Gerald Honigman is a Florida educator who has done extensive doctoral work in Middle East studies, has lectured on numerous university and other platforms. He has debated many of the best Arab and pro-Arab academics in public debates and on television. Mr. Honigman is widely published in academic journals, magazines, newspapers and other publications.
Wed Aug 03, 2011 3:55 pm Hunting Quail and Sitting Ducks, Redux...
Hunting Quail and Sitting Ducks, Redux...
by Gerald A. Honigman
As the proud owner of Contessa and Maximus--Chocolate and Yellow Labrador Retrievers--I certainly have nothing against sustainable hunting per se, as long as it's done to put food on the table. Not having made the leap to vegetarianism, I'd be a hypocrite to complain…
Tess and Max would be excellent bird dogs, but my quarry--when I have the chance to get out these days--have fins and scales. So the local quail and ducks are safe (from my end at least) for now.
Ongoing events in the Middle East, however, brought back memories and reinforce certain truisms that deserve to be considered yet again…
Back in 2004, President George W. Bush spent the New Year holiday hunting quail with George Sr. and James Baker III, a close family friend and his dad's Secretary of State. Chances are that they traveled farther to do this than the State of Israel is in width by the armistice lines imposed on it in 1949 after being attacked by a half dozen Arab armies the year before.
Now, as I already alluded to, I have nothing against hunting per se. My problem was with the influence James " f ' the Jews they don't vote for us anyway" Baker had on the presidential family and an even more bothersome worry that the family shared many of these same ideas with or without Baker's influence.
While Bush the First was at the helm, widespread reports circulated that Secretary of State Baker promised Hafez al-Assad the same deal on the Golan Heights as Egypt's Sadat received in the Sinai Peninsula...a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces. And this was prior to negotiations between the parties themselves... a promise Baker evidently made to Iraq's Saddam's virtual twin butcher, author of the "Hama Solution," and other such goodies. Hama was the town that dared oppose Assad and suffered tens of thousands of casualties within a few months as a result...far more than Arabs have suffered after several years of intifada and suicide bombings against Israel. And with no United Nations' inquiries either. And I won't even get into Syria's atrocities against its own non-Arab Kurds a la Saddam in Iraq.
Keep in mind the Baby Assad is currently involved in a virtual replay of Daddy's earlier bloody moves on Hama and across much of the rest of Syria as well.
Presidents Bush and Baker knew full well how Syria used its position on the Golan prior to '67 to rain death on Israeli kibbutzim and fishermen in the Sea of Galilee below. And they also knew the losses Israel took to end that state of affairs when war was forced upon it--largely via Syria's instigations and game playing with Nasser's Egypt--in 1967. Had it not been for Israeli forward positions on the Golan, it was an easy downhill assault into Israel proper when Syria attacked in the Yom Kippur War in 1973. And if you believe that Israel was attacked to simply retrieve "occupied lands," I have two bridges to sell you. The passes Israel now controls greatly prevent a renewed Syrian assault. Additionally, much of Israel's water supply originates in this area...a vulnerability Syria is well aware of and has tried to cash in on in the past.
Turn the clock ahead to more recent times…
Only Syria's unceasing murderous and enslaving machinations in Lebanon ( it has never really recognized the independence of that country), support of the opposition against America in Iraq, alliance with Iran, support of Hizbullah and Hamas, and its current deadly repression of its own Arab people eased the pressure (for now, at least) from the State Department on the Jews to hand themselves over as a sacrificial lamb to Damascus. The continuous oppression of millions of non-Arab Kurds in that country has never bothered the Foggy Folks much.
With the ascendancy of the Obama White House, until very recently, things were set to take an even more serious turn for the worse. Right from the start, Mr. Obama sent his good buddy (and Arafat admirer),Robert Malley, to discuss the same deal that Obama envisions between Israel and the Fatah and Hamasniks: Israel gives away the entire store and makes all the real concessions in return for vague promises of good behavior from Arabs who still espouse their post-'67 destruction-in-stages plans.
Please take a look at what's happening all around Israel these days and then ask yourselves if you would make such a deal…
Washington and the State Department have frequently shifted back and forth between the Syrian and Palestinian Arab tracks as events dictated. President Obama is on record supporting a total Israel withdrawal to the '49 armistice lines and agreeing to being inundated by millions of alleged Arab refugees. Those are key elements of the alleged Saudi Peace (of the grave) Plan that Mr.Obama has repeatedly said Israel would be crazy not to accept and is still trying to shove down Israel's throat.
Unfortunately, even though Israel's Netanyahu has massive support of the American people and Congress behind him for a reasonable territorial compromise (as promised by UNSC Resolution 242 in the wake of the '67 war), reports now state that the Prime Minister is ready to cave in on this crucial issue. Big mistake…
If the reports are true, Israel will regret this down the line.
Whatever games Bibi might think he will be able to engage in come September, there is no doubt that Israel will be the loser given the State Department's long time track record regarding Arab-Israeli issues and Mr. Obama's own inclinations.
Israel will be shrunk down to invisibility on a world globe yet again and will have a peace of the grave "peace" with Arabs a stone's throw away from its main population centers, main air port, Parliament building, and so forth who will still refuse to recognize it as a Jewish State while demanding a 22nd one for themselves--regardless of how Netanyahu thinks this will all play out because of the escape routes he thinks he has. It won't play out that way…
Indeed, with the Israel-Palestinian Arab track stalled since last year's failed negotiations (since Arabs refused a territorial compromise and insisted upon Israel's return to its pre-'67, 9 to 15-mile wide existence…that's what the building freeze issue was/is all about), the ball was all set to shift to the Syrian court. The only thing that really stopped it was the outbreak of renewed Damascus repression as part of the "Arab Spring." The Foggy Folks have simply resigned themselves to a combined Syrian-Iranian takeover of Lebanon via Hizbullah proxies, whom they've armed to the teeth.
Day after day, the corpses pile up as Syrian Arab butchers target their own people.
And while it's true that those targeted hate Israel as much as their own murderers do ( after all, the whole region is simply purely Arab patrimony, so how dare Jews or Kurds or anyone else demand any share of justice in the region?), the message is still loud and clear…or at least should be. Yet the Arabists in the State Department still seem to wonder.
However the Syrian and other fronts in the region finally play out, the lessons for Israel may be scary but are obvious…
To any reasonable minds and observers, and despite its imperfections, Israel is indeed a shining light--both in that region and everywhere else as well. A light unto the nations…now where have I heard that before ?
Arabs inside Israel fear that they might be caught up in a land swap placing them under Arab control instead of Israel.
The democracy movement in the region may lead to the ascendancy of even more anti-Israel regimes…like those led by Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. The most powerful Arab nation, Egypt, seems poised to go down that path. That being the case, what is the value of any paper peace treaties Israel makes with enemies in which it makes all of the hard, concrete concessions? Keep in mind that Hamas, rulers of Gaza and very possibly the next rulers of the other proposed "Palestinian" Arab areas as well (for now, Hamas and Fatah have recently joined together), is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ditto for many of those now fighting Assad in Syria as well.
Given the instability and volatility which surrounds it, Israel must settle for no less than at least a small portion of the same rights any other nation would expect under similar circumstances.
Nations--including our own--have fought wars and acquired territories in the name of their national interests and defense…often far from home. In Israel's case, the lands in question are right next door and come with thousands of years of Jewish history attached to them ( including the Golan Heights, a part of the original April 25, 1920 Mandate of Palestine, by the way).
So, the last lesson for now is that, even in the age of missiles, nothing takes the place of reasonable territorial compromises given the nature of the enemies Israel faces.
This is not the border between Belgium and Luxembourg that we are considering.
Syrian Arabs--regardless of their sect, party, or stripe-- have watched closely as Israel's alleged moderate peace partners in the Palestinian (Arab) Authority took the new American President's cue, dug their heals in, and openly proclaimed that Israel must do all the giving while they do all the taking in negotiations. That's "compromise," Arab style…
Until it shot itself in the foot by its actions, Damascus had excellent reasons to assume equal treatment in these regards, both under the Bush administrations (with Baker and later Rice leading the pack at State) and with the Arabs' overall best buddy, President Obama. Until very recently, Secretary of State Clinton was singing Baby Assad's praises.
Upon a return to some semblance of stability in Damascus, expect the squeeze to be on yet again for Israeli suicidal actions on that front as well. The only thing that will counter this perpetual hostility from State is a more fair-minded occupant in the White House.
Given these realities, Israel must continue to offer its hand in peace, but must not cave in to yet another version of Neville Chamberlain's 1939 "peace for our time"--whether on the West Bank, the Golan, or elsewhere.
On the Syrian front, Israel must insist that either Baby Assad (or any of his successors) do not follow in Papa's footsteps regarding its own situation. Right now he has an incentive not to do so: Israeli long range artillery on the Golan are in a position to potentially do unto Damascus what Damascus actually did unto Jews for two decades prior to '67.
Every military personality who has visited the Golan from abroad has given the same advice…Israel would have to be suicidal to return to the status quo ante here. Israel simply doesn't have the wriggle room on the Golan or in Judea and Samaria ("West Bank") that it had in the Sinai when it made its deal with Egypt's Sadat--a deal very much endangered these days in light of the Egyptian version of the Arab Spring.
Yet, until just months ago, reports were coming out that Washington was concerned that Israel was solidifying its position on the Golan and was all set to put the squeeze on there as it has done with Jews vis-a-vis Jerusalem and the West Bank.
However the Arab Spring turns out over the months and years ahead ( and who knows how the dust will finally settle?), and despite the Obama Administration's openly admitted preferences on this subject, as with the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria, a meaningful territorial compromise must be reached on the Golan as well.
So, wrapping this up for now, despite the first part of the title, this analysis really has had nothing to do with hunting quail…
But it has had very much to say about Israelis remaining forever as sitting ducks, for that is what a return to the pre-'67 Auschwitz/armistice lines, which President Obama and the State Department insist upon, amounts too. And this also takes into consideration those virtually meaningless "land swaps" which will still leave Israel a horrendously exposed, mere zipper of a state afterwards and were only brought into the discussion as an afterthought because of the heat Mr. Obama took on his position on the matter.