An intriguing but problematic article about the American imperium in the Middle East appeared recently in Israel, titled “The Coming Pax Americana.”Efraim Halevy, “The Coming Pax Americana,” Ha’aretz, April 23, 2004. Its author is none other than Efraim Halevy, former head of the Mossad and national-security advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Halevy, who served forty years in the Mossad, is obviously a man of considerable standing, since the Mossad is a key agency for the Israeli state. As Middle East analyst Patrick Seale points out, “There is hardly a country in the world where secret intelligence has played — and continues to play — a greater role than in Israel, ever since the creation of the state in 1948, and also in the long years leading up to statehood. Israel has long relied on covert intelligence operations to subvert, destabilize, and divide its neighbours, and has not hesitated to murder its Arab political opponents.”Patrick Seale, “The World View of an Israeli Spymaster,” Agence Global, April 29, 2005.
So when a Mossadist speaks, people listen — even if he’s an “ex-Mossadist” (assuming there is such a thing). Of course, since part of the motto of the Mossad is “By way of deception,” the truth content of such speech can never be completely discerned: How much is true, and how much is disinformation directed toward achieving some policy objective? Nonetheless, Halevy goes far toward confirming the thesis of the neocon/Israel connection to the American war agenda.
In the main, Halevy’s essay is a celebration of American actions in the Middle East to weaken Iraq, Syria, and Iran — actions that reflect the geostrategic goals of Israel. And Halevy views favorably the likelihood that the United States will maintain a long-term military occupation of the Middle East: “There is a good possibility that Iraq will not be the last country in the region that will require a lengthy American military presence. The U.S. campaign in Iraq was perceived as a signal of long-term American commitment to do whatever is required and to stay in the ‘neighborhood’ for as long as needed.”
Halevy expresses admiration for the American policy toward Iran and acknowledges the benefits that accrue to Israel from it, saying that “it is possible that the favorable surprise of the years ahead will be nothing less than the containment of Iran and the neutralization of the danger it poses to Israel — without Israel’s having to consider whether to cope alone in the face of what it justly construes as the potential of a genuine existential threat.” Israel sees Iran as its greatest external threat because the latter is believed to be striving to develop nuclear weapons that would eliminate Israel’s Middle East nuclear monopoly, which serves as the linchpin for its dominant position in the region.Stephen J. Sniegoski, “The future of the global War on Terror: Next stop, Iran,” The Last Ditch, October 14, 2004.
Halevy also heaps praise on “Washington’s behavior toward Syria [which] demonstrates its determination not to accept Syria’s continued ‘rampage’ in Lebanon — or anywhere else, for that matter. After the flames of democratization start to singe the corners of the kingdom in Damascus, the days of the minority Alawi regime will be numbered.”
However, in Halevy’s view the United States has yet to earn high marks for its policy toward Saudi Arabia (another country targeted by neocons and IsraelSniegoski, “The war on Iraq: Conceived in Israel,” Part 4, The Last Ditch, February 10, 2003.) because Washington has yet to turn up the pressure on that kingdom. “Whereas the United States has been able to articulate a clear policy toward some of the countries in the region, including Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon,” Halevy writes, “it has found it difficult to formulate a holistic policy toward Saudi Arabia.” Washington’s failure to adopt an appropriately hard line toward the Saudis is “due mainly to the Americans’ economic dependence on the vast oil reserves of the Arabian Peninsula.”
But American inaction toward Saudi Arabia, Halevy insists, is about to come to a tumultuous end. He forecasts a number of terrifying scenarios, such as the establishment of an “Al-Qaida state” or the disintegration of the country into a number of “parallel regimes in different regions.” Halevy correctly observes that any such dire developments would stem directly from existing American military intervention, which has exacerbated Islamic radicalism, not ameliorated it. According to Halevy, “well-informed” American observers have told him that, because of America’s dependence on Saudi oil, such developments would give the United States “no choice but to deepen its presence in the Middle East.”
Such expanded American intervention could not rely on Donald Rumsfeld’s vaunted sleek, high-tech military but would require much greater military manpower. The need for increased manpower has become a fundamental neocon theme, championed especially by Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standard, and the Project for a New American Century (PNAC)Project for a New American Century, “Letter to Congress on Increasing U.S. Ground Forces,” January 28, 2005.. Now, the only way Washington could sufficiently expand its troop strength would be through conscription. Halevy does not blink in the face of that fact, writing that the U.S. government “will have to renew the draft, to ensure that there are enough forces to deal with developing situations in countries like Saudi Arabia.”
Without explicitly saying so, Halevy connects American neoconservatives with “the shapers” of the Bush administration’s policies. He pointedly cites Bill Kristol saying that the United States plans to maintain a military presence in the region for ten years and more.
While on board with the neocons’ strategic targets, Halevy properly looks askance at the neocons’ nostrum of democracy. American efforts at democratization will not necessarily bring about good results for America or result in actual democracy, Halevy points out: “Few of the countries in Israel’s part of the world have succeeded in shaping a national identity capable of overcoming the local tribal and religious affiliations.” He describes the much-ballyhooed election in Iraq as basically a transfer of power from the Sunnis to the Shi’ites: “What happened in practice is that the ethno-religious communities seized control of the democratic process, and the outcome of the elections reflects the numerical balance of forces between them.” And he claims that in most Middle Eastern countries, “an attempt at Iraqi-style democratization will place power in the hands of religious-tribal entities” and likely “topple regimes that identify with the United States and with the West in general.”
Halevy actually discounts the value of the democratization process as a method of combating Islamic terrorism: “It is highly doubtful that dressing Middle Eastern countries in democratic garb, in the circumstances I have described, will help them in their fateful battle against Al-Qaida and similar groups.” In light of that observation, it is interesting that Israel has actually sought the very destabilization and fragmentation that the American promotion of democracy will worsen.
While Halevy fully endorses American hegemony in the Middle East, he ends his essay questioning whether it would ultimately be of benefit to Israel. Halevy holds that in the process of gaining allies in its imperial venture the United States might find it necessary to placate the Arabs by supporting the Palestinian cause. He even claims that “President Bush is relentlessly promoting the road map, which he views as an important instrument to execute his policy.”
The “road map” for peace is a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict first broached by President Bush in a speech of June 24, 2002, in which he called for an independent Palestinian state “living side by side in peace and security” with Israel; the “map” was then formally proposed by a “quartet” of international entities: the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations.
Halevy claims that in the process of promoting the road map, the United States has become the “exclusive arbiter in all issues of the conflict and in the future will make it impossible for Israel to exert pressure on the Palestinians in relation to subjects on which the Americans adopt the Palestinian position.” He also expresses the fear that Israel will not always be favored by the United States. “The assumption that the United States will always reject Saudi or Egyptian or Palestinian approaches that are not acceptable to Israel requires proof,” Halevy asserts. “If there are developments in the region that adversely affect the situation of the United States to the point where it must repay one of the countries of the Arab world, or if the United States is asked to intervene in Saudi Arabia or in the northern system and feels it must prove that it is not facing off frontally against the Arab world, there are clauses in the road map that will make it possible for Washington to accept a particular Arab position without departing from the road map.”
Can Halevy be sincere about the American Middle East imperium’s actually being harmful, ultimately, to the interests of Israel? It is true that Halevy has been critical of Sharon’s disengagement process. In fact he left his post as Sharon’s national security advisor because of his differences on that issue. But is there any reason to believe that any actions undertaken in pursuit of the disengagement policy so far have actually harmed Israel?
The Israelis — we must keep in mind — believe the Palestinians threaten the survival of the exclusivist Jewish state by virtue of their very existence. Support for the retention of the West Bank transcends religion and ideology. Jews of various viewpoints believe that the land and its resources, especially water, is absolutely vital for the survival of Israel. Even Benny Morris, the leader of Israel’s “new historians” (who acknowledge much of the truth about the Zionist takeover of Palestine), advocates Jewish settlement and control of the region. “This land is so small,” Morris proclaimed, “that there isn’t room for two peoples. In fifty or a hundred years, there will only be one state between the sea and the Jordan. That state must be Israel.”Quoted in Norman Finkelstein, Part II — “An introduction to the Israel-Palestine conflict,” From Occupied Palestine, September 2002.
It is highly unlikely that Israel (and its American neocon supporters) would promote an American foreign interventionist policy in the Middle East to eliminate Iraq (hardly a lethal threat to Israel), if that American presence would really undermine the Jewish state. And even if those partisans were ignorant of the ramifications of such a policy, it boggles the mind to think that the head of the Mossad would be fooled.
Halevy himself was one of the major Israeli proponents of the American war against Middle East “terrorism.” In June 2002, while director of the Mossad, he informed a closed meeting of the NATO Alliance Council in Brussels that the September 11 attacks had been “an official and biting declaration of World War III.” Halevy emphasized that no distinction should be made between the various terrorist groups — they should be treated as one. He bemoaned the fact that countries that backed terrorism in support of the Palestinians were not being opposed by the world community: “So, it is possible for Syria, which gives protection to these groups, to receive a seat as a respected member of the security council, and its representative even serves this month as Chairman of the council, and this at the very time when the Palestinian Islamic Jihad sent a suicide attacker to blow up a bus in the north of Israel, and caused the killing of around twenty people.”
All Middle East terrorism should be considered the same, Halevy announced, and that should apply to those groups that focused solely on Israel:
My appeal to you, here today, is that the attempts to differentiate and distinguish between colours and targets of Islamic terror are quickly losing their relevancy. Why? First of all because of the extent and the intensity of these terror actions. They are no longer limited to specific areas in the world…. Secondly, the operation of suicides in New York, Washington, or Jerusalem, is the manifestation of a ‘modus operandi’ that is motivated not only by professional efficacy, but by its being perfectly fitted ideologically and religiously. Therefore the method has attained transcendental, supernatural meaning.Efraim Halevy, “On September 11 World War III Started,” Yediot Ahronot, posted at Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, June 28, 2002.
Moreover, Halevy trumpeted the bogus WMD stories that provided the justification for the American attack on Iraq, maintaining that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and was renewing its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. He declared that
as you know, on the eve of the Gulf War, Iraq was on the verge of attaining nuclear capability…. Starting from 1998, the year in which the UN monitoring was halted, we must assume that the Iraqis renewed their efforts in this area; we have clear indications that this is what has happened, and it is their great and unshakeable ambition. Together with these efforts, we have reason to believe that the Iraqis have succeeded in preserving parts of their capability in the fields of biological and chemical warfare. We have partial evidence that they have renewed production of VX and perhaps even anthrax germs…. They have produced large quantities of nerve gas of the Sarin type (GB) and in recent years they are working hard on producing VX nerve gas.James Bamford, A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies (New York: Doubleday, 2004), p. 311; “Who did it? Foreign Report presents an alternative view,” Foreign Report, Jane’s, September 19, 2001; and Halevy, “On September 11 World War III Started.”
So in 2002 Halevy was advocating the type of comprehensive American war against all of Islam that he now sees being implemented. Halevy is undoubtedly a bright man. He had access to the intelligence product of what is generally considered the greatest spy agency in the world, and he certainly could understand the implications of the policy he was advocating. It beggars belief that he would promote a policy that would ultimately undermine Israel itself. And one would think that if that were a possible outcome, Halevy would stop promoting the American Middle East imperium now! If such an imperium threatens a disastrous outcome for the Israelis, one cannot understand why he simply tacked his warning onto the end of his article instead of making it the principal theme — that is, if he really believed what he wrote.
Halevy certainly displayed a less than granite respect for the truth when he used the WMD fables to gain the necessary public support for the American attack on Iraq. It turns out that some of the spurious intelligence exploited by the United States came directly from Israel, as was shown in a study by Shlomo Brom, a senior researcher at one of Israel’s leading think tanks, the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.Mark Lavie, “General: Israelis Exaggerated Iraq Threat,” New York Post, December 4, 2003; and Laura King, “Ex-General Says Israel Inflated Iraqi Threat,” Los Angeles Times, December 5, 2003, posted at Common Dreams. Note: Possible copyright violation. A special panel of the Israeli Knesset investigated and confirmed the charge that Israeli intelligence services had greatly exaggerated the Iraqi WMD threat. Yossi Sarid, a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, charged that Israeli intelligence had deliberately misled the United States.Bamford, p. 310.
In short, as chief of the Mossad, Halevy tailored intelligence information to advance the objective of Israel — an American war on Iraq. Is there any reason to assume that, in writing his article on the coming Pax Americana, he would not aim at advancing other objectives of Israel?
To try to ascertain the truthfulness of Halevy’s claim that the American imperium will hurt Israel, it is necessary to look at the specifics of Sharon’s disengagement policy, and the American acceptance of his actions. Obviously, Sharon recognized the reality of the Palestinian demographic threat. Israel cannot continue as a Jewish state ruling over millions of Palestinians and still maintain its democratic image in the world. Nor could Israel get away with outraging world opinion by immediately expelling the Palestinians, as some on the Israeli hard Right would like.
What, then, constitutes Sharon’s disengagement policy? Israel settlers will evacuate settlements from Gaza and the northern parts of the West Bank, but most Jewish settlers on the West Bank will remain. Meanwhile, Israel’s program of intensive housing construction in a corridor connecting Jerusalem to the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim is effectively cutting the West Bank in half, allowing Israel to control Palestinian movement from one part of their country to another, while isolating East Jerusalem from the rest of Palestinian territory. Since a substantial part of the Palestinian economy is centered on Jerusalem and its tourism, Sharon’s plan effectively eliminates the potential productive capability of the envisioned Palestinian “state,” rendering it an economically non-viable set of non-contiguous Bantustans surrounded by the “security” wall.
Moreover, the plan leaves the control of such vital elements as water, airspace, communications, and borders in the hands of Israel. The fact that the state of Palestine would depend on Israel for the water its people needed to survive (even though the water would come from the aquifer under the West Bank) would nullify even the tiniest trace of sovereign statehood. For the Palestinian people, their economically non-viable “state” would be more like a prison than a real country.
CIA analyst Kathleen Christison concludes that the implicit goal of the disengagement plan is the gradual removal of the Palestinian population:
Sharon’s actual long-term intent is to make life so miserable for the Palestinians that those left in the small remnants of their territory will simply gradually filter out. This process may take a while, but Sharon is pragmatic and therefore patient — he and his countrymen have already been waiting 2,000 years to take this land — and it is already beginning to happen in any case. The wall has already turned some of the West Bank cities that it most affects into virtual ghost towns as residents move into the interior where some kind of livelihood might be possible. Sharon and his right wing can wait before he needs to squeeze them further.Kathleen Christison, “Sharon’s 92 Percent Solution: How the Misperceptions Roll On,” CounterPunch, April 21, 2005.
How could all these circumstances obtain if George W. Bush were “relentlessly” pushing the road map to establish a bona fide Palestinian state, as Halevy opines? At most, the United States has expressed displeasure with Israel’s actions. But Washington has never translated its purported displeasure into any effort to pressure Israel to change.
In fact, Bush has even explicitly gone over to Israel’s side on the critical issue of territorial control. On April 15, 2004, Bush actually endorsed Sharon’s unilateral decision to retain major Jewish population centers in the West Bank, declaring that
in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.
That endorsement would seem to allow Israel to hold on to any territory Sharon desires in the West Bank — and the larger the Jewish “population centers,” the more justification for the Israeli land grab. In supporting Israeli designs to annex the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank, President Bush essentially abrogated UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, which called upon Israel to relinquish the Palestinian territories conquered in the 1967 war in exchange for peace; that demand had been considered the basis for any negotiations. Moreover, Bush’s announcement effectively repudiated the road map, which demanded that building in the settlements be frozen and that the issue of borders be determined by negotiations between Israel and Palestine.Stephen Zunes, “Bush Endorsement of Sharon Proposal Undermines Peace and International Law,” GlobalSecurity.com, April 26, 2004. By legitimizing Sharon’s “new realities on the ground,” Bush has, perhaps unwittingly, precluded the possibility of creating a viable Palestinian state. As is apparent from all of this, Halevy’s claim that Bush has been “relentlessly promoting” the road map is just so much malarkey.
It might be argued that things would change with the consolidation of America’s Middle East imperium. But exactly who is around in the Bush administration to push concessions that would better reflect the road map? Secretary of State Colin Powell was the road map’s only major champion inside the Bush administration; and he is gone. His replacement, Condoleezza Rice, is a foreign-policy lightweight. Rumsfeld famously referred to the territories as “so-called occupied territories.” Dick Cheney has generally toed the Likudnik line, as a longtime board member of such staunchly pro-Israeli right-wing organizations as the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs (JINSA). And, obviously, the Likudnik-oriented neocons in the Bush administration would never pressure Israel to make real concessions to the Palestinians.
It was Cheney and the neocons who played the major role in establishing the American war agenda in the Middle East. Even Halevy seems to acknowledge that the neocons were the “shapers” of American policy. The Bush modus operandi has been to follow their policy. There is no evidence that Bush has a sufficiently clear grasp of the intricacies of the Palestinian/Israeli issue to be able to fashion an actual policy by himself. Bush’s declarations, whoever wrote them, don’t suggest that his administration would ever really pursue a policy contrary to Israel’s wishes.
But what about outside pressure? Will threats to the Middle Eastern oil supply eventually force the United States to placate Arab interests by supporting the Palestinians, as Halevy implies? If the Saudis cannot prevail upon Washington to pursue a more favorable policy to the Palestinians under stable conditions, it is hard to believe that they would wield more clout while at the same time begging the United States to preserve their very survival against radical Islamic forces. By the same token, America’s puppet governments, such as the one in Iraq, created and sustained by American arms, would hardly be in a position to exert pressure on their American protectors!
And what about the Palestinians? American military intervention in the Middle East has already eliminated much of their outside support. With that support crushed, the Palestinians would hardly be in an improved position to resist whatever offer Israel might be willing to make.
It is not likely that Washington could ever establish the sort of firm imperium that Halevy envisions. If the United States can’t control Iraq, how could it control the rest of the Middle East? The United States can certainly eliminate regimes and fragment Middle East countries, but there is no reason to believe that it can maintain a consolidated empire. Halevy proposes a military draft to secure the necessary manpower for such a massive undertaking. But one wonders whether a return to conscription in the United States is politically possible.
Turmoil and fragmentation appears to be the limit of what Washington can achieve. Its military intervention radicalizes more Muslims, inspiring them to destabilize the existing more moderate, pro-Western governments, as Halevy recognizes. What Halevy does not reveal, however, is that such destabilization of the Middle East is exactly what Likudnik thinkers have long planned for, going back at least to Oded Yinon in the early 1980s.Sniegoski, “The Israeli origins of Bush II’s war,” The Last Ditch, April 24, 2005.
Halevy seems to have produced an example of what the great revisionist historian Harry Elmer Barnes classified as a “smother-out.” That is, Halevy candidly acknowledges some truths that run contrary to war-party orthodoxy — that the neocons promoted and the Israelis supported the Bush II war agenda; that democracy is not a panacea for the Middle East; that American intervention enhances the power of Islamic radicalism. Those truths infuse Halevy’s piece with an aura of authenticity, which prevent it from being written off as a piece of blatant Israeli propaganda. But then he slips in the major falsehood: that as a result of its military presence in the Middle East, the United States will side with the Palestinians in their dispute with Israel. In so doing, Halevy “smothers out” the fact that the overriding purpose and effect of the neocon-directed Bush II Middle East foreign policy have been to advance the security interests of Israel.
One can understand why ultra-religious Jews and the hard Right oppose Sharon’s disengagement plan: they are religiously or ideologically committed to a Jewish state that encompasses the entire occupied territory, and they are unwilling to allow anything to deviate from their fervent goal of “Eretz Israel.” But one suspects that Mossadist Halevy is guided by geostrategic thinking, not religion or free-floating ideology.
Whatever Halevy’s true thinking on the Israel/Palestine issue, it is apparent that his claim that Israel will ultimately suffer from the Pax Americana serves to advance vital Israeli interests. It operates as perfect disinformation, in the sort of approach one might expect from a man who served a lifetime in the Mossad. Given clever marketing, the notion that an American Middle East empire would ultimately mean justice for the Palestinians might succeed in generating support for U.S. intervention from Arabs and other people not in Israel’s camp.
 Stephen J. Sniegoski, “The future of the global War on Terror: Next stop, Iran,” The Last Ditch, October 14, 2004.
 Project for a New American Century, “Letter to Congress on Increasing U.S. Ground Forces,” January 28, 2005.
 Quoted in Norman Finkelstein, Part II — “An introduction to the Israel-Palestine conflict,” From Occupied Palestine, September 2002.
 James Bamford, A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies (New York: Doubleday, 2004), p. 311; “Who did it? Foreign Report presents an alternative view,” Foreign Report, Jane’s, September 19, 2001; and Halevy, “On September 11 World War III Started.”
 Mark Lavie, “General: Israelis Exaggerated Iraq Threat,” New York Post, December 4, 2003; and Laura King, “Ex-General Says Israel Inflated Iraqi Threat,” Los Angeles Times, December 5, 2003, posted at Common Dreams. Note: Possible copyright violation.
 Bamford, p. 310.
 Kathleen Christison, “Sharon’s 92 Percent Solution: How the Misperceptions Roll On,” CounterPunch, April 21, 2005.
 Stephen Zunes, “Bush Endorsement of Sharon Proposal Undermines Peace and International Law,” GlobalSecurity.com, April 26, 2004.
 Joachim Hoffmann, Stalin’s War of Extermination, 1941-1945 (Capeshaw, Ala.: Thesis and Dissertation Press, 2001); R.C. Raack, Stalin’s Drive to the West, 1938-1945: the Origins of the Cold War (Palo Alto, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1995).
Moreover, the staunch opposition to Sharon’s disengagement plan on the part of Halevy and the Israeli Right surrounds the plan with the aura of concession and compromise. Indeed, given the actual specifics of Sharon’s plan, only the existence of such vocal opposition could possibly deceive anyone into thinking that Israel was making concessions to the Palestinians and that Sharon, once the epitome of relentless belligerency, had miraculously metamorphosed into a crusader for compromise and peace. That is no less fantastic than the belief prevalent in the West during World War II that Stalin had abandoned Communist “world revolution” because of his emphasis on “socialism in one country.” His successful propaganda enabled Stalin to gain substantial support from the capitalist nations and enormously expand the Soviet empire as a result of World War II — a war that recent works have shown was actually sought and abetted by Stalin to achieve his imperial aims.
Sharon simply realizes that a more indirect route is the only way to success. And, so far, American policy has brought Sharon nothing but success in advancing Israel’s geostrategic goals — goals that have been laid out for years. If influential people can be made to believe that Israel is actually suffering as a result of American policy, so much the better. To quote the entirety of the Mossad’s motto: “By way of deception, thou shalt do war.”