Tha Baker-Hamilton ISG report reminds me of the scene in “The Graduate” when Benjamin tells his parents that he’s getting married. His father comments, not unreasonably, “Benjamin, this whole idea seems rather half-baked.” Benjamin responds, “No, I assure you, it’s fully baked.” Particularly with respect to its thread involving Israel, the ISG report is both half-baked and fully Bakered.
Has James Baker had a new idea in the past twenty years? Like Dr. Causabon in Middlemarch, Baker wanders the earth with the key to all mythologies. Historical developments have not altered Baker’s ideological fixation on the centrality of Israel to events in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world:
To put it simply, all key issues in the Middle East–the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, the need for political and economic reforms, and extremism and terrorism are inextricably linked.
(Page 44). That certainly does put it simply, but is there any evidence for the proposition?
If Iran picks up the pace of its 27-year-old war against the United States, a healthy serving of Israeli territory seems to be the answer. If Syria resumes its murderous Lebanon campaign, a healthy serving of Israeli territory seems to be the answer. If Baghdad is dissolving in sectarian violence, a healthy serving of Israeli territory to third parties seems to be the answer. If a healthy serving of Israeli territory can’t be offered to satisfy Hezbollah and Hamas, they can be ignored.
The key to all mythologies provides the key to resolution of “the Arab-Israeli conflict.” That too can be simply put:
The only basis on which peace can be achieved is that set forth in UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 in the principle of “land for peace.
(Pages-54-55.) Resolution 242 dates to 1967 and Resolution 338 dates to 1973. All agreements, accords and assurances since 1973 have been lost down the memory hole, a victim of the ISG members’ collective Alzheimer’s disease. To take just one recent example, President Bush’s assurances to Israel set forth in his letter to Ariel Sharon are not even mentioned. Here are the commitments provided by President Bush to Israel, roughly speaking, yesterday:
First, the United States remains committed to my vision and to its implementation as described in the roadmap. The United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan. Under the roadmap, Palestinians must undertake an immediate cessation of armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere, and all official Palestinian institutions must end incitement against Israel. The Palestinian leadership must act decisively against terror, including sustained, targeted, and effective operations to stop terrorism and dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. Palestinians must undertake a comprehensive and fundamental political reform that includes a strong parliamentary democracy and an empowered prime minister.
Second, there will be no security for Israelis or Palestinians until they and all states, in the region and beyond, join together to fight terrorism and dismantle terrorist organizations. The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel’s security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats.
Third, Israel will retain its right to defend itself against terrorism, including to take actions against terrorist organizations. The United States will lead efforts, working together with Jordan, Egypt, and others in the international community, to build the capacity and will of Palestinian institutions to fight terrorism, dismantle terrorist organizations, and prevent the areas from which Israel has withdrawn from posing a threat that would have to be addressed by any other means.
The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state. It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.
Now the slate is to be wiped clean and the responsibility for the serious security issues confronting the United States laid at the feet of Israel. Conspicuous by its almost complete absence is the imminent nuclearization of Iran, a situation that presents not only an existential threat to Israel, but also to Europe and the United States. Displaced by the bogeyman of “the Arab-Israeli conflict,” the genuine security issues facing the United States are the dog that doesn’t bark in the report.
The report’s recommendation 14 calls for “the unconditional holding of meetings” running “on two separate tracks–one Syrian/Lebanese, and the other Palestinian.” The Syrian/Lebanese track might be a bit uncomfortable until the rapist consummates the conquest of his victim. Recommendation 14 is another Alzheimer’s episode. Secretary Baker must be reliving his time in office, forgetting that Lebanon has temporarily emerged from the Syrian shadow to which he had consigned it back in the day. Secretary Baker’s statesmanship nevertheless comes into view in his formulation of the Palestinian track of these meetings, excluding those who do not “acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.” Deep!
The report’s recommendation 17 calls for “sustainable negotiations leading to a final peace settlement” addressing, among other things, “the right of return, and the end of the conflict.” It should be noted that “the right of return” is pure terrorist propaganda, a “right” that I believe has never been recognized in any official American document and that is rejected in the Bush assurances to Sharon set forth above. “The end of the conflict” as envisioned by the report appears in passing to contemplate if not call for the end of Israel.
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