‘Kissinger Wasn’t Really Seeking Peace’ in 1973, New Book Claims

WASHINGTON – It was in February 1973, just eight months before the Yom Kippur War. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat sent his national security adviser to Washington to meet with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
“He sent it out with a far-reaching peace initiative and a sense of urgency,” Martin Indyk said. “If Kissinger had taken that idea and carried it out, it is possible that the war would have been avoided. Much has been written about the role that Golda Meir played in blocking these initiatives during that period, but Kissinger’s role is unknown. “

This is one of the stories described in Indyk’s new book, Game master (Knopf). The book details the history of Henry Kissinger’s diplomatic negotiations in the Middle East “that illuminates the unique challenges and barriers that Kissinger and his successors have faced in their attempts to negotiate peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and what lessons we could draw from. for the future”. . “

Indyk is a distinguished member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former US Ambassador to Israel, Under Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and Special Assistant to President Clinton. He served as President Obama’s special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations from July 2013 to June 2014.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (right) and US Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Martin Indyk converse at Les Tuilleries in Paris on September 8, 2013 (credit: REUTERS / SUSAN WALSH / POOL)

After the collapse of the last round of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in 2014, Indyk decided to go back and analyze Kissinger’s career, through extensive archival research.

“I discovered along the way that there was a large amount of material in the archives,” he said. “[Kissinger] everything documented: every phone call, every conversation, every meeting; and 95% of that has been declassified. ”In addition, he interviewed Kissinger about 12 times for the book.

Did you discover something new along the way?

“The big revelation to me that emerged from the study of his diplomacy was that Kissinger was not really seeking peace. [between Israel and Egypt]. The peace process that he initiated was to stabilize the US-dominated order in the region which, from his point of view, was more important because he viewed peace with considerable skepticism, from his own experience of appeasement before World War II and his own. study of history. He had come to believe that the pursuit of peace with too much passion and energy could accomplish the exact opposite. Could destabilize order [in the region]. So, for him, peace was more of a problem than a solution. And his opinion was that the peace process that was necessary to stabilize order, he did it incremental, step by step.

“He persuaded the Israeli government to trade parts of the territory occupied in 1967 for time,” Indyk continued. “Territory for time, not territory for peace. Time to exhaust the Arabs. For them to accept Israel and be willing to live in peace with Israel, he believed that it would take Israel a long time to reduce its isolation and increase its strength.

“ONE THING I discovered from the archives was the opportunity Kissinger lost in 1974, after he negotiated the Israel-Egypt separation agreement, to negotiate a separation agreement between Israel and Jordan, which would have returned Jordan to the West Bank and created the framework for solving the Palestinian problem in a Jordanian context, ”Indyk said.

“The Jordanians were very interested in re-establishing themselves in the West Bank,” he said. “And the Israelis, first of all, Golda, although at the time it was a provisional government, they were eager to compromise with the king and had a series of secret negotiations.” Kissinger was informed of these negotiations, but did not become involved in them.

“As a large part of the Jordanians tried to get him involved, he repeatedly told the Israelis: ‘It’s up to you, I’m not going to pressure you. I’m not getting involved. ‘

Kissinger was not involved, Indyk explains, because he was focused on getting Egypt out of the conflict with Israel.

“His focus was on the order. That was like a cornerstone of the US-led order that he created. You take Egypt out of the conflict, you transform the conflict; it is no longer possible for the Arab states to wage war ”.

What has changed in the last 50 years when it comes to Israel’s position in the region?

“What has changed is exactly what Kissinger predicted; that eventually, the Arab states would come to accept Israel. And the Abrahamic Accords are the ultimate fulfillment of that. When the Emiratis justified recognizing Israel, they said they were exhausted by the conflict. Exactly the concept that Kissinger had hoped would happen. “

The book was published during a tense week for the relationship between the United States and Israel, after the State Department criticized the designation of six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist groups and rejected it after the Israeli announcement of 3,000 homes in the West Bank.

“Kissinger liked to say that Israel has no foreign policy, there is only domestic policy,” Indyk said. “And this Israeli government is capable of playing that internal political card in Washington, arguing that if they pressure us or try to restrict us, the government will fall, and that is a pretty good argument to make in Washington.

“The Biden administration is willing to give the government some leeway for that reason,” Indyk continued. “But I think the settlement announcements that were made this week, which include large-scale construction in settlements that are far beyond the blocks, these things were beyond what the administration can accept. They are not pressuring Israel to take an initiative, and they are not going to do things that test the coalition, ”Indyk said. “In return, in my opinion, it is reasonable that they expect the coalition to act sparingly. And the settlement activity that has been announced here is not acting in moderation. “

However, he noted that the Biden administration does not want to get into a fight over the settlements.

“It has much bigger fish to fry: climate change, China, Russia, domestic agenda,” Indyk said. “Their interests in the region in general, and in Israel in particular, is to calm things down so they can focus elsewhere.”


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