Barry Shaw: 1967 Was a Very Bad Year for Israel. Don’t Repeat It in 2021.

Barry Shaw,
International Public Diplomacy Director at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies

When it comes to Israel and the Middle East the new Biden White House has led with its left foot, a foot that’s set to repeat past failures, and not guided by current realities and real-politics.

Recent years have seen a realignment of moderate Muslim states with Israel. They have put aside the outdated foolishness of a two-state notion in favor of fostering a new type of peace policy known as normalization.

Arab states cast aside their decades-old Khartoum jingoism of the infamous three no’s – no peace, no recognition, no negotiations with Israel – in favor of the reality and necessity of peace with the Jewish state.

They have put the Palestinian problem on the back burner. They realized that nothing can move forward with the current regime schism between Ramallah and Gaza. They have come to realize that a pragmatic and united Palestinian leadership can only come, as in any enlightened society, by the will and the ability of the people to produce leaders capable of bringing them peace and prosperity.

There is little sign that this will happen soon, and the Arabs are tired of bailing out corrupt Palestinian leaders.

Arab leaders have come to realize that their Palestinian brethren are victims of the oppression of their own leaders’ corruption and misrule rather than that of the Israelis.

Arab leaders have also come to realize that they can benefit from close ties with the Jewish state and are casting past hubris aside in favor of cooperative ventures.

They are right in putting their own people’s security and prosperity first and many have come to appreciate that Israel is not their enemy, that their future lies with cooperation with Israel, the Start-Up nation, and there is nothing to be gained by perpetuating a faux Palestinian victimhood that has turned them into the world’s professional beggars rather than forging a future for their people.

Sadly, after recent years of positive change, we see signs that the Biden Administration is living in the past.

We hear it in statements coming out of the White House and the State Department.

When White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, was asked if the Biden Administration considers Saudi Arabia and Israel important allies, the natural answer should have been an unequivocal yes.

Instead, Psaki stumbled a meandering, “There are ongoing processes and internal interagency processes, one that I think we confirmed at an interagency meeting last week to discuss a range of issues in the Middle East. We’ve only been here three and a half weeks and I think I’m going to let those policy processes see themselves through before we give kind of a complete lay-down of what our national security approaches will be to a range of issues.”

Cutting through the garbage, her answer was “We don’t know.”

This is utterly disconcerting and gravely troubling for the two leading nations, and America’s greatest allies, in the Middle East, particularly at a time when the radical Iranian mullahs are celebrating the Trump exit. They look on the incoming administration with uncontrolled glee. For them it’s back to the future when they can play the Americans like suckers, as they did with the Obama Administration.

A Biden back to the future foreign policy is a major concern to Israel. We are aware that US policy is not led by the man in the Oval Office but by those handpicked by others to run the country. These will be the real movers and shakers who will shape, or distort, America and the world.

President Biden in the White House will be the American equivalent of Queen Elizabeth in Buckingham Palace. The elderly head of state. Making occasional statements and speeches. Meeting visiting dignitaries. Taking publicity photo-ops. Receiving dispatch boxes and being debriefed on what is going on at home and abroad. Signing Executive Orders prepared and written by others.

The decision-making will be done elsewhere.

To get a glimpse into how these decision-makers will treat Israel we need look no further than a comment made by a person named Ned Price.  He is one of the State Department’s spokespeople. The State Department sets foreign policy.

When asked about Israel purchasing private Arab land in Judea and Samaria in order to accommodate Israeli families and industrial development, Price made a troublingly bureaucratic answer, saying, “We believe it is critical to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and that undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution. And unilateral steps might include annexation of territory, settlement activity, demolitions, incitement to violence, the provision of compensation for individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism…”

This statement came as a shock to discerning Israelis. Price, in one sentence, compared Jews living in their land to the terrorists who are being paid to kill them.

This immoral equivalence has reared its ugly head in the opening days of the Biden Administration.

These are the old diplomatic stumbling block theories that have prevented progress for over fifty years.

It’s back to the 1967 failed theory that solving the Palestinian problem is irrevocably tied to removing Jews from their land and the demand that Israel must shrink its borders to impossibly vulnerable lines. And that it must do so because, without it, there can be no peace, and the whole of the Middle East will suffer.

These faux peace-makers insist on promoting the interests of a corrupt Palestinian leadership while ignoring the presence of a malevolent Hamas, as if the violent regime in Gaza will disappear in a puff of peace smoke once an agreement is signed.

It is here that we can understand the depression and concern that is growing among Middle East peace partners, both Jewish and Muslim.

Following the recently reconfigured innovative pathway to peace and optimism between pragmatic Arab states and Israel, we now sense an unwinding of the clock in the region by the new American administration.

As the Arabs discard the outdated failures of their 1967 Khartoum resolutions, the new United States government seems determined to rewind the rusty cogs of their clock back to another 1967 failure.

1967 was a very bad year. There is no place for it in 2021.

Barry Shaw

Barry Shaw is the Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. He is also the author of ‘Fighting Hamas, BDS and Anti-Semitism’ and ‘BDS for IDIOTS’ both available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

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