Former Israeli Foreign Minister and Defense Minister Moshe Arens charges that the Bush administration intervened in Israeli politics "in an undisguised attempt to bring down the democratically elected government of Israel" BROKEN COVENANT: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis Between the U.S. and Israel (Simon & Schuster; February 13, 1995; $25.00). Arens gives a first-hand account of the American diplomatic ploys that unjustifiably, in his view, kept the Israelis from defending themselves during the Gulf War. In this unique glimpse into the workings of Israeli politics at the highest levels, Arens reveals how the Bush administration used economic and military aid in attempts to manipulate Israel's foreign policy and domestic politics.
Arens, who served as Israel's Foreign Minister from 1988-1990 and as its Defense Minister from 1990-1992, accuses President Bush and former Secretary of State James Baker of engineering a number of government crises in Israel that eventually contributed to the 1992 downfall of the conservative Likud government led by Yitzhak Shamir.
The Bush administration's aim, Arens contends, was to bring about the election of a Labor government that would accede more readily to conditions set by the United States in the ongoing Middle East peace process - a policy that succeeded with the election of a Labor government headed by Yitzhak Rabin in 1992. Consequently, according to Arens, Israel has been dangerously weakened, and U.S-Israeli relations were seriously threatened.
Arens writes, "[The Bush] administration's repeated attempts to interfere in Israel's internal politics had been without precedent in the history of the relations between the United States and Israel, and probably without precedent in the relationship between any two democratically elected governments. The traditional diplomatic dialogue between the President and the prime minister of Israel, and between the Secretary of State and Israel's foreign minister, was often replaced or supplemented by backstage consultations and maneuvering between the White House and State Department and the leaders of Israel's Labor Party."
When Arens became foreign minister in 1988, Israel faced a major crisis. The Arab uprising known as the Intifada had brought immense pressure upon Israel from the U.S. and other nations to make concessions to the Arabs - something the Labor Party seemed increasingly prepared to do. Arens describes how he put forward a peace plan that avoided making concessions of territory. Unhappy with the policy of the Israeli government, the Bush administration began what Arens characterizes as its back-door efforts to undermine the Likud and to impose its own will upon Israel.
In his no-holds-barred chronicle of relations between the U.S. and Israel during the Bush years, and of the tough in-fighting in Israeli domestic politics, Arens offers a number of startling revelations, including:
Repeated leaks to the press by senior Bush administration officials grossly misrepresented the nature of meetings regarding the Arab-Israeli peace process held with Arens and other Israeli officials, thereby undermining Israeli government positions.
During the Gulf War, American promises to protect Israel from Iraq's Scud missiles often exceeded American capabilities. In fact, as Arens and the world eventually discovered, not a single mobile Scud launcher was destroyed during the entire six weeks of fighting, despite U.S. statements to the contrary.
In a meeting with President Bush, Arens personally tried to persuade Bush of Israel's need to respond to the Scud attacks against it. Bush was unconvinced, especially after being told by Dick Cheney that Patriot missiles had been doing very well in intercepting the Scuds. Indeed, as became clear later, it is doubtful that there was a single successful Patriot intercept in Israel throughout the war.
Arens became aware that a contest had developed between Bush administration officials in Washington and General Norman Schwarzkopf about how much air power to devote to the Scud launchers in western Iraq that were attacking Israel. Schwarzkopf apparently wanted to decrease the number of aircraft assigned to western Iraq to a minimum, while allocating a maximum number to the Kuwait theater of operations.
Dick Cheney repeatedly refused to supply Arens with adequate intelligence information and a framework for operational coordination between Israeli and U.S. armed forces if the need were to arise during the Gulf War.
Toward the end of the Gulf War, Arens informed Cheney that Israel intended to take action to stop the missile attacks against it. The plan was halted only because of bad weather and President Bush's announcement of a cease-fire.
Only a few months before Iraq invaded Kuwait, Senator Bob Dole told Arens that Saddam Hussein's threats against Israel were meant only as an indication of his response if Israel were to attack Iraq, and therefore were not to be taken seriously.
British Prime Minister John Major, then serving as foreign secretary, told Arens in 1989, "The problem with Israel is that it is growing." Arens writes "Such arrogance and unpleasantness I had never encountered in any of my diplomatic dealings."
Arens tells the full story behind the $10 billion U.S. loan guarantee intended to help Israel with the resettlement of Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Arens reveals how the Bush administration used the threat of withholding the guarantee as a means of discrediting the Likud government and of unduly influencing the peace process.
The signing of a peace agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn in September 1993 stunned the world and signaled that the Middle East peace process had taken a dramatic turn. Arens notes that major problems have accompanied the implementation of the agreement and he fears that even bigger ones are just around the corner.
The withdrawal of Israeli military forces from Gaza, the extension of Palestinian autonomy to other areas, Arafat's publicly-stated intention to set up a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and Syria's insistence on total Israeli evacuation of the Golan Heights - terms to which Rabin seems prepared to submit - pose great challenges to Israel's strength and independence.
Above all, Arens fears that the climate of concession created by Israel ' s current Labor government, and promoted by the interference of the Bush administration, gives the impression that Israel's previously unwavering resolve to resist the aggression of its Arab neighbors is faltering. He writes, "What fills me with apprehension - greater than any I felt even during the difficult years I have described above - is the thought that when the day comes when even the most dovish of Israelis will refuse to submit to further demands, Israel, weakened by territorial concessions, may then not be strong enough to defend itself."
BROKEN COVENANT is of vital interest to everyone concerned with the future of Israel and its relations with the United States, with the geopolitics of the Middle East, and with the proper role of the United States is the affairs of other nations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Moshe Arens served as Israel's Ambassador to Washington from 1982 to 1983, and as a member of the Israeli government from 1983 to 1992. He was Defense Minister from 1983 to 1984, Foreign Minister from 1988 to 1990, and again Defense Minister from 1990 to 1992.