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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Interview with Yoram Ettinger

Here's an interview with Yoram Ettinger, which appeared on Israel's Channel 10 this past week. Yoram is a former Israeli consul general in Houston (which is how I met him - a client in Houston made the introduction), and is an expert on Israel's relations with the United States and on Israel's 'demographic threat.'

This interview is in Hebrew. There is an English translation below the fold. Yoram is the first person interviewed. The interview starts at 2:24 and ends at 18:00.

Let's go to the videotape.

Q. When was the last time you visited the United States?

A. Two weeks ago, in Midland, Texas, the Texas capital - and possibly the US capital - of the independent oil producers. I held two days meetings with independent oil producers, who support the enhancement of strategic relations between the USA and Israel, mostly as a result of the current seismic developments in all Arab countries. These developments clarify that while the USA cannot rely on any of the Arab countries, Israel is highlighted as the most reliable, stable, capable, democratic and
unconditional ally of the USA.

Q. How long did you live in Texas?

A. I did my undergraduate studies in Texas and I also served as Israel's Consul General in Houston, Texas. In my current work I often visit Washington, DC and Texas, which has become a key State in the USA in general and in the overall increasing American support for the Jewish State in particular.

Q. Why Texas in particular?

A. Texas, because of its historical and cultural background. Texas is the only state in the US that joined the Union not through acquisition or conquest, but rather joined willingly. As a result, its rights are superior to all other states. For example, Texas is the only state that can secede, or even split to 5 states. But more importantly, Texas is a state that greatly appreciates tradition, patriotism, religion, independence and can-do mentality, defiance of odds and roots.

Q. Do Texans/Americans support Israel because of the influence of the Jewish community?

A. The support, by Texans in particular and Americans in general, of Judaism and the concept of a Jewish State dates back to the early Pilgrims who landed in America in 1620. They left England, "the modern-day Egypt," sailed through the Atlantic Ocean, "the modern-day Red Sea" and arrived to America, "the modern-day Promised Land" or New Canaan. Since then until today, American appreciation of Judaism and of the idea of the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel constitute key issues in the American ethos, American justice and as of lately, USA national security.

Q. Who was the most pro-Israel American president?

A. In my opinion, the leading one was Ronald Reagan and in another way Richard Nixon, in spite of the fact that Nixon was received only 12% of the Jewish votes, so he had no political IOUs to the Jewish community. But, in 1970, he witnessed Israel forcing the rolling back of the Syrian invasion of Jordan - that threatened through a Domino Syndrome Saudi Arabia and other oil producing Arab states in the Gulf. The Jewish state - which until then was not considered by Nixon a strategic asset - demonstrated its capability to snatch the hottest chestnuts out of the fire with no requirement of a
single American soldier, while the US was bogged down in Vietnam. President Nixon became a supporter of Israel. It was Nixon who, during the 1973 Yom Kippur War - despite his Secretaries of State and Defense - decided to replenish Israel with significant military systems, in order to bolster the only effective ally of the US in the Middle East.

Q. And who is the least American President appreciative of Israel?

A. President Bush 41st and his Secretary of State, Baker. Jimmy Carter is in the same league and perhaps even worse. President Obama "threatens" to join them, but he is not there yet.

Q. Why Obama?

A. Because of his ideology and his view of the world, irrespective of Israel. For instance, an American president who does not believe in American moral, political and military Exceptionalism is less effective for Israel and the Free World. Israel and the Free World do not need a local American policeman; they needs an American Marshal. Obama believes that the U.N - which is not the home court of the US or Israel - is the playmaker of international relations. He does not believe in the existence of international Islamic terrorism, only in local Islamic terrorism - Taliban
and al- Qaeda. He does not believe in the existence of Jihadist terrorism, because - according to his advisor on countering terrorism - "Jihad is a process which purifies the soul." Obama wants to be more European than the Europeans. He subordinates unilateral US policy to multilateral coalition considerations. Finally, he believes that the Palestinian issue is the root cause of Middle East instability and anti-American terrorism, and that the Palestinian issue is the crown-jewel of intra-Arab policy-making. All of which has no relevance to Middle Eastern reality.

Q. Maybe an American president who is not so pro-Israel can be more neutral and help bring the conflict to an end?

A. We need to comprehend that the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict does not depend on Israel or on the Americans. It is a derivative of the Middle East as it has been for 14 centuries. One shouldn't ignore the fact that for 1,400 years, since the appearance of Islam, there has not been intra-Arab/Moslem peace, intra-Arab/Moslem compliance with intra- Arab/Moslem agreements, intra-Arab/Moslem ratification of all borders and not a single Arab/Moslem democracy. Terror has been an integral key element of intra-Arab/Moslem policy. In defiance of such an entrenched reality, some of us wish that the Arabs would bestow upon the Jewish State that which they have yet to accord to one another. I wish that it would be a logical expectation, but it is not. Moreover, the less involved is the USA in the Arab-Israel conflict, the lower are Arab expectations, and the less strained are US-Israel relations. The US involvement has added fuel to the fire of Arab expectations and radicalism and undermined US-Israel relations. US-Israel relations are based on shared values, threats and interests and not on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Q. What will happen in September when there will be a unilateral declaration of a "Palestinian state"?

A. The sun will rise and the moon will appear, just as they did following the 1988 UN General Assembly recommendation - supported by 132 countries - to recognize a Palestinian state and the 1975 UN General Assembly declaration of Zionism as Racism. Since then, Israel has surged economically and otherwise. The U.N General Assembly is an ineffective body, and in the U.N Security Council there is a US veto. The anti-Israel UN proceedings, in September 2011, will constitute another bump on the way of the Jewish State to further achievements.

Q. You are refuting many myths. There is an assumption that the US may curtail/stop aid to Israel if Israel would not comply with US policy. Is that also a myth?

A. It is a myth, but in a different way. I was very involved in Benjamin Netanyahu's decision - during his first term as Prime Minister - to end US non-military aid. The non-military aid was eliminated over 10 years, half of which was transferred to the military aid. The decision paid off economically and diplomatically, in defiance of naysayers. Israel will thrive and prosper even more upon phasing out, over 10 years, of the $3BN in US military aid, rededicating each year 10% of the aid to the establishment of an additional bi-national employment and export driven fund.

Q. But the military aid sustains Israel's ability to hold its own militarily!

A. That is what the naysayers told Netanyahu in 1996, but the sun rose and it was much warmer and friendlier for Israel following the gradual phase out of the Economic Support Fund (non-military foreign aid). Israel incurs high cost for the USA aid. The Israeli defense industry prefers, sometimes, to operate in the USA because Israel's Ministry of Defense has more dollars, and therefore it is easier to purchase from an Israeli company that operates in Florida, Alabama, California or Texas. Moreover, the US aid limits Israel's defense exports, occasionally undermines Israel's R & D, accelerates the regional arms race and the resulting burden on Israel's economy (Egypt receives military foreign aid in correlation with aid to Israel) and portrays Israel - unjustifiably - as a member of under-privileged countries which require "foreign" "aid." If those $3BN will be gradually reduced, at 10% each year, expanding cooperation between the defense industries of both countries - which would then benefit from a similar tailwind currently available to the commercial industries - it would create more jobs, exports and research & development in the USA and in Israel. A year later, the 10% of the reduced military foreign aid would be directed at an employment-driven collaboration between their water-related industries, which would advance the effort to overcome the water crisis, leveraging each other's technological edge. Then, a year later, collaboration between alternative energy industries, and so on. Mutually-beneficial joint ventures and trade are always preferable to foreign aid.

Q. USA aid does not go to Israel only.

A. USA relations with Israel are unique among recipients of foreign aid. They are not a one way street; they constitute a two way, bottom up, mutually-beneficial street, where both give and receive. For example, the intelligence the USA receives from Israel exceeds that which the USA receives from all NATO countries combined. The late General Alexander Haig who was the Supreme Commander of NATO and US Secretary of State considered Israel the largest USA aircraft carrier which did not require a single
American on board, that couldn't be sunk, that saved the US tax payer $20-$30Billion per year and was deployed in a most vital region to critical American interests.

Q. Finally, what would you suggest to Prime Minister Netanyahu regarding Israel relations with the USA?

A. First and foremost Israel needs to understand that an American President is not The American Government, but one of three branches of government, which are equal in power to one another. The US Congress and the Courts are the other 2/3rds. Prime Minister Netanyahu should recognize Congress - a systematic bastion of support - as a co-equal and a co-determining player in setting US foreign policy in general and US-Israel relations in particular. In fact, until November 2012, Congress could potentially be even stronger than the President, who needs Congress in order to be reelected. Finally,
Netanyahu should rid Israel of the dependency on US military aid.
Sorry about the obnoxious ads in the middle.

I found his comments about giving up American aid most interesting.

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At 2:38 PM, Blogger Thermblog said...

Very interesting overall. I've heard the aid reduction argument before but not explained with such reason.

His ranking of anti-Israel presidents was also fascinating.

At 5:16 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

Fabulous! He says what I keep thinking... that the "peace treaty" Israel needs is actually a waiver of being treated the way the rest of the countries in the region have treated each other forever (See: River War by Winston Churchill re Sudan written in 1898). He didn't mention South Sudan, which could be an interesting team member on some projects. Also, Texas has GWB, who played a huge role in yesterday's start-up of South Sudan. Mr. Ettinger has a good idea about ending the military "aid", but the first 10% should go to teaming on military R&D, because if the US keeps giving technology to other countries, Israel will need to at least be familiar with it to keep the qualitative edge. Anyway, he's right that Texas rocks.


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