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|Adib F. Farha's Statement at the
IRmep Capitol Hill Forum on
A Clean Break, A New Strategy for the Securing Realm
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Gold Room- Rayburn Congressional House Office Building
Contact Adib Farha (email@example.com)
The Honorable Congresswoman,
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the outset, allow me to say that it is an honor to share this panel with such
knowledgeable and well-read individuals. I am grateful to Congresswoman Holmes-Norton for
sponsoring this forum and to the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy for organizing
The document we are here to discuss, A Clean Break, A new Strategy for the
Realm was originally written by the Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy
Toward 2000 of The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. The Group
leader was Mr. Richard Perle of the American Enterprise Institute and seven other
individuals known for their strong sympathy and blind support for the State of Israel.
We wouldn't be here today studying this document had it not been for the fact that
three members of the Group have since become key players in the current American
administration. Mr. Perle is the former chair and current member of the Defense Policy
Board of the Pentagon, Mr. Douglas Feith, another member of the Group, is the
Undersecretary of Defense and Mr. David Wurmser, yet another member of the same group, is
an adviser to Vice President Richard Cheney.
In other words, leaders of the same group that set out to draw a strategy in Israel's
interest are now key players in drawing the American strategy. The underlying, albeit
wrong assumption, is that American interests and those of Israel are one and the same.
Accordingly, Israel's strategic interests are shaping US foreign policy in the Middle
East, the world's most volatile area. The conflict of interest and of loyalty is
In the short time allotted to me, I will attempt to demonstrate that: a) The strategy
drawn in the said document is ineffective, b) that the document has become obsolete, since
many of its underlying assumptions are no longer true, and c) that U.S. interests are not
one and the same with Israel's interests - despite the so-called special
relation that exists between the two nations. I shall address key points in the
document in the same order in which they were written.
- For starters, the document states that Israel has an opportunity to make a clean
break and forge a peace process and strategy that replaces comprehensive peace with
a traditional concept of strategy based on balance of power. It advocates the
right of hot pursuit for self defense into all Palestinian areas and nurturing
alternatives to Arafat's exclusive grip on Palestinian society.
This is a clear break indeed from UN Security Council Resolution 242, from the principles
of the Madrid Conference, and from subsequent initiatives that were all based on the
principle of land for peace. Most recently, it is contrary to the principal
foundation of the Road Map, which was approved by the UN Security Council a week ago.
The majority of Israelis realize that peace for peace is a non-starter and
will never deliver the peace that both the Palestinians and the Israeli people want so
badly. The only result of Israel's hot pursuits has been fuelling the
Palestinian uprising and bringing more bloodshed amongst innocent civilians on both sides.
Although Prime Minister Sharon refuses to admit it, recent polls indicate that the
majority of Israelis believe that Israel would have to give up occupied Palestinian land
to attain peace and security. The only disagreement among Israelis on this issue is how
much land to give -- and definitely not on the issue of whether or not to give occupied
Indeed, all Palestinians insist that land for peace is the only foundation of
any peace agreement. The only conclusion one can draw from Sharon's insistence on
pursuing a strategy based on balance of power, as the document recommends, is
that he is not sincere in the pursuit of peace. Brute force has only brought disaster to
the Palestinian people and to their economy and the same for Israelis and their economy.
- The document refers to a continuity of values with Western and Jewish
tradition. However, this continuity of values is not exclusive to Jewish traditions,
which I revere out of respect for all religions. It exists equally between the combined
Christian-Muslim ethos of Arabs (Christians as well as Muslims) and Western values. It is
a farce to speak of continuity of values in this respect and thus imply that such
continuity is exclusive to the Jewish traditions, as if Christian and Muslim traditions
Followers of the three monotheistic faiths share the same basic values. However,
Muslim-haters (and I am an Arab Christian, by the way) try to paint an evil picture of
Islam through selective retrieval.
Prime Minister Sharon cleverly developed the strategy of Mr. Perle and his co-authors
after 9/11 to characterize Israel's state-sponsored terrorism against innocent
Palestinians as one and the same as President Bush's campaign against Al Qaida. But
while Al Qaida has no legitimate claim against the United States, the US has every right
to fight its hateful venom and its horrific terror. Palestinians, on the other hand, are a
people that has been uprooted from their land, who have their God-given right to fight
occupation-- provided, however, that they do not target innocent civilians, an act that is
condemned by the same God of Christians, Jews and Muslims.
-Under the sub-heading of Securing the Northern Border, the document speaks of
striking Syria's drug money and counterfeiting infrastructures in
Lebanon. I admit that there had been drug money and counterfeiting during the
Lebanese civil war and in the early years thereafter. Some of the drug trafficking, by the
way, was done through Israel. At any rate, the international community through its
specialized agencies such as GAFFI and others, has attested that Lebanon is free of both.
So that statement is obsolete.
-It goes on to recommend, striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon and should
that prove insufficient, striking at selected targets in Syria proper. On this
point, the writers of the report had the satisfaction of witnessing their client adopt
their recommendation. The unprovoked attack on a barren old training camp in a suburb of
Damascus almost two months ago was the latest of such brazen incursions. And how did the
US administration react to that invasion of both Lebanese and Syrian airspace and the
killing of an innocent guard? Nothing more than lip service calling for self
restraint, effectively accepting the trespassing into another country. Heaven forbid
that the US administration would issue a condemnation. Israel's former advisers, who
now advise the American administration, would definitely veto any such thing!
-The paper also alludes to capitalizing on Syria's poor relations with neighboring
Turkey and Jordan. After some tension with Syria in the last decade, mainly over the
presence of Kurdish opposition leader Abdullah Ocalan in Syria, Syria and Turkey have long
since made up and enjoy an amicable relationship. More of the same is true between Jordan
and Syria. The two young rulers of these two countries have forged an excellent relation
based upon mutual respect and non-interference in each other's internal affairs. So
-Then in an effort to escalate anti-Syrian sentiments among the Lebanese who have
reservations against current Lebanese-Syrian relations and to entice Lebanese dissidents
to bank on Israeli support, the paper refers to Syrian tutelage in Lebanon and
to the so-called Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley.
The whole world needs to understand that any outstanding issues between Syria and Lebanon
can and should only be resolved by the two countries' leaderships. Syria is in
Lebanon because we the Lebanese, through our elected government, asked it to come to our
rescue and to help us re-instate stability, and its presence in Lebanon has cost it a
great deal in blood and in money. It remains in Lebanon because the majority of the
Lebanese have decided that its presence continues to be a security need, which we consider
necessary, legitimate, and temporary.
-The document makes the added false accusation that the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon has become
to terror what the Silicon Valley has become to computers. Hogwash! Ask any foreign
news reporter who has toured the Bekaa Valley on his/her own and they would attest that
they have seen no such thing. Let me refer you here to the many articles on this matter by
Robert Fisk of the British newspaper, The Independent. Mr. Fisk has toured the Valley
unescorted many times. He has repeatedly denied the existence of any so-called terrorist
camps. And if so-called terror bases were truly there, does anyone have any doubt that
Israel would have struck at them? Regrettably, the American mindset accepts Israeli
propaganda as Bible truth.
-Under the subtitle Moving to a Traditional Balance of Power Strategy, which
is a nice euphemism for Moving to a Brute Force Strategy, the document
suggests that Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey
and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus
on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq an important Israeli strategic
objective in its own right as a means of foiling Syria's regional
True to their recommendations, the writers of the report, who have since ascended to
significant power in the administration, and like-minded people in the administration
helped formulate the policy to hit Saddam at the first opportunity. According to Bob
Woodward of The Washington Post, and in response to President Bush's question during
his first meeting with his senior staff on that infamous day of 9/11 of what to do next,
the answer quickly came, Let's hit Baghdad.
When an objective observer studies the document, one can reach the conclusion as
many around the world have surmised- that the decision to strike Iraq had already been
taken and that the justification for such a strike came later and in a very confused
manner. There was first the suggestion that the tyrant of Baghdad had colluded with Bin
Laden. That has not been proven yet, as Dr. Condoleeza Rice assured us a couple of weeks
ago. Then it was that he had weapons of mass destruction. Yet, finding those remains an
elusive role and the WMDs remains a mirage. Then the goal shifted to bringing democracy to
Iraq, and thereafter to the Middle East. Yet the only thing that has been brought to Iraq
nearly eight months after its so-called liberation is anarchy, misery, and turning that
country into a magnet for terrorism. It is noteworthy that President Bush, at the War
Summit in the Azores announced that even if Saddam were to abdicate, the U.S. would still
That Saddam was an evil man is incontestable. He should definitely have been toppled a
long time ago. But it appears to many observers, particularly after reading the document
we are here to discuss, that the real reason the US and its allies have gone to the
trouble and expense -- paid for in the blood of their brave soldiers as well as untold
billions of dollars -- was to achieve an Israeli strategic target that the writers of this
report had set. This perception is contrary to America's interests and hardly wins it
the hearts and minds of Arabs or Muslims.
-Then under the same sub-heading, the report goes back to the theme of destabilizing
Syria's role in Lebanon. I quote, Diverting Syria's attention by using
Lebanese opposition elements to destabilize Syrian control of Lebanon, end of quote.
This is the epitome of wishful thinking, lack of historical perspective, and poor
foresight. Attempts to destabilize Lebanon are not in the interest of Lebanese and
Arab-American relations either and are detrimental to U.S. interests in the region.
However, it would destroy the model of peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims
that has survived centuries of Lebanese history and give credence to Israeli propaganda of
the impossibility of coexisting with Muslims.
During the Lebanese civil war, some injudicious Lebanese Christians believed the Israeli
line that since Israel is a Jewish minority in a sea of Arab Muslims, it would back the
Lebanese Christians, who are themselves a minority in Lebanon. The subsequent cooperation
between those imprudent Lebanese and Israel extended the Lebanese civil war. However, the
same misguided Lebanese who cooperated with Israel have since discovered their grave
mistake. When the Israeli- backed President of Lebanon in 1982 dared to disobey then
Israeli Prime Minister Begin's orders to sign a peace treaty with Israel outside a
comprehensive settlement of the regional conflict, a building in which the President-elect
was meeting with some of his supporters was bombed and Israel's disobedient ally
vanished. It is useless for Israel to attempt to dupe the Lebanese one more time. They
have learned their lesson and do not trust it any more. They have since discovered that
Israel had in fact been manipulating them and that there cannot be normal relation between
Lebanon and Israel before a permanent, just, and comprehensive settlement to the regional
conflict is reached.
Therefore, when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1996 in the so-called Grapes of
Wrath operation, Lebanese were totally united against Israel. Christian churches,
schools and orphanages sheltered their Muslim compatriots from south Lebanon who had fled
north from the Israeli invasion.
-Under the subheading, Changing the Nature of Relations with the Palestinians,
the document suggests that Israel may also want to better integrate its own
Arabs. Ironically, the recent buzz word within the Israeli establishment is the
transfer of Israeli Arabs outside Israel. This advice, perhaps the only sound one in the
entire report, has been rejected by Israel.
-The final section addresses, Forging A New U.S.-Israeli Relationship. It
suggests that Israel should announce that (it) is now mature enough to cut itself
free immediately from at least U.S. economic aid and loan guarantees at least, which
prevent economic reform because self-reliance will grant Israel greater
freedom of action and remove a significant lever of pressure used against it in the
First of all, there has hardly been any significant American pressure on Israel in nearly
fifty years. The only exception was when President George Bush, Sr. temporarily froze Ten
Billion Dollars in government guarantees to Israel in 1992. But soon after he took that
brave decision, the man who had lead America to victory in the first Gulf War and restored
freedom and sovereignty to friendly Kuwait lost his re-election bid. I am well aware that
the economy also had a major role in that loss but I seriously doubt that his son or any
other US President would repeat the same mistake again in the foreseeable future.
Second, the notion of Israeli economic self-reliance might have made some sense in 1996,
when the report was delivered. The Israeli economy had been booming for the previous
several years and Israel's GDP had witnessed impressive growth. However, since then,
and partly because of the second intifada that Sharon's pre-meditated provocation
sparked, the Israeli economy has been growing at a much slower rate.
Here again, this recommendation has been proven both obsolete and false to start with.
Ladies and gentlemen, I know that I am running out of time here, or perhaps I have already
ran out of time, so I'll close on these brief remarks.
Brute force from one side will only draw the same from the other side. In the meanwhile,
the blood of innocent Arab and Israeli men, women, and children continues to be shed
unnecessarily, both the Arab economy and Israel's continue to suffer, budget
expenditures that should be earmarked for social and economic development are being
diverted to defense spending, terrorism is rapidly on the rise, and world peace remains
Besides domestic problems related to poverty, poor economic performance, and high
illiteracy, the Arab-Israeli conflict is the core issue in the region. Only by resolving
this chronic issue can there be peace in the region and indeed in the world, and only then
can we all start winning the war against extremism. Unfortunately, America is perceived to
be blindly supportive of Israel, whose daily trampling on the dignity of and Arabs and
denying their human rights breeds humiliation and frustration among its victims.
The U.S. is perceived to use double standards in its approach to the Arab-Israeli crisis.
This perception is not limited to the few people who are ideologically opposed to the U.S.
It is equally prevalent among those who have great respect for American principles of
freedom, justice, and respect for human rights and those who strive to emulate the
so-called American way of life.
In fact, admirers of American values are perhaps the most vociferous critics of American
policy in the Middle East. The root cause of their bitterness lies in what they see as a
double standard wherein the US practices its noble values domestically but ignores them in
its foreign policy.
There is but one solution that can serve America's objective of quelling the
escalating breeding ground for extremism in the Middle East, and the attainment of world
peace, including our long-troubled region at the same time. That solution has to be based
on the principles of the Madrid Conference, namely, land for peace, a comprehensive
solution to the entire Arab-Israeli conflict, and a fair and just solution for the
Palestinian refugee problem. This has been developed further at the Arab Summit Meeting in
Beirut a couple of years ago and came to be known as The Beirut Declaration.
It was re-iterated with some modifications, once again, exactly one week ago when the
United Nations adopted the Road Map, which is more or less the same in principle.
As such, the only American strategy that could lead to peace in the Middle East, eradicate
terrorism, preserve America's interests in the region, and win the hearts and minds
of the peoples of that troubled region is an even-handed Middle East policy that leads to
a just, permanent and comprehensive peace.
Contact Adib Farha