Maintaining a Balanced U.S. Policy on Middle East Peace

Report Middle East

Maintaining a Balanced U.S. Policy on Middle East Peace

January 13, 1992 5 min read Download Report
Senior Middle East Research Fellow
James Phillips is a senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at The Heritage Foundation.

(Archived document, may contain errors)

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Every Arab-Israeli agreement since the founding of Israel in 1948 has been at least in part a product of United States pressure. But for U.S. pressure to produce a lasting peace agreeme nt, it must be applied evenhandedly to both Arabs and Israelis. If the U.S. applies its diplomatic leverage disproportionately against Israel, as the Bush Administration has begun to do, the peace talks will collapse. Such a tilt against Israel undermines America as an honest broker and erodes Israeli confidence in America, which is an indispensable requirement for Israeli flexibility in the negotiations. Unbalanced U.S. pressure against Israel inflates Arab expectations and encourages the Arabs to escalat e their demands and rule out conces- sions. It rewards Arab hardliners at the expense of Arab moderates. And it discourages Arab negotiators from negotiating directly with Israel, instead leading them to negotiate with Washington in the hope dw America wil l "deliver" Israel. This inevitably will paralyze the negotiations.; since a lasting peace can not be imposed by America, but can be attained only through direct negotiations between the warring parties. The Bush Administration should understand these dang e rs. Yet it repeatedly has gone out of its way to side with the Arabs on contentious issues in the course of the negotiations. Secretary of State James Baker, for example, unilaterally decided to hold the second round of talks on December 4 in Washington, a s the Arabs wanted to maximize U.S. involvement, rather than in the Middle East, as Israel wanted in order to signal Arab acceptance of the Jewish state. To demonstrate that he would not be railroaded by the U.S., Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir delayed sen d ing Israel's delegation to Washington for five days. .U.S. Contradiction.The State Department also sided with the Arabs by granting visas to Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) officials who acted as unofficial advisers to the joint Palestinian-Jordan i an delegation in Washington. This required the Bush Administration to grant waivers to the PLO officials, who otherwise would have been banned from entering America under a 1986 law that prohibits the entry of members of terrorist groups. This concession c ontradicted U.S. assurances that Israel would not have to negotiate, even indirectly, with the PLO, which Israeli rejects due to the PLO's continuing terrorist activi- ties. Allowing PLO officials to come to Washington also undermined U.S. attempts to bui l d up Palestin- ian moderates and permitted the PLO to increase its control over the negotiations. By meeting Arab de mands to allow PLO officials to come toWashington, Bakerss State Department might have removed a short-term obstacle to Arab participation in the negotiations, but damaged; the long-term prospects for a negotiated settlement. The most recent U.S. tilt against Israel came when the U.S. joined the'14 other members of the United Nations Security Council in backing a January 6 resolution that "s t rongly -condemns" Israel's January 2 decision to deport from the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank 12 Palestinians accused of inciting terrorism against Israelis. This was the first time that the U.S. supported a U.N. Security Council resolu- tion that "strongly condemned" Israel for any action. This resolution, in fact, was tougher in its language than U.N. Security Council Resolution 660 of August 2,1990,-which merely "condemned7lraq for invad-

ing Kuwait-.. On the five previous occasions: that the Security Council criticiz6d1ka6li deportation of Pal- estinians, the resolutions at most "deplored" the deportations. is the.Bush Administration escalating U.S. criticism of Israeli The loxi#standing tj S'. policy of opposing deportations. of Palesti n ians from the occupied territories. had not changed'. What had changed: was that these deportations came in the midst of Arab-Israeli peace- talks. U.S.'officials f acknowledged that Washington had acceded to the harsher language criticizing. Israel becau s e the U.S. hoped to lure the Arabs back to the bilateral talks with Israel that were scheduled to resume inWashington on January 7.' The three Arab delegations had threatened to boycott the Washington talks- in protest of the, Israeli action.' Itis as unw i se asitis unseem for. the -sided resolution criticizing a., ly support a one longtime all . m- an unprecedented manner as a price for securin 'Arab participation in the peace process y 9 It is particularl PLO, givdn y distasteful diatWas h ingtqn signed on to a 'resolution that was drafted by the the fact that it. was -a Palestinian terrorist attack that killed an Israeli on January 1 that provoked Israel to' consider the deporta#ons in..the. first place. Four.1sraell settlers have been kil l ed by terrorists since the peace talks began in Madrid on. October 30. Althou nunciation gli !he U.S; issued proforma de s ofthei6 terrorist, acts, there was no effort by... the Administration to craft U.N. Security Council resolutions to "strongj@ condem n ". these obstacles to the peage. talks. Nor did Israel refuse to attend the peace talks'&6 to the terrorism. That would have rewar&d the terrorists by derailing the negotiations that the .y op po .s6. at has de lo ped at the.V ..,panggrousbouble Standard. Wh Y0 Vhite House and Staie Department i$ ai. gqroi4s double standard conceming.the responsibilities of piriicipainis involved in the peace negodad6fig,.'. Israeli e xpepted to acceptpassivelir Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis to avoid jeopa l ilizing the '@$.eace process." America is bow. to Arabs -when they threaten to boycott the peace ne gotia tion.s. gn4.. is expected reward the Arabs by critici ,zing Israel. Yet the Arabs feel free to threaten. to. aband6h the peace negotiati o ns and. expect U.S..conc.e.ssions in exchange for returning to the 'negotiating table. is -happening is that Israel and the U.S. increasingly are bein held hostage 'to the "peace pro-.. 9 ces.s." Despite the fact that. the negotiations are moving. a t a glacial pace, if at all, Israel and America have. been.expected to alter their policies. to avoid harming this fragile "peace p;ocess.'! Israel has bpen urged to' tone down its. cam gn against terrorism. by ceasing deportations of Palestinians linked to terrorist paig gro4si-The Bush Administration in September postponed for 120 days consideration of $10 billion in loanguarantees to Israel, citing concerns about upsetting' the "peace process'.

ir While the BushAdministration wants Israel and America to subordinate the @ own security-and.for- eign policy interests to.keep the Deace-procoss lim along' the. Arabs. under 6 c6,s'uch c6A-. P1119 it.hasp'ut , i . * 1 straints. Although -the murder of four Israelis by Palestinian terrorists is a tn@ch larger t h reat to t@@ ultiT mate suc .cess.of the pe .ace t.alks-t .han..the depo .rtat.ion of. 12 Palestinians, theAiab n .iii1on's it thehe,26' tigting table have. not cracked down effectively on terrorists', or even adequately denounced thecon"Anuing terror- ist attacks on Israelis. Israeli policies. are held hos Ar@b--- ts tage to.the peace negotiations, thenthe Policies of tfie partipipiffik in the negotiations too should be held hostage..The Bush Administration should end its double 'standard in its policy tow a rd Arab-Israeli peace talks. It should do this by: Arab delegations at the peace talks take concerted action to. end all terrorist attacks +*.Insisfing that on Israelis. Even. if such attacks do not derail negotiations, they will make a 'genuine P e-iacei m p;oissibie'. Sponsorin' a U.N. Securit esolution that."strongl ii 9. y pDu;icfl R y c6ndem s"'. Palestinian Sift against Israeli civilians and calls for a halt to tem)rism during the peacie'niegotiiiions. Acting as. the ,honest broker at the peace talks b y encoura g the two sides to work out the#:dif- gin ferences without U.S. intervention, wherever possible. By overplaying its role as pardcul@Ayjii the early. phases. of the negotiation, the Bush Administration encourages the Arabs to neg'odate with Wash- i ngton rather than Jerusalem. This undermines Israeli. confidence in America at the. very'momerit when such confidence will be a crucial determinant of I 'sraeli flexibility in negotiating with theArabi. James A '.:Phillips Deputy Director of Foreign Polic y Studies



James Phillips

Senior Middle East Research Fellow

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