Stephen Zunes : Israel and Palestine
For the past three decades, the United States has taken the primary facilitating role in the Arab-Israeli peace process, marginalizing the Russians, the European Union, and the United Nations. Washington has therefore had to balance its narrow strategic and economic interests in this important region with its efforts to appear as an honest broker. This often contradictory role has at times been problematic, as is evident in the U.S.-sponsored negotiations between Israel, an important pro-Western ally, and Syria, whose government has traditionally identified with a radical strain of Arab nationalism.
The United States aid relationship with Israel is unlike any other in the world, or indeed, like any in history. In sheer volume, the amount of aid is the most generous foreign aid program ever between any two countries, totaling $77.726 billion through fiscal year 1996.Foot note 2_1 No country has ever received as much Congressionally-mandated aid as has Israel, including South Vietnam. Indeed, Israel receives more U.S. aid per capita annually than the total annual GNP per capita of several Arab states, including Egypt, Mauritania, Sudan, Yemen and Morocco.Foot note 2_2 What is perhaps even more unusual is that Israel, like its benefactor, is an advanced, industrialized, technologically-sophisticated country, as well as a major arms exporter.
The cease-fire agreement in Lebanon is widely depicted as a triumph of Israeli military force and American diplomacy. In reality, however, it represents the failure of both.
A LITTLE-NOTICED policy shift by the Clinton administration on Jerusalem has implications beyond the fate of one city in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. It marks a retrenchment in the American commitment to international law and the authority of the United Nations.
THE assassination of Meir Kahane brings on mixed emotions for most Americans familiar with his career. First of all, many acknowledge the tragedy of taking any human life, particularly for political purposes; it is yet another unfortunate manifestation of the easy availability of handguns; and it is another depressing reminder of the increasing violence in the clash between Israeli and Palestinian nationalism.