So I psyched myself up to behave well, not embarrass anyone and even try to enjoy it. I think I did a pretty good job, especially when Caroline Glick spoke. She was the second of the three speakers, and she got the longest and most enthusiastic applause. So, obviously, I wasn't alone in my apprehensions. She prefaced her talk by saying that it's the basis of "tomorrow's column." Well, "tomorrow" is today, and here's the link to it on her site.
Here are a few highlights:
The effect of Sadat's visit on the Israeli psyche generally and on Begin's mindset in particular was profound. A new book of the two leaders' correspondence, Peace in the Making: The Menachem Begin-Anwar Sadat Personal Correspondence edited by Harry Hurwitz and Yisrael Medad of the Begin Heritage Center presents readers with a portrait of the Israeli leader enthralled with the belief that he and Sadat were embarking their nations on the road to a peaceful future.
But it was not to be. Whether Sadat was purposely deceptive or whether he was simply blocked from implementing his vision of peace by an assassin's bullet in 1981is unclear. True, he committed Egypt committed to peace. The peace treaty contains an entire annex devoted to specific commitments to cultivate every sort of cultural, social and economic tie imaginable. But both Sadat and his successor Mubarak breached every one of them.
As the intervening 32 years since the treaty was signed have shown, in essence, the deal was nothing more than a ceasefire. Israel surrendered the entire Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and in exchange, Egypt has not staged a military attack against Israel from its territory.
In 1977 Jimmy Carter was the president of the United States. And Carter was the most hostile president Israel had faced. His negative attitude towards Israel made it all but impossible for Begin to walk away from the table. When Carter's antagonism is coupled with Sadat's romantic pledges of everlasting peace and brotherhood, it is easy to understand why Begin agreed to overpay for a ceasefire.
WHILE BEGIN'S behavior during the negotiations is relatively easy to understand, Israel's behavior since the peace with Egypt was signed is less comprehensible, and certainly less forgivable. Since Israel withdrew from the Sinai in 1981, it has been the state's consistent policy to ignore Egypt's bad faith. This 30-year refusal of Israel's leadership to contend with the true nature of the deal Israel achieved with Egypt has had a debilitating impact both on Israel's internal strategic discourse as well as on its international behavior.
Under the ceasefire, with Israeli approval and encouragement, Egypt has built a modern, US-trained and armed military. And for 30 years, that military has been training to fight Israel.
On the other side, Israel stopped training in desert warfare and stopped gathering intelligence on the Egyptian military. As far as IDF commanders and successive defense ministers have been concerned, there was no reason to prepare for war or care about Egypt's preparations for war because we were at peace.
On the international stage, our leadership's refusal to acknowledge that Egypt had not abandoned its belligerent attitude against Israel was translated into an abject refusal to admit or deal with the fact that Egypt leads the international political war against Israel. Rather than fight back when Egyptian diplomats at the UN instigate anti-Israel resolution after anti-Israel resolution, Israeli diplomats have pretended that there is no reason for concern.
The same is the case regarding Egyptian anti-Semitism. Before the peace treaty, the Foreign Ministry prepared regular reports on anti-Semitism in the Egyptian media and school system. These reports were distributed at embassies and consulates throughout the world. After the treaty was signed, the reports were filed away and never spoken of.
Israel failed to consider the implications of signing a deal with a military dictator on the prospects for the deal's longevity. In an interview with Der Spiegel last week the Muslim Brotherhood's puppet Mohammed ElBaradei explained those implications. As ElBaradei put it, Israel has "a peace treaty with Mubarak, but not one with the Egyptian people."
THE ADVANTAGE of having a good relationship with a dictator is that he can deliver quickly. The disadvantage is that once he is gone no one is bound by his decisions because he doesn't represent anyone.
AS ISRAEL moves into the uncharted territory of managing its relations with the post-Mubarak Egypt, it is imperative that our leaders understand the lessons of the past.
Fantasies are no match for reality. Aggression must be fought, not wished away. And the world is a dynamic place. Today's solutions will likely be irrelevant tomorrow as new challenges eclipse the current ones. Our strategies must be rational, flexible and sober-minded if we are to chart a forward course rather than be thrown asunder by the coming storm.
And we must never put all our eggs in anyone's basket.
It was on one hand nice to hear an expert like Caroline Glick voice opinions so similar to my own, but I must admit that with all her facts so simply and intelligently expressed, I became depressed. According to Glick, Israel is in more danger than I had realized. This is the fault of successive Israeli political and military leadership for the past thirty-plus years, long after Menachem Begin's rule as Prime Minister. To think that we have to depend on Ehud Barak as Defense Minister is frightening. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has given him much too much freedom of decision to format policy.
Israel needs good competent leadership, true leadership, leaders who aren't afraid to do what's right even when there's international and internal criticism.