excerpted from the book


How our covert wars have created enemies
across the Middle East and brought terror to America.

by Mark Zepezauer

Common Courage Press, 2003, paper


Theodore Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement, had written frankly of plans to "spirit the penniless [Palestinian] population across the border," while noting that the "removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly." Chaim Weizmann, a future president of Israel, noted in 1917 that the British had told him that there was a population in Palestine of "a few hundred thousand Negroes, but that is a matter of no significance."

... the British Empire left a huge mess behind when it pulled up its flag and went home. Britain had assumed control of Palestine after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. In 1917 the Balfour Declaration promised a home in Palestine for the Jewish people, consistent with the demands of the Zionist movement of European Jews. At the same time Britain promised the inhabitants of Palestine an independent Arab state on the same land, and that Jewish immigration would not come at the expense of the "political and economic freedom of the Arab population." So far, it hasn't worked out that way.

There were two main factions of the Zionist movement. The Labor Zionists, later the Labor Party, advocated a national home for the Jews in Palestine. The Revisionists, who later became the Likud Party, favored the use of force to create a Jewish state on the model of the biblical Kingdom of Israel. Other Zionists who called for peaceful cooperation with the Arabs were "maligned and scorned," according to Israeli author Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi. As early as 1938, David Ben-Gurion, future founder of the state of Israel, anticipate a future partition of the territory: "After we become a strong force, as a result of the creation of a state, we shall abolish partition and expand into the whole of Palestine."

Conflicts between the indigenous Jewish and Arab populations had been rare prior to the arrival of the Zionists, but became more frequent as Jewish immigration began to increase. Jewish settlers from Europe began buying up large tracts of fertile farmland from absentee owners, evicting the "penniless population" who worked the land. Tension began to rise, leading to uprisings and violent incidents in the 1920s, and general strikes by Arabs in 1933 and '36, brutally suppressed by the British. Britain eventually promised the irate Palestinians to place limits on immigration, and in 1940 limits were placed on land purchases by foreigners in Arab areas. But these restrictions were widely ignored, and vast amounts of Arab land had been illegally purchased by the time the British pulled out.

Jewish immigration to Palestine increased dramatically during and after World War II, as did Jewish militancy. Zionists assembled an army of some 60,000 men and also formed terrorist organizations to pressure the British on their demands for a Jewish state. Future Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin headed Irgun Zvai Leumi (IZL), which bombed Palestinian buses and marketplaces, killing hundreds of civilians. The Irgun also bombed the British embassy in Rome. Begin himself planned the bombing in 1946 of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing 91. Future prime minister Yitzhak Shamir led the Stem Gang, which assassinated the British minister for Middle East affairs in 1944 and the UN mediator for Palestine in 1948. In 1941 the Stem Gang had even offered to collaborate with the Nazis if that would help oust the British from Palestine.

The terrorism worked. In February 1947, the British Empire declared that it would withdraw from Palestine in mid-1948, leaving the problem of Palestinian/Jewish relations in the lap of the United Nations. As the most powerful nation in the UN, the United States became the leading advocate for a partition of Palestine. And as President Harry Truman said, "I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents." Truman had personal misgivings about the Zionist movement. He pressed the British to allow more European Jews to immigrate to Palestine, but worried that a Zionist state could be destabilizing to the region. But Truman also had a sizeable constituency that was, as he put it, "anxious for the success of Zionism," and their support in the 1948 election was something he badly needed.

In late 1947, the UN General Assembly voted narrowly for a partition plan. The U.S. role in its passage was pivotal. The U.S. pressured its territories and allies, threatening war-tom France with a total aid cutoff. At the same time, the U.S. and other supporters of the partition were limiting their own immigration of European Jews, in effect forcing even more Jewish refugees into Palestine.

Even with the increased migration to Palestine during and immediately following World War II, at the time of the partition, Jewish residents made up less than one-third of the population and owned less than 10% of the land. The partition plan gave them 56% of the territory of Palestine. Much of the best arable land ended up in the Jewish portion. In exchange, the Arab state was to be awarded an annual subsidy. The cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem were to be international territory, while it was envisaged that the two states would share a common currency as well as joint postal, telephone and transportation services. But there was no plan to implement these key aspects; they were left to be resolved by the forces on the ground.

The UN partition was unacceptable to the Palestinians, then constituting a two-thirds majority, since they were being denied their right to self-determination. Unbeknownst to them, however, King Abdullah of Jordan had made a secret deal with David Ben-Gurion to prevent the emergence of any Palestinian state by seizing the West Bank.

Palestinians were at a military disadvantage. The Jewish forces were already well armed by 1948, and continued to import weapons from Eastern Europe as well as from private citizens in the U.S. The Palestinians had no such organized forces, and were dependent on neighboring Arab states. As the date for British withdrawal drew nearer, Jewish forces mounted dozens of military operations, while Arab armies (mainly from Jordan, Egypt and Syria) infiltrated into the Palestinian portion and along the borders. Both sides prepared for all-out war. The Israelis have always claimed that they were attacked first by the Arab armies. But as BenGurion later stated, "until the British left, no Jewish settlement, however remote, was entered or seized by the Arabs."

Ben-Gurion declared the formation of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948, one day ahead of the British departure. The joint Arab forces then formally entered into a state of war in order to secure the Palestinian portion. But by that point the Jewish army had already occupied many key cities, whether they were part of the Jewish portion or not. Violence between the two sides had already spun out of control. A month earlier, on April 9, Irgun paramilitaries had entered the village of Deir Yassin and executed more than two hundred men, women and children, and then mutilated many of the bodies. In reprisal, Arabs attacked a Jewish convoy, killing 77 civilians. These were, of course, neither the first nor the last such incidents.

To give a sense of the balance of terror, virtually all of the fighting took place in the Arab portion of Palestine. The official Zionist history of the war shows that of the thirteen major offensives staged by Jewish forces prior to independence, eight were in Palestinian territory. The Jordanian army in particular was under orders not to enter the Jewish portion. And as Israeli historian Uri Milstein put it, nearly every skirmish between Israeli and Arab forces "ended in a massacre of Arabs."

In the end, no Palestinian state was established; the West Bank and East Jerusalem were claimed by Jordan, while Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip, and Israel took the rest. By the end of the 1948-49 war, over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homeland or fled in terror.

Israeli media had long claimed that the Arabs left in response to pleas from neighboring states broadcast via radio. But internal Israeli documents show that more than 75% of the refugees fled because of Israeli military actions, including psychological operations to instill fear, as well as direct expulsions (what we now call "ethnic cleansing"). More than 50,000 Palestinians were expelled from the towns of Lydda and Ramle alone. As these facts have come to light, the claim that the migration was voluntary and due to persuasion over the radio has been largely abandoned in Israel, though it is still widely repeated in the U.S.

When it was over, Israel controlled not 56% of the land (as originally allotted by the UN partition plan) but 78% of it. At least 55% of the Palestinian population had fled or been forced from Palestine, and were living in squalid refugee camps. To prevent the return of the inhabitants, some 350 Arab villages had been depopulated and either partially or completely demolished. Implicitly endorsing these events, the United States immediately recognized the state of Israel-within eleven minutes of its founding.

The U.S. did not become Israel's number one military patron until the 1967 war (replacing France). But after Israel's founding, Ben-Gurion immediately set up a liaison between the Israeli intelligence service Mossad and the fledgling CIA-and blackmailed one prominent CIA officer, the infamous James Jesus Angleton, into serving as an Israeli mole. Eventually the Mossad became a sort of proxy force for the CIA in places where congressional opposition or budgetary restraints prevented our own involvement, such as in South Africa and Guatemala during the Reagan years. But as a self-interested proxy, Israeli intelligence often created as many problems for the U.S. as it solved-most notably in the Mossad's links to the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s. (Israeli middlemen helped transport U.S. arms to the Khomeini regime in Iran and helped Reagan to circumvent Congressional restrictions on aid to Nicaraguan rebels. While Israeli profited financially from its role, the scandals blew up in Reagan's face.) Today, Israel is among our closest allies, forming a strategic alliance with Turkey to help project U.S. power in the region.

But relations were not always so warm, especially in the early days. While Truman was guardedly pro-Israel, his successor Dwight Eisenhower's administration was noticeably cool to the new state at first. The turning point in the relationship came with the Suez crisis of 1956. While Egyptian President Nasser had quietly let it be known that he was prepared to negotiate a peace treaty with Israel, the Israelis were more interested in getting rid of him. He represented what they had most feared: the rise of a charismatic Arab leader to replace the easily bribed monarchies set up by the British and French. Ben-Gurion said, for instance, "I always feared that a personality might rise such as arose among the Arab rulers in the seventh century or like [Kemal Ataturk] who rose in Turkey after its defeat in the First World War. He raised their spirits, changed their character, and turned them into a fighting nation. There was and still is a danger that Nasser is this man." The Mossad began filtering disinformation on Nasser to the Europeans and the U.S., and set off bombs in U.S. and British offices in Cairo, hoping to blame the Egyptians and poison their international relationships. The Israelis had also, as an act of provocation, attacked the Egyptian-held city of Gaza in 1955, killing 37.

After Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, Britain and France made a secret deal with Israel to invade Egypt and take it back. Their joint forces captured the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt in a surprise attack. But Washington was not in on the secret plan, and was alarmed by this European influence in this region so rich with oil and strategic importance. To counteract the European powers, the U.S. intervened on Egypt's behalf by pressuring the Israelis to withdraw. That withdrawal marked the end, once and for all, of the role played by Britain and France as colonial powers in the Middle East.

From that point on, despite the U.S. having sided with Egypt over the Canal, Nasser was seen more and more as an enemy, and the strategic alliance with Israel was established. President Eisenhower came to share Israel's fear of "radical Arab nationalism," especially as it might lead to the disruption of the neighboring oil-rich monarchies. And Mossad assistance proved valuable when the U.S. sent troops to intervene in Jordan and Lebanon. By 1958 CIA Director Allen Dulles called Israel's intelligence service "the only one on which we can count."

Emboldened by their growing alliance with the U.S., the Israelis immediately began planning to re-conquer the Sinai, which came to fruition 11 years after the Suez crisis.

While the Egyptian border was secured, the frontiers with Jordan, Syria and Lebanon had been in contention ever since the armistice of 1949 (to this day the state of Israel has never officially declared its borders). Palestinian refugees resisted the appropriation of their homelands with cross-border raids into Israel. Massive retaliation from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) inevitably followed. Often, the IDF did not wait for the Palestinians to attack before retaliating. According to Palestinian writer Edward Said, these regular skirmishes led to the deaths of at least ten times as many Arab civilians as compared to Israelis. In 1964 the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded with the intention of reclaiming the Palestinian homeland. Several factions vied for control of the PLO; Yassir Arafat, the head of Fatah, assumed overall command by 1969.

By the time of Arafat's ascent, the Six Day War of June 1967 had destroyed not only the air forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, but also their credibility as champions for the Palestinian cause. Israel had re-conquered the Sinai along with the Gaza Strip, seized the Golan Heights, and occupied the West Bank, including the entire city of Jerusalem.

The situation for the Palestinians within Israel had been dire since the country's 1948 inception. Treated as second-class citizens, the Palestinians' homes, lands and businesses were confiscated or destroyed; their olive orchards were uprooted; they were restricted from purchasing land and barred from military service; display of the Palestinian flag was forbidden; even the gathering of herbs for traditional recipes was restricted. Palestinian villages paid taxes, but received virtually no services from the government. With the illegal 1967 conquests that (except for the Sinai) remain in place 35 years later, a million more Palestinians were placed under direct military occupation.

After the war, the U.S. and Israel assisted Jordan in its own crackdown against the PLO, killing thousands of civilians. Unsurprisingly, this led to the emergence of more militant factions. Extremist Palestinian splinter groups began hijacking airplanes and staging other acts of terrorism in order to draw attention to their cause. Among the most infamous of these were the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics and the mass shootings of passengers at the Rome and Vienna airports, carried out by the Black September movement as revenge for the massacres in Jordan. While these atrocities did indeed draw attention, they set the Palestinian cause back by at least a generation. It would be nearly 20 years before either Israel or the U.S. would openly negotiate with the PLO. "Palestinian" became synonymous with "terrorist," a shift in perception that conveniently minimized and obliterated from memory Israel's own acts of terror.

In conjunction with the terrorist assassinations by the Stem and Irgun groups mentioned earlier, Israel had in fact invented airplane hijacking back in 1954, and had used bus bombings and car bombs in order to establish their state. The IDF uses the bombing of vehicles and assassination on a regular basis to this day.

In any conflict involving terror, reprisal, and counter-reprisal, it is often hard to sort out which party bears the greater responsibility for the casualties. But Israel's deliberate provocation is a conscious strategy, not a response to terrorism. The Israeli war hero General Moshe Dayan explained quite frankly that "[Israel] may-no, it must invent dangers, and to do this it must adapt the strategy of provocation and revenge." This strategy was used quite effectively in the wars of 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1982, as well as in both of the Palestinian Intifada uprisings. Israeli terror had (and has) killed far more Palestinians than vice versa. The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem has reported that between 1987 and 2000, more than 1500 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israelis, as opposed to 270 Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians. But in a major propaganda victory for the Israelis, it was the PLO that carried the stigma.

The PLO was chased from Jordan into Lebanon, and later into Tunisia. In the meantime, after Nasser died suddenly of cardiac arrest in 1971, his successor, Anwar Sadat, also let it be known that he was interested in signing a peace treaty with Israel. Like Nasser, he was initially ignored; Egypt had to fight another war with Israel in 1973 before those efforts were taken seriously. At Camp David in 1978, Sadat signed a separate peace to get back the Sinai, and left the Palestinians to their own devices. This "peace process" freed Israeli forces to focus with greater intensity on the West Bank and Lebanon. Sadat's peace efforts also exacerbated a schism within the Palestinian movement between those who also sought a negotiated settlement and those committed to military action.

Sadat was not the only one who tried to negotiate peace with Israel; nor was he the only one who faced indifference and hostility from the U.S. in trying to do so. UN Resolution 242 was passed in November 1967. It called for Israel to withdraw from territories gained by force, and emphasized the right of both peoples to live in secure and recognized boundaries. But from the beginning, both the U.S. and Israel rejected 242, and the Nixon Administration actively worked to subvert it. In 1974 Yassir Arafat addressed the United Nations, the first head of a liberation movement to do so. He said, "I come to you with an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun; do not let the olive branch fall from my hand." He initially proposed a one-state solution: a united, secular Palestine as a democratic homeland to Christians, Jews and Muslims on the entire territory of the divided Palestinian homeland, including Israel.

Soon after, the PLO was granted observer status at the UN, and the General Assembly passed UN Resolution 3236, "reaffirming the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination." In 1976, the UN called for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, but the resolution was vetoed by the U.S. By 1978, Arafat had accepted the two-state solution, and agreed to renounce the use of violence in order to enlarge the Palestinian portion, though he said he hoped to do so through negotiation. And in 1982 a PLO spokesman stated that "the PLO has formally conceded to Israel, in the most unequivocal manner, the right to exist on a reciprocal basis." But by that point Israel was gearing up to destroy both the PLO and Arafat himself.

According to Israeli media, the 1982 invasion of Lebanon was necessary as a response to Palestinian cross-border attacks. But according to Israeli statistics, the total number of Israelis killed by such attacks was 106-over the previous 15 years. The IDF killed more civilians than that in the very first day of the invasion. As the Israeli Chief of Staff put it (in reference to a previous Lebanese incursion), "we struck the civilian population consciously, because they deserved it." In fact, the acquisition of Lebanese territory shared something in common with Israel's annexations of the Sinai and the West Bank. Contrary to assertions that they were in response to terror, the conquests had been planned many years before, as part of the "Greater Israel" project. With the Likud Party in power for the first time, Israel's revisionists also saw the chance to fulfill long-cherished dreams of installing a friendly Christian regime in Beirut.

The justification Israel used to invade Lebanon stands as clear evidence that it sought to create a greater Israel and was not as a response to terrorism. To avoid giving Israel any excuse to invade, the PLO had been rigorously adhering to a cease-fire in northern Lebanon. When a rival Palestinian faction-one not even based in Lebanon-made an attempt on the life of the Israeli ambassador in London, Prime Minister Begin seized on this as a pretext for the long-planned invasion. Begin turned Defense Minister Ariel Sharon loose on the Palestinians and their allies.

This context makes clear that it was not so much Palestinian violence that required an Israeli military attack. Rather, it was their insistence on a negotiated two-state solution-anathema to the Israeli government.

Begin had announced a brutal aim for the invasion: to expel the Palestinians from a 25-mile security zone north of the border. But Israeli forces went far beyond this, pushing all the way to Beirut. Occupying half the city, Israel bombed indiscriminately for nine weeks. In the end, Israel had killed at least 17,000 civilians, in the process so inflaming world opinion that the U.S. agreed to help evacuate the PLO from Beirut to Tunis.

With the PLO leadership in exile, the situation for millions of Palestinian refugees remaining in the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon worsened as they had even less protection from the actions of the Israeli occupation forces. Under the Likud Party, Israel stepped up the pressure by dramatically increasing the number and size of its illegal settlements on the occupied territories. In defiance of international law, Labor governments had established the infrastructure for Israelis to consolidate control over the West Bank and Gaza beginning in 1967. But they had proceeded gradually. In 1972, there were 1500 Israeli settlers in the West Bank; by the time Begin refused President Carter's request to freeze settlement activity in 1977, that number had increased to 7,000.

In 1977, Ariel Sharon, then Minister of Agriculture, published a blueprint for a "demographic transformation" of the West Bank, envisioning a majority of 2 million Jews on the seized lands by the end of the 20th century. By 1983, just six years later, the settler population of the West Bank alone had quadrupled to nearly 30,000. Other Israeli settlements were established in Gaza and the Golan Heights, and tens of thousands of Israelis were encouraged to move into and around the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Generous subsidies from the government helped to fuel the migrations, and many of the new communities were built on land previously occupied by demolished Palestinian homes or farms- or villages. Many were fitted with swimming pools and lush lawns, appropriating scarce desert water resources. The impoverished Palestinians in surrounding villages were forbidden to dig new wells.

Palestinians began to chafe more and more under the misery of the occupation and its daily humiliations. They continued to have their homes demolished and confiscated; were subject to routine harassment at border checkpoints when crossing into Israel for menial jobs; suffered continuing expulsions into Jordan-often, wives and children were deported across the Jordanian border on short notice while the men were away at work. Military authorities quashed any show of Palestinian nationalism and incarcerated men and boys in squalid prisons where torture was not only commonplace, but also actually legal according to the Israeli Supreme Court. Israeli settlers and soldiers literally got away with murder, including killing children. Those who beat and killed Palestinians often received no more than slaps on the wrist like fines and probation.

As Palestinian rage in the occupied territories intensified, the exile of the PLO left a power vacuum, which was increasingly filled by radical Islamic groups. Ironically, the Israelis had initially sponsored Muslim groups like Hamas to weaken the authority of the PLO. (Funding rival groups who share a common aim antithetical to the funder may seem odd. But it is in fact standard practice, in the hopes that a more vigorous rivalry between the funded groups will turn their focus on each other with mutually destructive effects. But often it is the funder who gets it in the end. For example, the U.S. was funding Islamic militants in Afghanistan from 1979 through 1995-with devastating consequences).

In 1978, seeking to counter Arafat's influence and prevent the success of his peace initiatives, the governing Likud Party registered a religious organization led by Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. The Sheikh not only opposed Arafat's secular rule, but also opposed the land-for-peace negotiations sought by the PLO. Israel funded Yassin's organization, which set up mosques, schools and clinics in the occupied territories. The Israelis also set up a system of "Village Leagues," used to recruit and bribe Palestinian collaborators and informers. Yassin used funding-and Israeli-trained Palestinian fighters-from the Leagues to set up a military wing of his movement, which he named Hamas. During the 1990s it grew into a rival power to counter Arafat's PLO, but not in the way Israel had hoped.

A measure of how out of touch the PLO leadership was with frustration in the Occupied Territories came in December 1987. An Israeli truck killed four Palestinians, and Gaza and the West Bank erupted into a spontaneous uprising that was as much a surprise to the PLO as it was to Israel. It became known as the Intifada, and would last, in varying degrees of intensity, until 1993.

At first much of the resistance was non violent, including strikes, demonstrations, tax resistance, boycotts of Israeli products and institutions, and the establishment of Palestinian schools and other alternative institutions. Much of this was put down with force by the Israeli authorities. The outburst of anger had also begun with rock-throwing youths, who were shot down with live ammunition. When this led to a public relations crisis for Israel in the court of world opinion, orders went out to simply "break the bones" of the protestors. Surprisingly, the beating of unarmed demonstrators was also not too popular. But within the first few years, the uprising was more or less crushed by Israeli military power.

In the first 17 months of the Intifada, 424 Palestinians were killed, and 17 Israelis. The Mossad also infiltrated Palestinian groups and executed Intifada organizers. The IDF responded to the uprising with mass arrests, and curfews for which violators were shot on sight. Schools and universities were closed, and in the most egregious example of collective punishment (long held illegal under international law), Palestinian workers were prevented from commuting to the* jobs in Israel, with unemployment reaching 30 to 50%.

In the midst of the Intifada, the plight of Palestinians worsened. Many of the Gulf monarchies rebuked the PLO for its support of Iraq in the Gulf War by cutting off financial aid to the organization. The monarchies also meted out another collective punishment by expelling hundreds of thousands of Palestinian workers.

Finally, as Israel had hoped, the Islamic groups were at odds with the PLO (many of whose leaders were Christians). Mutual recriminations had undermined Palestinian unity. In many ways the Intifada was also a Palestinian civil war-250 were killed by their own countrymen. Yet the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict was primary: Palestinians killed 405 Israelis while the Israelis killed over 1,400.

By 1993, the Palestinians were severely weakened, both politically and economically. But Israel had also seen damage to its international reputation, and the U.S. had promised many of the Arab states to push for some movement on the Palestinian question as a condition of their involvement in the Gulf War coalition. In 1988, Arafat had proclaimed a Palestinian declaration of independence-though he was still in Tunisia with no state to rule-and had agreed to recognize Israel's right to exist (This was a concession of 78% of what was once Palestine). A peace conference was held in Madrid in 1991, which led to secret negotiations between Israel and the PLO in Oslo, Norway. In September 1993, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Arafat signed the Oslo Accords, shaking hands on the White House lawn.

The agreement established a declaration of principles for talks leading to a final settlement, with many of the terms on borders, refugees and Jerusalem left intentionally vague. It also created a Palestinian Authority (PA), initially based in Gaza and Jericho, to which Arafat was easily elected President. The accords also declared Israel to be responsible for the "overall security," but also established a Palestinian police force, which was trained by the CIA.

The PLO agreed to this ambiguous and flawed arrangement because they felt they had no choice, but the peace process was popular with a majority of Palestinians as it seemed to be predicated on the promise of a Palestinian state. Many Palestinians, though, opposed the Oslo Accords from the beginning. Some saw them as an opportunity for Israel to set up a Bantustan-style occupation, like that of South Africa. Exiled writer Edward Said characterized any state Arafat might conceivably set up as "the largest jail in the world," and predicted an eventual second Intifada.

Though a timetable was drawn up for eventual Israeli withdrawal from West Bank towns and cities, the PA never ended up fully controlling more than 17% of the territory. A deadline of September 2000 was set for a final agreement, but that deadline was never met.

Extremists and rejectionists on both sides undermined any hopes for peace. In 1994, a crazed Israeli settler massacred 30 Muslims at a mosque in Hebron. Right-wing Israelis launched a campaign of vilification against Rabin, culminating in his assassination by a Jewish fanatic in 1995. Under his successors, both Labor and Likud, the pace of settlements and land appropriations continued to increase. West Bank settlements alone had reached over 100,000 settlers by the end of the Intifada; over the eight years of the Oslo process, they doubled to more than 200,000.87 Israel now controls 85% of the water supply in the Jordan Valley.

Palestinian rejectionists were also empowered by events which followed the agreement. The Palestinian poverty rate doubled in the Oslo years, and general despair continued to increase (along with the number of Israeli settlements. Hamas and Islamic Jihad launched a series of suicide bombings beginning in 1995, and began to gain more recruits among young Palestinians who saw no hope for the future. This in turn led to the 1996 election of Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who openly disdained the Oslo process and dragged his feet on implementing its agreements. Final status negotiations scheduled to begin in 1996 took place only after Netanyahu had been replaced by Ehud Barak in 1999.

But Barak opened the Camp David summit by breaking another promise of West Bank force withdrawal, and laid down a series of positions from which he said he would not budge. Under the circumstances, Arafat was reluctant to attend at all, but agreed under the condition that he not be blamed as a scapegoat if the talks should fail. That turned out to be yet another in a series of broken promises, as President Clinton publicly blamed Arafat for the failure to reach an agreement.

One of the enduring myths of the continuing crisis is that Barak offered Arafat "95% of the West Bank," but that the latter rejected it, preferring to return to armed conflict. In fact, a look at the maps of Barak's initial offer show that Israel was actually seeking to retain nearly 40% of the West Bank in one form or another-including the most desirable land. In May 2000, he called for a "temporary" security zone along the Jordan Valley, amounting to 14% of the territory. Another 25%, incorporating 90% of the illegal settlers, would be annexed permanently, while the remaining islands of Palestinian sovereignty would be criss-crossed by a network of "Jewish-only" highways connecting the settlements. Though this "generous" offer was later modified somewhat, no Palestinian leader could agree to anything like it and expect to retain his job.

And, in fact, the Camp David summit sponsored by President Clinton in July 2000 did collapse without an agreement, but the Palestinians did not walk away from the process. They continued to send negotiating teams to Taba, Egypt, working ever closer to an agreement, even after the eruption of the second Intifada in September 2000.93 But by January 2001, both Clinton and Barak were lame duck leaders. Ariel Sharon had helped to spark the renewed violence by marching to the holy Islamic site of the Temple Mount with 1000 armed policemen. Once again Palestinian rock-throwers were met with lethal force, and Sharon exploited the ongoing tragedy to win election as Prime Minister. The newly inaugurated President Bush refused to send a U.S. delegation, and Israel-not the Palestinians-withdrew from the negotiations. In fact, the Bush camp advised the Israelis during Clinton's Camp David talks that they should be prepared to walk out of the negotiations-four months before the U.S. presidential election.

Sharon came to power in early 2001, promising Israel "security"-but has instead delivered just the opposite. Refusing all calls for a settlement freeze as the precondition for a cease-fire, he established dozens of new settlements in the West Bank. Whenever there was a lull in the violence, Israel assassinated an Islamic leader, virtually ensuring another retaliation. The levels of violence on both sides were considerably higher than in the first uprising, as the grisly suicide bombings increased in both number and intensity. When one of them killed 20 Israelis at a Passover celebration in March 2002, Sharon's IDF forces invaded the West Bank, re-establishing the occupation and working to destroy all vestiges of the Palestinian Authority. Just as with earlier incursions, the reoccupation of the West Bank had been planned well in advance, during the summer of 2000, while peace talks were still ongoing. Ironically, this renewed warfare came just as the Arab League issued an unprecedented joint offer to recognize Israel, in return for a withdrawal to the 1967 borders.

As with his incursion into Lebanon 20 years earlier, Sharon stands accused of complicity in war crimes, including summary executions, use of human shields, and the aforementioned bloodbath at the Jenin refugee camp. Finally, after 15 months of looking the other way, the Bush Administration turned its attention to the ongoing carnage, under pressure from both Arab and European allies. Vice President Dick Cheney was sent to Arab capitals to drum up support for an attack on Iraq, and was told in no uncertain terms that no such support would be forthcoming without progress on the Palestinian issue. Subsequently (and belatedly) Secretary of State Colin Powell was sent to the region to try to arrange a cease-fire as Sharon defied the president's call to withdraw.

Powell tried (in vain) to arrange an international conference to address the crisis, and prospects for the ultimate success of the "peace process" are dim-particularly since President Bush called on the Palestinians to replace both their leader and their system of government before any further negotiations. Both the U.S. and Israel are too powerful to be thwarted, and the Bush Administration seems sympathetic to Sharon's "Greater Israel" fantasies. Israel will eventually relinquish only enough territory to mollify America's so-called "moderate Arab allies," which is unlikely to defuse the newly heightened levels of hatred on both sides. A 2002 poll found 46 percent of Israelis in favor of simply expelling the Palestinians from the West Bank altogether-and it appears that their prime minister may be planning to do just that. In November 2002 the Labor Party pulled out of the governing coalition with Sharon's Likud. He then formed a new government allied with far-right parties, while calling for new elections in January 2003. In the meantime, the IDF began work in June 2002 on a 200 mile "Berlin Wall" that will eventually encircle most of the occupied territories.

The strategy behind these moves was laid out many years before by the late Israeli General Moshe Dayan. He argued that the Palestinians should be told "that we have no solution, that you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wants to can leave-and we will see where this process leads...."

The greatest tragedy here is that so much of this was avoidable. An international conference held thirty years ago would have reflected the consensus of most of the world, as expressed in UN Resolution 242, which called for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories. Israel's ongoing rejection of these terms has been made possible by U.S. aid, which currently runs at some $5 billion a year. Over the history of the state of Israel that has amounted to nearly $100 billion in military and economic aid, the vast bulk of it after 1967, when Israel-the region's only nuclear power-had proved capable of handily defeating the combined forces of all its adversaries. The real threat to Israeli civilians (as well as to U.S. citizens at home and abroad), comes from the ongoing delusion on the part of both countries' rulers that Israel can occupy territory at will and still expect to negotiate peace.

It may serve U.S. interests for Israel to be our proxy, a sand-covered aircraft carrier in a sea of hostile Arab states, as it helps to keep the Arabs divided and squabbling. But it doesn't necessarily serve the interests of the Israeli people, who are subject to reprisals for this brutal and cynical strategy. Just as useful to U.S. interests is another well-armed ally ...


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