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A Clean Break - A new strategy for securing the realm

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A Clean Break - A new strategy for securing the realm - This document was (original is here ) generated by a United States conservative think tank, The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, in 1996. The document has been used to provide spurious evidence for claims that Israel or Zionists were influential in instigating the United States War in Iraq. 


As listed in the Clean Break document, the authors of this document, prepared in the United States, were Richard Perle, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Douglas Feith, Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser. They included former and future U.S. defense and security officials as well as right wing Zionist activists and lobbyists. There is no evidence that any Israeli officials or representatives had any hand in the document, or that any Israeli political figures influenced it. 


Content of Clean Break


The "realm" referred to in the document title is not the United States but Israel. The document was created by the participants, American citizens, evidently as an expression of their own views, for newly elected right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu The introduction to Clean Break explains:


Israel has a large problem. Labor Zionism, which for 70 years has dominated the Zionist movement, has generated a stalled and shackled economy. Efforts to salvage Israel’s socialist institutions -- which include pursuing supranational over national sovereignty and pursuing a peace process that embraces the slogan, "New Middle East" --  undermine the legitimacy of the nation and lead Israel into strategic paralysis and the previous government’s "peace process." That peace process obscured the evidence of eroding national critical mass -- including a palpable sense of national exhaustion --  and forfeited strategic initiative. The loss of national critical mass was illustrated best by Israel’s efforts to draw in the United States to sell unpopular policies domestically, to agree to negotiate sovereignty over its capital, and to respond with resignation to a spate of terror so intense and tragic that it deterred Israelis from engaging in normal daily functions, such as commuting to work in buses.


The declared purposes of the Clean Break document are to abrogate the Oslo Declaration of Principles and set Israel on an independent path. This will be achieved supposedly by making Israel economically independent, thanks to a capitalist free market revolution. However, despite the rhetoric about socialist government, Israel had had a right wing  Likud party government for 17 years, followed by three years of Labor Party rule. Under the Likud governments, Israel had suffered from 700% inflation. When Labor came to power, Israel was experiencing a severe economic recession. When Benjamin Netanyahu took over from the Labor government, it was in the midst of a tremendous economic expansion.


The authors state:


To secure the nation’s streets and borders in the immediate future, Israel can:

  • Work closely with Turkey and Jordan to contain, destabilize, and roll-back some of its most dangerous threats. This implies clean break from the slogan, "comprehensive peace" to a traditional concept of strategy based on balance of power.
  • Change the nature of its relations with the Palestinians, including upholding the right of hot pursuit for self defense into all Palestinian areas and nurturing alternatives to Arafat’s exclusive grip on Palestinian society.
  • Forge a new basis for relations with the United States-- stressing self-reliance, maturity, strategic cooperation on areas of mutual concern, and furthering values inherent to the West. This can only be done if Israel takes serious steps to terminate aid, which prevents economic reform.

Not a single one of the major foreign policy goals was ever pursued seriously by any Israeli government, including the government of Netanyahu, and there is no evidence that the document was ever taken seriously in Israel. Israel did change financial arrangements with the United States, but the sum total of aid remained the same.


The rest of the Clean Break report has a peculiar format that is explained by the authors:

This report is written with key passages of a possible speech marked TEXT, that highlight the clean break which the new government has an opportunity to make. The body of the report is the commentary explaining the purpose and laying out the strategic context of the passages.

There is no hint anywhere in the Clean Break document that Israel wants the United States to take a larger role in the Middle East or to invade any country. The only references to the United States concern US involvement in the peace process and the position that Israel should terminate aid payments from the United States.


The Clean Break document envisions that Jordan will bring about regime change in Iraq, not the United States:


Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq -- an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right -- as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions. Jordan has challenged Syria's regional ambitions recently by suggesting the restoration of the Hashemites in Iraq.


Since Iraq's future could affect the strategic balance in the Middle East profoundly, it would be understandable that Israel has an interest in supporting the Hashemites in their efforts to redefine Iraq, including such measures as: visiting Jordan as the first official state visit, even before a visit to the United States, of the new Netanyahu government; supporting King Hussein by providing him with some tangible security measures to protect his regime against Syrian subversion; encouraging -- through influence in the U.S. business community -- investment in Jordan to structurally shift Jordan’s economy away from dependence on Iraq; and diverting Syria’s attention by using Lebanese opposition elements to destabilize Syrian control of Lebanon.


Regarding the relationship with the United States, Clean Break declares:

Israel can make a clean break from the past and establish a new vision for the U.S.-Israeli partnership based on self-reliance, maturity and mutuality -- not one focused narrowly on territorial disputes. Israel’s new strategy --based on a shared philosophy of peace through strength -- reflects continuity with Western values by stressing that Israel is self-reliant, does not need U.S. troops in any capacity to defend it, including on the Golan Heights, and can manage its own affairs. Such self-reliance will grant Israel greater freedom of action and remove a significant lever of pressure used against it in the past.

To reinforce this point, the Prime Minister can use his forthcoming visit to announce that Israel is now mature enough to cut itself free immediately from at least U.S. economic aid and loan guarantees at least, which prevent economic reform. [Military aid is separated for the moment until adequate arrangements can be made to ensure that Israel will not encounter supply problems in the means to defend itself]. As outlined in another Institute report, Israel can become self-reliant only by, in a bold stroke rather than in increments, liberalizing its economy, cutting taxes, relegislating a free-processing zone, and selling-off public lands and enterprises --moves which will electrify and find support from a broad bipartisan spectrum of key pro-Israeli Congressional leaders, including Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

The privatization program, in one form or another, has been pursued by Likud governments both before and after the Clean Break document. It had no bearing on foreign policy. The specific nature of the economic recommendations, as opposed to the grandiose flourishes of the foreign policy recommendations, might suggest that the economics were the main thrust of the document, and that the principals representing financial interests in the United States or Israel interested in privatization.


Misuse of Clean Break by Critics


The Clean Break document presented an unrealistic program of Israeli foreign policy independence based primarily on economic recommendations and on regional alliances. Critics claimed, without quoting from the document, that it was the basis for alleged Israeli or Zionist instigation for the Iraq war that the United States undertook in 2003. (see Iraq Crisis).


There is no doubt that Douglas Feith and Richard Perle and Meyrav Wurmser, who are among the authors of the document, later advocated US involvement in Iraq. They did so, evidently, on their own initiative and with no involvement of Israel or any major Zionist organization, just as other American Jews, in fact a majority, opposed the war in Iraq. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon specifically warned President George Bush about military involvement and occupation Iraq. He also expressed doubts about the "democratization" plans of neoconservative advocates of the war:

Publicly, Sharon played the silent ally; he neither criticized nor supported the Iraq adventure. One reason for his relative silence was Washington’s explicit request that Israel refrain from openly backing its invasion of an Arab country or in any way intervening, lest its blessing damn the United States in Arab eyes.

But sometime prior to March 2003, Sharon told Bush privately in no uncertain terms what he thought about the Iraq plan. Sharon’s words — revealed here for the first time — constituted a friendly but pointed warning to Bush. Sharon acknowledged that Saddam Hussein was an “acute threat” to the Middle East and that he believed Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Yet according to one knowledgeable source, Sharon nevertheless advised Bush not to occupy Iraq. According to another source — Danny Ayalon, who was Israel’s ambassador to the United States at the time of the Iraq invasion, and who sat in on the Bush-Sharon meetings — Sharon told Bush that Israel would not “push one way or another” regarding the Iraq scheme.

According to both sources, Sharon warned Bush that if he insisted on occupying Iraq, he should at least abandon his plan to implant democracy in this part of the world. “In terms of culture and tradition, the Arab world is not built for democratization,” Ayalon recalls Sharon advising.

Be sure, Sharon added, not to go into Iraq without a viable exit strategy. And ready a counter-insurgency strategy if you expect to rule Iraq, which will eventually have to be partitioned into its component parts. Finally, Sharon told Bush, please remember that you will conquer, occupy and leave, but we have to remain in this part of the world. Israel, he reminded the American president, does not wish to see its vital interests hurt by regional radicalization and the spillover of violence beyond Iraq’s borders.


Ami Isseroff

Synonyms and alternate spellings: ;

Further Information: See  History of Islam and the A Clean Break - A strategy for securing the realms

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A Clean Break - A new strategy for securing the realm