DUBAI (IPS)–The biggest beneficiary of the second Gulf War–without firing a bullet–will be Israel, say two Middle East experts.
Umaimmah al-Jalahmmah, professor of Islamic studies at King Faisal University in Saudi Arabia, says, “The Jews were the driving force behind the war, with powerful pro-Israel lobbies in Washington seeking the destruction of one of the main threats to the Jewish state.”
P.V. Vivekanand, chief editor of The Gulf Today newspaper, agrees and speaks of “the marriage between the Jewish lobby in the United States and Christian extremists in Washington.”
The two specialists point to the now-famous white paper written in 1996 for the then Israeli prime minister, rightist Benjamin Netanyahu, titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.”
The paper, which opposes the Palestinian struggle for a state, was written by neo-conservative hawks affiliated with pro-Israeli organizations, some of whom hold influential posts in the Bush administration, the analysts say. Prominent among them is the former Pentagon Defense Policy Board chair Richard Perle, who resigned over conflict-of-interest charges.
Another author was Douglas Feith, presently under-secretary of defense at the Pentagon, and a member of the Zionist Organization of America.
In a press statement on April 9, the Zionist group cited its aversion to Bush’s “Road Map” for peace in the Middle East. This is “a road map to disaster,” it said, that would “create a Palestinian Arab terrorist state that will endanger Israel and undermine America’s war against terrorism.”
The 1996 white paper, published by Israel’s Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, laid out ideas for remodeling the region starting with Iraq. “Israel can shape its strategic environment, in co-operation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria,” it said.
More importantly, it added: “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 ambitions.”
Thus, Iraq and Saddam were important in the reformulation of the Middle East that “dispenses with the idea of a comprehensive peace and focuses on balance of power,” says Mr. Vivekanand.
He adds that the pro-Israeli lobby played a crucial role in influencing the U.S. decision to invade Iraq through its substantial funding of both Democratic and Republican election campaigns.
Jews in the United States account for more than half of the major donors to the Democratic Party, he says, and, in recent years, between 20 to 30 percent of major donors to the Republicans.
According to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, total contributions to Congressional candidates by pro-Israel groups between 1978 and 2000 amounted to about $34 million. Only the gun lobby gave more.
Two of the chief lobbying organizations in the United States are the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the equally significant B’nai B’rith.
Mr. Vivekanand suggests that AIPAC helped engineer George Bush senior’s defeat by Bill Clinton in 1992 because Mr. Bush had pushed ahead with peace talks over Jewish opposition and threatened to hold back a $13 billion guarantee for the expansion of settlements on Palestinian territory.
According to the “Clean Break” paper, the experts say, a nuclear Iraq was a threat to Israel and Saddam Hussein’s financial and vocal support for the Palestinian “intifada” uprising and the firing of Scud missiles into Israel during the 1991 Gulf War were serious concerns. A U.S.-led war against Iraq was an ideal way to dispel those fears.
Lending their voices to these views were scholars who delivered lectures last month at the UAE-based Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-up.
Editor of The International Politics journal Ahmed Yousef Al Qurae focused on Israeli military campaigns during the intifada that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians. Scores of Israelis have also died.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “achieved in the last four weeks more than what the Jewish state achieved in the last four months, exploiting the world’s pre-occupation with Iraq,” he said.
According to Gad Taha, former dean of Faculty of Arts, Ain Shams University in Egypt, the “strategic alliance between Israel and the United States could now turn into a tactical alliance to embody and translate into reality the goals of Zionism to dominate the Palestinian territories and to transfer Palestinian refugees to northern Iraq.”
Egypt’s Al Ahram political analyst Mohamed Sid-Ahmed discussed the proclaimed “Right of Return” of some four million Palestinian refugees, a key stumbling block in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“Iraq will be used to solve this problem,” he said, adding: “The ‘Law of Right of Return’ can be made redundant by getting the Palestinians into Iraq instead of Palestine,” a possibility that was discussed even during the 1991 Gulf War and ahead of the 1993 Oslo agreement.
Mr. Sid-Ahmed also alleged a “Transfer Solution, wherein large numbers of Palestinians could be transferred from Gaza and the West Bank to Iraqi territory to reduce numbers within Palestinian areas,” thereby easing the security threat to Israel arising from demographic pressure.
The analyst said that earlier this year, when diplomacy seemed to delay action against Iraq, Israelis unleashed their strongest lobbying campaign.
Former Israeli ambassador to Washington Zelman Shuval’s article in the Hebrew newspaper Yediot Ahronot argued that Israel should make a “behind the scenes” effort to get the U.S. to attack Iraq “sooner rather than later.” Postponing, delaying or canceling the war, he asserted, would create “very negative consequences” for Israel.
“The U.S. pressure on Syria and Iran was also at the insistence of Israel,” says Mr. Vivekanand.
He adds: “Syria supports Palestinian resistance groups on its territory and Iran does the same in Lebanon, those that stage armed attacks against Israeli targets. The Israeli argument is that Syria wants to keep a front alive with the Jewish state so that the outstanding dispute over Israel’s occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights does not get pushed back into regional priorities.”
After the successful military campaign in Iraq, Washington sought “to kill two more birds with the same stone,” he added. “Israel has for long pressured the United States to act against Syria or risk Tel Aviv taking matters into its own hands. Fearing that any Israeli action will result in another full-fledged Arab-Israeli conflict, Washington has kept Tel Aviv from acting on its own till now.”
However, Kuwaiti political analyst Ali Jaber al-Sabah disagrees with all of them.
“To subscribe to this conspiracy theory is to belittle the United States,” he says. “Saddam was certainly a threat to Iraq’s neighbors, including Israel. In the short term, Israel will feel secure without him. In the long term, however, Iraqis will be so economically and politically mobilized that any U.S.-Israeli manipulation will face more formidable resistance than the one under Saddam.”