A ROLE FOR THE
"We don't want to reach a situation where we have to choose between the U.S. and the Golan, between certain weapons systems and part of the Golan. We don't want to reach a state where we are facing an ultimatum," the late Deputy Defense Minister, Mordechai Gur,
told the Knesset in 1994, suggesting that America will force the Jewish State to make territorial concessions by withholding technological assistance. Whether the United States is, in fact, pressuring Israel or whether the Labor government is cynically using the threat of
U.S. pressure to convince the Israeli public that the "peace process" is what America wants, the fact remains that the Administration has committed its prestige to the process and is now determined to achieve a foreign policy "success."
It is true that traditional U.S. policy, as shaped by the State Department, has contained an underlying threat of withholding aid from Israel if the Israelis fail to meet Arab demands. For instance, the Eisenhower administration threatened economic sanctions against Israel to force it to surrender the Sinai after the 1956 war.
Henry Kissinger threatened to cut off aid if Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on the eve of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The Ford-Kissinger "reassessment" in 1975 held back all weapons for more than two months in order to pressure Israel to make concessions to Egypt.
Now that the Labor government has invited U.S. pressure and deepened American involvement, it will not be an easy matter to expect the Administration to back off. However, the President and the State Department are not the only ones who determine
America's Middle East policy. Congress has in the past, and will in the future, play a significant role as well. Israel does not have to cave in to every State Department demand, when it knows that there are many reliable friends of the Jewish State in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Washington, together with other pro-Israel activists, to discuss
these issues with a number of Senators and Representatives. We were pleased to discover that a significant number of congressmen have serious doubts about the wisdom of Israeli territorial withdrawal and the reliability of Arab promises.
Democrats and Republicans alike expressed understanding of Israel's crucial role stemming the tide of Islamic violence and totalitarianism in the Middle East. They acknowledged the strong possibility that Likud will win this year's Israeli elections and said they would understand and respect a new government's reluctance to surrender the Golan.
The latest public opinion polls in Israel show the gap between Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu has narrowed significantly in the race for prime minister.
Polls concerning the separate election for Knesset seats show a close race between the Labor-Meretz-Arab bloc and the nationalist-religious bloc. The Likud-Tzomet alliance will clearly boost the national camp's electoral chances.
Israel could be on the brink of a major change in direction, and there is good reason to believe that Congress will understand and support such a change.
Herbert Zweibon is chairman of Americans for A Safe Israel.