WIDENING DIPLOMATIC HORIZONS FOR ISRAEL.
By Paul Merkley.
***The History of the State of Israel: A Brief Version.
In May of 1948 the newly-proclaimed State of Israel was forced to defend its right to life as its neighbours, the five Arab nations of that time, assisted by volunteer legions from around the Muslim world, invaded it with the purpose of strangling it in its cradle.
With the exception of Egypt, the Arab nations of that day were not significantly older than Israel was. They had come into the world in consequence of the withdrawal of Britain and France from the responsibilities of imperialism. Egypt had of course been around for a very long time; but the last King of Egypt (does anyone here remember King Farouk?) lost the last few shreds of his dignity when his armed forces failed to crush the Jewish state and he was quickly overthrown (1952.) As for the other Arab nations, the Kingdoms of Iraq, Jordan and Syria, all had been in effect colonies of either Britain or France until granted independence: Iraq in 1932, Syria in 1945, Jordan (then Transjordan) and Lebanon in 1946.
The regimes in each of these new Arab nations were shaky to begin with; since then, all of them have undergone civil war, and frequent constitutional changes, punctuated by assassination. Their rulers still need to lock up job-lots of their citizenry in order to stay in power.
To bring this up to date: today, in the wake of the Arab-Spring-That-Wasn’t all of the Arab regimes have become less secure, while most have become less democratic and in most respects less free than they were in their beginning.
At the time of their humiliating defeat in the Six Day War of June, 1967, the Arab nations were still relatively small, compared to the movers and shakers of the time – the Americans, the Europeans, and the Soviet Union. They played insignificant roles in the world economy. All were governed by self-assured kleptocrats, few of whom were destined to last much longer. We have to assume that they all knew in their heart-of-hearts that no good purpose would be accomplished by more war, whether or not they might win it. But the mobs wanted more war – or so they said – in order to ratify the dignity of the Arab race and the moral worth of Islam.
Israel’s response to victory in the war imposed upon her by the Arab nations in June of 1967 was to declare publicly her intention to seek a peace treaty with these nations. The Israeli government recognized that the euphoric mood that followed the reunification of Jerusalem would dissipate; then, Israel’s citizens would face even greater hostility from the world. Accordingly, Israel went to work at once seeking the support of the United Nations, the United States, the UK and other nations, for direct diplomacy between Israel and the Arab nations. Throughout the decades that followed, Israel’s diplomats publicly and privately declared her readiness for direct diplomacy with all stakeholders.
By contrast, Arab and Muslim policy was grounded henceforward on the project of alienating Israel from world opinion by painting Israel as a monster-occupier while Arab Palestinians served their propaganda purpose as victims. Eventually, the world would regret having let Israel come into the world: Israel would be abandoned and helpless, and then another war could be risked.
This policy is embodied in the Khartoum Resolution, passed by the Arab League following their assembly of “The Kings, Presidents and representatives of the other Arab Heads of State” in Khartoum, capital of Sudan, September 1, 1967. The purpose of this declaration was to bind all Arab nations into a religious obligation to go to war at the earliest possible opportunity – confident in Allah’s mandate.
The Khartoum Resolution “affirmed the unity of Arab ranks, the unity of joint action and the need for coordination and for the elimination of all differences.”
The Arab Heads of State have agreed to unite their political efforts at the international and diplomatic level to eliminate the effects of the aggression and to ensure the withdrawal of the aggressive Israeli forces from the Arab lands which have been occupied since the aggression of June 5. This will be done within the framework of the main principles by which the Arab States abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.
***The Three Noes.
The Khartoum Resolution amounts to a solemn religious curse uttered against Israel, binding the Arab nations, and preventing any one of them from pursuing a separate path. The effect of achieving total unity in objective, tactics and strategy would buoy up Arab morale and cause all memory of the embarrassment of The Six Day War to disappear. (Causing the memory of unpleasant realities to disappear is a special talent of the Arabs – one which markedly informs their historiography. (See my essay, “The Anti-history That Sustains Anti-zionism,” Bayview Review, July 29, 2015.)
As things worked out, the effect upon Israel has been the least of the effects of the Khartoum oath. It has placed impossible constraints on all politicians in the Arab and Muslim world. Again and again it has served to discredit and ostracize, and, where necessary, to literally assassinate any Arab politicians who so much as hints at possible benefit in diplomacy with Israel. At the same time, the U.S., and UK and all external powers, while not of course publicly committed to Khartoum, have been powerfully affected by its influence in the Muslim world; our diplomats nod in agreement as Arab diplomats speak of the sacred force of the Three Noes. In short: it has complicated life for all parties as they seek their own best interests in the Middle East.
*** Recent Tokens of Cooperation Between Israel and Arab states.
During the last few weeks we have seen dramatic evidence that the curse of Khartoum has lost its force. Major initiatives, running absolutely contrary to the spirit of Khartoum, have been taken by the biggest players on the Arab side. These initiatives follow from increasing recognition by the Arab movers and shakers that the greatest threat to their own regimes has nothing whatever to do with the existence of the Jewish State. The immediate enemy of every Middle East regime is the rush towards anarchy occurring throughout the Muslim world.
Although it was a project accomplished by the “secular” rulers of the day, the power of the Khartoum curse derives from conviction of all Muslims everywhere that Allah will never abandon those who subscribe to it in faith. The Khartoum Creed promises liberation from the spirit of Satanism that has always leads secular leaders astray, and which accounts for the sufferings of Arabs today.
In their heart-of-hearts the secular rulers are not so convinced. All of the currently established regimes live in realistic fear of sudden overthrow. Most of these have come to realize that no amount of pretended piety can win for themselves the kind of loyalty that would be needed to achieve the goal announced in the Khartoum project.
The major news-media have been jerked around in recent weeks by what they imagine is their obligation to close down all other matters in order to give blanket coverage to major catastrophes – most of which are the fruits of the Islamic spirit. As a result, few people are aware of the fact that during the last few days, conspicuous nails have been driven into the coffin of Khartoum as result of two bold exercises in diplomacy.
One is the reconciliation agreement proclaimed between Israel and Turkey, which effectively puts finis to all the terrible consequence that followed from the Marmora incident of May, 2010. (Eran Lerman, “The Turkish Israeli Reconciliation: A Balance Sheet,” BESA, July 6, 2016; Yossi Melman, “Turkish Breakthrough,” Jerusalem Report, January 11, 2016.)
The other takes the former of the recently revealed understanding between Israel and Egypt under which Israel is, in effect, taking the leading role in driving Egypt’s fiercest domestic terrorist enemies out of Sinai (David Israel, “Report: Israeli Drones Attack Sinai Terrorists with Egypt’s Approval,” Jewish Press, July 11, 2016.)
A similar pattern of quiet cooperation in matters of intelligence and military coordination is emerging on the front of relations between Israel and the Arab sheikdoms, including Saudi Arabia. (Ben Caspi, “Is Israel forming and alliance with Egypt and Saudi Arabia?” al-monitor.com, April 13, 2016.)
These are, I believe, the first fruits of a new kind of realistic diplomacy being pursued by a new cohort of Middle Eastern statesmen who recognize that even the most-apparently stable Arab regime can be swept away overnight by the people who really do believe in the Three Noes.
Coincidentally, this phenomenon appears just as the Brexit vote is encouraging the hope that the Brits can at last separate their Middle East policy from the nasty anti-Zionist line practiced by the EU’s blue-ribbon foreign policy apparatus. And on that same note: Britain has just inducted as Prime Minister and Foreign Minister two politicians who have reputations as “warm supporters of Israel.” (http://www.timesofisrael.com/incoming-british-pm-theresa-may-seen-as-warm-supporter-of-israel/