Chas Freeman on “Greater Israel” and the prospects for peace in the Middle East

Chas Freeman on “Greater Israel” and the prospects for peace in the Middle East

An essay by Chas Freeman, Jr based on remarks he made to a panel of the Middle East Policy Council has been published on LobeLog. Paragraphs are excerpted:

Israel has long sought to normalize its relations with Arab states without having to address the status of its captive Arab populations in the West Bank and Gaza.  Do the changing geopolitics of the region at last offer Israel the opportunity to accomplish this?…

In 2002, all twenty-two Arab states unequivocally offered Israel peace and normal political and economic relations if it would strike a deal with Palestinians.  The Arabs reaffirmed this offer in 2007 and again earlier this year.  Another thirty-five predominantly Muslim nations have signed onto this initiative.  The question has been what, if anything, Israel might be prepared to do to cash in on this offer by 57 states to make peace with it.  Israel’s answer to that question till now has been bupkis.  Nothing…

Mahmoud Abbas is in the twelfth year of his four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority.  Americans imagine he represents his countrymen.  Most Arabs have come to see him as the kapo for life of the vast, checkpoint-checkered prison camp that Palestine has become for its Arab inhabitants.  In their view, Abbas holds office only because Israel has murdered or jailed many hundreds of Palestinians who might otherwise have emerged as more credible leaders or negotiating partners…

Israel now rules a realm that is half-Jewish and half-Palestinian Arab.  Israel’s Jews enjoy full rights as the citizens of a democracy.  Some Arabs – one-eighth of all the people governed by the Israeli state – are officially Israeli citizens.  They are nominally represented in the Knesset but face intensifying racial discrimination and segregation by an assertively all-Jewish government and its electorate.  The remaining three-eighths of the people governed by Israel are stateless Arab Muslims or Christians who live under the tyranny of martial law in the West Bank and Jerusalem or relentless collective punishment in the Gaza ghetto…

The Afrikaans word “apartheid” is increasingly used  both in Israel and internationally to describe this subdivision of Israel’s subjects into half subjugated and half free.  Both the Afrikaner and Israeli versions of European settler colonialism rationalize racial dominance and disenfranchisement.  Both facilitate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by the upper and middle classes of the ruling caste, while denying these rights to the oppressed.  Both shield the master race from close encounters with the injustices and miseries their rule imposes on noncitizens, thus protecting them from first-hand observation of human distress and the crises of conscience this can fuel.  Both legitimize tyranny by praising the democracy of the ruling caste that imposes it.  But how tyranny is authorized does not make it any less despotic, arbitrary, or cruel….

It will be very hard, if not impossible, to persuade Arab states and peoples to normalize relations with Israel under these circumstances.  Despite their recognition of the Jewish state, Egypt and Jordan have been unable to befriend it.  The opprobrium that Israeli statements and behavior evoke effectively precludes the sort of regional coalition to balance Iran that shared interests would otherwise propel.  The region is becoming more – not less – fixated on religion and perceived victimization by the West.  The likelihood of Palestinian violence against Israel and its foreign supporters is increasing…

This underscores that the costs to the United States of the ongoing strife between the inhabitants of the Holy Land cannot be measured solely in terms of dollars donated to sustain Israel’s “qualitative edge,” lives lost to anti-Zionist terrorists, or prestige diminished by the chronic failure of a transparently half-hearted and now-abandoned “peace process.”   They must also be gauged in terms of expanding opportunity costs and risks.  A peace deal in the Holy Land would open many doors to a better future.  The absence of an agreement on how the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian inhabitants of the Holy Land can safely coexist skews the future in dangerous directions….

With partition now impossible, the only path to peace for Greater Israel lies in recognition of the reality that there is and will be only one state in Palestine.  That state cannot enjoy domestic tranquility or regional acceptance unless the injustices on which it is built are rectified.  Criticism of Israeli racism is growing, as is international support for “BDS” – the movement to boycott, disinvest from, and sanction Israel on the model of the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa. The Palestinian issue is ripening into a struggle for civil rights rather than self-determination…

The abandonment of Israel to its fate is not an option for the United States.  Reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians is as much in the American interest as it is in that of those two peoples.  It is also the key to restored stability in the Middle East.  Israel has effectively created a single state in Palestine in all but name.  Its foreign supporters have every reason now to ask that Israel govern all the people in its charge with the justice and humanity that constitute the core values of both Judaism and the Western civilization.

Read the essay in its entirety at LobeLog.

Chas Freeman, Jr. is a U.S. diplomat and author of several books on U.S foreign policy. He has served the United States in numerous capacities over his long career, including American ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Assistant Secretary of Defense from 1993-94.

In 2009, Freeman was slated to become the chair of the National Intelligence Council in the Obama Administration. Dennis Blair, the National Director of Intelligence at the time, stated that he hoped Freeman would challenge the intelligence community that for years had been criticized for “groupthink.”

A successful lobbying campaign against Freeman’s appointment the the position was carried out by former AIPAC official Stephen J. Rosen with the help of pro-Israel organizations and prominent lawmakers including New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and New York Democratic Congressman Steve Israel.

Regarding the campaign against Freeman, a fellow U.S. diplomat told the New York Times:

“The reality of Washington is that our political landscape finds it difficult to assimilate any criticism of any segment of the Israeli leadership.”