry made it very simple for us. Take both sides of every issue and stick by them.
    If you want to know why Mr. Edwards is leading the polls in Iowa, its because his network of affiliated law firms has been actively raising money for Iowa local politicians for years already. If you doubt this, it can be checked out. The political disclosure statements of the Iowa Democratic officials will show about 70% of their donations (and virtually all of the early ones) from people in every other state but Iowa. Is this practice unlawful? No. Is it sleazy? Exceedingly.
    BTW: John Kerry spent $40,000,000.00 (forty million) of donated campaign money on advance retainers for law firms around the USA, in anticipation of a court battle. Of course, there was no court battle, even though one was probably called for, at least in Ohio. These were the same law firms who helped him raise his money and especially, to collect LARGE numbers of checks for the local Iowa (Democratic) politicians. That’s why Kerry came in first in Iowa and Edwards came in second (because Edwards’ machine was the second best remote fundraiser for Iowa). Both used networks of law firms for this task. Dean (who I did not like either) was therein screwed out of first place.
    It is my understanding that none of the $40-million in legal retainers was returned. Kerry knew better then to launch a court challenge because he knew that the U.S. Supremes would dump his ass on the same trash heap they dumped Gore’s. Why burden his friends with actually having to work for their $450.00/hr.?
    George W. Bush, in his worst day, had he first been hypnotized by Howard K. Stern and on a drunken binge, could not possibly be as sleazy.
    Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson (R) said it best:
    “We have two political parties in this country, the Stupid Party and the Evil Party. I belong to the Stupid Party.”
    Please try not to confuse the two.

  11. I know Ambassador Dick Jones quite well. He picks his words very carefully. Despite what he said at the Davis Institute as quoted in Ha’aretz, he did not actually deny the statements attributed to Rice in previous reports. Then the US Embassy spokesperson was quoted as saying: “we are unaware that any U.S. official has ever expressed an opinion on what Israel should or should not do with regard to Syria.” This is not an emphatic denial.

  12. This is not an emphatic denial.

    Fred, Do you think there has been a shift in the U.S. position since Condi’s visit? In his column over at Gush Shalom, Uri Avnery suggests that King Abdullah is putting a lot of pressure on Bush to talk to both Syria and Hamas.

  13. With all due respect to Uri Avnery, King Abdullah is in no position to put a lot of pressure on Bush. The US position seems to be staying pretty constant.

    Let’s not forget that the recent Rice meetings reinforced previous US positions regarding Syria. Last October Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter told Army Radio that ” as long as the U.S. saw a problem with the Syrian channel, Israel could not ignore it.”

    It will be interesting to see if the US position on Hamas softens with the new Palestinian unity cabinet. However waiting for Hamas to recognize Israel’s ‘Right to Exist’ is like waiting for the Algonquian Native Americans to recognize the right of the USA to exist. They never did, but that didn’t stop the US from committing genocide, and making and breaking treaties with them, and finally granting citizenship (1924).

  14. Fred Schlomka wrote:
    ” . . Algonquian Native Americans to recognize the right of the USA to exist. They never did, but that didn’t stop the US from committing genocide, and making and breaking treaties with them, and finally granting citizenship (1924).”
    I think that in 95+ % of the cases, the Native American Tribes would today recognize the government of the United States.
    More importantly, I am nauseous of hearing this rhetorical comparison between Palestinian-Arabs, many of whom trace their family roots in Palestine back to the Truman administration and the Native Americans.
    According to the British ministry of records, Jews became a majority group in Jerusalem in 1865, in spite of the fact that they were banned from moving there by longstanding Turkish law. If you like, I can show you a copy of the actual ministry document. In very many respects, especially the “genocide component”, Jews closer resemble the ‘Native Americans’ then do the Arabs.

  15. Isidor, you’re still at it. I hope people aren’t paying any attention to you. You’re such a discombobulating charlatan. Peace out.

  16. Carl:
    If people weren’t paying any attention, it wouldn’t bother you.

  17. […] The potential benefits of an agreement between Syria and Israel are enormous for many parties. The United States is one of those parties, although one of the few players who stand to lose from such an agreement are the neoconservatives and hawks in the Bush administration. There are also real obstacles to an agreement, especially in the arenas of domestic politics in Israel and the US. But the chief factor blocking Israel-Syria talks at this time is the Bush Administration’s refusal to allow them. This is not something often talked about, which is not surprising–one can only picture the response of the overwhelming majority of Jews to the news that the US is blocking Israel-Arab peace talks that Israel desires. […]

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