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Bad Advice for McCain By: Moshe Dann
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Following his lecture at the Hebrew University's Truman Center, I asked Anthony Cordesman, national security expert, strategist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and advisor to Senator John McCain, what he thought of U.S. policy in the Middle East, particularly Sec of State Condalezza Rice's efforts to bring about an Israeli-Palestinian "peace agreement."

"I don't think either side wants peace." Cordesman said. "Both sides are too weak."

"Why do you say Israel 'doesn't want peace'? I asked. "Didn't Israel withdraw from the Gaza Strip and destroy the Jewish communities there and in the Shomron? And what about all the Israeli assistance to Palestinian institutions? Weapons. Money."

"They (Israel) haven't done enough to back up Abbas," he said curtly. "And the settlements."

"The settlements?"

"They're an obstacle to peace. But I don't want to get into that."

"But that assumes the 'two-state solution' is still relevant," I added. "The Palestinians have rejected this (plan), and engage in incitement and terrorism." There was no response.

Cordesman reflects a mindset that has misguided American foreign policy with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades: the belief that this is a territorial dispute and that steps toward the creation of an independent Palestinian state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River will bring peace.

The basis of the Oslo agreements, various American initiatives and interventions and the "Road Map" – all of which stipulated that Palestinian terrorism and incitement was a prerequisite – these conditions were totally ignored.

Strangely, Cordesman's position has not changed, despite the reality. His book (with Jennifer Moravitz) The Israeli-Palestinian War: Escalation to Nowhere, (2005) charges Israel with indiscriminately killing innocent Palestinians. At times, his reports (based on unconfirmed secondary sources) sound as if they were written by anti-Israel NGOs.

In an article in the same year he advocated "rolling back Israel occupation…removing marginal settlements (such as Maale Adumim, Ariel and several Jerusalem neighborhoods) and excessive security zones."  He opposed "expanding security zones around Jerusalem…settlements…and security roads."

"There is no real hope for a pragmatic and meaningful peace settlement as long as Israel only looks towards security, and lacks grand strategic vision."

In the July 18, 2006, Financial Times he wrote:
It never made sense for Israel to expect any gratitude for leaving Gaza. It clearly withdrew because it was to Israel’s overwhelming advantage to do so. The settlers in Gaza were a drain on the national budget and the Israeli Defence Force.
This reasoning was utter nonsense, as quickly became obvious. He continues:
Israel made things worse by not having a post-withdrawal plan to give economic options and hope to the people it left behind in Gaza. Its small withdrawals from settlements in Gaza and the most exposed areas of the West Bank did not conceal the steady buildup of other settlements, and the growth of the Israel security barrier far to the east of the 1967 boundary.
Faulting Israel for not giving up more territory and destroying more settlements, -- not terrorism –  turns the Palestinians, once again into victims.  

His solution:
to halt unilateral (Israeli) expansion into the West Bank and aid moderate Palestinian voices such as Mr Abbas; and on the Palestinians, to understand that aid and support are tied to either Hamas changing or going.
While understanding that Abbas' administration, like that of Arafat is hopelessly corrupt and inefficient, he ignores its direct role in supporting terrorism and promoting incitement. That someone like Cordesman, a serious behind-the-scenes policy-maker, hangs on to the 'two-state' illusion and contradictions uniquely in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is disturbing.

In lock-step,  Cordesman's views seem virtually identical with those of Barack Obama's advisors. "Settlements are obstacles to peace," and "Israeli occupation of Palestinian land" are code words for Israel's destruction, no matter who uses them.

That leaves voters wondering if Sen. McCain has the courage and wisdom to reject this policy, or follow a path that has led to failure and more terrorism. "Time will tell," but by then it may be too late.

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