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THE INDEX — December 4, 2009

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Charles Cogan: A Modest Proposal

The irony—and the tragedy—is that the solution to the Arab-Israeli problem has been known for the last 40 years. Always, the answer is the same, as shown in the following commentary from The Economist in May 2007: “To arrive at peace, Israel would have to give up the West Bank and share Jerusalem; the Palestinians would have to give up their dream of the right of return and assure the security of Israel as a Jewish state. All the rest is detail.”

There is one detail that should be added to this tableau: the settlement must be accompanied by an international security force, including American and European troops. It would be unthinkable, given Israel’s territorial exiguity, that an international force run by troops from the West would not remain for many years in order to protect against Arab irredentism and Israeli expansionism.

Allowing the Palestinians to return to Israel, even in small numbers, would have a harmful effect on the state of Israel and on the future of that country. Just as the Germans are not going to return to East Prussia, and Mexico is not going to retake California, the Palestinians should not expect to return inside the armistice lines concluded as a result of the 1948–49 War.

The Six Day War of June 1967 constituted a clear break in American policy towards Israel. Before then, American aid to Israel was not excessive. Afterward, the situation was completely reversed, notably in the War of 1973 when the United States, faced with a desperate situation in Israel, sent in extremis and in plain sight a massive resupply of arms and ammunition into Lod Airport, in Tel Aviv, putting paid to the already tattered image of American even-handedness in the Middle East.

For Israel too, 1967 constituted a break with the past.

Jonathan Power: On How Not to Press the Reset Button

Precise quid pro quos are not good in marital or romantic relationships. Neither do they work well in big time politics. If made too precisely, they suggest that the other side is not to be trusted unless there is a “deal.” When there is conflict—either at home, with friends, or indeed with enemies—one needs to change the atmosphere, to restore a sense of trust so that opinions and arrangements can be freely traded. One good turn encourages, but not demands, a good turn by the other side. At the end of the Cold War, we saw such magnanimity and Americans, Russians, Europeans, and the rest of the world benefited immensely from it. Two great presidents were responsible for this—George H. W. Bush in the United States and Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union. In 1991, Bush decided unilaterally to de-alert all bombers, 450 of the deadly accurate city-destroying Minuteman missiles, and missiles in ten Poseidon submarines (each with enough warheads to destroy Moscow, Leningrad, and every city in between). Gorbachev, taking the cue, deactivated 500 land-based nuclear tipped missiles and six submarines (weapons that could have reduced the most populated parts of the United States to ashes and dust). Moreover, this wasn't the cosmetic de-alerting that's talked about today. Missile silos and submarine crews actually had their launch keys taken away from them. This is why President Barack Obama (if The New York Times has got the story right) has made a big mistake in his opening move following the pressing of the now-infamous “reset button.” His letter to President Dimitri Medvedev suggesting that Washington was open to discussions on the dismantling of the anti-missile site now being constructed on Polish soil (if Russia would lean harder on Iran to halt its presumed nuclear weapons program) was misconceived. What his letter should have said is simply, “President George W. Bush initiated a policy that the United States no longer stands by. We want to reopen discussions with you that will lead to our abandonment of said project.” Full stop. Period. Then, once the reset button starts the music, the notes will start to write themselves, so long as the mood remains good.

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