An Armenian Embassy in Tel Aviv: Melkonian Responds to Readers - Part 2
What follows is Markar Melkonian’s response to comments on his June 29 article titled An Armenian Embassy in Tel Aviv: Markar Melkonian Responds to Readers.
Israel Destabilizes the Region:
One of the commenters writes that this author “fails to explain how” the decision to open an Armenian embassy in Tel Aviv “is going to undermine Armenia’s security and destabilize the region.” In my initial 18 June posting (An Armenian Embassy in Tel Aviv), I presented several arguments supporting my claim, and in the last section of that article I summarized the conclusions: Those who made the embassy decision “have chosen to further isolate the country diplomatically, to compromise the security of our most helpful allies, to alienate our friends and strengthen the hand of our enemies, and to dramatically compromise diplomatic prospects for Artsakh.” This, I indicated, is how the embassy decision will undermine Armenia’s security and destabilize the region.
To confirm this explanation, readers may consult last week’s news. During a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on 24 June, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the Arab League, stated that Israel’s imminent official annexation of 30 percent of the West Bank would inflame tensions and endanger peace in the Middle East, and could ignite “a religious war in and beyond our region.” “If implemented,” the Secretary-General said, “Israeli annexation plans would not only be detrimental to the chances of peace today, but will destroy any prospects for peace in the future.” (https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-06-24/arab-league-israeli-annexation-could-ignite-a-religious-war) My contention is that the embassy decision might well further destabilize the region and thereby undermine Armenia’s security.
In a letter to the Security Council, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced that “unilateral annexation would inevitably have legal consequences for the international community’s relations with Israel.” Meanwhile, the Republic of Armenia and its sagacious Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, having chosen to draw closer to Israel, have sent the Republic of Armenia 180 degrees in the opposite direction of “the international community.” As usual, the population of Armenia, whose lives will be adversely affected, remain uninformed and in the dark.
In the 18 June article I mentioned Israel’s ongoing efforts to push the USA into war with Iran. If these efforts do not count as fomenting instability in the region, then I wonder what does. But it seems that, for some defenders of the embassy decision, that is not enough evidence of Israeli destabilization of the region. So, within the limits of space that this opinion-and-comment format provides, I will present more evidence.
For starters, let us review a timeline of the eight regional wars that Israel has provoked since its founding. The years of these wars were: 1948-9; 1956; 1967; 1967-70; 1973; 1982; 2006, and 2008. Let us also survey the long list of bombing campaigns, “reprisal operations,” incursions against Lebanon; regular attacks against Syria; and cross-country attacks against Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and Tunisia. Next, let us do a web search for the key words “Palestinian intifada,” for the years 1987 to 93 and 2000 to 2005, and “military offensives against Gaza,” for the years 2008, 2009, 2012, and 2014. Then let us review the record of U.N. resolutions: since 1955, Israel has been in violation of 77 UN resolutions—more than the rest of the world combined--and in 2018 alone, the United Nations issued a total of 27 condemnations, 21 of which were against Israel.
There is much more to mention, but not enough space. I will not even try to list Israel’s many international assassinations, kidnappings and terrorism, which targeted Israeli dissidents as well as noncombatants of many other nationalities. Israel’s far-flung international military activities, include:
-military support for Mobutu Sese Seko, the brutal CIA-installed dictator of Zaire, who is responsible for millions of deaths;
-development and testing of nuclear weapons, in partnership with Israel’s strategic ally and ideological twin, the Republic of South Africa;
-the arming and training of dictators and death squads, including the perpetrators of genocide against the Mayan Indians of Guatemala in the 1980’s, at a time when even the US Congress could no longer stomach directly arming the killers in that country.
More evidence: Israel possesses at least 100 nuclear weapons, deployed in aircraft, ballistic missiles, and submarines. It has never signed or ratified the Biological Weapons Convention; it has signed but never ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, and it is not a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (the NPT). Citing its self-proclaimed “exceptional status,” Israel has refused to sign the NPT and has rejected repeated resolutions of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency to open its facilities to IAEA inspectors. Thanks in large part to diplomatic immunity courtesy of the USA, Israel has evaded international regulation of its nuclear arsenal and continues to deploy nuclear weapons with impunity.
Then there is the matter of Israeli attacks against non-military nuclear facilities. Operation Scorched Sword, on 30 September 1980, was the first time in history that any country had ever attacked a nuclear reactor, and it set a very dangerous precedent. In Operation Opera, on 7 June 1981, Israel attacked a nuclear-powered electrical generation station that was under construction just 17 kilometers southwest of Baghdad (a city that had a population of 3.14 million at the time). Operation Outside the Box, on 6 September 2007, destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor near Deir ez-Zor, killing perhaps ten facility workers, and releasing an undetermined amount of radiation.
Does Israel destabilize the region? The record shows that an affirmative answer is an understatement.
Appeasement Leads to Further Aggression:
A commenter has accused me of not having supported my claim that appeasement of Israel leads to further Israeli aggression. Let us note that, after each one of its attacks against nuclear facilities, Israel remained unscathed by any criticism and undeterred by any sanctions. This is appeasement, and it has indeed led to further aggression. Three days ago, as I am writing these lines, Israel attacked the Natanz nuclear facility, near Isfahan, Iran, causing explosions and fires. Thus, on 2 July, Israel committed yet another act of war against Iran.
(A commenter wrote that, “Iran is an autocratic theocracy that destabilizes the entire region.” Actually, “the Jewish state” is a brutally autocratic theocracy, and per capita it produces more instability, war and misery than any other state on earth. And if Iran (a signatory of the NPT which has permitted regular IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities) really were such a destabilizing force, then why has it resisted repeated provocations and one act of war after another? The commenters appear to be incapable of giving Iran credit where credit is due.)
Additional evidence that appeasement only encourages further Israeli aggression: Consider the fate of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, an enthusiastic supporter of George W. Bush’s war against Iraq. Blair repeatedly justified his support of the war with the excuse that, by removing the “madman” Saddam Hussein and creating a “new Middle East,” Israel would feel more secure, and be in a position to agree to Blair’s much-celebrated “two-state solution” to the conflict in Palestine. The American President, it seems, had promised Blair that in exchange for the Prime Minister’s support, he would put pressure on Israel to permit the Palestinian people to determine their own future. As the years of Bush’s war dragged on, what Blair witnessed instead was accelerated settlement building, annexation, dispossession, and multiple bombing campaigns against unarmed residents of the densely populated Gaza Strip. Today, Bush’s “two-state solution” is a bad joke, and Blair is a bitter shell of a man, reviled by his own compatriots. Once again, appeasement of Israel only invited further aggression.
Or perhaps the commenter should consult none other than President Jimmy Carter, the force behind the Camp David “agreement”: in his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2007), Carter describes the connection between repeated American appeasement of Israel and further Israeli aggression.
Foreign Influence and the Embassy Decision:
A commenter seems to believe that opposition to Yerevan’s embassy decision amounts to condoning third-party influence on Armenia’s foreign policy. Let us set aside for a moment the consideration that it is, clearly, in Armenia’s own best interest not to open that embassy. Instead, let us examine the commenter’s reasoning. She writes: “The question is should Armenia allow a third country to dictate the level of its relationship with another country?” The third country she is worried about is not the USA, and it is not Russia; it is Iran! So, we are supposed to believe that Yerevan’s decision to open an embassy in Tel Aviv was a free and unforced exercise of preference by two sovereign counties, at least one of which has not allowed any third country to “dictate” their diplomatic relationship. Washington, then, had no hand whatsoever in “dictating” the embassy decision.
This naivete would not be worth mentioning if experience had not already taught us that even the most childish beliefs can become common currency among our confused and exhausted compatriots. (And that sad lesson of experience is the only reason why I am taking the time now to refute this commenter.)
For some of us, this is not the first time we have heard this sort of thing. Sixteen years ago, when another administration in Yerevan decided to join George W. Bush’s Coalition of the Willing, defenders of that decision described it as an unremarkable, neutral, gesture. To listen to them, one would think that every member of “the international community” would happily join Bush’s Coalition, for the sake of civilization, or human rights, or the New Middle East, or whatever. That administration, too, did not bother to explain its decision to the people of Armenia it claimed to represent.
Those of us who opposed the Armenian deployment to Iraq were accused of blocking Free, Independent Armenia, a sovereign country sublimely unencumbered by the dictates of any third country, from joining Bush’s Coalition (even as opinion polls showed that the majority of the population of Armenia opposed the deployment). At that time, though, more than one influential figure in one of the Power Ministries in Yerevan (plus at least one more in the National Assembly) admitted confidentially to this author that the decision to join George W. Bush’s Coalition had in fact been taken under enormous pressure from the United States of America—and in the face of thinly veiled threats, too.
None of this was surprising to us sixteen years ago, and it should not be surprising today that defenders of the embassy decision would assume the same posture. Rather than rising to the task of presenting an argument in favor of their position, they will pretend that Tehran’s request--which Yerevan officialdom obviously felt free to reject--counts as external interference, while successful arm-twisting and threats from Washington D.C. are not even worth mentioning. There is something much worse than a double standard and hypocrisy at work here.
But perhaps we have taken this “pragmatic” commenter too seriously, after all. Consider, for example, her claim that “Opening embassies are the most basic and neutral act in international relations.” This commenter ought to share her wisdom with her American friends, so that after sixty years of refusal, they can open an embassy in Havana. In any case, the self-congratulatory public statement by Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz (quoted in the 18 June posting) refutes this claim.
Several of the most adamant defenders of the embassy decision have voiced great concern about foreign influence on Yerevan’s diplomacy. But they have not written one word of concern about the influence of the population of Armenia itself on the foreign policy of an administration that claims to speak in their name. If the Friends of Israel have convincing arguments, then they should welcome a broad public discussion of the embassy decision. We who oppose the decision certainly welcome such a discussion.
To recap: I have argued that: (i) Israel destabilizes the region; (ii) appeasement of Israel encourages further destabilization; and (iii) Yerevan’s embassy decision is an act of appeasement. If these points have been established--and since regional instability is against the interests of Armenians--then, in the absence of any positive argument in favor of the embassy decision, it follows that the decision is against the interests of Armenians. Those who care about Armenia, then, should demand that the decision be rescinded.
Armenia faces enormous challenges—economic, pandemic, demographic, diplomatic, and security. In the face of all of these problems--and in the face of escalating Israeli acts of aggression, annexation, and acts of war against Iran--the current administration in Yerevan has taken a step taken to alter Armenia’s diplomatic position. So far, the Foreign Ministry of Armenia has failed to provide anything in the way of an honest or convincing explanation of their decision to open an embassy in Tel Aviv. The Prime Minister’s office and the Foreign Ministry went out of their way to undertake this initiative, and so they have a responsibility to honestly explain it. If the current administration in Yerevan has any legitimate claim to represent the Armenian people, then it owes the Armenian people a full accounting of the embassy decision.
And if we Armenians do not demand an honest answer to this question, then let us not pretend that anyone else is to blame for yet another disaster that we ourselves are bringing down on our own heads.
(Markar Melkonian is a teacher and writer. His latest book is The Philosophy and Common Sense Reader: Writings on Critical Thinking (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020). Another recent book, The Wrong Train: Notes on Armenia since the Counterrevolution (Sardarabad Press, 2020), is a selection of opinion pieces that have appeared in Hetq.am. The Wrong Train should appear in Armenian translation later this year.)
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Hetq.