On September 30, 1938 Neville Chamberlain, Britain’s Prime Minister, concluded the infamous “Munich Agreement” with Adolph Hitler, countersigned by the Third French Republic and Italy’s fascist government of Benito Mussolini. The Agreement permitted the annexation by Nazi Germany of the Sudetenland in western Czechoslovakia, leaving the Czech leader, Edvard Benes, to face the Wehrmacht. Within less than a year Germany invaded Poland and World War Two began, echoing Winston Churchill’s words, “You don’t negotiate with a tiger when your head is in its mouth”. Chamberlain had tragically and totally naively described the Sudetenland question on September 27, 1938 as, “A quarrel in a far away country, between people of whom we know nothing”. Chamberlain appeased Hitler until the Nazis’ odious intentions became so patently clear that even he recognized the wisdom of another famous Churchill saying, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last”. So, what is the relevance of all this? It is called the current situation in the Middle East, centered on Israel, the Palestinian situation, and the interlocking roles and influences of Iran, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and the nefarious activities of Putin’s Russia and China, with us, the United States, in the middle of turmoil. For many Eccentric readers this is a “Quarrel in a Far Away Country”, but, and this is a huge “But”, none of us can ignore what is transpiring in the Middle East.

Before we get into the substance of what I wish to discuss with Eccentric readers let me provide a quote about Israel from the late John Le Carre, whose real name was David Cornwell, after he visited Israel to research what became his novel, “The Little Drummer Girl”: “The most extraordinary carnival of human variety that I have ever set eyes on, a nation in the process of re-assembling itself from the shards of the past, now Oriental, now Western, now secular, now religious, but always anxiously moralizing about itself, criticizing itself with Maoist ferocity, a nation crackling with debate, rediscovering its past while it fought for its future”. He added, “No nation on earth was more deserving of peace, or more condemned to fight for it.”

The Six Day War in June, 1967 has defined Middle East politics for the past fifty four years, and will continue to do so unless peaceful solutions are found for the ever present dangers to Middle East peace, with huge ramifications for us here in the United States. The “West Bank of the Jordan River”, taken from Jordan, and the Golan Heights, taken from Syria, remain in Israeli hands, with the extensive occupation of the West Bank by Israel as the primary flash point, with numerous United Nations’ Resolutions condemning the 1967 seizures and occupation, and what has been a total take over of what was historically Palestinian territory. 

Israel has sought to protect its homeland with both territories while increasing its population in the Settlements on the West Bank. This situation fuels the terrorist activities of Hamas and Hezbollah, their raison d’être for decades of countervailing attacks, and the reasons for Israeli self defense counter attacks, Mossad assassinations, and an intensive build up of a military industrial complex in Israel that includes a nuclear capability. The United States has stood steadfastly with Israel and provided “Foreign Military Aid” for decades. The Russians and the Chinese are heavily involved as arms suppliers, intelligence providers, and supporting Iranian intervention as well as fuelling Assad’s regime in Syria. The situation in Iraq adds fuel to this ever potential inferno, with Iran and its surrogates, aided and abetted by China and Russia, constantly supporting the undermining of the Iraqi government and, therefore, a perpetual challenge to Israeli security.

What can we do? The Palestinians, leaving aside issues relating to support from Lebanon and the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah, have a legitimate cause. Their lands were stolen from them, dispossessed people with no sovereign territory. After 1967 the populations of Jordan has more than doubled with Palestinian refugees joining the fine Islamic culture of the Jordanian Bedouin, with Amman and Petra centerpieces. In recent months the United States’ key ally, King Abdullah of Jordan, has seen various destabilizing threats emerge in a country that historically has been a place of peace and stability, and where US special forces have trained the Jordanian Army, and where ties with the United Kingdom go way back. The United States cannot afford to see Jordan and its stable regime become a victim of the above Middle East turmoil. 

In essence, the Palestinian situation is the keystone issue. It has been, and will continue to be, the overarching strategic issue, threatening constantly peace and stability. On a positive note about twenty percent of the Israeli population is Palestinian and, in spite of some serious voting rights issues, there is an Arab party in the currently elected Israeli Coalition government. However, this does not resolve the critical issue of a sovereign Palestinian nation. The days of Yasser Arafat, who died in November, 2004, are long gone. Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the State of Palestine, has to be supported. He is the Palestinian head of state. 

Given this complexity, with the Iranian nuclear issue looming in the background, Israeli intransigence under its former leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, the 71 years old prime minister who served for 15 years and consolidated Israeli settlements in the West Bank, we have a dual scenario. One is potential stability, and the other continues to foment both international opposition and fuels support from China and Russia against Israeli peace and security. This is a many headed hydra, potentially Israel’s nemesis.

The Biden Administration cannot be solely a provider of arms to Israel. Israel has an incredibly capable indigenous arms industry with a substantial export base. Israel also has been accused of industrial espionage in the United States, stealing US sensitive technology along with the Russians and Chinese, and their surrogates. Israel has indeed bitten the hand that feeds it. Where do we go from here? We want to fully support the integrity of the state of Israel, while recognizing that the Palestinians have with out a shadow of a doubt claims to their historic lands, just as the Israelis claimed, and then acquired, their historic homeland after World War Two and the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe. The Palestinians have their rights to their place in the sun, alongside the Israelis. Young Israelis are wonderful people. They reflect John le Carre’s fine description of the Israeli spirit and culture.

I recall well being in Amman in Jordan while President Obama was across the Jordan River in Israel giving a major speech to a large audience of young Israelis. They responded to his call for peace and security and shared territory and harmony with their Palestinian neighbors. I stood on the banks of the Jordan River shortly afterward and looked across to the fortifications along the West Bank, and saw within a few square miles around me temples, synagogues, and churches, reflecting all three great cultures of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. There is always hope, and the youth of Israel, and their Palestinian neighbors, joined culturally in the “Holy Land” may provide us all with the answer. We can hope, and meanwhile we, the United States, with our friends and allies, have to counter the evil meddling of China, Russia, Iran, and their surrogates. None of us want to be confronted with a Munich like scenario where we find that if earlier actions had been anticipated the worst possible outcomes could be avoided. Past is often prologue in the Middle East. Let us all remember the past and encourage the Biden Administration to move forward with positive energy and perhaps reverting to the Eisenhower-Kennedy days when the US was truly the “Honest Broker” in the Middle East.

By the Editor: Dr Anthony Wells is the third Chairman of the USS Liberty Alliance, succeeding the late Admiral Thomas Moorer, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Chief of Naval Operations, and the late Rear Admiral Clarence “Mark” Hill, distinguished naval aviator and battle group commander. On May 28, 2013 Dr. Wells was made an Honorary USS Liberty Crew Member at a special ceremony in Savannah, Georgia, by the USS Liberty survivors. USS Liberty, a US Spy Ship, is the most highly decorated warship in the history of the US Navy in a single action, attacked by Israeli air and surface forces on June 8, 1967 in the eastern Mediterranean.USS Liberty’s crew were awarded the following Decorations for Gallantry: Medal of Honor, Commander William L. McGonagle; two Navy Crosses; 13 Silver Stars; 20 Bronze Stars; 9 Navy Commendation Medals; 208 Purple Hearts; Presidential Unit Citation; A National Security Agency employee, Mr. Alan Blue, received the National Security Agency Exceptional Service Civilian Award. Mr. Blue was killed in action. The two recipients of the Navy Cross were killed in action. Dr. Wells is regarded as a Middle East expert, is well traveled throughout the region, and has written extensively on the 1967 June War and Middle East affairs.

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