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Baker Group Over-Reaches With Israel

In forming its recommendations for Israeli foreign policy, the Iraq Study Group has over-reached its mandate in the eyes of Israel, among others. Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected the Baker Group's calls for Israel and Syria to enter into peace talks. VOA News quoted Olmert as he dismissed the report's many calls for Israeli concessions.

"In many parts of the region you see conflict, you see conflict, struggle and instability. But the idea that the reason there are problems in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon is because of Israel is an assumption that I believe is a bit far-fetched."

What would make Prime Minister Olmert believe the Baker-Hamilton Commission sees Israel as the root cause of the region's problems? Perhaps the litany of unilateral Israeli concessions it deems necessary to bring about peace in the Middle East. The Iraq Study Group Report went beyond calling for peace talks between Israel and Syria.

The ISG Report called for Israel to turn over the Golan Heights to Syria, just as Syria has demanded for years.

The ISG Report called for Israel to adhere to "the principle of land for peace, which are the only bases for achieving peace," just as Palestinian terrorists have demanded (Gaza handover notwithstanding).

The ISG Report called for Israel to "consolidate the cease-fire reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis in November 2006." "Consolidate" means to extend it beyond the Gaza Strip to include ending all policing actions in the West Bank, just as Hamas has demanded since the ceasefire took effect.

The ISG Report called for Israel to "address" the Palestinian "right of return," just as virtually the whole of the Arab world has demanded.

For the Syrians, the ISG envisioned a somehow negotiated peace in which Bashar Assad's Syria would voluntarily subject its leadership to international trials surrounding the Rafik Hariri assassination and fully implement UN Resolution 1701 "providing the framework for Lebanon to regain sovereign control over its territory."

Syria would also cease arming Hizballah with Iranian weapons, which would coincide swimmingly with the Israeli concessions, as - according to the ISG Report - "This step would do much to solve Israel’s problem with Hezbollah."

After Israel "consolidates" the ceasefire to include the whole of the West Bank as Hamas wishes, Syria would apparently naturally employ its influence over the Damascus-headquartered Hamas terrorists to "help obtain from Hamas an acknowledgment of Israel’s right to exist."

Israel cannot possibly "adhere" enough to "the principle of land for peace," as the land desired is not limited to Gaza and the West Bank, but rather "From the river to the sea." And it's not just Hamas who thinks this.

Consider a revealing interview from the Swiss Die Weltwoche with Al-Jazeera Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Sheikh in Doha, Qatar. (Courtesy of a translation from German to English by John Rosenthal.)

Who is responsible for the situation?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most important reasons why these crises and problems continue to simmer. The day when Israel was founded created the basis for our problems. The West should finally come to understand this. Everything would be much calmer if the Palestinians were given their rights. [Emphasis added.]

Do you mean to say that if Israel did not exist, there would suddenly be democracy in Egypt, that the schools in Morocco would be better, that the public clinics in Jordan would function better?

I think so.

Can you please explain to me what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to do with these problems?

The Palestinian cause is central for Arab thinking.

In the end, is it a matter of feelings of self-esteem?

Exactly. It's because we always lose to Israel. It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about 7 million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego. The Palestinian problem is in the genes of every Arab. The West's problem is that it does not understand this.

The Baker Group clearly does not understand this.

Granting the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinians, not to mention the Golan Heights to Syria, will not resolve the situation nor bring about peace. Remember, "The day when Israel was founded created the basis for our problems." The day it hands over the West Bank and the Golan Heights will not resolve the basis for the Arabs' problems, for Israel will still exist.

Yet, the recommendations for massive Israeli concessions are from the newly-crowned champions of the 'realists' in a report that is finding little traction beyond the Washington Press Corps.


Anyone who rummages through Baker's history will find him that at several junctures, he acted against the Israeli government. But the question remains: Is it Israel that he doesn't like, or is the policy of the governments against which he acted. Baker was one of the main figures who urged Ronald Reagan to insist on selling the AWACS surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s. He also had a good reason: Then prime minister Menachem Begin had leveled public criticism, in Washington, against the transaction that the president wanted. In a power struggle of this type, Baker thought, Reagan should not be allowed to lose.

The other conflict, the one with the Yitzhak Shamir government over the settlements and the loan guarantees, is also not difficult to explain. And regarding the famous expletive, "F--- the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway," this was blown out of proportion. Aggressive people like Baker sometimes say things behind closed doors that do not accord with the rules of good manners and ceremony.

But a tradition is already developing. Baker always has good reasons, but he will always be found on the other side of the intersection. He was looking for Iraq and found Israel. He could have chosen differently, since if tomorrow a lasting peace should prevail between Israel and the Palestinians, the U.S. forces would still be stuck under terrorist fire in Iraq.

Bush will resist talking with either Iran or Syria without pre-conditions, but surely he will, behind the scenes, urge Israel to negotiate with Syria. The Baker boys and girl as well as the Bush administration, believe all Middle East conflicts are wrapped-up in one package----solve one and you solve all. I wonder if anyone in the Bush circle would like to buy a bridge!

In any event, Bush has two years to save himself from the pits of history. With Bush on the rocks and the Olmert regime weakened, the next two years will be difficult for Israel.

"...if tomorrow a lasting peace should prevail between Israel and the Palestinians, the U.S. forces would still be stuck under terrorist fire in Iraq." ---Agreed.

"the Bush administration, believe[s] all Middle East conflicts are wrapped-up in one package----solve one and you solve all." ---Disagree. Fully.

I am not sure what guides you to conclude this.

The Baker Group's overt belief that Israeli concessions would solve the whole of the Middle East issues is clear...and in line with the Editor-in-Chief of al-Jazeera, who goes farther and blames Israel's very existance.

But there is nothing in the track record of the Bush administration to support reaching such a similar conclusion on their part.