Sunday, October 5, 2008

Found in a Book Review


This is a bigger story than anyone can tell in one book, and the 600 pages of A Choice of Enemies cover only US foreign policy decisions from 1979, with the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Freedman is forced to skim some important details of the relationship between the US and Israel, whose continuing expansion into the occupied West Bank is probably the greatest source of the so-called Arab rage. The State Department in 1948 argued passionately against supporting a Jewish state in Palestine. The Eisenhower administration, which saw Israel as an irritant, undermining the US alliance with anti-Soviet regimes in the Middle East, ensured that the joint Anglo-French-Israeli attack on Egypt would fail. John F Kennedy sent feelers to Egypt's fiercely anti-Zionist president Gamal Abdel Nasser. Lyndon B Johnson was the first US president to manipulate foreign policy in order to bolster Jewish-American support for the Democratic party; but even he was not able to build his "special relationship" with Israel without encountering strong opposition from American diplomats.

"I could not believe what I was hearing," Jimmy Carter wrote in his diary after Menachem Begin confided in him his desire to reduce Palestinians on the West Bank to a minority. Even Ronald Reagan, who believed that God fixed the Middle East as the site of Armageddon, stuck to a cold war policy of close relations with reliably anti-Soviet and oil-rich Arab regimes. Friendly to Saudi Arabia, Bush Sr was actively hostile to Israeli expansionism. His secretary of state, James Baker, had only blunt wisdom ("Forswear annexation. Stop settlement activity. Reach out to Palestinians as neighbours who deserve political rights") to impart to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerful lobbying outfit for Israel, to which even Obama must now genuflect.

Israel played a very small role in the blunders US administrations made in the late 1970s: to support the Shah of Iran long after his rule became widely despised and unsustainable, and, more fatefully, to mobilise a global Islamic jihad against Soviet communism.
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