Analysis: US and the Palestine-Israel quandary, policy inertia, and the dictates of logic - M5 Dergi
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Analysis: US and the Palestine-Israel quandary, policy inertia, and the dictates of logic

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In Eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, many people see Israel as a colonial settler state no different from those sponsored by other European empires of the past 200 years.

In the end, Harry Truman needed votes, and there wasn’t much more to it. Senior diplomat George Kennan and the Policy Planning Staff, Secretary of State George Marshall, and the State Department’s Near East Division, the intelligence offices of the Navy, Army and Air Force, and the CIA all believed that recognizing the state of Israel was against US interests. [1]

However, the year was 1948, the presidential election was in November and embattled US President Truman needed every vote that he could get. To make matters worse, Truman’s main opponent, Republican Thomas Dewey, had swept to victory in the 1946 New York governor’s race partially on the strength of Jewish votes. [2]

Truman did have some personal reasons behind his eventual decision to recognize the state of Israel. Most importantly, Truman’s former business partner, Edward Jacobson, was an ardent Zionist and was the person who convinced Truman to allow Chaim Weizmann – later Israel’s first president – to visit him at the White House. At least one of Truman’s personal advisors made strong arguments in favor of recognizing Israel. [3] Truman also shared the same revulsion towards the Holocaust that, at the time, was an important factor in the wider support for Israel that existed in US society.

As is well known, Truman won a surprise victory that November. Truman did not win New York, and economic issues might have affected the election’s outcome more than the issue of Israel [4], but the US policy supporting Israel had been initiated. Soon, it would take on a life of its own.

Policy inertia

Once policy is implemented and remains in place for a period of time, it gains what has been called “policy inertia”: policies mean political preferences, and the result is money, resources, and power directed towards certain goals. Around those streams of money, resources, and power arise groups like organizations, lobbies, and companies that benefit from those streams and want to see them continue. In parallel, those groups and organizations do their utmost to ensure, through lobbying and other means, that those streams continue. In sum, networks of interests eventually arise around policy decisions, and those interests aim to secure those policies’ continuation for as long as possible. This is one important reason why pro-Israeli policies are such an ingrained feature of US politics today.

Such situations, though, are often not simply the result of material motivations. In the case of US policy towards Israel, beliefs, culture, history, religion, and other factors play a role in the perpetuation of policy. America’s powerful Protestant Evangelical movement, in a general way, believes that Israel’s existence is necessary for the expected return of Jesus Christ; some sects of religious Jews, especially those influential among the Israeli settler groups in the West Bank, believe that Israel’s existence is instrumental to creating the conditions necessary for the appearance of their Messiah (Moshiach). In other words, a combination of some modern Christian and Jewish beliefs has also played a powerful role in perpetuating US support for Israel. This is a major factor in why much of today’s US political class, in contrast to the situation in 1948, strongly supports favorable US policies towards Israel.

The US foreign policy should not be ignored either. Israel’s status as the major beneficiary of US financial and military aid highlights its role as an important piece of the US global empire. Similar to the way the British chose local minorities to elevate and then use once their status became resented by the other local social groups, Israel is a state founded among societies that are different in ethnic, linguistic, and religious composition.

In the Eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, many people see Israel as a colonial settler state no different from those sponsored by other European empires of the past 200 years. Since 1948, political and military tensions between Israel and its neighbors have helped keep US political and military attention focused on a region from which the US received a large portion of its petroleum supplies.

Current situation is a dead-end street

Today, the growing radicalism of domestic Israeli politics and Israeli politicians’ refusal to pursue more conciliatory relations with the Palestinians have placed the Israeli and US policy in a no-win situation. In hindsight, the 2006 Palestinian elections, when Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, were a missed opportunity. Israel and the US needed to recognize the will of the Palestinian people and give Hamas a chance to turn itself into a political party with accountability toward its voters.

But because Israel and the US did not do that, the situation has predictably, step-by-step, spiraled into more and more severe episodes of violence. Now Israeli officials implement increasingly horrific violence indiscriminately against all Gazans, including acts that constitute war crimes. US policymakers, for their part, play a double game of trying to rein in Israeli politicians and their bloody ultraviolence [5,6,7] while supplying ever-greater numbers of weapons and engaging in ever-greater displays of military power. [8] Clearly, this is not tenable in the long run, especially when other global crises make even greater demands on US military resources. When will cooler, more rational minds win out in Tel Aviv and Washington?

What logic dictates: Türkiye

Thankfully, something like an international consensus has emerged that the Palestinians must have a state composed of Gaza and the West Bank, with its capital in East Jerusalem. The problem is getting to that solution, and the only rational, realistic route is one that neither Benjamin Netanyahu, Joe Biden, Antony Blinken, the Beltway, nor the Brussels-Paris-London-Berlin quadrilateral wants to face: Türkiye. [9]

The immediate problem is who will administer Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says that Israel can do this for a period of time, but that is not a serious proposal unless Israelis are willing to accept sustained severe losses in soldiers and military material. That does not look likely, as domestic protests against the Israeli state’s policies in Gaza mount. Netanyahu has also repeatedly claimed that the Israeli aim is to eradicate Hamas, which seems completely unrealistic; even if that extremely unlikely goal were somehow realized, the hatred that Israel has created through its scorched-earth policies will last generations. No permanent peace can be constructed on such foundations.

Beyond Israel, no other Western power has enough legitimacy to take on the responsibility of administering Gaza – a legacy of both imperialism and the West’s traditional support for Israel. Besides a lack of legitimacy, no regional power other than Türkiye has the military or logistical capacity to take on such responsibilities. And no other global actors outside of the region have the willingness to get involved in the situation or the legitimacy that might make them a candidate. There is only one option.

As I have argued previously, [10] Türkiye not only has the intelligence, logistics, and military capacities to carry out such responsibilities, but it is also the only regional actor that is accorded wide legitimacy on Gaza’s streets. The Republic of Türkiye is the only possible actor that can lead a UN-sponsored Gaza administration while the process leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state can be carried out.

Interestingly, a larger regional security role for Türkiye was first envisioned during the second Truman administration, which was made possible by Truman’s stunning 1948 victory. Even though 70 years have passed and the world has changed dramatically, the inherently sound logic of trusting the Republic of Türkiye with greater regional security responsibilities remains unchanged.

[1] See: Forrest C. Pogue, “George C. Marshall: Statesman, 1945-1959,” pp. 336-378 and Ed Cray, “General of the Army: George C. Marshall, Soldier and Statesman,” pp. 655-662. Truman devoted three chapters in his memoirs to the issue; see “Volume 2: Years of Trial and Hope, 1946-1953,” pp. 140-180. Truman’s most authoritative biographer, Robert J. Donovan, also gives a detailed account – see “Conflict and Crisis: The Presidency of Harry S Truman, 1945-1948,” pp. 369-387.

[2] Harold F. Gosnell, “Truman’s Crises: A Political Biography of Harry S. Truman,” p. 363. Courting Jewish voters was part of Dewey’s campaign strategy; see Richard Norton Smith, “Thomas E. Dewey and His Times,” pp. 510, 534.

[3] Pogue, pp. 362-364; Dean Acheson, who served as secretary of state for Truman in 1949-1953, also thought that recognizing Israel did not accord with US interests. On the other hand, Acheson stated in his memoirs that Truman’s decision to recognize Israel was not driven by domestic political concerns; see Acheson’s “Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department,” p. 169. The consensus among historians is that domestic political concerns were the primary influence on Truman’s decision.

[4] Pogue, p. 377.







Source: AA

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