Saturday, May 24, 2014

'American Pressure on Israel? Perhaps Just a Smidgeon'..

Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar


  • The former ambassador to Washington Yoram Ettinger plays down the reports about American pressure to make political concessions: When prime ministers said 'no' they were respected.
  • Translated from the Hebrew Arutz 7 article by Shimon Cohen
In last week's conference for the application of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria organized by Women in Green and Am Chazak, that was held in Hashmonaim, former Ambassador to Washington Yoram Ettinger presented the proper way for the Israeli government to stand up to any American pressure by being aware of the real political power struggle in the American government.
Ettinger stated that the claims of unbearable American pressure are totally unrealistic. "I say that anyone who says that Israel cannot withstand the an American president's pressure, especially when Israel is faced with existential threats such as a nuclear Iran and Islamic terror, is either very dramatically wrong or is scandalously misleading" says Ettinger, who believes that the claims result from not understanding the American political structure and the regard that the United States grants to its interlocutors.

As he spoke, Ettinger brought up a number of examples from the past in which Israeli prime ministers proved that they have the power to stand up fearlessly to American pressure that was several times stronger than that of today. "In '48 Ben Gurion did not have an army, an economy or demographic strength. The United States imposed a military embargo on Israel even as the British were transferring weapons to the Arab countries. The United States adopted the CIA evaluation according to which the State of Israel had no chance against the Arab countries, and even stated that Ben Gurion would be responsible for a second holocaust within a decade. Ben Gurion's response was 'no' and he declared the State of Israel". Ettinger also mentioned additional examples of Ben Gurion's stand vis a vis the American government when the US demanded that he stop the conquest of the Negev, not apply the law over western Jerusalem and demanded that he take part in negotiations for the transfer of Israeli territory. In these cases as well, Ben Gurion responded with 'No' and acted according to his understanding of the correct way for the young State of Israel to act. The Americans learned to respect the government of Israel at that time. The first American ambassador describes in his book the meetings with the short Jew who dared to say no to every ultimatum of Secretary of State George Marshall, a hero of the Second World War, a man to whom the entire world listened attentively to every word he said. He wrote the book because of his great admiration for Ben Gurion and the idea of the State of the Jews.
Ettinger continued, mentioning the influence of Ben Gurion's statesmanship on American military people. "In light of Israel's stamina and skill in war, the Chief of General Staff called for Israel to be declared an ally."
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was also pressured by America, threatening that if he carried out a preemptive action the United States would consider supporting Egypt, which was being attacked, but he did not respond to the American pressure and "this did not detract from the growing American respect for him and for the Jewish State."
"When Begin daringly blew up the Iraqi nuclear plant in opposition to the American line instructing him not to carry out this action, it added to the respect for Israel. In an event held by the security establishment in Washington after the Second Gulf War, Dick Cheney, the American Secretary of Defense spoke, saying 'I want to thank Israel, which, a decade ago blew up the Iraqi nuclear plant and saved us from having to deal with such a nuclear plant now", said Ettinger and added that "Yitzhak Shamir also stood up to the American leadership's pressure and understood how an Israeli prime minister must stand persevere when faced with American pressure".
"Standing up to pressures increases respect for the person who stands up to the pressures, even if it harms his popularity", states Ettinger and defines current reality as "very minor pressures compared to the pressures that existed then". According to him, pressures from the United States are insignificant in general and especially in light of the dramatic weakening of President Obama, a weakness that very much concerns the members of his party, who fear, based on Obama's low popularity, that they may lose their majority in the mid-term elections next November.
According to Ettinger we must internalize the fact that "when an American president is weak in his own country, his ability to exert pressure approaches zero outside". He added that if there will be a Republican majority in the senate, Obama will become a lame duck until the end of his term. "Obama must keep the majority in the Senate and that is why he cannot turn great segments of the public against him. The sympathetic feeling toward Israel is one of the last common denominators in American politics and therefore, at least until November Obama must tread very carefully when he speaks to Israel".
Ettinger continues, describing the power struggle in the American governmental structure, a power struggle in which the Congress neutralizes every step that the president takes if it doesn't agree with him, as has happened many times in the past. The Congress' pro-Israel positions have led it to block American presidents' sanctions and threats against Israel again and again. Regarding this matter as well, Ettinger presents several examples from the history of Israel-United States relations.
As part of his speech at the conference, Ettinger continued his ongoing campaign of shattering the demographic myth, a process that he has been carrying out energetically in recent years. Ettinger presented statistical data that tells of a dramatic increase in Jewish fertility and the steep drop in Arab fertility since the seventies.
Ettinger noted that the current reality is a majority of 66 percent for the Jews in the area that includes the State of Israel and the territories of Judea and Samaria. He emphasized that the Palestinians try to inflate their numbers demographically with an additional million people and declare a population of 2.7 million people, while the reality is actually only 1.7 million.
Ettinger also mentioned the demographic threats of the more distant past, threats with which respected statisticians tried to threaten Herzl in the beginning of the previous century and Ben Gurion in the forties. Against Herzl it was the historian Shimon Dubnov, who defined the Jewish State as a delusion and claimed that in the year 2000, according to the most reliable predictions, there would be at most 500 thousand Jews between the river and the sea. These predictions did not deter Herzl from laying the foundations of modern Zionism. "In '47 ben Gurion stood up against the same phenomenon. Against him stood the great statisticians and demographers who presented predictions of the demographic situation in 2001 with the claim that there would be a 30 percent Jewish minority between the river and the sea".
Ettinger notes that "the central player", as he defines it "is aliyah (immigration to Israel), which is the body and soul of the Jewish State". According to him the government of Israel must not sit idly and expect the immigrants to come from the ends of the earth, but it must act to encourage aliyah in practical ways.
In his opinion, aliyah of a half million Jews in the next decade is a realistic prediction and even a conservative one when compared to the potential of aliyah which the government of Israel might see.
Note that more than one hundred and fifty people from Hashmonaim and surrounding communities took part in the conference, which was organized by Women in Green in cooperation with a new movement being formulated currently, the 'Am Chazak' movement. The event took place under the influence of the disturbing consciousness that the speakers and those present had regarding the civil administration's intention to carry out the destruction of buildings in three communities in Judea and Samaria by the end of the week. The heads of Women in Green, Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar, see the vision of sovereignty as an inclusive answer to such destructive steps, "We cannot continue to simply run to every outpost and to every agricultural area built on state land. In order for the Arabs not to take over, we need a general, realistic and structured solution, which is the vision of Israeli sovereignty over the entire area", say the two women.

Thanks NG

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