Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israeli Media Watch II: Despite Failure of Syrian Track, Israelis Still Hoping for Multibillion-Dollar Payoff from Clinton or Gore

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israeli Media Watch II: Despite Failure of Syrian Track, Israelis Still Hoping for Multibillion-Dollar Payoff from Clinton or Gore

Article excerpt

ISRAELI MEDIA WATCH II: Despite Failure of Syrian Track, Israelis Still Hoping For Multibillion-Dollar Payoff From Clinton or Gore

After the March 26 derailment of the "Syrian track" at U.S. President Bill Clinton's meeting with Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad in Geneva, Israeli media commentators differed over whether Clinton or his possible successor, Vice President Al Gore, represent the best hope for getting the $17 billion or more in U.S. military aid they hoped to reap as a payoff for signing an agreement.

Wrote analyst Gerald Steinberg in Israel's right-wing Jerusalem Post on March 31: "The failure of the Clinton-Assad talks may have closed the current window of opportunity...for a peace treaty. However these developments should not stop the discussions aimed at strengthening the defense relationship between Israel and the U.S...The high-level U.S.-Israeli strategic discussions were initially designed to offset the risks inherent in a withdrawal from the Golan Heights, as well as in response to the broader strategic threats in the region. While the first factor, based on a treaty with Syria, may no longer be relevant...the security dangers resulting from the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq, Libya and Syria remain. The U.S. and Israel should continue to work on strengthening their defense and security relationship, based on cooperation and partnership, rather than on dependence."

Former Israeli diplomat in Washington Amos Eiran was even more direct in pointing the way to more U.S. taxpayer dollars. He wrote in the pluralist Israeli daily Ma'ariv on March 30: "Since the incumbent president is slowly turning into a lame duck, Israel should try to make the most of Clinton's remaining months at the White House. The new president is not likely to want to be so deeply involved in the peace process. However, if the talks with Syria are not done while Clinton is still in office, Israel would feel much safer with Al Gore as his successor. Gore's true feelings of friendship for Israel have withstood the test of time."

Some commentators indicated that the failure of his attempt to use an impending peace treaty with Syria to extract concessions on the "Palestinian track" might make Barak a lame duck, too. Wrote analyst Hemmi Shalev in the March 31 Ma'ariv:

"[Barak] was fond of comparing developments on the Syria track to a pregnancy. But when the child was stillborn, Barak kept acting like a happy father." However, a Ma'ariv poll shows that Barak should brace for a pretty painful fall...One of the poll's major findings is that Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu are running neck-and-neck in a premiership race -- about 42 percent each.

In the same vein, respected defense analyst Ze'ev Schiff wrote in the March 31 edition of Ha'aretz: "Barak is behaving with enormous self-confidence...As things stand now, this confidence seems exaggerated. Barak's standing in public opinion is not what it used to be."

Meanwhile Netanyahu's potential supporters already are making the case for returning nothing to the Syrians. The nationalist newspaper Hatzofe wrote on March 31: "In the aftermath of World War II, the winning Allies freely revised old national borders, both in Europe and the Far East...There is nothing wrong in demanding border rectification after defeating the enemy in war...All this perfectly applies to the Syrian track. One cannot understand Prime Minister Barak's eagerness to squeeze the Israelis back into the straitjacket borders of the pre-1967 war...which may actually tempt the enemy to again attack the Jewish state with all strategic advantages in his hands."

(Hatzofe's casual reference to Syria "again" attacking Israel, although even Israeli historians now concede that it was Israel that attacked Syria -- and Egypt -- in 1967, illustrates the strength of the false myths by which the Israeli public, and even Israeli journalists, justify their opinions.)

OTHER ISRAELI MEDIA TOPICS

Israeli military ties to China were among other topics covered in the Israeli media in March. …

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