Change Our Israel Policy = Reduce Terrorism?

I have heard people say that the terrorist attacks should be taken as a indication that we need to “re-evaluate” our policy on the Middle East.

As far as I can tell, bin Laden and those who agree with him do not recognize Israel’s right to exist. That is, the attacks are designed to

  • Get our troops out of Saudi Arabia (I don’t think they are allies of Iraq, but maybe they haven’t thought that far ahead)
  • Get us to withdraw our support for Israel altogether.

That is, unless we are willing to throw Israel to the wolves, discussions about how we should pressure the Israelis to allow the Palestinians more land or whatever are more or less beside the point.

For those who agree with the position in my first paragraph, is the idea that bin Laden et al will stop attacking us if we let them have a go at Israel without interference?

That is my question. Is it possible to change our policy such that Middle Eastern terrorists will not hate and attack us, without publicly committing not to interfere if Israel is attacked militarily?


I think if you give into the bastards, they will be dictating how we cross the street.

Eh…I don’t think it’s quite that simple.

I believe what some of us are saying is, we do need to look at how we deal with the Mid East, NOT because of Bin Laden so much as that there are real concerns among the people of that region. For example, should we favor Israel over all others? SHOULD we look at them all more objectively, etc etc? Things like that.

This is a complex issue, and I’m not expert, but I think I can make a couple of worthwhile points.

First, the Palestinian Authority recognizes Israel’s right to exist. They want concessions on territory, etc, but they’re not trying to overthrow Israel and they don’t want Bin Laden’s help. (This statement is, obviously, a generalization. There may be extremist factions in Palestine who feel differently.)

Two, while it may be true that nothing we do short of abandoning Israel would appease Bin Laden himself, there are millions of people across the Middle East whose opinions fall along a spectrum. There are lots of people who think the US is taking sides with Israel against Palestine, even when Israel’s actions are questionable. Such people don’t necessarily support terorist actions, nor are they lining up to join Bin Laden in a holy war against the US.

So we don’t have to “throw Israel to the wolves,” but helping Israel and Palestine come to an effective peace agreement is hardly “beside the point.” It may not satisfy Bin Laden, or get him to recant his callf or a holy war against the US, but it will undermine any support he might be gaining because of opprtunistically taking up this issue.

Remember, the so-called international coaltion against terrorism has so far not gained overwhelming support in the Middle East. Leaders there are afraid of seeming to be too “pro-US” because of anti-US sentiment among the population. Removing one of the reasons for that anti-US sentiment would help gain more support in the regions for the war on terrorism.

In short, it won’t make the terrorists stop hating and attacking us, but it could gain us allies – or at least make the allies we have step up to the plate unequivocally.

Steve Biodrowski

Most sources (like this article from Slate, this article from Time magazine, or this Al-Qaida profile from the U.S. Navy’s Naval Postgraduate School) agree that bin Laden’s ultimate goal is the re-creation of an “Islamic Caliphate”. This goes far beyond ending Jewish settlements on the West Bank, or securing recognition of a Palestinian state, or having U.S. troops withdrawn from the Persian Gulf, or overthrowing this or that “corrupt regime” (and certainly many of the states bin Laden opposes are very corrupt). It goes beyond even the establishment of an “Islamic republic” here or there a la Iran*. What bin Laden wants is a unified theocracy extending from Morocco to, I guess, Indonesia and the Philippines. The government of this state would likely resemble that of the Taliban’s Afghanistan–the Taliban ruling over a billion people. Whatever changes we need to make in our Middle Eastern policy, I don’t think we can possibly compromise in our opposition to bin Laden’s view of the world.

*In bin Laden’s Caliphate, there would of course be no room for Shi’ism. I suspect bin Laden would not even regard Shi’ites as true Muslims. The Shi’ites of Iran, Iraq, or Lebanon would probably be forcibly converted to Sunni Islam, or would be exterminated.

Sure! Worked for Chamberlain. “Peace for our time” and all that.

Abandoning Israel to the rest of the Middle East is simply out of the question – not only is it political suicide, but it would be a curt abandonment of one of our longstanding allies in the region.

On the other hand, continuing to adopt (or appearing to adopt) a simplistic policy of “Israel good, everyone else bad” is also out of the question. If the United States wants to end terrorism, then one of the things we need to do is take away (or minimize) the terrorists’ reasons to hate us. Unconditional support for Israel is one of those reasons, and there’s nothing which says we can’t keep Israel as an ally while getting sterner with them to settle for peace (and yes, pressure on the Palestinians is also needed as well, but that’s a different topic).

Sure, this will cheese off the hard liners in Israel, but IMO hard liners everywhere are part of the problem anyway.

GWB has mentioned the need for a Palestinian state twice now. I believe that this portends a major change in US-ISRAEL relations. This had to happen, because the palestinians cannot be ignored any more-they will shortly outnumber the Israelis. We should not forget that the US (in the past) has acted mostly in a way that favored israel over all other parties…take the lebanese invasuion, here Israel was allowed to invade and destroy a large portion of southern Lebanon.The only question-how long will Arafat be the defacto Palestinian leader?-he is old and corrupt, and i cannot see him lasting a whole lot longer.

Our stance and attention to Israel should be totally independent of terrorism one way or the other.

Those in our country who believe that the Palestinians have only been interested in peace and pose no threat to Israelis if only Israel would give them all of the West Bank and half of Jerusulam and so on … should continue to believe that and advocate for the US to pressure Israel to give into terrorism and to trust in Arafat’s word that he’ll control all violence even though he has proven that he cannot (WHY ARE the Israelis even talking to him when he can’t deliver?)

Those of us who believe that supporting Israel’s security is both right and in the US’s long-term interest should continue to do so.

To change course in any way in response to terror only encourages more terror.

To answer the original question: No, Israel is an afterthought to Bin-Laden. He wants the Caliphate restored and all Western influence gone. Leave the MidEast entirlely, let his brand of Islam control all of its resources, and THEN he might be happy.

I come down on the side of ScriptAnalyst and rjung. I would put it this way: We will not be modifying our policy toward the Israeli-Palestinean issue to appease bin Laden because I even doubt bin Laden even wants us to do that. What he wants [I believe] is for the U.S. to do things that make it easiest for him to fight for a broader Holy War with as much sympathy as possible from the Arab and Muslim world. This is exactly what we should deny him.

I don’t think a major modification of our policies are in order. But, I think we need to be more engaged in the process of a search for peace there and this would include pressure on the Israelis to make concessions particularly on their settlements and on control of holy sites in Old Jerusalem. Like I said, this will not make bin Laden happy, but that of course isn’t the point; rather, (besides being the right thing to do anyway IMHO) it may deprive him of some of the support and recruits that he now gets.

I say that Israel and Palenstine should act now before Arafat dies and Islamic Jihad/Hamas successfully take over the Palestinian Authority.

To respond to a few things:

The point has been made that the US should vociferously support the foundation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, and pressure the Israelis to fall in line.

This neglects some serious points. It also borders on strawman. The unity government in Israel does support an independent homeland for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Sharon has said so publicly a number of times, even though it is against the strict Likud party line.

Also, I think Sharon is kind of silly for making statements comparing Israel’s situation now to Czechoslovakia in 1938. But, to an Israeli, there are certain similarities. Israel is at war. Every war in Israel is a war for existance, and they see their international friends blowing hot and cold over support of their perceived right of existance.

This time, Israel is at war with groups who loudly and vociferously deny any legitimacy of an Israeli state (Islamic Jihad and Hamas). While the PA “recognizes” Israel, it still maintains the PLO charter of 1968, clearly calling for an extermination of all Jews in the Middle East. While they renounced this statement and publicly stated that Israel has a right to exist after Oslo, the plank in the charter remains. Anyway, I feel Israel only strikes at the PA because it has helped out Islamic Jihad and Hamas instead of fulfilling its Oslo obligations to help maintain Israeli security (excluding the Afula gun attack of last week). IMHO though.

The hesitation on Israel’s part is because right now they are uncertain whether Arafat wants or has enough power to pass an unpopular peace settlement. For the US to push Israel to peace now, when nobody can guarantee that there will be any reciprocation by the Palestinians, would carry positive short term repercussions (in terms of Bush’s approval rating) but possibly incredibly severe long term ones (in terms of full scale regional war when a now independent Palestinian state was found to sanction violence against Israel).

The people who become terrorists will be not be satisfied with negotiated peace, which is the only sane policy the US can support. The people who become terrorists will not be sated until they control Haifa, Tel Aviv and the Western Wall. Since this is a path upon which the US can’t start, we must go for the second alternative – greater regional presence, greater intelligence, greater covert ops. The only country in the region with which we will have stable allegiance, through thick and thin, through regional wars, oil embargoes, Arab blocks, and all other tribulations, is Israel. To win this war, we don’t need to show the terrorists that we respect their point of view. We need to get in there and wipe their point of view from the face of the earth.

capacitor: If Israel acts now to get an unpopular negotiated peace tomorrow, and Arafat dies next year, what good will a negotiated peace be? The only people it will be good for is the Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who will control the land, the money, and the minds of the Palestinians. And you can bet that will only lead to war.

Sharon and Arafat can sign a peace treaty, but would that do any good? Arafat has demonstrated that he is unwilling or incapable of stopping the attacks on Israel. If he signs a peace treaty similar to the one Barak offered last year, he would simply reveal his impotence because the Palestinian people would reject it. The attacks would continue, and the piece of paper would be revealed to be worthless.

Signing a phony peace treaty is worse than useless, since the hostilities will be that much more intense when the resume, and any built up goodwill will be destroyed along with the treaty. Better the status quo than all out war.