UPON ANNOUNCEMENT of the Israeli-Egyptian agreement, a friend of mine, a businessman, commented that he wished he could have a percentage commission on peace agreements in the Middle East.
I saw what he meant. He would have been able to retire, based on what the United States Treasury (on behalf of the American taxpayer) has paid out for "peace" since 1975. We gave Israel at least $3.5 billion outright for the Sinai II agreement in 1975, in return for its relinquishment of some 5 miles of the Sinai's desert. And good old Henry Kissinger also signed an agreement binding the United States to provide Israel with its oil supply should it ever subsequently be cut off. That was in return for giving Egypt back its oil fields.
This new treaty "breakthrough," as the press loves to call the agreement, will, as a one-shot deal, empty out some $5 billion in additional dollars from the U.S. Treasury, over and above the amount already going to Israel and Egypt. Exclusive of the peace dividends we have previously paid to Israel, Amercian have been sending about $1.1 billion a year to that country. And Egypt will come in for $1.5 billion over and above the economic aid already in their pipeline. One of the national TV networks has estimated the total cost of the agreement at $19 billion over the next five years, all of it underwritten by the hapless American taxpayer.
One can always argue that peace at any price is cheaper than war. But, as one commentator has put it, this is a peace treaty without peace. It is Israel's way to buy time and have someone else pay for it. The agreement has again severely polarized the Middle East, while at the same time putting into severe imbalance the power structure of the entire area. In less formal language, the agreement ensures that Israel will never again have to negotiate an agreement with Syria or Jordan of the Palestinians. Without Egypt to provide population and muscle to the Arab bloc, Isarel is now able, if it wants, to coerce and agreement, but it will never have to negotiate one.
THE ACT of brokering a separate peace between Isarel and Egypt was really obtainable without the intervention of the president of the United States. It is a peace treaty that over the years, Israel would have given anything to sign. It became one that Egypt gave up virtually everything to get. Thus, all of Carter's energy and prestige were expended on the least important Middle East issue - the Sinai - leaving the most important one - the Palestinians - for the parties to solve without the bargaining power Egypt's strength provides for the Arabs.
The proof of this lies in Prime Minister Begin's arrogant outburst before the Knesset, even before the treaty is signed, in which he has once again confirmed that Israel will never allow an independent Palestinian state. He has also laid out the terms for permanent Isareli occupation of the West Bank: "Autonomy for the people, but not for the West Bank." That is an ingenious way to justify illegal settlements in the occupied territories. Autonomy, as agreed upon by Carter, Sadat and Begin, means only that local Palestinian quislings, if any can be found, will be part of an administrative council, a local government, for the West Bank. Only one catch exists, however.Any decision taken by the new council must first be agreed upon by Isarel, which has promised to keep its troops in the West Bank to enforce its occupation.
Autonomy, then, is nothing more than an advertising man's catchword, which has no meaning. It is a word that is used to hide the real significance of this so-called peace treaty. It is similar to self-determination for the American Indians, who are told they can make their own decisions, except that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has the right of review and veto.
Resistance to the treaty and to the attempted con of the West Bank Palestinians is best summarized by the mayor of Hebron, who said last week, "Autonomy means only that the occupation will be permanent and legitimate. If I am to be occupied, I would prefer to have it down without my consent."
THE BIG THING about this peace treaty is that it deliberately ignores the real parties in interest, the Palestinians, who are represented by the Palestine Liberation Organization. Israel is at war with the Palestinians because they want a return of at least a part of their lands in order to organize a country of their own. Absent that, there will be no peace - only continued suffering by millions of homeless refugees, and an invitation to terrorism, which will then be piously denounced by those who are really responsible for it.
Readers should take note of who are the winners and who are the losers in this giant scam organized by President Carter. Clearly, Carter's electoral chances now are marginally brighter, making him a clear, if only a tempopary, winner. Begin's government has come out ahead by virtue of getting Carter to alienate Egypt from the Arab bloc-a feat that Israel could not do on its own over the last three decades. The additional billions of American tax money that will go to Israel are even more gravy. It is Carter's way of saying that illegal aggression pays. Why shouldn't Israel grab Arab land whenever it can if it is to be handsomely rewarded each time it does?
The losers not necessarily in order of priorty, are a comprehensive peace settlement, Palestinian self-determination, the Palestinian people, most likely the Lebanese once again, the entire Arab world, the American taxpayer and the shaky moral status of the United States. After all, how long can we maintain our moral stand and yet continue to underwrite physical and political abuse of Palestinians, territorial acquisition by force and continued aggression by Israel against its neighbors?