Posted on September 23, 1996 in Washington Watch
A disturbing yet significant document has recently come to my attention. Titled "A Clean Break," it was prepared by what is described as "A Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000" and was published earlier this year by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies.
That Institute is headquartered in Jerusalem, but has also opened an office in Washington.
"A Clean Break" is a strategy paper that outlines a series of policy recommendations for the new Israeli government. The paper even suggested specific language which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should incorporate into his speeches during his July visit to the United States.
What makes the document significant is the fact that many of the recommendations proposed and even the specific language suggested appear to have been adopted by Netanyahu. The themes and policy proposals found in "A Clean Break" were echoed by the Israeli Prime Minister repeatedly during his many public addresses in Washington.
What makes this strategy paper disturbing, however, is the fact that the Study Group leader responsible for preparing "A Clean Break" is Richard Perle, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration. Perle is currently serving as a key figure in Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole's foreign policy brain trust. The remainder of the study group includes other Reagan era officials, who have also been identified as Dole advisors.
In their dual capacities as advisors to the Republican nominee and strategists for the Likud Prime Minister, the Study Group is calling for an end to the peace process and the beginning of a Reagan-style Cold War campaign in the Middle East that will establish Israeli hegemony, destabilize the Arab world and, in effect, institute a new order based on peace by conquest.
In the opening of their document, the Perle group discusses how the Labor-led peace process undermined Israel and led to a "strategic paralysis."
"While there are those who will counsel continuity, Israel has the opportunity to make a clean break; it can forge a peace process and strategy based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism...."
The elements of the new strategy the Perle group recommends are contained under a number of headings which are summarized below.
1) "A New Approach to Peace"
The first recommendation made in the report is for the new Prime Minister to redefine peace and emphasize Israeli security as essential to peace. This section of the report reads:
"Early adoption of a bold, new perspective on peace and security is imperative for the new prime minister. While the previous government, and many abroad, may emphasize "land for peace" – which placed Israel in the position of cultural, economic, political, diplomatic, and military retreat – the new government can promote Western values and traditions. Such an approach, which will be well-received in the United States, includes "peace for peace," "peace through strength" and self-reliance: the balance of power.
"...Israel's quest for peace emerges from, and does not replace, the pursuit of its ideals. ...Israel can now embrace negotiations, but as means, not ends, to pursue those ideals and demonstrate national steadfastness. It can challenge police states; enforce compliance of agreements; and insist on minimal standards of accountability."
This reference to "Western values...which will be well-received in the U.S." and the rhetoric the study group advised Netanyahu to use are pure Reaganisms: 'We are the good and the just; they are the forces of darkness. We can't show weakness or compromise, for if we do we betray our values.'
For Netanyahu's Washington speech, the Perle group proposes the following language:
"We have for four years pursued peace based on a New Middle East. We in Israel cannot play innocents abroad in a world that is not innocent. Peace depends on the character and behavior of our foes. We live in a dangerous neighborhood., with fragile states and bitter rivalries. Displaying moral ambivalence between the effort to build a Jewish state and the desire to annihilate it by trading "land for peace" will not secure "peace now." Our claim to the land – to which we have clung for 2000 years – is legitimate and noble. It is not within our own power, no matter how much we concede, to make peace unilaterally. Only the unconditional acceptance by Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimension, "peace for peace" is a solid basis for the future."
2) "Securing the Northern Border"
Once again replaying the Reagan Cold War model of direct confrontation, the Perle group suggests that instead of engaging Syria in negotiations, Syria should be challenged, isolated, and destabilized. Toward that end, the report notes:
"Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach and one with which Americans can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizbullah, Syria and Iran, as the principle agents of aggression in Lebanon, including by:
"- striking Syria's drug-money and counterfeiting infrastructure in Lebanon....
"- paralleling Syria's behavior by establishing the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces.
"- striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that prove insufficient, striking select targets in Syria proper.
"Israel can also take this opportunity to remind the world of the nature of the Syrian regime. ...Given the nature of the regime in Damascus, it is both natural and moral that Israel abandon the slogan "comprehensive peace" and move to contain Syria, drawing attention to its weapons of mass destruction program, and rejecting "land for peace" deals on the Golan Heights."
3) Moving to a Traditional Balance of Power Situation"
As the U.S. during the Reagan era was overcome with the euphoria of developing costly strategies designed to contain and disrupt the "evil empire," and the building of alliances to project hegemony, the Perle group proposes that:
"Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq – an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right – as a means of foiling Syria's regional ambitions."
To accomplish these goals, the Perle group proposes grand schemes to enmesh Turkey and Jordan in a regional power struggle that would "redraw the map of the Middle East" in a way that would "threaten Syria's territorial integrity."
To ensnare Jordan, the Perle group proposes that Netanyahu "...visit Jordan as the first official state visit, even before a visit to the United States,...support King Hussein by providing him with some tangible security measures to protect his regime against Syrian subversion; [and] encourage – through influence in the U.S. business community – investment in Jordan to structurally shift Jordan's economy away from dependence on Iraq...." Additionally, they propose to "divert Syria's attention by using Lebanese opposition elements to destabilize Syria control of Lebanon" and engaging tribal alliances through Turkey and Jordan that could further destabilize the Syrian state itself.
In one of its wilder moments the Perle group suggests that
"King Hussein may have ideas for Israel bringing its Lebanon problem under control. the predominantly Shia population of southern Lebanon has been tied for centuries to the Shia leadership in Najif, Iraq, rather than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najif to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hizbullah, Iran and Syria. Shia retain strong ties to the Hashemites: the Shia venerate foremost the Prophet's family, the direct descendants of which – and in whose veins the blood of the Prophet flows – is King Hussein."
4) "Changing the Nature of Relations with the Palestinians"
This section of the report begins with the recommendation that "Israel has a chance to forge a new relationship between itself and the Palestinians."
To encourage this the Perle group insists that Israel reserve for itself the right of "hot pursuit," i.e., the right to enter into Palestinian controlled areas. They also propose that Israel insist on "full Palestinian compliance," stating that "Israel has no obligation under the Oslo agreements if the PLO does not fulfill its obligations" by closing down all of its operations in Jerusalem and bending to other well-known Israeli demands.
Since the report writers do not feel that the PLO can perform as they demand, a replacement ought to be found for the PLO. "To prepare for this," the report states, "Israel may want to cultivate alternatives to Arafat's base of power. Jordan has ideas on this."
And if this were not shocking enough, this section of the report includes the recommendation of a new Israeli practice: the discrediting of the Palestinian Authority by insisting that it "be held to the same minimal standards of accountability as other recipients of U.S. foreign aid. A firm peace cannot tolerate repression and injustice. A regime that cannot fulfill the most rudimentary obligations to its own people cannot be counted upon to fulfill its obligations to its neighbors."
In other words, Israel is not to be held accountable for human rights violations, but the Palestinian Authority which has been forced by the U.S. and Israel to "crack down" is to be condemned. Like anti-Soviet human rights crusades of the Reagan era, their concern is obviously not the protection of human rights, but the discrediting and ultimately replacing of the Palestinian Authority.
5) "Forging a New U.S.-Israeli Relationship"
It is within this area that the efforts of the Perle group to transpose the Reagan Cold War model on Israel and the Middle East is most clearly on display.
To "manage and constrain" U.S. reaction to their plan to transform the peace process, the Perle group recommends that Prime Minister Netanyahu "formulate policies and stress themes he favors in language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of American Administrations during the Cold War which apply well to Israel."
Instead of operating like the Labor government, which the writers accuse of inviting U.S. intervention into Israeli affairs in order to "overcome domestic opposition to "land for peace,"" they propose that the new Israeli government "make a clean break from the past and establish a new vision for the U.S.-Israeli partnership based on self-reliance, maturity and mutuality – not one focused narrowly on territorial disputes. Israel's new strategy – based on a shared philosophy of peace through strength – reflects continuity with Western values by stressing that Israel is self-reliant, does not need U.S. troops...and can manage its own affairs."
Finally, a la Reagan, the report proposes that Netanyahu seek U.S.-Israeli cooperation in developing a "missile defense system" which they suggest would not only protect Israel but would also "broaden Israel's base of support among many in the United States Congress who may know little about Israel, but care very much about missile defense."
It is clear that the peace process is in deep trouble today. In fact, it is correct to note that the process was in a downward spiral even before the new Israeli elections. But if the writers of "A Clean Break" are in fact influential in shaping Israeli and U.S. policy, then the election of a Likud government presents grave new dangers not only to the peace process but to the peace and well-being of the entire Arab world.
It is clear, so far, that at least some of the rhetoric and strategic thinking of this group has been adopted by the Netanyahu government. For this group of Reagan-era Dole-Netanyahu advisors to be ultimately successful, their U.S. candidate must not only win but must personally adopt their strategic thinking as well. It is clear that at least as a candidate Bob Dole has been heavily influenced by the themes of the Perle group. In his platform and his recent addresses, Dole spoke of "working more closely and smoothly with a Netanyahu government than a second term Clinton Administration," "not preempting Israel's sovereign right to devise its own national security policy," supporting Netanyahu's call for "peace through strength," and "not pushing Israel to give up the Golan Heights."
The question, of course, is would President Dole follow the same line as candidate Dole; and would the group that appears to be influential in proposing language for his speeches and those of Prime Minister Netanyahu be brought into a Dole Administration in positions where they would be able to shape a coalescing of U.S. and Israeli policies into the launching of a bitter and destabilizing Middle East Cold War.
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