Friday, January 16, 2009

On Israel

By Douglas Kohn

I cannot pretend to be completely unbiased in my analysis of Israel’s problems in the Middle East. I have family living in the city of Herzliyah in range of Hezbollah rockets. My family was intrinsically involved with the Zionist movement for many years. I myself have my issues with the Zionist organizations that I have been in contact with as I am paranoid of what I consider elements of dual loyalty. This, in and of itself, does not mean they are wrong on all issues.

There are two important interests the United States has with regard to Israel. America’s interests are served both by a strong, stable and mighty Israel and by an Israel at peace, or at least non violent stalemate with its neighbors. Part of this can only be accomplished by cajoling the Israelis into taking certain action that could be either politically hard to swallow or could possibly endanger its geopolitical viability. This means a solution that will have to be found that can best be palatable to the virulently ideological side of America’s Zionist sympathies and with careful regard to America’s overall position in the region.

The bottom line is that many Israeli settlements are going to have to go. This is difficult to swallow because the center of Jewish history is in Judaea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank. This must be done without America seeming to criticize or come down hard on Israel. The mere appearance of a loss of American support could have even more difficult consequences for the region. Here is a compromise that I believe will be most palatable.

The United States currently gives Israel $3 billion a year almost all in jets. A simple proposal, rather than telling the Israelis we are going to cut this aid if they do not freeze settlement activity, would be to offer just the opposite. The best compromise is for the United States to offer double or triple this amount of money in exchange for the withdrawals. This allows Israel to withdraw from the territories out of strength rather than weakness.

A miniature Cold War is brewing in the region with Iran if it is not totally underway. Our Arab allies are no less paranoid of Iran and its proxy groups than Israel is. As I have said before, Saudi Arabia is no less important an ally in the region than Israel. I believe it is more so. The Arab regimes have been cooperating with Israel on a scale unseen since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in order to restore some semblance of order to the region. America can achieve a settlement. It is important to think of it this way. It is just a settlement, not necessarily a formal peace.

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