Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

How the U.S. Lost Its "Honest Broker" Role in the Palestinian War of Independence

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

How the U.S. Lost Its "Honest Broker" Role in the Palestinian War of Independence

Article excerpt

How the U.S. Lost Its "Honest Broker" Role in the Palestinian War of Independence

By Andrew I. Killgore

Andrew I. Killgore, a retired career foreign service officer and former U.S. ambassador to Qatar, is the publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

When General William Westmoreland, chief of staff of the U.S. Army, returned to Washington from an "assessment" visit to Vietnam in March 1968 he reported to President Lyndon Johnson that the half-million-strong U.S. military personnel already there needed to be augmented by an additional 200,000. Johnson knew that public opinion would not support a deeper commitment in Vietnam, and thus that the United States could not win the war.

The following year, in 1969, four students at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio demonstrating against the Vietnam war and the bombing of Cambodia were shot to death by the Ohio National Guard. So great was the nation's psychological shock at the killing of these young people that the American people as a whole began to realize, as President Johnson already had privately accepted, that the Vietnam war was wrong, and that the United States could not win.

Two new developments on the ground, and another at the international affairs level of the Israel-Arab conflict will force Israel to face its own "Vietnam" in the current bloody clashes with the Palestinians. On the ground U.S.-built Israeli helicopter gunships have fired for the first time at Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank and Gaza. Second, Palestinians inside Israel demonstrated in sympathy with their fellows in the West Bank and Gaza, at least 12 of them being shot dead by the Israeli army.

These "on the ground" developments signal that Israel's hard-line goal of retaining the West Bank and Gaza, with as few Palestinians in residence left as possible, is unattainable, and that Israel cannot win its "war" at any acceptable price.

At the international level, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's refusal for several days to accept U.S. President Bill Clinton's invitation to attend a summit meeting at Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh signaled America's loss of credibility as an "honest broker" in the Arab-Israel dispute. …

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