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Land for Cash?

- Abstract

Twenty years ago, during his first term in office, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin struck what was probably the greatest bargain for Israel in the history of the Arab-Israeli peace process. During the summer of 1975—with Gerald Ford in the White House and Henry Kissinger as his Secretary of State—the U.S. and Israel had been wrestling with the question of whether the Rabin government would cede the strategic keys of the Sinai Peninsula, the Giddi and Mitla passes, in exchange for something less than nonbelligerency from the Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat. (No one thought at the time that in little more than two years Sadat would be visiting Jerusalem and offering full peace.)

It was during these negotiations for what became the Second Sinai Disengagement Agreement (or Sinai II) that the basic Israeli-American paradigm for peacemaking was set. The U.S. understood the asymmetry of the proposed exchange. Israel was giving up tangible territorial assets that could not be recovered except in an act of war; its Arab interlocutor was making a political commitment that could be easily reversed or diluted. Hence, the U.S. would interject itself as a critical factor in Israeli calculations of the risks involved in territorial withdrawal, and would offer the tangibles which were missing in the direct exchange between Israel and the Arab side.ealistic.

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