Remembering an American Scholar-Diplomat Who Saw the True Imbalance in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

On Saturday, the diplomat, scholar, and teacher Charles Hill died at the age of eighty-four. During his long career in public service, he served as an aide to Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz; he was also deputy director of the State Department’s Israel desk before serving as political counselor to the American embassy in Tel Aviv, then director of Israel and Arabi-Israeli affairs, and after that deputy assistant secretary for the Middle East. A reminiscence by the Mosaic contributor Eric Edelman can be found here; some recent articles by Hill here; and Hill’s reflections on war and human nature here. In this 2019 essay on the idea of “balance” in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Hill saw far beyond the usual complaints that the U.S. needs to take a more “balanced” approach to the Israeli-Arab conflict:

In the aftermath of the Six-Day War, . . . Arabs insisted that every aspect of the conflict be agreed upon all at once by all relevant parties, ideally at a huge international conference. To do anything less would besmirch Arab honor and be unacceptable to the Arab nation as a whole. Israelis recognized this as a lopsided approach that would overwhelm their interests entirely.

A state of Palestine, agreed up front, would transform the regional and international context. With such a decision, all other issues between Israel and Palestine would remain to be directly negotiated with one exception, also needed to restore balance: the Palestinian side would have to give up, in principle, their claim to the right of return; the Israeli side would give up, in principle, their claim to the right of settlement.

This is the fundamental trade-off between the two parties, but it has been kept deeply out of balance because of international pressure on Israel to concede its right without pressure on the Palestinians to match such a concession. With these two major decisions, a balance could enhance the possibility of positive negotiating outcomes on all other issues.

Read more at Caravan

More about: Diplomacy, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, U.S. Foreign policy


Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security