Commentary Magazine

Article Preview

Does Washington Have the Means to Impose a Settlement on Israel?

- Abstract

THE issue of possible American economic and military sanctions against Israel is in the wind once again. For some time, Arab leaders have called upon Washington, which in the view of President Sadat holds “99 per cent of the cards in this game,” to use its considerable powers of persuasion to force Israel to make territorial and other concessions that it does not otherwise seem to be prepared to make. Recently, this argument has been taken up by some prominent members of the American foreign-policy elite, such as George Ball, and other influential opinion-makers like Edward R. F. Sheehan, who have argued that precisely because of Israel’s increased dependence on the United States and the leverage that this relationship carries with it, the United States holds the key to peace in the Middle East. Essentially, they advocate that the United States draw up an independent peace plan for a staged Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines in exchange for recognition by the Arab states, with a variety of alternative security arrangements and international guarantees to insure the stability of the settlement. Israeli officials have countered that the alternative security arrangements proposed would be no substitute for defensible borders which the Israeli army is able to protect on its own, and that international guarantees are not an acceptable substitute for a capacity for self-defense. But advocates of the Ball-Sheehan approach contend that Israeli diplomatic flexibility is paralyzed by a complex of unreasoning distrust and insecurity, rather than by any inherently unsolvable problems in devising alternative security arrangements, and therefore that it is in Israel’s own higher interest, not to mention that of the United States, for Washington to undertake bold initiatives to “save Israel in spite of herself.”

About the Author