by Charles Gruenspan, Special to the CJN | ClevelandJewishNews.com | July 1, 2011
Last week’s opinion piece in the CJN by Dr. Martin J. Plax (Pictured), “Why Obama may not be Israel’s enemy,” generated reaction from those who think the U.S. president and U.S. policy may not be serving Israel’s best interests. See column and letters below and on next page. To read Plax’s column, visit http://tinyurl.com/cjnplax.
Dr. Martin Plax implores us not to ignore history but then proceeds to distort the historical record beyond recognition. It saddens me that in his opinion piece “Why Obama may not be Israel’s enemy” (CJN, June 24), my good friend would attempt to defend the record of the most anti-Israel president since George H. Bush.
Plax claims Obama is merely warning Israel to reconsider its “intransigent policies regarding Palestinians” in light of the radical changes in Arab leadership. However, uncritically accepting Obama’s theme of treating Israel as the intransigent party turns history on its head.
Israel reached out to negotiate with Arafat while he was safely in exile in Tunisia. Israel withdrew from the major Arab population centers of the West Bank under the Oslo Accords and then unilaterally withdrew from all of Gaza. (Israel did not “return” Gaza, as Plax formulates, as it was previously under Egyptian control.) The resulting George W. Bush letters to Israel, which formally promised that Israel would not have to abandon its large settlement blocs, were rendered not binding by Obama.
Israel previously offered the Palestinians essentially everything Obama is now parroting as if it were his own initiative, at Camp David and again at Taba and yet again by Prime Minister Olmert, only to be summarily rejected by the Palestinians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under Obama’s coercion, explicitly called for a two-state solution and froze settlement construction for 10 months. Yet, despite its relentless pursuit of peace, Israel has never received anything of tangible worth in return for any of its concessions and initiatives. To label Israel as “intransigent“ is blatantly false and defamatory.
Obama’s intifada against Israel started well before the so-called Arab Spring. Plax’s linking of Obama’s Israel policy to the Arab uprisings is chronologically incorrect.
Plax’s comparison of Hamas to Irgun is even more disturbing. Ben-Gurion turned his guns on Irgun to get them to submit their arms to one government rule, something the Palestinian Authority has not done with Hamas. Menachem Begin was democratically elected to the Knesset for more than a quarter century before being elected prime minister. Hamas was elected once and immediately began throwing its political opponents off buildings.
To contrive expectations about Hamas based on Irgun is beyond delusional. Is it impossible for Hamas to reform? No. Is it rational for Israel to take existential risks based on that unrealistic hope? Only Obama and his apologists apparently believe so.
Israel was created by the United Nations and recognized, de jure, by all of Europe, the Americas, the Soviet Union and many others. It did not need de facto recognition. The only significance of the Madrid Conference, which otherwise accomplished absolutely nothing of substance despite forceful pressure from the first President Bush, was that it bestowed de facto recognition on the Palestinians, not on Israel, as Plax states.
Obama’s setting of the 1967 (actually 1949 armistice) lines as the basis for negotiations can hardly be called “neutral,” unless, of course, he had also called for the Palestinians to commit to a demilitarized state and to give up their demand for a “right of return,” which he did not do. Neutrality better describes President Clinton, who, in contradiction to Plax’s depiction, played no role in negotiating the Oslo Accords other than to provide a venue for photo ops. The ensuing treaties with Jordan, India and others were not the result of any pressure or intervention by the president of the United States.
Israel gave up the Sinai in 1956, which led to war in 1967. Israel entered into pacts with Gemayel of Lebanon, Sadat of Egypt, and the shah of Iran, who were all either assassinated or deposed shortly thereafter. Withdrawal from Lebanon resulted in 8,000 rockets and war. Withdrawal from Gaza resulted in 6,000 rockets, which were smuggled in from Egypt, to whom Israel had twice ceded the vast and mineral-rich Sinai peninsula in the pursuit of peace, and then war. And finally, the election of President Obama resulted in the abrogation of U.S. commitments regarding Israeli settlements.
Plax is correct that Israel must learn its history lessons well. Its very existence depends on it.
Charles Gruenspan is an attorney with Charles Gruenspan Co., LPA, and a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition.