Eizenstat is Critical of Israel’s Diplomatic Failures

Eizenstat is Critical of Israel’s Diplomatic Failures

The long-serving American diplomat and international negotiator believes Israel needs a more effective diplomatic policy.

Eizenstat believes Israel needed to have a political plan in place before it began its military campaign against Hamas.
Eizenstat believes Israel needed to have a political plan in place before it began its military campaign against Hamas.

Stuart Eizenstat’s recently published book, “The Art of Diplomacy,” takes an insider’s view of America’s hits and misses as a world power during the last half-century. For the 81-year-old, Atlanta-born lawyer, it is an analysis and distillation of all he has learned since he first moved to Washington in 1975 as President Jimmy Carter’s Chief Domestic Policy Advisor. And what he learned, too, from well over a hundred other government leaders that he interviewed for this comprehensive work.

The book’s thoughtfully written conclusions are a timely reminder that in a world so beset by armed conflict and military power plays, the artful practice of governments attempting to speak in civil tones is more important than ever. It may be all that stands between ourselves and our doom.

Eisenstat’s book, “The Art of Diplomacy,” is a comprehensive look at world diplomacy over the past half-century.

As Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State, put it in his introduction to Eizenstat’s book, “it is the essence of diplomacy to ensure that force remains potential.” The book even has a few short pages about the war in Gaza, hurriedly appended, it seems, just before the manuscript went to the publisher.

But in the months since, Eizenstat has had an opportunity to reflect on how the war came to be and how he believes that neither artfulness nor diplomacy has often been the first thought.

In a recent conversation he expanded on what he described in his book as a conflict that has “resulted from tragic missed opportunities on both sides.”
He maintains that Hamas’ devastating attack in the south of Israel was not just a failure of diplomacy but a failure of military intelligence. In his briefings in Israel with generals from the IDF, he learned of the intelligence evaluations of Hamas’ capabilities prior to the war. They often failed to recognize how the Palestinian terrorist organization had evolved in the past few years.

“Hamas had gone from being a terrorist group that would send an occasional terrorist into Israel into a full-blown terrorist army,” Eizenstat said, “with 30,000 to 40,000 well-trained, well-armed, well-disciplined troops, and that conversion from a terrorist group to a terrorist army the Israeli army intelligence fatefully missed.”

While Israel is still some time away from a postmortem on the mistakes that were made by military leaders, Eizenstat says he’s been told, in Israel, that there were significant shortcomings in what was known by intelligence officials about how the threat from Hamas had grown over the years.

“They knew there were tunnels, but they didn’t know they had 300 miles of tunnels. They didn’t know that some of the tunnels were 80 meters deep that could actually have a manufacturing plant for missiles with trucks going through them underground. The absence of good intelligence was actually a fatal one.”

In a career remarkable for its length and its accomplishments, Eizenstat has been a witness to how wars have been planned and fought.

All of this has led to an important lesson he learned from the many interviews he conducted, including important ones with Condoleezza Rice, President George Bush’s Secretary of State, and Stephen Hadley, Bush’s National Security Adviser almost 20 years ago.

Stuart Eizenstat has been a personal eyewitness to the successes of American diplomacy, like President Jimmy Carter’s 1978 agreement between Israel and Egypt.

“Before you shoot the first bullet you have to have a political plan in place,” Eizenstat remarked on what the two diplomats told him. “You don’t do it on the fly afterwards, and that’s the mistake that Israel has made to this day. There is no post-war plan for Gaza. It’s a critical element for any nation considering the use of force.”

And while he is critical of Israel’s present military campaign, he is unhesitating in his support for Israel’s effort to rid itself from the threat that Hamas represents.

“Hamas, and I want to say this very clearly, must be disabled as a governing and military force. Israel and no other country can stand to have a terrorist government committed to its elimination. Hamas isn’t fighting for a two-state solution, they are fighting to eliminate Israel.”

It’s Eizenstat’s belief that in what will inevitably be the post-war process of analysis and recrimination, room must be made for more, not less, diplomacy, by Israel’s political leaders. As someone who has been at or near the center of power in almost every presidential administration since the mid-1970s, Eizenstat believes that Israel must rebuild and expand the ties with those who oppose Iran’s so called “axis of resistance.”

The future existence of Israel, he believes, is, perhaps ironically, tied to those nations with which it was once at war. Nations like Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, who along with the United Arab Emirates and its neighbors along the Persian Gulf have good reason to fear Iran’s carefully nurtured ties to the terrorist movements of the Middle East.

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