The American leadership is mistakenly “painting Israel into a corner,” as it did during a 1975 confrontation between the two countries, Yehuda Avner, who was an adviser to then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin at the time of the crisis, said Monday.
Ambassador to the US Michael Oren was quoted as telling Israeli consuls general on a conference call Saturday night that the current crisis with the US was the worst since the 1975 confrontation between then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Rabin over an American demand for a partial withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula.
Avner said he did not have enough inside information about the current crisis to compare the two. But he compared the language of Kissinger 35 years ago to that of current US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who he said spoke in a manner that was more emotional than diplomatic.
“The US must never create a situation in which Israel sees itself as being abandoned, because it encourages belligerence on the other side and inflexibility on the Israeli side,” Avner said. “If the US wishes to advance a peace process, it must never paint Israel into a corner as it did by calling Ramat Shlomo a settlement. What’s needed now on all sides is constructive ambiguity.”
Avner, who worked under four Israeli prime ministers, recalled the details of the 1975 crisis, which he recounts in his new book The Prime Ministers.
He said the March 1975 incident erupted when Kissinger demanded that Israel give up the Jidda and Mitla passes in the Sinai, and Rabin refused. Because of his refusal, Kissinger left a meeting with Rabin in anger and accused Israel of “shattering the cause of peace.”
At the height of the confrontation between the two men, Kissinger told Rabin: “You will be responsible for the destruction of the third Jewish commonwealth,” and Rabin replied, “You will be judged not by American history but by Jewish history.”
Avner said he hoped the current crisis would be resolved as successfully.
Then American president Gerald Ford wrote Rabin a fiercely worded
letter that Avner said was among “the most brutal” Israel had received
from the US.
“I wish to express my profound disappointment of Israel’s attitude over
the course of the negotiations,” Ford wrote. “You know the importance I
have attached to the US efforts to reach an agreement. Kissinger’s
mission, encouraged by your government, expresses vital US interests in
the region. Failure of the negotiations will have a far-reaching impact
on the region and our relation. I have therefore instructed that a
reassessment be made of US policy in the region, including our
relations with Israel with the aim of reassuring that our overall
American interests are protected.”
Within six months, Kissinger succeeded in brokering an interim accord
between Rabin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat whereby Israel agreed
to pull back its forces out of the Jidda and Mitla passes but retained
the heights above them while American forces were stationed in the
Avner said that since that compromise was reached, no Israeli has been killed on the Israel-Egypt border.