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33rd Year of Publication

   JULY-AUGUST 2003 -  Issue #158    


U.S. Troops in Judea, Samaria & Gaza?

Herbert Zweibon

In recent weeks, former U.S. Mideast envoy Martin Indyk and Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, among others, have raised the idea of sending American troops to enforce peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The Bush administration, while not yet publicly endorsing the idea, has not ruled it out, either--a sure sign that it has not dismissed it out of hand.

A similar trial balloon was floated in 1994 in an attempt by the Clinton administration to sell the idea of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. Stationing U.S. troops on the Golan was a terrible idea, and stationing them in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza is even worse.

The Palestinian Authority wants U.S. troops because it knows from experience that such a force would serve as a shield for continued terrorism against Israel. In Lebanon, groups of terrorists had no trouble penetrating UNIFIL lines to attack Israel, while the Israeli Army repeatedly found itself stymied when approaching UNIFIL's lines in pursuit of terrorists.

Another problem with Israel trading territory for GIs is that there is no way to be sure how long the GIs will stick around. America's hasty withdrawal from Lebanon and Somalia as a result of casualties inflicted by local terrorists is certainly an indication that if things turn ugly on the ground, domestic pressure may result in a sudden change in U.S. policy.

Every GI will be walking around Ramallah and Gaza with a bullseye on his back. Palestinian terrorists will not long resist that temptation. The illusion that "America will protect us" will be shattered when coffins of GIs begin arriving back in the U.S.--but by then, Israel will no longer control the territory it needs to protect itself.

Nor is terrorism the only possible reason for the U.S. to break a promise. The American abandonment of Vietnam was due to casualties, but the U.S. abandonment of Taiwan was due to simple, cold political calculations. In 1956, the Eisenhower administration promised Israel that it would have free passage through the Straits of Tiran if it withdrew from the Sinai, but when that passage was threatened in 1967, Eisenhower was long gone and the Johnson administration did not consider itself bound by its predecessor's pledge.

Stationing U.S. troops on Israel's borders would be detrimental in other ways, as well. It would involve huge expenditures and therefore introduce new strains on the American budget. It would also involve committing large numbers of American soldiers at a time when the U.S. military is already stretched thin. A recent CATO Institute report found that U.S. forces abroad "were stretched to the breaking point even before the latest action against Iraq," and Army Times has reported that "the war in Iraq doubly burdened some Army families when soldiers who had returned from a six-month tour in Afghanistan or a year tour in South Korea found themselves quickly deployed to the Persian Gulf."

Furthermore, the relationship between Israel and the United States was always based on the understanding that Israel would fight its own battles, and was asking nothing from the U.S. except weapons with which to defend itself. It would turn Israel into a weak, vassal state that would owe its existence to an outside power. If Israel puts itself in the position of being dependent upon U.S. troops to protect it, the Jewish State will find every one of its policy decisions subject to the yardstick of "What will the Americans say?"

Stationing GIs in Judea and Samaria would undermine Israel's national security, endanger the lives of American soldiers, and change the U.S.-Israel alliance in ways that would serve neither country.  

Herbert Zweibon is chairman of Americans for a Safe Israel.


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July-August 2003               - 1 -               Outpost


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