Mid-East Realities - MER - www.MiddleEast.Org - 6 June 2004: The seeds for the Intifada and for Israel's increasingly aggressive escalating occupation of and dispossession of the Palestinian people were sown in the years of the Reagan Presidency. Indeed it was Ronald Reagan who first brought what we today call the "neocons" to power in Washington, and the right-wing Republicans who forged such a close alliance with the Israeli Likud of Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, and Ariel Sharon which had come to power in Israel in 1977 for the first time.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter had personally promised Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at Camp David in 1978 that all Israeli settlements would be ended and a real Palestinian State established in his second term. That political fact, coupled with the billions yearly in what became a kind of "bribe money", was what got the Egyptians to sign the peace agreement with Israel against considerable opposition including the resignation of the Egyptian Foreign Minister. At that time, with only 40,000 settlers and far less of an apartheid-structure in place, a real Palestinian State, however limited in territory from the original boundaries of Palestine, was possible, unlike today.
But instead of the plan envisioned but not seriously pursued by Carter, when Reagan came to power the Israelis greatly escalated the settlements, Anwar Sadat was assassinated, and the Israeli/American invasion of Lebanon ensued.
The 1982 invasion/occupation of Lebanon led in fact to the rise of Hezbollah, the phenomena of suicide bombers, and then to the Palestinian Intifada. In those years, few now remember, Iraq, with Saddam Hussein already in charge, was being financed and armed by the United States. Indeed it was Israel along with the Saudis and Kuwaitis who pushed the Americans to instigate the Iraqi attack on Iran in a major attempt to remake the Middle East region at that time by installing pro-U.S. and pro-Israeli regimes in Iran and Lebanon.
Though this gambit in the end failed, "Iran-Contra", the "arms for hostages" scandal of that era, almost brought about the downfall of the Reagan regime at the time. And it was the policies pursued in those years that then led to the first Gulf War, to Israel's escalating attempts to surround and barricade the Palestinian population areas, to sanctions against Iraq as it attempted to arm against Israel and regional enemies, and eventually to the greatly more destructive Intifada II and the U.S. invasion/occupation of Iraq in the neo-Reagan years now presided over by the son of Reagan's Vice-President.
The "Reagan Plan" for the Middle East was heralded by much secret manuevering highlighted by this public speech on 1 September 1982. Soon to follow were the historic massacres in the Lebanon refugee camps, overseen by non-other-than General Ariel Sharon, the assassination of the Bashir Gemayal, Israel's choice as the new President of Lebanon, naval shelling of Lebanon by the U.S. fleet, and the suicide bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine Corps barracks which led to the U.S. military withdrawal from Lebanon and the abortion of the attempt to remake Lebanon as a U.S./Israeli client-regime and protectorate.
Reagan's speech in 1982, as these excerpts make evident, was double-talk and cover-up then, just as so much that has followed from Washington, including during the Clinton years. In this important sense, little has changed in Washington. But in the Middle East itself, the seeds of despair, hatred, and double-cross sown at that time are continuing to grow.
President Ronald Reagan Declared in 1982:
No Palestinian State, No return to '67 borders, Undivided Israeli Jerusalem
Excerpts from President Ronald Reagan's Address to the Nation on United States Policy for Peace in the Middle East - September 1, 1982
My fellow Americans:
Today has been a day that should make us proud. It marked the end of the
successful evacuation of PLO from Beirut, Lebanon. This peaceful step could
never have been taken without the good offices of the United States and
especially the truly heroic work of a great American diplomat, Ambassador
When our administration assumed office in January of 1981, I decided that
the general framework for our Middle East policy should follow the broad
guidelines laid down by my predecessors.
The time has come for a new realism on the part of all the peoples of the
Middle East. The State of Israel is an accomplished fact; it deserves
unchallenged legitimacy within the community of nations. But Israel's
legitimacy has thus far been recognized by too few countries and has been
denied by every Arab State except Egypt. Israel exists; it has a right to
exist in peace behind secure and defensible borders; and it has a right to
demand of its neighbors that they recognize those facts.
I have personally followed and supported Israel's heroic struggle for
survival, ever since the founding of the State of Israel 34 years ago. In
the pre-1967 borders Israel was barely 10 miles wide at its narrowest point.
The bulk of Israel's population lived within artillery range of hostile Arab
armies. I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again.
Beyond the transition period, as we look to the future of the West Bank and
Gaza, it is clear to me that peace cannot be achieved by the formation of an
independent Palestinian state in those territories, nor is it achievable on
the basis of Israeli sovereignty or permanent control over the West Bank and
Gaza. So, the United States will not support the establishment of an
independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, and we will not
support annexation or permanent control by Israel.
Finally, we remain convinced that Jerusalem must remain undivided, but its
final status should be decided through negotiation.
Tonight, on the eve of what can be a dawning of new hope for the people of
the troubled Middle East -- and for all the world's people who dream of a
just and peaceful future -- I ask you, my fellow Americans, for your support
and your prayers in this great undertaking.
Thank you, and God bless you.
Note: President Reagan spoke at 6 p.m. from the studios of KNBC - TV in
Burbank, Calif. The address was broadcast live on nationwide radio and
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