In 1996, in the wake of the Oslo Accords, a paper was produced by a group, led by Ronald Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of Defence, Richard Perle, entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”. The group included Douglas Feith, under secretary of Defence for Policy in the George W Bush Administration, David Wurmser, an advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney and special assistant to John Bolton, the future National Security Advisor to the Trump administration. “A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” foreshadowed the intentions developed by the “Project for the New American Century” Think Tank which were promoted in the following year. Perle and Bolton were amongst the leading figures behind the project. The authors of both initiatives worked together in the administrations of a number of Presidents including those of Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) and George H W Bush (1989-1993). Some went on to be part of the administration of George W Bush (2001-2009) and later that of Donald Trump.
The paper was produced by US officials for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and shaped the policies of the Likud government which took office in 1996. It proposed that future Israeli governments should adopt three main policy approaches:
- That Israel should work jointly with Jordan and Turkey to “contain, destabilise, and roll-back those entities that are threats to all three”;
- Adopt a policy of “hot pursuit” anywhere within the Occupied Territory;
- Stress self-reliance and strategic cooperation with the United States of America rather than any notion of dependency.
The approach, which advocated a new approach to ‘peace’, in reality represented a stage in the ongoing development of United States’ endeavours to expand their influence in the Middle East, using Israel as its proxy. With the fall of the US backed Shah of Iran in January 1979, the White House lost one of its most reliable allies in the region. The “Clean Break” document constituted a move to re-calibrate the relationships of the region, placing Israel in the strategic role formerly held by Iran. Its perspective, however, could never be achievable without weakening the influence of Arab nationalists, like Saddam Hussein, whose policies did not fit with US ambitions for the region. The Balkanisation of the area, developed as a consequence of the wars in Iraq and in Syria, afforded the US an easier pathway for its objective. The ending of the Arab Spring in the 2010s facilitated the implementation of the strategy spelt out in the “Clean Break” document. Israel functioning as a hired gun for the United States acted to remind leaders in the region and beyond that non-compliance with Washington’s wishes will have consequences. Israel has in its brief history conducted military operations in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Iran, together with an estimated 400 assassinations of Palestinians in countries such as France, Cyprus, Greece, Belgium, Italy, Norway, Brazil, Uruguay and elsewhere. Of course Israel also has an estimated 400 nuclear weapons.
Alongside the massive USA subvention of $3.8 billion a year provided to Israel and overwhelmingly spent on arms, the Trump administration moved to establish a United States writ for the Middle East. The Monroe Doctrine adopted in 1823 was a clear statement that the USA regarded the American continents as part of their backyard. President Trump reaffirmed US commitment to the Monroe Doctrine in a speech at the United Nations in 2017. The Abraham Accords, negotiated by Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner and Kushner’s assistant Avi Berkowitz, is the Middle East equivalent of the Monroe Doctrine and represents a further step in the implementation of the “Clean Break” strategy. The Accords state that it is based on mutual recognition of “the importance of maintaining and strengthening peace in the Middle East and around the world based on mutual understanding and coexistence, as well as respect for human dignity and freedom, including religious freedom”. It makes no mention of the Palestinians and serves the sole purpose of legitimating the USA’s role in the region as the arbiter of any political developments. It commits those who sign it to coordinated action and, in so doing, draws a sharp line between them and Iran.
Although not formally a member of NATO, Israel is to all intents and purposes part of it, engaged in regional joint operations. The USA-Israel links also expand to Britain’s relationship with Israel. The 2030 UK-Israel roadmap (sic), adopted on March 21st this year, pledges both countries to expand economic and regional cooperation based on the Abraham Accords. Like the Balfour Declaration, this roadmap makes no mention of Palestinian political rights nor the right to self-determination. It is a 21st Century rehash of that early imperialist betrayal; London coat-tailing Washington.
The Abraham Accords are a dagger pointed at the heart of any future Arab Spring that threatens to dislodge the reactionary regimes that follow Washington’s line or indeed challenge the interests of US capital in the area. It is certainly not in the interests of the Palestinian people and, I would argue, strategically it is not in the long-term interests of Israeli citizens to allow the USA to determine the political future of the region.
Bernard Regan, The Balfour Declaration: Empire, Mandate and Resistance in Palestine, (Verso, 2018)