beware the wide-winged friend, by sarah honig

  1. 5,748 Posts.
    Jul. 28, 2003
    Beware the wide-winged friend, By Sarah Honig

    As Native Americans learned from bitter experience, the benevolent posture of the Great White Father in Washington and his treaty promises could be misleading. That perhaps inspired the Lacota Sioux admonition that "what looks true by the glow of the campfire isn't always true in sunlight."

    It's something we would do well to keep in mind. Our own tribal myth, often repeated around our proverbial collective campfire, persistently portrays various White House residents as our best friends, who sometimes know better than we what is best for us.

    Take the road map they drew up to lead us to peace. It demands certain Israeli concessions and others from the Palestinian Authority. But, paternally wise, the Americans counsel us not to be bound by specified map blueprints. In order to gain terrorist confidence we need to demand of the PA less than it undertook to give, while Israel must contribute far more than its agreed share.

    By this exceptional logic, peace will be attained if terror's infrastructure isn't dismantled just yet, the security fence isn't erected to hinder free terrorist traffic, the PA doesn't imprison terrorists (contrary to its map obligations), and Israel is forced to release yet more terrorist reinforcements (nowhere stipulated by the map). These deviations from the map's plotted course are supposed to strengthen the new PA leadership by surrounding it with more of the terrorists it purportedly promised to fight.

    Presumably this is why Washington pressured Israel to release terrorists that the map didn't require it to release, and to exceed its own egregious goodwill by increasing the numbers and variety of terrorists allowed to return to the crime scene. Thus imposed American map corrections demand more than setting free small fry who didn't quite manage to pull off their dastardly plans; they also seek liberty for homicidal conspirators from Islamic Jihad and Hamas, both organizations outlawed by Washington.

    That's a bit surprising considering how difficult it is to free convicts from American penitentiaries, including nonviolent Jonathan Pollard. It's not even easy to set loose non-convicts like all those Afghans in Guantanamo.

    It almost appears that sentences handed down by courts in democratic Israel aren't quite legitimate and that liberating terrorist malefactors would constitute a triumph for the forces of good and enlightenment. Arafat's No. 2, Abu Mazen, tells us they are soldiers in the Palestinian war of liberation, and that those longest behind bars especially deserve freedom.

    PRESUMABLY those who 24 years ago broke into Smadar Haran's Nahariya apartment and murdered her family only did their soldierly duty. Still in Israeli custody is the courageous PLO freedom-fighter who pulled Danny Haran and his four-year-old daughter from their home, picked up the child, held her upside-down by her ankles, swung her hard, smashed her head against a seashore boulder and then killed her horrified father.

    He meets all Palestinian criteria for release. American too.

    It could be that our best friends are indeed wise beyond our inferior comprehension. Or it might be that what looks like friendship isn't what it seems. If we examine the history of Israeli-American relations in the non-distorting sunlight we may conclude that the US has consistently deprived Israel of victory and indirectly encouraged Arab attacks. What is euphemistically labeled a peace process was always a process of divesting Israel of vital strategic assets. Israeli leaders, in effect, never negotiated with Arab interlocutors without intervention by America, on which Israel trusted it could rely.

    But can it? Way back in 1948, despite hesitant US de-facto recognition of newborn Israel, America's arms embargo emboldened Arab invaders. When Dwight Eisenhower forced Israel out of the Sinai in 1957 he promised to keep the Tiran Straits open. Nasser closed them a decade later but America reneged on its assurances, signaling Egypt that its aggression would be tolerated.

    Had the US kept its promise there would have been no Six Day War and no occupation for Washington to urgently seek to end.

    The US-brokered 1970 Israeli-Egyptian truce hinged on American guarantees that no heavy weaponry would be advanced. On the cease-fire's first night, however, the Egyptians moved dozens of anti-aircraft missiles to the Suez Canal's bank, facilitating the eventual launch of the Yom Kippur War.

    American silence was deafening. At the end of the 1973 war the US rescued the surrounded Egyptian Third Army from surrender, thereby robbing Israel of outright victory. The present hudna, just when Israel had begun inflicting pain on the terrorists, fits the pattern.

    Ronald Reagan frequently noted that without Israel the Soviets would have occupied Saudi oilfields. This never prevented Washington from trying to push Israel to the precarious June 4, 1967 lines.

    But what about American assistance? Today's White House guest Ariel Sharon used to stress that the equivalent of what Israel contributed to the US was far greater, even in monetary terms, than the sum total of what America gave Israel from the 1970s on (prior to that we got nothing). In return the US enjoyed access to Israeli intelligence, including information on Soviet weaponry, battlefield tryouts for American military hardware, their innovative improvement, etc.

    Moreover, American aid coerces Israel to consume American-manufactured goods from arms to uniforms. These can be produced locally. The fact that they aren't contributes to unemployment here and stunts research and development. Our reduction to vassal state status was completed when the US nixed exports by Israel's potentially competitive defense and aviation industries.

    America has its own interests and its basic diplomatic premise of considering Israel a pain in the backside hasn't changed since Harry Truman's day. If Sharon allows dim and flaring campfire illumination to obstruct this reality he'll continue duplicating most of his predecessors' fundamental misconceptions.

    It's not that we have a better friend than America. We don't. In fact, we have no friends and this is the harsh daylight truth that should guide our policymakers. Pseudo-friends can be comforting and useful occasionally, on condition that we maintain a suspicious vigilance, as another bit of Sioux folk wisdom advises.

    "Watch out," it enjoins, "for the friend who covers you with his wings, only to injure you with his beak."
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