In view of conflicting media reports about the chances of success of the tripartite negotiations between the Biden administration, the State of Israel and Saudi Arabia to draw up a normalization agreement between the latter two countries, one should look at the last decades and understand that such an accord is inevitable – but has a dark underside to it. A historical examination of how other countries have severed and renewed their relations with Israel indicates that the danger to the rights and freedoms of hundreds of millions of civilians should normalization be achieved.
After the State of Israel’s founding in 1948, it immediately engaged in providing military and civilian aid to countries worldwide, many of them with dictatorial and military regimes, with the aim of establishing diplomatic relations, and counteracting what would become an ongoing campaign to eliminate Israel physically and politically.
In a nutshell, the main spoiler of Israel’s international aspirations was Egypt, under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser, who became its ruler in 1956; subsequently Libya played a similar role, after Muammar Gadhafi came to power, in 1969. Egypt wielded its political, military and economic power to dissuade other states from establishing relations with Israel, or to cut or downgrade existing ties. Gadhafi used mafia-type methods, threatening to destabilize regimes that had ties to Israel. The Arab pressures were successful, and after the wars of 1967 and 1973, dozens of states, with both non-Arab Muslim and non-Muslim populations, officially severed or downgraded their relations with Israel. These were not just African countries. While today BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, is successful in preventing international pop stars from performing in Israel, Arab countries, under the leadership of Egypt and Libya, over the years, for example, successfully imposed oil embargoes on countries and sanctions on companies that did business within Israel, and even managed to force European governments to limit their relations with it in certain realms.
Following the waves of severed relations with Israel after the wars, Israel looked elsewhere and was largely successful in keeping and strengthening its ties with regimes ostracized by other countries, among them the leadership of apartheid South Africa. Israel also established strong ties with military juntas in Latin America during their various “dirty wars” – the internal campaigns they waged from the mid-1970s to the early ‘80s to eliminate domestic political opponents. The military regimes in the so-called Southern Cone of Latin America launched an effort called Operation Condor, in which they cooperated in locating, capturing, torturing and eliminating opposition and guerrilla activists. For its part, Israel helped each junta separately in implementing Operation Condor in its territory, but unlike the involvement of the United States in that effort, there is no evidence that Israel was involved in the overall coordination of the operation.
After Israel and Egypt signed the Camp David Accords, in September 1978, Israel was liberated from its main “spoiler,” and slowly, other states began renewing or establishing relations with Jerusalem. As has been reported over the years in Haaretz and other media outlets, with many countries, this renewal was based on Israel selling military services and equipment, and more recently surveillance technology, even to murderous regimes.
In the 1990s, with the end of the Cold War, the signing of the Oslo Accords with the PLO and the peace agreement with Jordan, what was a trickle became a wave. Israel was able to resume and build relations with most countries of the world, but still encountered difficulty in normalizing its ties with Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries. However, it became clear that the continued demand of the Palestinian leadership that such countries avoid joining this wave, was lacking any credibility. The PLO not only normalized its relationship with Israel, but the Palestinian Authority became an important subcontractor in administering Israel’s apartheid regime in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. That made it politically easier for other countries to negotiate with Israel and agree with it on normalization steps.
This bogus nature of such anti-normalization didn’t begin during the Oslo period, but several decades earlier, when many countries may have severed formal relations with Israel, but continued doing business with it. One example is Chad, a country with a Muslim majority that officially cut ties with Israel in 1972, and renewed them only in 2019. Yet, a document prepared by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in May 1985 and recently declassified by the State Archives, states that as early as 1982 Israel, initiated contact with Chad’s then-dictator, Hissène Habré. The following February 1983, an agreement was signed with him, according to the 1985 document, on “Israeli military assistance to Chad in manpower and equipment, and also for establishing a secret Israeli mission in Chad.”
At the time, President Habré was responsible for mass murder, disappearances and rape within his own country, leading in 2016 to his conviction by an international tribunal for crimes against humanity. Habré was overthrown in a 1990 coup, but in 2008, his successor, Idriss Déby, bought armored vehicles from Israel whose roofs were fitted with devices for mounting machine guns. Déby, a former head of the country’s military, was in the midst of a bloody civil war when he purchased the vehicles. After the publication of reports and images of these vehicles in the media, Chad admitted their purchase from Israel and reported it to the United Nations.
It was not only a lack of credibility that undermined Palestinian leaders’ demands that Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries avoid normalization with Israel, but also a lack of feasibility due to the changing interests of those countries. Two historical events in the second decade of the 21st century changed the picture in the direction of rapid normalization with Israel. One was Iran’s decision to increase its regional provocations and other subversive activity, and the other was the Arab Spring of 2011. Despite their disputes, most Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries have come to the conclusion that they must cooperate in order to fight Iran’s regional power grab and also to rebuff any signs of a resurgence of the Arab Spring: that is, they must fight movements seeking to instigate regime change. One of the most prominent players among those latter groups is the political-Islam movement and ideology, and in particular the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, although the greater movement’s ostensible commitment to democratic values differs from country to country, and in some of them its “success” means only replacing one dictatorial regime with another.
Since the Oslo Accords, and in light of increasing involvement and activity on the part of Iran and political Islam – and specifically the radical Palestinian version of the Muslim Brotherhood, the militant Islamic Hamas organization – those forces have replaced the PLO as Israel’s main archnemeses. This is a historic reversal. If David Ben-Gurion invented the doctrine of the “alliance of the periphery” – which included extending Israeli aid to regimes like that of the shah in Iran – now Israel is working with Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries to rein in Iran, while helping those countries maintain the stability of their own tyrannical regimes, while they in turn help Israel maintain its own own tyrannical regime in the West Bank.
The United States fully shares Israel’s opportunistic position and strategy regarding this historic reversal of interests; this was not just a whim of former President Donald Trump. Evidence of this was mentioned by Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilad, a former longtime senior member of the Israeli security establishment, who for years was involved in building Israel’s relations with Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries, as well as maintaining ties with America, in an interview aired in political commentator Nadav Perry’s podcast, on April 16, 2023 .
In response to the question of how Israel should relate to Saudi Arabia in light of the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the dismembering of his body, Gilad answered, “I, who have dealt a lot with Arab countries, have come to the conclusion that the State of Israel should do everything to strengthen ties with Arab countries without really considering the regimes there. There is no chance of there ever being a democracy in the Middle East, except for Israel… The regimes, such as in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the principalities and the Emirates, are stable regimes, [and] their stability serves the national security interests of Israel and the entire free world, even the Americans understand this.
“The difference between the United States and China is that the United States doesn’t need oil, unlike in the past, and an administration like that of President Biden gives high priority to democratic values. But I see a moderation in the American attitude toward the Arab world… Biden also reached out to [Saudi Crown Prince] Mohammed bin Salman… I detect a more sober attitude there, even vis-à-vis Egypt; they [the Americans] hardly condemn the Egyptians.”
In an article that Gilad published in Cyclone (a Hebrew publication of the The Institute for Policy and Strategy) in February 2021 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring, he wrote: “The understanding has been internalized both in Israel and in large parts of the international community that an accelerated opening of the political systems in the Arab world to democratic processes could lead to the rise of radical forces, led by representatives of extreme political Islam.” Prior to that, at a December 2019 conference of the Israeli military industries, Gilad had said: “The problem is, how do you deal with revolutions? … Any Israeli military equipment that contributes to building a force that could be used to attack Israel, given a revolution there [in an Arab country], is undesirable and should be prevented. Everything related to regime stability – and here moral questions arise about using it against opponents [of those regimes] – I support preservation in Israeli aid.” Moreover, Gilad added, “We also have incredible security cooperation with the Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia.” That is, as long as there is no fear that Israeli knowledge and weaponry will be used against Israel itself, Israel should not limit its exports for fear that it will be used for internal repression.
The concept, Gilad explained, stands at the heart of the Abraham Accords and of emerging agreements with other Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries. According to this arguably racist strategy, since the states in question are not ripe for democracy, and in order to help preserve the “free world” and/or Western civilization – the United States and Israel should help their tyrannical regimes when they resort to violence to suppress opposition elements, journalists, women and other minorities. Political Islam has replaced the “communist threat” and Iran has replaced the USSR. These are the same self-righteous arguments that were used to justify America’s war in Vietnam, and the military aid the U.S. and Israel provided, for example, to the Pinochet junta in Chile when it perpetrated crimes against humanity in the 1970s and ‘80s. Now they are being summoned to support the geopolitical reorganization of the Middle East and North Africa.
‘Operation Condor 2.0’
Long shuttered is the School of the Americas in the Panama Canal, where the United States trained tens of thousands of officers from across Latin America, many of whom returned to their countries during the Cold War to participate in military coups, mass torture, murder, rape, genocide and terrorism. But, according to what Maj. Gen. Gilad noted in Perry’s podcast, most of the officers in the Arab countries’ military are still being trained in the United States, in an effort to preserve their regimes’ dependence on the latter, and to prevent their transition to full reliance on China. It is clear that the spreading of democratic values is not of high priority in the American officer training program. The nonprofit news organization Intercept has confirmed that U.S.-trained military officers, most of them in Muslim-majority states, have taken part in 11 coups in West Africa since 2008, most recently in Niger. Following the Abraham Accords and other normalization agreements entered into by Israel, in addition to its providing sophisticated surveillance and weapons systems to a variety of problematic regimes, army officers from those regimes will likely receive training and intelligence from Israel as well, which the latter has acquired and developed also thanks to its oppression and control of the Palestinian population.
All these developments will not guarantee the stability of Arab and non-Arab Muslim dictatorial regimes, as their existence will always be conditional and challenged. A clear example of this is Egypt, which receives the most U.S. military aid after Israel, and is still one of the most unstable countries in the region. The greatest enemy of the Egyptian people is their own regime, which wastes its huge human and natural resources and is focused on a ceaseless war against the majority of citizens who do not belong to the elite that rule the country. To maintain the appearance of stability in Egypt and other regimes in the region, an endless cycle of oppression and violence is necessary. In situations like these, if they feel it is necessary, such regimes won’t blink – that is, there will be many more horrific cases like the murder of journalist Khashoggi.
Unlike the role it played in the 1970s and ‘80s in Latin America, nowadays, as part of “Operation Condor 2.0” in the Middle East and North Africa, Israel will not be a secondary actor but one with a leading role in its overall coordination. As with heroin, these regimes will become addicted to Israeli surveillance equipment, weaponry, training and intelligence, and will only pay lip service to the Palestinian issue. This time the fight to maintain the stability of the regimes, including the stability of Israel’s own apartheid regime vis-à-vis the Palestinian population, will be waged with more advanced technology than the Uzi machine guns and Galil rifles that were peddled by Israel for the elimination of masses of opposition and leftist activists in Latin America. And yet, in its essence, it will still be the same “dirty war.”
Eitay Mack is a human rights lawyer and activist specializing in the issue of Israel’s arms trade.
Article link: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-08-18/ty-article/.premium/israels-dirty-war-the-abraham-accords-dark-side-and-why-the-saudis-want-to-join/0000018a-03ad-dfb4-a5cf-efbfcab80000
Article source: Haaretz | Eitay Mack |Aug 18, 2023