IT is not for the first time that a democracy — America under President Donald Trump — has denounced a multilateral accord it was party to; there are other examples too: Israel and, nearer home, India. However, Trump is lucky, for some of his predecessors, too, do not come clean on this.
History shows that at least two American presidents felt helpless as agreements brokered by them after years of hard work, and sometimes in diplomatic silence in distant lands, were repudiated by Israel, which first equivocated and temporised and later went on record. Nevertheless, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr had the grace not to flaunt their crime, nor were they as callous and gleeful as Trump, who seemed to gloat over his malefaction.
The 1978-79 Camp David agreement was a brilliant piece of diplomacy, for Jimmy Carter achieved something seemingly impossible: it brought face to face the leaders of two countries —Egypt and Israel — which had no diplomatic relations and had just fought a war. The landmark deal made Egypt, the Arab world’s most important country; recognise Israel in return for the Jewish state’s withdrawal from the Sinai.
Both Anwar Sadat and Carter were criticised by the Arab world for concentrating solely on bilateral Egyptian-Israeli issues and forgetting the occupied territories, especially Jerusalem. However, the truth was that the Camp David accords pledged all sides to UN resolution 242, which calls for Israel’s withdrawal from the territories and the Arabs’ recognition of the Zionist state.
At least two US leaders felt helpless as Israel violated peace deals.
On Jewish settlements, the treaty was indeed silent, but in his book, Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid, Carter says Begin committed to him personally that he would halt settlement activity. Begin reneged on his promise and the construction of new colonies and the expansion of the existing ones continued. Carter was no more in the White House when he woke up to the breach of the promise, but the former Belorussian terrorist was still the prime minister. Since then the colonies have multiplied, and recently the Likud high command recommended ‘extending’ Israeli sovereignty to the settlements on the West Bank.
Aware of the gradual shift in America’s policy, Carter noted that “until recently” America was “known and expected to exert maximum influence in an objective, non-biased way to achieve peace in the Middle East”.
In order to resume this vital role, he wrote Washington must be “a trusted participant, even-handed, consistent, unwavering, and enthusiastic — a partner with both sides and not a judge of either”. Although he conceded that “at times there will be a tilt one way or the other, in the long run the role of honest broker must once again be played by Washington”. Obviously, what was to follow was more than “a tilt”, for the passage of time has seen a shocking surrender by successive American administrations to Zionist diktat.
Clinton was very much in power to see the Declaration of Principles destroyed by his Israeli friends. The signing of the DoP in 1993 was a tour de force, which saw Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat shaking hands on the White House lawns. Even though tilted in Israel’s favour, the DoP endorsed the principle of two states and laid down a timetable for the withdrawal of occupying forces and the emergence of a sovereign Palestinian state, with the final status of Jerusalem to be decided later. Rightly proud of his achievement, Clinton called it “the peace of the brave”.
However, Rabin’s life was cut short by a Zionist fanatic, and the prime ministers who followed him, especially Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, made America renegotiate and virtually repudiate the DoP. Millions watched on TV Sharon’s tanks retaking the areas Israel had vacated under the DoP and destroying Arafat’s headquarters brick by brick. Clinton made a last attempt at Camp David in 2000 to clinch a deal, but failed, and has lived on to see the DoP’s fate.
Let’s also note the farce the Annapolis affair was. Organised by George Bush Jr. at the Maryland capital, the conference, held in November 2007 and attended among others by the Arab League, passed a resolution providing for an independent Palestinian state by the end of 2008. Having signed the agreement, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert returned home to say, when the ink was hardly dry, that he was not bound by the Annapolis timetable.
In December 2011, the pro-Israel lobby in America was up in arms against New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman for what to it was blasphemy. In an article titled Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir, he wrote: “I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year (2011) was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”
The writer is Dawn’s Readers’ editor and an author.
Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2018