Lately, when informed observers of U.S. Middle East policy discuss developments between Israel and the U.S., they often limit themselves to the difficulties of the eight Obama years. They forget the differences between the Israeli and American governments, specifically over policies towards the Palestinian Authority (and its predecessor, the Palestinian Liberation Organization), over the course of five successive presidencies.
Having run a news agency in the heart of Jerusalem for the past 30 years, my perspective on U.S.-Israel policy disagreements goes back 28, not eight, years.
The critical moment when a crisis of confidence became pronounced was when President Ronald Reagan recognized the PLO in December, 1988. This recognition ignored U.S. policy guidelines that made recognition of the PLO contingent on PLO acceptance of UN resolution 242, denouncement of violence, and recognition of Israel.
The new Reagan policy towards the PLO stood in sharp contrast to repeated declarations of Reagan’s Secretary of State George Schultz, who passionately denounced the PLO as an unrelenting terrorist organization that could never be trusted to make peace. With my own eyes, I watched Schultz lead AIPAC participants at the AIPAC conference in May 1987 in a chant of “Hell no, PLO.”
Within two days of Arafat mouthing symbolic words that denounced terrorism, the PLO issued continuing statements that this did not mean that the PLO would have to stop killing Jews to achieve its goals of Palestinian-Arab independence.
In December 1989, I asked Dr. Alan Keyes, a close Reagan adviser who served as Under Secretary of State for Interorganization Affairs and had an impeccable pro-Israel record, why the Reagan Administration turned on Israel in favor of the PLO.
Dr. Keyes gave a clear response: The Saudis were fearful that the PLO would organize an intifada-style resurrection in Saudi Arabia, with the PLO burning their oil fields and destabilizing the Arab and world economy.
In the interceding years, the US helped create the Palestinian Authority (PA), whose school system has indoctrinated more than one generation of Palestinian Arab children with the “values” of liberating all of Palestine by force of arms.