America's Israel Policy Stuck on 1949

American policy regarding the Arab/Israel conflict has not changed since the Armistice Agreement in 1949.  U.S. policy has sought to achieve a holy balance in the conflict.

This policy had its origins in the tripartite U.S.-British-French declaration in 1950, against arms sales to either side.  The Soviets exploited this policy to sell arms to the Arabs, and the French looked after their own interests when they supplied weapons to Israel, but the Americans preserved an outward appearance of egalitarianism.

So reported Haaretz in 2007 based on then-recently released documents.

Washington's support for the existence, independence and territorial integrity of all the states of the region was translated into adherence to the armistice lines of 1949: not to allow Egypt, or any combination of Arab states, to destroy Israel, but also not to allow Israel to expand westward, into Sinai, or eastward, into the West Bank.  The American pressure in this regard brought the IDF back from El Arish in Operation Horev in 1949 and from Sinai in 1956.  A version of it would appear in Henry Kissinger's directives after the IDF encircled Egypt's Third Army at the end of the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

America even had plans for intervention should intervention be needed to maintain their policy.  In late May 1967, these plans were dusted off with the intention of updating them.  But events unfolded so quickly that they had to be scrapped in favor of working as quickly as possible through the U.N. and Russia to establish a ceasefire.

Even the attack on the USS Liberty by Israel did not lead to intervention but to a quick resolution negotiated by PM Eshkol and President Johnson.

It was recommended at the time that "[f]ollowing the cease-fire, U.S. ground forces would be moved in for peacekeeping missions. The return of territories would be achieved primarily by diplomatic means, with military force to be used only if 'absolutely necessary.'"

President Johnson was a friend of the Jews and Israel, and he had appointed three key officials who were more sympathetic to Israel than their predecessors: Walt Rostow as national security adviser, Richard Helms as CIA chief, and General Earle Wheeler as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It was with this policy orientation that Res 242 was worked out.  The U.S. could have simply said that Israel won the land in a defensive war, and that would have been the end of it.  Instead, the United States settled with a small change in her original policy and did not require Israel to withdraw from all territories.  America allowed Israel to remain in occupation until she had secure and recognized borders.

Two years later, Richard Nixon, no friend of the Jews, became president, and he proposed the Rogers Plan, which conformed to the original U.S. policy with these words: "We believe that while recognized political boundaries must be established, and agreed upon by the parties, any change in the pre-existing lines should not reflect the weight of conquest and should be confined to insubstantial alterations required for mutual security.  We do not support expansionism."  (Emphasis added.)

In 1975, Henry Kissinger, also no friend of the Jews, advised an Iraqi diplomat, in line with U.S. policy, that "[o]n the contrary, Israel does us more harm than good in the Arab world ... We can't negotiate about the existence of Israel[,] but we can reduce its size to historical proportions[.]"

President G.W. Bush supported this policy by including the Saudi Plan and calling for it in the Roadmap.  A year later, he backpedaled somewhat in his letter to PM Sharon and embraced Res 242 to the exclusion of the Saudi Plan.

As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338.  In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.  It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.

President Obama would have none of this.  He returned to the Saudi Plan requiring '67 borders with insubstantial exchanges.

Thus, the U.S. policy formulated after the Armistice lines were agreed upon in 1949 stands in the way of a solution to the conflict.  The U.S. is trying to engineer an outcome in line with this policy without taking into account that Israel now has a population ten times larger than it had in '48 and has 600,000 of its citizens living east of the Armistice lines.  To help achieve this end, America arms the Arabs, denies Israel the right of self-defense, turns a blind eye to her deligitimization (and even contributes to it), encourages the EU to undermine Israel and apply pressure, and threatens to no longer protect Israel with her veto.  She also funds UNRWA, which maintains the Palestinian refugees in camps rather than demands that they be resettled.

President Obama has embraced the Saudi Plan, which calls for the application of Res 194, which in turn recognizes the "right of return" for refugees who want to return to pre-'67 Israel.  Obama has yet to make a direct statement on the "right of return."

At the core of U.S. policy is the idea that the Arabs are more likely to accept Israel if she were forced to make a full retreat.  But where is the evidence of this?  All evidence points to the fact that the Arabs object to the existence of Israel, regardless of her borders.  After all, that is why they went to war against Israel in the first place.  A shrunken Israel, rather than advancing the cause of peace, would be an enticement to war.

Assuming that the U.S. goal is peace or at least stability, her policy should be to keep Israel strong with defensible borders.  America should support the Jordan River as Israel's eastern border and resettle all refugees elsewhere.  Remember: if the U.S. forced Israel to accept the return of 5 million refugees, or even 2 million, even to the Palestinian state only, this would be very destabilizing to Palestine and to Israel.  Imagine the unrest caused by such an underclass within Palestine, where they would be a majority.  Imagine further that they invade Israel en masse all along the border.  How could Israel stop them?

Why is it that the Palestinians insist on the refugee "right of return"?  The answer is simply that Palestine doesn't want them.  No Arab country does.  They all use "right of return" as a tool to destroy Israel.

I hope the U.S. understands this.  I hope Israel understands this.

Senator Mitchell is back in Israel to work on settling the core issues: Jerusalem, refugees, and borders.  Pursuant to the original U.S. policy, defensible borders are not in the cards.  The U.S. will allow for certain security needs, such as Israel's control of the Jordan Rift and the airspace, but she wants these provisions to be time-limited.

There is nothing to suggest that Jerusalem can be shared peaceably.  Instead, it's damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.  Jerusalem as a city and concept is holy only to Jews.  Why should they be required to share it with the Arabs?

The two-state solution hearkens back to the U.N. Partition Plan of '47.  But that General Assembly resolution was illegal in that it violated the U.N. obligations to uphold the Mandate to create a Jewish state in all of Palestine.  It was also only a recommendation.  Why is the U.S. slavishly adhering to it?

But present policy is worse than the Partition Plan, which drew borders based on demographics.  At a minimum, the U.S. should follow the same principle and work toward borders based on demographics today.  But no -- she would rather force Israel to uproot in excess of 100,000 of her own citizens.

In short, the U.S. is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  She must stop being governed by past policies and formulate a new policy based on current realities, with a view to future stability.

Ted Belman is a retired lawyer and the editor of Israpundit.  He made aliya last year and is now living in Jerusalem.
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