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This diary is an unplanned follow-up to yesterday's post, in which I put forth the idea that Israel's current strategy towards its neighbors is neither unilateralist nor recent.

Rather, I introduced the term "multilateralist minus one" to describe it. What this means, is that Israel actually does engage in a lot of dialogue, negotiation and coordination - but only with parties it chooses, first and foremost with the US. The real second side to the conflict is left out of the equation, and by virtue of all the workaround with everyone else - the world proceeds onward without counting it.

I also said that Israel has been doing this since its inception. The strategy has delivered short- and medium-term successes, but has ultimately brought Israel into its present dead-end quagmire - and has reflected very poorly on US interests in the region.

Since the whole idea, at least in this particular formulation, is new even to me, there were a lot of gaps to fill. I hope this second part helps. (more ->)

How It Works: Military Adventures

Before Israel initiates major military action, it arranges in advance with the powers that be more or less what is it going to do, and gets a green light of sorts. Nowadays it’s mostly the US. The US then uses its clout to keep the rest of the West in check in terms of their responses – and, even more crucially, the US-dependent Arab regimes such as Egypt. Needless to say, the UN is neutralized as well. Part of the American role is to create some sort of charade of a "diplomatic process", in order to defuse other countries’ opposition - or (more likely in Europe’s case) to give them an excuse for staying on the sidelines. There is no need to assume conspiracies here; it is all played pretty much out in the open, especially during the past decade.

This is not extraordinary in itself; after all, when embarking upon a war this is what countries do to hedge themselves. However, Israel and the US have done it so often and so brazenly in recent years (2002 West Bank, 2006 Gaza and Lebanon, 2008-9 Gaza), that no one is buying the "diplomatic efforts to stop the fire" schtick anymore. Worse, most of the world now justifiably sees the US – and also other Western countries who let it happen over and over – as full partners in whatever Israel does. Conversely, many see whatever Israel has done as little more than an extension of Western power and dominance over the Middle East – and the fact that Israelis themselves prefer to present their case in this manner nowadays (e.g., "we are the major front in the war against Islamic extremism...", etc.) is certainly not helping.

How It Works: "Multilateralism-minus-One Diplomacy"

Believe it or not, but wars are the relatively sane part. The real madness is what happens during negotiations and diplomatic processes.

I pinpointed the 1949 Lausanne conference (raw protocol), set up to resolve the Palestinian refugee crisis and achieve regional peace, as Israel’s key learning experience in formulating its "multilateral-minus-one" strategy. I will describe the conference’s circumstances carefully, from an international-diplomacy perspective.

Barely a year and a half earlier, the UN convened to solve two problems at once – Palestine’s British rule faltering under Jewish and Arab terrorism, and roughly a half-million displaced Jewish Holocaust refugees sitting at various places in post-war Europe. The solution - the 1947 Partition - was quite generous to the Jews (for example, it allocated most of the country’s sparsely-inhabited, completely Arab desert lands to the Jewish state, in spite of Jews not having set a foot in most of that desert since Antiquity. This was done specifically in order to make room for Holocaust refugees.) Now, in 1949, the world community perhaps felt that the Jewish problem was resolved with Israel’s creation, but it faced two new problems: a Jewish-Arab war still not completely over, and three-quarters of a million Palestinian refugees - outnumbering the Jewish refugees now having a potential home in Israel.

Israel, a poor nation less than a year old with its victorious ragtag army controlling regions well beyond the 1947 Partition allocation, was quite content with the world just letting it keep its expanded borders, and realistically expected that whatever bargain would include allowing back a substantial portion of the newly-created refugees. So Israel came to play ball, talking tough about how dangerous it would be to accept them back, and making any repatriation conditional upon general peace. The Arab nations, still unable to digest the drastic change in their geopolitics and displaying a characteristic rigidity in formal statements, objected; in fact, they refused to formally sit in the same room with the Israeli delegation (apparently there was a lot of palling around going around behind the scenes). Palestinians themselves were only observers, not a real party to the negotiations. The conference ended in September 1949 with no action taken whatsoever.

Now, world powers were certainly in position to impose whatever they deemed fair and realistic upon the parties whether they like it or not, just like they did to the Arabs in 1947. But they chose not to. It is quite likely that there was no tacit arrangement with Israel about this outcome – though this possibility is not out of the question. Rather, it is likely that the problem of three-quarter-million Arab refugees was perceived by "the world" as far less urgent, than the 1947 problem of a half-million Jewish ones with the associated black cloud of Holocaust guilt. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly: Israel, though being a young state, had seasoned European-born and trained diplomats who spoke the same lingo as their Western counterparts. The Arabs, on the other hand, besides being mostly new in the nation-state business, were from a distinctly different culture and spoke in rather different terms. [By the way, this woeful dissonance between North-European/AngloSaxon and Arab/MidEastern negotiation styles and rhetoric, continues to play a huge role in all the bad stuff that has happened to the Middle East ever since.] So the West saw one party talking in terms they knew and respected, and the other party engaging in strange honor games they couldn't dig and didn't have patience for.

Now, one can say the negotiations failed and it wasn’t Israel’s fault. Ok, but the problem was still there. Think, say, the 1990’s Yugoslavia wars: the parties were fighting, strong parties playing for time to create facts on the ground and using their connections to prevent intervention. It took a while for the world to rein them in, but in the meantime no one walked away from the problem. Yet, walking away is exactly what the world did on the Palestinians after Lausanne 1949. And unlike Yugoslavia, here the world community was directly culpable in creating the problem. Who cares? "Problem not solved; no problem."

[aside: As further proof that it was quite possible and not too hard to get more refugees back: the Palestinians remaining inside Israel (a.k.a. "Arab Israelis") – then a small, terrified, militarily-controlled minority – managed with their own meager powers, to get the Israeli government to grudgingly allow over 20,000 of their kinfolk back under "family reunification". This according to research by the amazing Hillel Cohen.]

--------------------
So here’s the deal. You can argue all you want about "who started 1948", were these really refugees or just "a bunch of evil Arab whiners", or whatever else. You are totally missing the point. The point is that (to use weather forecasting terminology) the center of the diplomatic scenario-forecasting envelope pre-Lausanne 1949 was roughly half of Palestinian refugees allowed back under international mandates. It did not happen. And more crucially: Israel learned that all it had to do to prevent that from happening was to come to the table and show a willingness to negotiate. In other words, play for a draw or for a deadlock when you have the home-court advantage anyway. The West will do the rest of the job.

------------------------

The lesson was well learned. Following the 1967 war, all Israel had to do to relieve Western pressure to return territories three times its size, was to express that very same generic "willingness to negotiate with no prior conditions", by then a mantra of our foreign policy. And as stated in yesterday’s diary, the prime example for how "multilateralism minus one diplomacy" works vs. the Palestinians, was the Oslo "process".

Post-1967, the dynamic is this:

  1. Israel puts forth respectable-sounding rhetoric and a willingness to "talk" – not with everyone of course, only with parties not "beyond the pale". It may also engage in such talks, without any sense of urgency to get anywhere.
  1. The West headed by the US, applauds Israel and continues its unconditional diplomatic, economic and military support and acceptance of Israel as a full member in the privileged First World.
  1. If the talks reach an inconvenient point for Israel, it calls them off, stalls them, or derails them in any other manner that could pass as "legitimate" - with no consequence whatsoever.
  1. On the ground, all along, Israel continues to do whatever it chooses to do (the link is to an explosive article published today in Haaretz, detailing how the government knew many settlements are on stolen private Palestinian lands and tried to hush it up).
  1. The world community - via international aid to Palestinians whose economy is ruined, pressure upon pliant Arab leaders such as Mubarak and Abbas to cooperate, etc. - cleans up the debris without handing Israel the bill.

The main problem with this ingenious strategy (besides, again, showing Arabs and Muslims that the West and Israel are one and the same) is, well, that the problem is not solved. Palestinians still live under Israeli control and exploitation in a way that no people on Earth would accept. Other Arab nations have territories or other interests confiscated or trampled upon by Israel for years and decades. Even the poor 1948 refugees discussed at Lausanne 60 years ago are still not addressed.

With the proper diplomatic arteries clogged up by this "multilateral minus one" travesty, Arabs turn to militant organizations that stir the pot and upset the nicely made Western dinner table.

Whenever the West manages to deviate from this script, positive results are produced for everyone (biggest example: Carter and the Israel-Egypt peace. A lesser example is the Rabin government of 1993-1995, which tentatively experimented with a different and more truly multilateral strategy; this was aborted by Rabin's murder).

I hope all is clear now.

7 PM UPDATE: Wanted to add something that was in yesterday's diary, but should be emphasized again.

The magic of Israel's "multilateral-minus-one diplomacy", is that during negotiations, or declarations about readiness for negotiations, what Israeli leaders and spokesman need to say are not things that would be acceptable starting-points for the other side. Rather, the declarations only need to sound reasonable to the West, most specifically America.

In view of the aforementioned cultural gaps between the Middle East and America, and of the known and lamentable state of Middle-East knowledge here, this leaves a huge arbitrage space for Israel to leverage upon, making statements that are seen as laughably unacceptable or false over there, and as a "brave outreached hand of peace" over here.

Which explains much of what transpired at Camp David 2000, around the 2005 disengagement (where the hoax of "setting Gaza free as a step for peace" was specifically for Western ears only; even Israelis heard a completely different rationale from their government), and the weird gap between Olmert's "peaceful" pronouncements - always given in political garbage-time - and his two wars-of-choice.

Originally posted to Assaf on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 01:32 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I learned much, thanks! (10+ / 0-)

    as always.  Thank you Assaf!

    "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

    by SteveP on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 01:43:04 PM PST

  •  You're funny (0+ / 0-)

    "the 1947 Partition - was quite generous to the Jews: for example, it allocated most of the country’s empty desert lands to the Jewish state,"

    Have you ever been to the Judean and Negev deserts?

    Anyway, just a quible.

  •  Very enlightening. Hotlisted. (7+ / 0-)

    Thank you Assaf.

    The Shape Of Things "Beware the terrible simplifiers" Jacob Burckhardt, Historian

    by notquitedelilah on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 01:57:00 PM PST

  •  Settlements on stolen lands (8+ / 0-)

    The Ha'aretz article is certainly important, and up-to-date, but didn't the same information come out quite a while ago courtesy of the Israeli peace movement? [I'm not taking the time to search for a link, sorry]

    Eli Stephens
    Left I on the News

    by elishastephens on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 02:07:17 PM PST

  •  Excellent.. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Scoopster, capelza, heathlander, Assaf

    ..Assaf.  You offer original analysis, which is pretty rare in these diaries. Let's hope we see another "deviation from the script", soon, hopefully during the Obama administration.  

  •  Assaf, thanks for the excellent analysis (7+ / 0-)

    and adding some clarity to this often muddled story.

    War is costly. Peace is priceless!

    by frostbite on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 02:18:51 PM PST

  •  The problem is that the thesis is mere (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Everest42

    conjecture without facts.  The thesis is that Israel's negotiations are Kabuki theatre, a sham that Israel doesn't intend to finalize.  Thus the Israeli offer right after the end of the six day war to return the West Bank, Gaza and tyhe Golan Heights in return for peace and recognition was just a ploy, and the 3 Nos of Khartoum (no negotiation, no recognition, no peace) were not the cause of the failure of that attempted peace initiative.  Similarly, Israel's acceptance of the Clinton bridging proposal at Camp david was a bad faith ploy; it was not Arafat's rejection of the american plan which caused Camp David to end in failure.  Finally, when Israel offered a take it or leave it offer at Taba, and Arafat said it was a good basis to continue negotiations, that proved that Israel wouldn't have accepted a yes.

    The facts are so inconvenient.

  •  I guess I'm not getting your point here. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Everest42

    Isarel established a modern state in its ancestral homeland.  Maybe you don't like that idea, after the fact.  It's arab neighbors were hositle to that effort and went to war with Israel from Syria, Egypt and Jordan.  Israel should negotiate in its own best interests, not in the interestes of its enemies at the time.

  •  True problem for Israel (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Scoopster, esquimaux, Assaf, Terra Mystica

    The problem is that "she" can get away with everything, or almost everything.

    So how is it a problem?  Well, without constrains, it is hard to figure what to do.  Within Israel there are factions pulling in different directions, and the policies that are adopted follow the path of least resistance.

    At some point the bottom may fall out of that bucket, but this is nowhere in sight.  Can Egyptian regime follow the path of Shah or Iran, to oblivion, and to be followed by some religious nationalists very sympathetic to Hamas?  Current solution, or what passes for a solution is to keep expanding settlements and to keep Palestinians in check by means of very tight siege, applied in almost equal measure to Gaza and West Bank.  Periodic atrocities drive that point forcefully and keep the Israeli population vigilant and full of martial spirit.

    But if Palestinians get actual decent weapons, like Hezbollah had, this would be much less viable.  And say that a sympathetic regime in Egypt would respond to "periodic atrocities" with supplying Hamas or whoever would be in charge with actual military grade rockets, better than those that Hezbollah was using?  Including anti-tank and anti-helicopter?  israel could go for "full escalation" but it could be "one bridge too far".

    Current approach takes advantage of Israeli military superiority, but it is also predicated on such overwhelming level of superiority that it cannot be maintained forever.  Similarly, inaction of EU is of paramount importance, and it is VERY hard for EU to do something, but here comes "one bridge too far" --- eventually, a certain level of atrocities can achieve it.

  •  Thanks Assaf (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Scoopster, capelza, Assaf

    Great diary. I wonder if you would consider a diary or series on Israeli Politics 101.

    I am somewhat mystified by the fact that after turning away from the policies of the center right Kadima, Israelis seem poised to turn to the even further right Likud.

    Are there no true centrist parties in Israel? Is there no chance for leftist parties?

    I know I could read Haaretz for a few months but they automatically assume that you already know all the players and the game.

    •  I'm going to do another diary on this soon (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dotsright

      I did one in 2006, but with the speed at which the world moves, that one is pretty outdated.  Among other things, there is no Shinui anymore.

      "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." --Barack Obama, June, 2008

      by oldskooldem on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 03:28:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks; I will write a diary... (4+ / 0-)

      ...in the weekend before the elections, and will probably be tempted to write more after them.

      My next self-assignment on IP101 is to document how and why Bush has been bad for Israel, before this gets too old. Yuck! To step again into Bush-time.

    •  My understanding is that the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dotsright, Assaf

      intifada decimated the Israeli left, or so I have read.

      "War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell

      by Karmafish on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 04:07:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Here's a link to something I wrote in 2006... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Scoopster, dotsright, heathlander

      Link

      Consensus Outlook: It will be very hard for Olmert’s government to survive beyond a couple of years, let alone carry out his ambitious promises.

      But also:

      In the 2006 elections, the Israeli public made a step back towards its true self.

      Alas, it didn't take long for that hope to die and for that modest step to be erased by a mad dash to the opposite direction.

      •  hard to see a difference (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dotsright, heathlander, Assaf

        I wonder what Netanyahu would do differently from Olmert (they say different things for sure).

        One possibility is that Netanyahu could invent a way of proving that Israel cannot get away with everything, but really -- Olmert had two bloody wars and fast expansion of settlements, so he already was pretty close to the envelope. Perhaps it will be easier to pressure arrogant Netanyahu than it would be with the charming Ms. Livni -- assuming that OUR government will pull head out of the sand.

  •  Blair, Hamas must be brought into peace process (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Scoopster, heathlander, Assaf

    January 30, 2009
    Hamas must be brought into peace process, says Tony Blair
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/...

    Hamas must somehow be brought into the Middle East peace process because the policy of isolating Gaza in the quest for a settlement will not work, Tony Blair has told The Times.

    Mr Blair says that the strategy of "pushing Gaza aside" and trying to create a Palestinian state on the West Bank "was never going to work and will never work". He hints in references to how peace was eventually achieved in Northern Ireland that the time may be approaching to talk to Hamas ... "My basic predisposition is that in a situation like this you talk to everybody."

    ...

    He suggests that the policy was behind last month's ferocious reopening of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in Gaza that were believed to have left more than 1,000 people dead.

    Mr Blair, speaking after talks with the new US envoy George Mitchell, says that Gaza will not be pushed aside because there are 1.25 million people there who want a Palestinian state.

    ...

    Mr Blair, the Middle East envoy for the Quartet group of the US, UN, Russia and the European Union, clearly believes that the Obama Administration is committed to a fresh effort to secure peace and appears to have been waiting for the change of government to make his strongest criticism so far of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

    ...

    hought to be privately critical of the failure of the former US administration to give a full commitment to the peace process, Mr Blair says that the appointment of Mr Mitchell, with whom he worked on the Northern Ireland peace process, indicated a "real commitment" by America.

    ...

    Mr Blair also receives a warm endorsement today for his Middle East work from Bill Clinton, the former US President. He says that Mr Blair and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, "will work well together" towards achieving a lasting pieace. ]

    As if you could kill without injuring eternity.

    by Snowy Owl on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 03:37:01 PM PST

  •  Two points that have to be said (0+ / 0-)

    The diary is thought-provoking, though it's overwrought with conspiratorial stuff that really aren't realistic.

    However, I wanted to point out what probably doesn't even stand out to you as ridiculous and twisted history.

    "the 1947 Partition - was quite generous to the Jews: for example, it allocated most of the country’s empty desert lands to the Jewish state, in spite of Jews not having set a foot in most of that desert since Antiquity."

    Generous? Empty desert land = generous??? Even the most ardent anti-Zionist must acknowledge the ridiculousness of that assertion.

    Second -- you acknowledge that Israel gained lands 3 times its size in '67, but you talk about Israel doing things to relieve pressure to return that land. Except Israel has already returned by far the largest, most valuable chunk of that land. A country without any oil reserves of its own gave up vast oilfields in the Sinai, and also gave up the fines seaside resorts in the region.

    You offer an interesting argument -- and you correctly observe that Israel still has "the problem" to resolve. But, you ignore significant facts and recast others in absurd ways, in order to fit your frame. The thing about  frame -- if the facts don't fit it, you can't discard or twist the facts so they fit the frame. You need to get a new frame -- one that fit the facts.

    Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you: Armisticeproject.org

    by FischFry on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 09:59:59 PM PST

    •  yeah... (0+ / 0-)

      "A country without any oil reserves of its own gave up vast oilfields in the Sinai, and also gave up the fines seaside resorts in the region."

      ...after Egypt went to war to get it back. Egypt offered Israel peace in exchange for a return of the Sinai in 1971 and Israel flatly rejected it, explaining that "Israel will not withdraw to the pre-June 5, 1967 lines".

      Time for you to "get a new frame", perhaps?

      •  No (0+ / 0-)

        It's true that 4 years after Israel was forced into the largest nationwide mobilization ever, and finally forced to strike to head-off an attack on all sides 4 years after Israel extracted a big price,from each of its neighbors, for their bellicosity, Israel rejected an offer that was far from comprehensive.

        Ultimately, the reason the offer was rejected is that -- surprise!! -- Israel did not trust neighbors who had always been opposed to it and publicly committed to its destruction. Sure, Israel liked the oil, but the main reason for not giving up Sinai was it provided Israel a defensible border...and a big buffer zone, for a country which felt very vulnerable a few yeas earlier because it was so tiny.

        Not surprising. Very understandable, even. If you don't understand that history, then you really don't understand how we got here and don't really understand the dynamics of the problem.

        Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you: Armisticeproject.org

        by FischFry on Sat Jan 31, 2009 at 06:37:12 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The real point, though (0+ / 0-)

        Whether or not the '73 War was a factor is hard to say. Certainly, the early course of that fight did demonstrate that Israel could not feel absolutely safe, even with that buffer. That had to change the psychology I discussed in my other reply.

        However, I would argue there was an intervening event that had a much greater impact upon Israel -- and that was Sadat's visit to Jerusalem. That convinced a lot of Israelis. Perhaps, the Paestinians need to find a latter-day Sadat of their own.

        Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you: Armisticeproject.org

        by FischFry on Sat Jan 31, 2009 at 07:43:31 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Alas, there is always a word in every diary... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rusty Pipes

      ...for the "holier-Israelis-than-myself-though-they-may-not-be-Israelis-at-all" crowd to jump on.

      This time it was the "empty" in front of "desert lands". Two out of three "holier-etc." commenters pounced on this word. But the word is wrong and I am taking it out right now.

      Actually, the desert was not empty. In 1947 there were thousands of Arabs living in the Naqeb/Negev. So granting it to the Jewish state was definitely a display of bias - especially that yes, Jews had not even visited most of that vast territory.

      As to post-1967... well, I think it is you who are ignoring the facts about Israel's real intentions and actions. I suggest to you too to look up Gorenberg's book The Accidental Empire (partially available on Google Books).

  •  Assaf, thanks for your excellent analysis. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    heathlander, Assaf

    All indications suggest that Israel will attempt to "negotiate" out of its current woes and drag the conflict out for another few decades at least.  What hopes to you have that this pattern can change?

  •  excellent as usual, Assaf (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Assaf

    one quibble: I'm not sure the first Camp David treaty is an example of the West bucking the trend you discuss in the diary. The talks were very clearly an attempt by Israel and the US to remove Egypt - the Arab world's only military power - from the conflict, thereby enabling Israel to attack Lebanon and the Palestinians freely without having to care about an Egyptian response. The peace deal with Egypt was explicitly designed to further Israeli expansionism in the oPt and elsewhere, and from the US's perspective also to shore up a pro-US regime in Egypt.

    •  Thanks (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rusty Pipes, heathlander

      as to your quibble: in short, I disagree. In long, I partially agree, see below.

      First, the whole affair was Sadat's initiative. So how could it be an Israeli-American "attempt"? And Begin very clearly broke all his election promises by signing on to the deal. It was Carter and his own generals who made him sign.

      Second, Carter by all accounts had comprehensive peace - rather than weakening the Arab world - as his main goal. Of course he wanted to further US interests, but he wanted to do it via a Pax Americana that works for everyone.

      Lebanon happened much later with Sadat dead (not in any Israeli/American plans) and Reagan replacing Carter.

      The strategic advantages of having Egypt on the side were certainly apparent to the general-types on the Israeli side, but there was really no guarantee that a Sadat Egypt would stay put with the IDF running rampant in Lebanon. Mubarak, on the other hand, was a puppet from day one.

      Finally, you are definitely right that Begin did not want to follow through with the West Bank - Gaza part of the agreement, but with Sadat and Carter still in place he would have found this task much harder to accomplish.

      •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rusty Pipes

        "the whole affair was Sadat's initiative. So how could it be an Israeli-American "attempt"?"

        Sure, Sadat had made clear as far back as 1971 that he would be willing to sign a peace agreement in exchange for their return of the Sinai (and the 1971 offer itself did not exactly come out of the blue - so for example, in February 1970 Nasser declared that "a durable peace" with Israel would be possible if Israel "evacuates the occupied territories and accepts a settlement of the problem of the Palestinian refugees"). What I meant was that the post-'73 war US/Israeli decision to reverse their previous rejectionist stance was motivated by the desire to remove the Arab world's main military power from the conflict. It was not a sudden peace-loving epiphany. (so by "attempt" I'm referring to US/Israeli acceptance of the proposals, not the whole process itself which as you say was initiated by Egypt).

        "Lebanon happened much later with Sadat dead (not in any Israeli/American plans) and Reagan replacing Carter."

        Lebanon happened in 1982, and it was always an inevitability given Israel's designs on the West Bank and the increasingly explicit political moderation of the PLO. The peace deal with Egypt was explicitly aimed at removing the only potential military deterrent to Israeli aggression from the conflict, enabling Israel to invade and attack its neighbours almost at will, which it duly did (e.g. in 1982). I don't see how Sadat's assassination or the fact that the invasion of Lebanon (the second one, at any rate - recall '78) happened several years after Camp David contradicts this.

        "The strategic advantages of having Egypt on the side were certainly apparent to the general-types on the Israeli side, but there was really no guarantee that a Sadat Egypt would stay put with the IDF running rampant in Lebanon."

        Sadat had already decided to make Egypt more or less a US client (or at least ally), even going so far as to expel Soviet ambassadors. It was quite clear that a deal with Egypt would remove the latter from the conflict. As Moshe Dayan explained to Carter,

        "the future is with Egypt. If you take one wheel off a car, it won't drive. If Egypt is out of the conflict, there will be no more war [obviously, this last bit needs translating]."

        And so the deal was signed, with the result that, quoting Chomsky,

        "Egypt has ... been incorporated within the US system and excluded from the Arab-Israeli conflict, allowing Israel to continue its creeping takeover of the occupied territories, apart from the Sinai, now returned to Egypt and serving as a buffer zone".

        You:

        "Finally, you are definitely right that Begin did not want to follow through with the West Bank - Gaza part of the agreement, but with Sadat and Carter still in place he would have found this task much harder to accomplish."

        I don't think Sadat would have done anything, but it's conceivable that Carter would have been less acquiescent in Israeli expansionism than Reagan was. But I think you're looking at this through overly rosy glasses. Carter's efforts were merely the culmination of a process started by Henry Kissinger. You think Kissinger merely wanted peace? His objectives were clear: to support Israel as a US bulwark in the region and a military opponent of Arab nationalism and to bring Egypt into the US order.

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