Week 4 Blog

The Story of “Almost-s”

This American Orientalism chapter reads like a Ben and Jerry episode. Always so close, but the deal always falls apart. It’s also interesting to me that up until this point in class, the U.S. has generally been a positive but ineffective force in much of Middle East issues. It’s a shame that by the time they do start making bigger impacts, they’re generally bad.

From the earlier period with the Clap commission and UN Resolution 302, the U.S. is promising a great deal of money and resources to establish better infrastructures for a Palestinian settlement. It fails.

Eisenhower tries a more “even handed approach”. “Trouble makers” influence a rejection of the Johnson Plan among Arabs. The Alpha initiative seems promising but after an Israeli attack on Egypt, Nasser puts endorsement on hold while he looks for foreign arms support.

Soviets step in and promise aid through a proxy, and with newfound leverage, Nasser’s demands become unrealistic. This time Israel seems interested –of course.

After several failures of U.S. led missions, the Suez crisis takes priority. At the same time, congress is growing tired of allocating tax payer dollars to a problem whose possibility for a solution they have come to seriously question.

JKF comes into office. There seems to be promise here as he has more of a Palestinian empathy than his processors. JFK launches a quiet mission to the Middle East. Gurion calls repatriation efforts “the best weapon at hand” for destroying Israel from within, but the U.S. again, promises to foot the bill across the board for a solution.

Feldman at the Pentagon believes that trying to latch arms deals with the Israeli’s to a peace agreement will provide the U.S. with the leverage to force a deal. The last mission supposedly comes closer than its ever been to agreement, but still fails. The members of the commission could never even agree why. They do however, comment that a failure to solve the refugee problem ultimately became the “Palestinian problem”.

LBJ comes into office. Within the first 6 months, we see the Fatah and PLO come into being. Although the state department initially doesn’t see a serious threat, they’re trained by Egypt and begin serious attacks. Nasser makes a political speech promising 4 million troops to defeat Israel and alongside the rise of the PLO and Fatah, the rhetoric for the total annihilation of Israel gains momentum.

The Soviets take advantage of this rise, along with the recent coup in Syria, and declare a backing for a “progressive revolution” among Arabs. At this point it’s still clear that the U.S. is providing the best plans for solutions.

At this point we start to see a pattern. Israel, the Palestinian leaders, other Arab leaders, and the Soviets have all continued to act against the best interest of the two parties, whether from stupidity, over-importance of idealism over practical action, ulterior political motives, over use of military force and encroachment, or radicalism.

I can understand the deep frustrations of both sides. But I’m equally frustrated with each of them as I read more and more about the historical events that have played out. The Palestinian leaders have not acted in the best interest of their people, time and time again. The Israelis have also let their continued land grabs and view of the Palestinian people as a whole, be wholly formed by the extremists. Rostow and Rusk predicated to LBJ that the Israeli explanation after the 6 Day War would create grave problems for the rest of the 20th century and make it much more difficult for Arabs to trusts the U.S.’s promise of “territorial integrity” to everyone involved. The Israeli’s could have definitely benefited from some more empathy to a displaced people, much like they themselves experienced in the very early days.

I don’t believe this is some thousand-year problem that inherently has no possible solution. This is a problem of poor leadership and the inability to make tough decisions in the present for a better future. For all the really bad examples of foreign powers interfering in the Middle East, particularly through military force, perhaps this would have been a better case in which a heavy hand from the U.S. ultimately would have made sense. I think the various resolutions examined here as well as other less formal U.S.-led plans, would have put everyone involved in a much better position today. And this is coming from someone who is pretty anti-aggression….





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