Last year, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon precipitated a
firestorm of criticism from the Bush Administration by suggesting that the
United States was doing to Israel what Czechoslovakia's great power allies,
Great Britain and France, had done to her before World War II. At the time,
President Bush and his national security team were outraged at such an
invidious comparison and Sharon retreated, claiming that he had been
misquoted. Unfortunately, with each passing day, Washington appears to view
its principal Middle Eastern ally's conduct as increasingly inconvenient --
in much the same way London and Paris came to see Czechoslovakian resistance
to Hitler's offers of peace in exchange for Czech lands.
This parallel was brilliantly addressed by Peter Hutchins in an
essay published on March 10th in the British newspaper, The Mail on Sunday:
"The phrase 'land for peace' is interesting in itself. It is
actually another way of describing the appeasement forced on Czechoslovakia
by her supposed friends in 1938. This was also supposed to promise peace,
but made the country impossible to defend and opened the gates for invasion
a few months later. Those responsible for this cowardly stupidity are still
reviled 60 years on. Those who urge it on Israel in the present day are
Today, as in 1938, there appear to be more important things to worry
about than the security concerns of a small ally which finds itself on the
fault-lines of a larger conflict. Then, British and French governments
wanted to prevent a war with Germany; today, the U.S. government is,
correctly, determined to start one with Iraq.
In the service of the former objective, the Great Powers felt within
their rights to take risks with Czech security. In the latter case, the
World's Only Superpower hopes that the Arabs will be less hostile to its
determination to topple Saddam Hussein if only Israel renders itself
Toward that end, the United States has lately resumed its strident
criticism of Israeli efforts to prevent terrorists from inflicting further
damage on the Jewish State at a rate that is, calculated on a per capita
basis, far in excess of the losses we suffered on September 11th. American
diplomats are demanding the withdrawal of all Israel Defense Forces from
areas foolishly relinquished to Palestinian control back when some people
still thought the surrender of such land would mean that Arafat would
prevent it from being used to wage war against the Israelis.
Peter Hutchins flays this paternalistic tripe: "In normal life, it
is a sign of being unhinged if you do the same thing over and over again and
expect a different result. But in the business of Middle East diplomacy such
behavior could earn you a Nobel Peace Prize. Since 1978, Israel has been
urged to give up a little more land in return for the promise of peace which
always seems to evaporate. The land however is gone for good."
Now there is even talk of putting CIA "monitors" on the ground to
observe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict firsthand and, presumably, to
render findings as to who is at fault when the shooting occurs. This step
would obviously be exceedingly dangerous for the monitors, especially if
they are targeted for assassination by Palestinians who could reasonably
expect that such casualties would further strain U.S. relations with Israel.
This prospect might well prompt American military personnel to be
dispatched, as well, for the purpose of protecting the monitors. Suddenly,
the United States would have an armed presence in the middle of a conflict
where it would be obliged to view with moral equivalence Israel's efforts to
defend itself in the war on terrorism and a terrorist proto-state's efforts
to destroy our democratic ally.
The logic of such a proposed intervention has already given rise to
an even more ominous suggestion: Some who should know better (including
General George Joulwan who, before his retirement from the Army was Supreme
Allied Commander, Europe) are calling for the United States to "impose" a
peace agreement on the Israelis and Palestinians. This would, presumably,
go beyond Britain and France's sell-out of an ally at Munich in 1938. The
"impose-a-peace" school is apparently prepared to have us play the role of
Hitler's Wehrmacht as well, seizing and turning over to Yasser Arafat the
contemporary Sudetenland: the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and perhaps part of
Jerusalem, as well.
Or, more likely, the advocates of our dictating terms to the
Israelis expect the latter to bend to our will, obviating the need for us to
force them to do so. After all, like the Czechs of a few generations ago,
the Israelis have succumbed in the past to such sirens' songs as: "We know
what is best for you." "Do as we say, not as we would do in your
circumstances." "Our interests trump yours." "Trust us, we'll make up to
you later any concessions you have to undertake now."
In fact, it is precisely experiences like that of Czechoslovakia --
and the war and Holocaust its piecemeal surrender set in train -- that gave
rise to the widely perceived need for a Jewish State, one strong and
self-reliant enough to defend its people even if no one else would do so.
It is for these sorts of reasons that successive Israeli governments have
sensibly refused to rely upon American guarantees or forces for their
Tragically, efforts aimed at appeasing the Arab states by compelling
Israel once again to make herself vulnerable to attack will catalyze the
Arabs' appetite for war, all right, but not against Saddam Hussein. Like
appeasement at Czech expense over sixty-years ago, it will more likely
encourage them to engage in aggression against -- and even perhaps
precipitate the destruction of -- a freedom-loving nation that made the
mistake of becoming an inconvenient ally.