The US Intelligence Community on Israel v. The World

Despite popular attribution of the Israel-Palestine conflict’s intractability to its solution-defying complexity, an overwhelming and unambiguous international consensus on how to resolve the conflict has persisted for almost a half a century: a two state state-settlement, comprised of full Israeli withdrawal to its June 1967 borders, the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, Palestinian-Arab recognition of Israel, and a “just” settlement of the Palestinian refugee question.

It is commonly alleged by Israel’s apologists that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was uncompromisingly committed to Israel’s destruction and political rejectionism until it made a sudden about turn in November 1988 and begrudgingly accepted the two-state settlement and peace negotiations with a hitherto magnanimous Israel. By contrast, Noam Chomsky has copiously documented how, beginning in the mid to late 1970s, the PLO had moved towards informal endorsement of the international consensus, while Israel stood virtually alone in continuously rejecting it.[1]

It bears notation that by the early 1980s, recognition of the basic facts detailed by Chomsky had extended to the whole gamut of U.S. intelligence agencies (certainly no fellow travelers of the Palestinians). A Special National Intelligence Estimate in December 1981, entitled “Core Positions of Parties to the Palestine Dispute” and coauthored by the Central Intelligence Agency, Defence Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Treasury,[2]  frankly asserted that:

The current PLO leadership under Yasir Arafat has given a number of indications that it is prepared to move toward a negotiated settlement with Israel. Although the PLO continues to publicly espouse the establishment of a Palestinian state in all of Palestine, we believe it would be willing to settle for less. The minimum PLO demands appear to be:

  • Self-determination for the Palestinians and establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
  • Recognition of the right to return for Palestinian refugees from the 1948 and 1967 wars and the payment of compensation to those who choose not to return.

Arafat has privately indicated that, in return, he is prepared to recognize Israel’s right to exist. We believe he could probably enforce the discipline necessary to obtain acceptance of this within the PLO. We judge he would also agree to a process leading to more formal recognition [emphasis added].[3]  

“Arafat and some of his closest associates have indicated that they might be willing to negotiate restrictions on their demands”, the joint-intelligence estimate clarified; “For example, once the abstract “right of return” was agreed upon, they could probably accept strict limits on the number of Palestinians who would be allowed to return or to demand compensation”, a practical measure intended to accommodate the Palestinian right of return to Israeli sovereignty.[4] The estimate further observed that “Apart from a few extremist Arab states such as Libya and perhaps Iraq, the leaders of most other Arab state privately agree that the only viable solution is a settlement that includes ultimate Israeli withdrawal from all territory occupied in 1967, with minor border adjustments, and self-determination for the Palestinians, coupled with realistic security agreements and some form of Arab recognition of Israel”.[5] In short, both the PLO and virtually the whole of the Arab world had signed onto the international consensus on a two-state settlement for resolving the conflict.

The estimate then identified the real rejectionist parties to the conflict:

In Israel there is broad agreement among nearly all political parties and within the general public that there can be no total withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 borders and no negotiating with the PLO. Even if the PLO were to modify its charter to recognize Israel and to renounce terrorism, much of the Israeli public and influential hardliners in the ruling Likud, the opposition Labor Party, and the National Religious Party– Israel’s three major political combinations– would still oppose negotiations with the PLO [emphasis added].[6]

To this list of “influential hardliners” one can add both the Democratic and Republican parties of the United States, united as they were (and are) in enabling Israeli territorial expansion and rejectionism.[7]

This basic impasse persists to the present: the international community and the Palestinian leadership stand united behind a minimally just two-state settlement; a stiff-necked Israel, backed by overwhelming American power, persistently rejects it.

The essential upshot is this: only when the American-Israeli political-military-strategic nexus is severed and the full, unrelenting, and concentrated weight of international opprobrium is brought to bear upon Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine will peace and justice have a chance to reign in that tortured land.

[1] Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle (Pluto Press: 1999), chapters 3 and 4.

[2] Also listed as participating in the creation of the estimate were the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army; The Director of Naval Intelligence, Department of the Navy; The Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, Department of the Air Force; and The Director of Intelligence, Headquarter, Marine Corps.  

[3] CREST Database: id# CIA-RDP00T02041R000100100001-4 – “The Core Positions of Parties to the Palestine Dispute” (December 1981), p. 7.

[4] Ibid., pp. 7-8.

[5] Ibid, pp. 9-10.

[6] Ibid., p. 3.

[7] See Chomsky, Fateful Triangle, for comprehensive documentation.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: