How Black September Helped to Cement the U.S.-Israel Alliance

Next Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of the Palestinian uprising in Jordan, and the accompanying wave of hijackings, that came to be known as Black September. In 1967, the Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser—looking for a way to strike back at Israel after losing the Six-Day War—had set the stage for the revolt by supporting Yasir Arafat in his takeover of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Under Arafat’s leadership, the group, based in Jordan, launched frequent guerrilla attacks against Israel—taking advantage of the weakness of the Jordanian monarchy. Sean Durns explains what happened next:

In November 1969, clashes erupted between Jordan’s army and the PLO. Low-level fighting went on intermittently for months with King Hussein still desperate to avoid a full-on confrontation. The king even sought to placate Arafat by offering him a government post, which he refused.

On September 1, 1970, shots were fired at Hussein’s motorcade. Five days later, Palestinian terrorists [affiliated with the PLO] hijacked three airplanes, two American and one Swiss. [Finally]. Hussein, belatedly, chose to act, deploying his troops to crush Arafat and his supporters. The PLO, in turn, called for the king’s overthrow. Pitched battles erupted on Jordan’s streets. Worse still, on September 19, elements of the Syrian military crossed Jordan’s northern border to assist the PLO fighters.

Washington saw Jordan was one of its few reliable allies in the region, in contrast to Soviet-backed Egypt and Syria. But, with its military bogged down in Vietnam, it was reluctant to heed Amman’s calls for help:

On September 20, Secretary of State Henry Kisssinger told Israel’s ambassador to the United States, the future prime minister Yitzḥak Rabin, that King Hussein had asked to have Israel’s air force attack the Syrian invaders. . . . Israel’s Prime Minister Golda Meir ordered the reconnaissance flights and Israel sent troops to its border with Syria. Israeli jets, meanwhile, flew low over Syrian tanks in Jordan—sending an unmistakable signal that Israel would intervene.

While the IDF never engaged the Syrians, its air cover was sufficient to allow Hussein’s forces to push them back; thereafter Jordan crushed the uprising and expelled the PLO to Lebanon. Both Amman and Washington learned that, rather than be a liability, Israeli military prowess could help them protect their interests and maintain stability.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Golda Meir, Henry Kissinger, Israeli history, Jordan, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy