With the help of prognosticator John R. Miller — former U.S. ambassador-at-large on modern slavery, visiting scholar at the Institute for Government Studies at UC-Berkeley, and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute — we present this memo from the year 2016, which explains what misfortunes might have befallen the Middle East by then.
SBU (Sensitive but Unclassified) February 20, 2016
Dear Madam Secretary:
You have asked for my recommendation on how the United States should respond to the requests for admission into this country of hundreds of thousands of Israeli refugees. You have also asked for my review and assessment of the success of our Middle East peace efforts. Although I write as your Counselor, I believe my views are shared by the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau.
The current situation may be disturbing, but we have made great progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue since 2010. That was the year that you and the president devised the alternating-warm-and-cool-receptions strategy for visiting Israeli dignitaries, keeping Prime Minister Netanyahu waiting at the White House for an hour and a half while the president dined with Michelle and the children during one visit, then being all smiles and assurances of American-Israeli friendship during the next. This technique has been very helpful in creating uncertainty about U.S. intentions, which has led Israeli ministers to be more receptive to our policies.
You will recall that because of the above efforts, in 2010 the Obama administration stopped Israel from settling Jews in Jerusalem as a means of getting the Palestinian Authority to start direct negotiations with Israel in D.C. More importantly, it was the year that you finally acceded to a U.N. investigation of Israel’s Gaza blockade after Israeli killings of Turkish activists attempting to break the blockade. (This followed the initiation of an Israeli investigation with foreign observers, which failed to mollify international outrage.)
At the time, the Israelis protested that the proposed U.N. investigation involved a loss of their sovereignty, noting that there were no such investigations when Russia killed civilians aiding Chechnyan terrorists. You explained to Netanyahu that Israel, as a democracy, should accept a higher standard. Netanyahu asked whether you would agree to a U.N. investigation of the killing by Marines in Afghanistan of civilians aiding the Taliban. You calmly explained that Israel was different and urged Netanyahu to understand that the United States was Israel’s main ally, that in our struggle with Islamic militants we needed credibility in the Islamic world, and that an international investigation would defuse tensions.
Netanyahu wasn’t happy, but when Middle East peace envoy former British prime minister Tony Blair and you both assured him that you would work for a broad-based and unbiased investigation, Netanyahu consented (of course, suitable pressures were also applied from here).
The results of the U.N. investigation weren’t particularly important —
everyone knew Israel would be harshly criticized after the U.N. Human Rights Council condemned Israel 32 to 3 prior to any investigation. Far more important was establishing the principle that, as direct negotiations dragged on between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, international authorities would review any actions taken by the then–Israeli state to protect itself. Thus, U.N. investigations and condemnations soon forced Israel not only to weaken and then drop the blockade of Gaza but also to stop disproportionate force against any cross-border raids or rockets from Gaza, the West Bank, or Lebanon.
With the establishment of the principle of U.N. supervision over Israeli actions in the Middle East, the United States was positioned to play an even more constructive role. President Obama, as part of his outreach to the Muslim world and in order to jumpstart the bogged-down Israeli–Palestinian Authority negotiations, proposed with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that U.N. peacekeepers patrol the borders between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors. Israel protested that no other state was prevented by the U.N. from fighting back against terrorists. However, the threat of sanctions from the European Union, coupled with our intensive diplomacy, convinced Israel that it must take risks for peace to keep alive negotiations, and the U.N. peacekeepers were introduced.
Despite these hopeful steps, tensions mounted in the region. After Iran and Saudi Arabia became nuclear powers, the subsequent nuclear war between those two nations in 2013 led to millions of deaths. It was only stopped when the U.N. resolved that the conflict never would have taken place except for the provocation of Israel’s acquiring nuclear weapons. Our country showed its support for Israel by courageously abstaining on this resolution while we skillfully preserved our ties with the Islamic world by avoiding a veto.
Unfortunately, as Hamas increased its influence in the West Bank as well as Gaza, the U.N. peacekeepers were unable to stem the violence between the Palestinians and the disputed state of Israel. The prime minister of Israel complained that the U.N. peacekeepers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey, and Nigeria turned their backs when raids were launched into Israeli-claimed territory. We expressed our concerns, too, and simultaneously sought to convince Israel that it must accommodate the U.N., continue negotiations with the weakened Palestinian Authority, and not engage in provocations such as allowing Jewish citizens to arm and protect themselves.
In 2014, as security within Israel deteriorated further, the U.N. General Assembly proposed that instead of two states, there should be one: New Palestine, made up of the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel. The beauty of this proposal was that a majority of the population of the new state would be Arab, thus reducing the chance for future conflict. In prior years, this proposal had not gained much support — it had been pushed primarily by The Nation magazine in the U.S. But our friends in Europe appealed to the new president for a show of good faith to the Muslim world in order to calm the growing outrage at Israel felt by the increasing millions of Muslim immigrants in Europe. The British termed the one-state proposal a creative breakthrough.
The president, despite the efforts of this Department, remained reluctant to embrace the one-state proposal, but this changed when the New York Times pointed out that it was the president’s obligation to pressure Israel once more into doing what was in Israel’s enlightened self-interest, even if Israel failed to recognize it as such.
You are familiar with how the president proceeded very carefully on the one-state proposal, concerned about managing American public opinion. To his surprise, his pollsters told him that the divestments from Israel undertaken by most college endowment funds and boycotts of Israeli venues by entertainment groups had dented pro-Israeli American opinion. Evangelicals remained pro-Israel, but mainline Protestants had shifted markedly against Israel and even Catholic opinion had shifted some (probably due to the 2010 Vatican papers warning that biblical scripture did not justify Israeli occupation of Palestinian land). Among younger Jews there was surprising sympathy for the Palestinian cause and even among older Jews, the president was reassured, support for his liberal domestic policies meant they would support him, his party, and his chosen successor (we know who that might be), no matter what his policy on Israel.
After the president embraced the one-state solution, a few thousand Orthodox Jews and Evangelical Christians protested outside the White House. The President, however, soon rallied public support by showing how uncivil these people were and explaining that it was important for America to pursue peaceful solutions to international conflicts.
The Israelis at first stubbornly resisted the one-state solution but acquiesced when, as direct negotiations went into their fifth year, the president refused to dispense the military aid to Israel that had been appropriated by Congress and you pledged to do everything in our power to protect the rights of Jewish citizens in the new state. It also helped that Israel had previously yielded to American entreaties and given us control of its nuclear weapons, so as to help President Obama’s earlier drive for nuclear nonproliferation.
The establishment of New Palestine was a diplomatic triumph, although the region has been beset by bombings and violence ever since. In the last year, things have calmed down somewhat as a result of the Hamas-dominated New Palestine Parliament’s decision to reduce Jewish residential numbers to something nearer 1948 levels by only allowing those Israelis with proof of pre-1948 residence (or descent from pre-1948 residents) to remain. The U.N. peacekeepers are being surprisingly efficient in enforcing this democratic decision.
Those Israeli Jews who have not already emigrated and some American Jewish and Christian organizations have complained, saying we are violating our pledge to protect Jews in disputed lands. We have explained that our pledge has been superseded by U.N. resolution 2129 and that the action of the Palestinian Parliament is quite understandable. After all, when the Egyptians occupied Sinai in the ’70s and the Palestinians took over Gaza in the early part of this century, Israel and the United States both acquiesced in the removal of Jews. The United States, Israel, and the U.N. going back to 1948 have accepted the removal of Jews from Morocco, Syria, Iraq, and other Arab lands. You explained in your last meeting with Jewish organizations that we must all realize we are talking about the Middle East, and “Israel” is different. After all, it is not as if we are preventing Jews from living in the United States.
Today thousands of Israelis have been killed in what are being called, somewhat sensationally, “pogroms.” But on a more positive note, over one million Israelis, sensing the end of the Jewish state, have emigrated. This still leaves several million Israelis, which creates today’s challenge, as many of these also want to leave.
I recommend the following:
1. We offer to admit, subject to congressional approval, 200,000 Israeli refugees to our country and urge our friends in Europe and Central America to take in another 200,000. This should satisfy Jewish and Evangelical groups in the United States as to our goodwill.
2. We propose a U.N. resolution urging other countries to take in Israeli refugees and urging respect for human rights in the New Palestine. This resolution probably will not pass, but it will help to appease those international human-rights groups who are suddenly interested in the fate of Israelis, and it will not offend Muslim states who should realize by now that we have worked for almost a decade to transform the Middle East.
3. We urge the remaining Israelis to remain in New Palestine and give the new state with its Palestinian majority a chance to democratically and peacefully evolve.
I must warn you that some columnists are comparing the present situation to the 1930s, when nations, including the United States, refused entry to Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler. You should respond that this is an unfair comparison. First, we have already accepted a sizable number of Israeli immigrants and if you and the president accept my recommendations, we will offer admission to a further significant number. Secondly, those Israelis remaining in New Palestine with proof of ties to 1948 residence do not face a holocaust. We have been assured by the Arab League that if they pay their taxes and do not interfere with the government, they will be allowed to live in peace just as Jews for centuries were tolerated in Muslim lands. My recommendations, if carried out, should convince all but the extremists on all sides of our good intentions to create a peaceful Middle East.
You have asked whether we can describe our policies towards the Middle East over the past eight years as a success. I believe the answer is yes. First, we are well on our way to eliminating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a source of tension. Second, while the Islamic militants have taken over several additional countries, e.g., Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Egypt, the gradual transformation of the Jewish “state” in the Middle East shows that we continue to reach out and try to understand such militancy. It is true that we are faced with a refugee issue that does not play well in the news, but within a year these refugees will have either found safe haven or adjusted to their new status in New Palestine.
We can insist this is not a propitious time to make a huge fuss about the human rights of Israelis, not when our country’s credibility and resolve are increasingly being tested in other areas of the world. This Department had grave reservations when the state of Israel was established in 1948, but the bold and realistic policies of the president and yourself have given us the chance for a fresh start. The American people like a president — and a secretary of state — who can succeed. Decades of talk and frustration in the Middle East have given way to American-led results.
Jeremy Insensado III
Counselor, United States Department of State