Former CIA officials warned on Thursday that Washington must swiftly and aggressively push Israel into surrendering the Judea and Samaria regions in order to avoid the eruption of a new flare up in Middle East violence.
“In the absence of a new American initiative to try to break the stalemate, there will be another war in the Middle East,” warned Bruce Riedel, adding that building economic prosperity for the American-backed Palestinian Authority in Israel’s heartland was already sufficient and ready for statehood.
Riedel, who was speaking at a Middle East Policy Council event on Capitol Hill, said the issue has added urgency because “American lives are being lost today because of the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
According to Riedel, a Brookings Institution expert on terrorism, “the Arab-Israeli conflict is at the heart and center of al-Qaeda’s ideology and its narrative,” including its declaration that every American is a legitimate target for murder, and has been since the group’s inception.
Frank Anderson, president of the policy council and another former CIA official at Thursday’s event, agreed that “we are paying an increasing price in blood for their failure and refusal to reach an agreement.”
Riedel pushed for the American administration to put down its own map of a two-state solution as a means to spur Israelis to relinquish historically Jewish territories won from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War. He anticipated tremendous political fallout, but stressed that such fallout was a necessary price to pay.
Riedel’s co-panelist Brian Katulis, who also warned of violence if Jerusalem refuses to submit, warned that the Barack Obama administration should not make any rash moves without having a back-up plan in place.
Given the risks involved, he warned, “You better have plan B, C, D, E and F [and] I’m worried that they don’t even have a plan A.”
He assessed that “there’s a dangerous gap between the rhetoric of the president and top leaders and the mapping out of clear strategies to deal with this complicated issue.”
Phil Wilcox, founder of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, suggesting during his presentation that the United States administration take a harder line with Israel and not shy away from trying to directly influence the Israeli and public to take positions more amenable to American interests in the region.
Riedel agreed that there was nothing objectionable to meddling in Israel’s internal politics and noted several occasions in which the White House pushed to topple coalitions and build them, suggesting that during the current impasse right now the administration is trying to figure out how to better influence Israel.
But he cautioned that with the Israeli public, positive overtures can often be most effective.
“Israelis need that hug,” he said. “Implicit in the hug can also be, you’ll get a cold shoulder if we’re not moving in the right direction.”
Responding to comments by Wilcox and the former CIA agents, Zionist Freedom Alliance activist Benny Katz argued that Western interference in the Middle East and in Israel’s political system is what led to the current cycle of violence in the first place.
“20 years ago we had a prime minister who viewed himself as leader of an independent country,” Katz explained. “Arabs and Jews lived together in what by today’s standards would be considered peace. There were no checkpoints, walls or suicide bombers. [PA leader Yasser] Arafat was still in Tunisia and everyone here lived under Israel.”
“Then [former US President George H.W.] Bush interfered in our political system and deposed [Prime Minister Yitzhak] Shamir and for the last two decades we’ve all been suffering.”
“The CIA knows better,” continued Katz. “They have an anti-Zionist agenda and like to claim that the Arab world hates America because of Israel but the opposite is actually true. The Arab and Muslim world hates Israel because they view us as Washington’s puppet in their region. Maybe if the West stopped meddling in the Middle East – if they got out of Iraq and Afghanistan and stopped interfering in our country – Israel might be able to achieve some kind of peace with our neighbors.”