Beinin on US Policy in Israel, Palestine and Iraq

Professor Joel Beinin spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the war on terror.

Beinin is a professor of Middle East history at Stanford University. He has lived in both Egypt and Israel, visits the Middle East frequently and he is interviewed by the media regularly. Beinin is the author or editor of seven books and his writing focuses on workers, peasants and minorities in the Middle East.

From a historical perspective Beinin examined the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians for the past, five years and he analyzed current events in the Middle East. He said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the war on terror are intertwined and “as a conjuncture they show the complete failure and demise of Bush doctrine.”

After 09/11 the Bush Administration focused their speeches on free trade and the promotion of democracy in the Middle East for the global war on terror. Bush declared that countries such Iraq, Iran and Syria need revolutionary regime change. His doctrine focused on the demonization and removal of the late Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat, who passed away in November 2004. The political rhetoric concentrated on these subjects, which was supposed to facilitate the end of terrorism and create a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.

When the Bush Administration established the fight against terror it was Israeli leader Ariel Sharon who rushed to the US to promote the war of Iraq. Beinin described Sharon as the “papa figure” who came to Washington and presented the following comparisons: Arafat is equal to Osama bin Laden and as a result the Palestinian Authority is the same as Al Qaeda. The American-Likud crowd pushed the angle of terrorism to US leadership also. The Bush Administration accepted their equations.

As a result, the American-Israeli discourse shaped by the neoconservatives and the right-wing Evangelical Protestants’ Middle East policy was the Bush Administration. They executed a policy of war because negotiations were not possible with “terrorists.” Israel sold the US on the idea that they would fight against terror together because it was in their mutual interests. As a result, the US had a permissive attitude toward Israel and Israeli policy.

Think-Tank Institutions in Effect Today

The US-Israel strategic alliance developed throughout the second-half of the 20th century, but it was in the 1990s that think tanks such as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Studies, the Jewish Institute for National Security, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Center for Security Policy developed the policies implemented in the first, Bush II Administration. Beinin described some of these think-tank institutions as hawkish — even further to the right than Israel’s Likud Party. The nationalist militarists and Jewish neoconservatives have an aggressive military strategy, and they agreed that a mistake was made in not removing Saddam during the first Gulf War.

When members of these political institutions formulate political strategies they give policy advice to their allies to achieve their goals. Beinin gave an example of a paper titled, “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” created by the participants of a study group led by Richard Perle. In eight pages the study group explained how Israel should “change the nature of relations with the Palestinians.” They talk about the annexation of the West Bank, the abandonment of the Oslo Agreements and “…striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that prove insufficient, striking at select targets in Syria proper.”

The report further explains that the US should invest in Jordan’s economy so that there is no economic “dependence” between Jordan and Iraq. Moreover, the study group determined Israel needed to create a state of self-reliance, so they wanted Israeli leadership to announce publicly in their next visit to the US that Israel is mature enough to free itself of US economic aid. However the group ensured (in parentheses) that Israel would continue receiving US military (financial) aid.

The study group gave specific advice to the Israeli Government by explaining “Israel has a chance to forge a new relationship between itself and the Palestinians. First and foremost, Israel’s efforts to secure its streets may require hot pursuit into Palestinian-controlled areas, a justifiable practice with which Americans can sympathize.”

Hence people can read how US political leadership plans the sway of public opinion; and how they shape US media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before they implement their policies. Furthermore it demonstrates US political and financial indulgence of Israel’s political will: settlements, by-pass roads and the wall in Palestine. In the end the collective members of these think tanks outline strategies that decide the installation of the US-Israel alliance. In fact many of them have current positions within the US Government.

Another report Beinin explained is an example of how these groups maneuver tactically so they can dominate the Middle East and oil is “Rebuilding America’s Defense: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New American Century,” issued by The Project for the New American Century in September 2000, and housed at the American Enterprise Institute. The 71-page report envisions a war against Iraq in order to install a large American military presence in the Gulf Region for oil.

One of four, core missions of U.S. military forces outlined in this report is to “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars.” The project explains that the main military mission(s) of the US for the 21st century is to “secure and expand zones of democratic peace; deter rise of new great-power competitor; defend key regions; exploit transformation of war.” Therefore the Iraq War was planned before 09/11 for US and Israel’s broader strategic interests.

On January 26, 1998 former President Bill Clinton received a letter from the PNAC urging him to start a war in Iraq. The last line of the letter reads: “If you act now to end the threat of weapons of mass destruction against the U.S. or its allies, you will be acting in the most fundamental national security interests of the country. If we accept a course of weakness and drift, we put our interests and our future at risk.”

On January 10, 2001 the outgoing Secretary of Defense briefed Donald Rumsfeld on Iraq and explained that the country posed no security threat. Yet the American Likudists and ultra-militarists of Washington banded together for the installation of their institutions’ reports. Yet these reports and letters never mention the people on the receiving end of US and Israeli military force, and the longstanding effects of war and occupation on the Iraqis and Palestinians. Also I cannot help but notice there are no women’s names in the signature sections.

When the Bush Administration came into office they ignored negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, along with the Mitchell Commission Report.

Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians

According to Beinin any territorial negotiations meetings between Israelis and Palestinians were based on unacceptable parameters for any Palestinian leader. The Camp David talks in July 2000 (which former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak initiated with former President Clinton because Israel could not make a deal with Syria) included 69 illegal Israeli settlements/colonies on confiscated land in the West Bank, where 85 per cent of settlers lived. These blocs created impossible borders for Palestine because it left the Palestinians with three, noncontiguous cantons on Palestinian land. Moreover Israel proposed to lease land along the Jordan River, which means the Palestinians would have no border with an Arab State; and 20 per cent of the West Bank would have remained in Israel control. If Palestinians agreed to this negotiation they would be completely surrounded by Israeli-controlled territory whether by land, water or air.

On September 28, 2000 it was Sharon, accompanied by scores of Israeli police offices who walked the esplanades of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem. His intentional provocation sparked the second intifada. By October 10, 2000, 90 Palestinians had been killed and 240 Palestinians wounded. An Amnesty International report explained that Israeli security forces used indiscriminate, lethal force when lives were not in danger. Beinin mentioned that one of the reports concluded within a short period of time Israeli forces shot over one-million bullets. In May 2001 the Mitchell Commission (also known as the Sharm El-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee) issued a report that explained during the first, three months of the second intifada Palestinians mostly did not use firearms or explosives.

In January 2001 the Taba talks provided no maps or memorandums to the public. Although it was said both sides were painfully close to an agreement, Barak cancelled the negotiations just before elections.

On March 27, 2001 a UN Security Council Resolution called for a UN Observer Force in the West Bank and Gaza to stop the violence and settlement activities, but it was vetoed by the US. On December 24, 2001 another resolution regarding the violence and targeting of civilians was vetoed. By spring 2003 the Road Map was unfurled but as Beinin summarized the peace process it was, “dead upon arrival.” On September 16, 2003 another UN resolution called for threats to stop regarding the deportation of Arafat and it was vetoed. On October 14, 2003 another UN resolution called for no more extension of the wall and it was vetoed.

As a result of US and Israeli policy in the Middle East and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinians “the Palestinian Authority could not present any political achievements,” Beinin concluded. He talked about other factors contributing to the electoral victory of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), who recently won 76 out of 132 seats in the recent Palestinian Legislative Elections January 25, according to the Palestinian Central Elections Committee. Beinin explained that Fatah did not win as many seats because the P.A. was corrupt and did not provide good governance. Fatah began to disintegrate when they disenfranchised the younger generation who knew the Hebrew language, who had professional training and who had led the first intifada.

However, several audience members expressed that members of the US and Israeli Government are not as apprehensive about the Hamas victory because they can continue the ongoing status of non-negotiations with the Palestinians. In the meantime Israel continues its construction of facts on the ground: the occupation of Palestinians and the annexation of their land for settlements/colonies. As far as Beinin is concerned elections are a part of democracy, but so is a modicum of economic well-being, which Palestinians struggle for under the occupation.

Beinin expressed optimism when he spoke about newly-elected Palestinian Legislative Council Member Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, who has a strong record of support for democracy and who has helped the Palestinians in obtaining medical services. When it comes to peace in the Middle East, Barghouthi symbolizes this hope.