In 1987 I was privileged to welcome the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands to the LUZ solar operation here in Jerusalem, where I was Administrative Vice-President. At the time hi-tech in Israel was in its infancy and the only companies of note operating here were Intel, TEVA, AVX and LUZ. Given that, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs brought the Marshall Islands’ president to see our facility and I guided him through our new, but as yet unfinished building
The purpose of his visit to Israel at the time was to complete the purchase of a desalination facility from IDE, Israel’s premier developer of such technology.
Given that he was a head of state, the entourage drove up in three government provided limousines with the flags of Israel and the Marshall Islands fluttering from the front fenders. During our walk through of the facility I asked about the population of his country and he said there were 55,000 residents there.
My next question was about insuring the security of a country that small situated in the South Pacific. He responded by saying that when the Marshall Islands became independent from the U.S. in 1986, they signed a Compact of Free Association with the United States that had a number of elements to it. Among those were a guarantee of a minimum of $57 million in foreign aid each year until 2023, and that the United States would be responsible for the security and defense of this small country. (Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick made reference to this latter fact as well in her column last Friday.)
Yet just 10 days ago the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Maersk Tigris, a ship that is registered in the Marshall Islands. The U.S. sent a warship into those waters as a sign of its concern but no action was taken, no comment was made about this by President Obama or his Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter. But given the agreement between the U.S. and the Marshall Islands, the seizure of this ship was nothing less than an act of war in response to which the U.S. has an obligation to defend the ship and its crew and cargo. Of course, taking direct action would be anathema to a U.S. president who wants to sign a deal with Iran and does not want anything to stand in his way, least of all a 29 year old agreement to defend a series of small atolls in the South Pacific.
Given this history is it any wonder then that those of us living here in Israel are not comforted when the President of the U.S. says that the “has our back?” Tonight Israel’s Channel 10 will broadcast an interview with U.S. Secretary of State Kerry. Kerry says in the interview (whose text has already been leaked) that he understands the feelings in Israel toward the nuclear deal, and the questions and doubts it raises. Still, he rejects the claim that the U.S. has let Israel down, asserting that talk of “disappointment” was inappropriate. “We will never disappoint Israel,” he said.
Really? Can we depend on that? My guess is that the Marshall Islands thought their compact with the U.S. was iron clad as well and would be honored by successive administrations. Yet just as the U.S. assures us of its commitment to our security, it concomitantly violates an agreement on the same issue with another ally. But, then again, why let the safety of 55,000 people stand in the way of appeasing the Iranians. Most people in the U.S. have probably never heard of the Marshall Islands anyway, and certainly are not aware of this agreement.
In this context, it would be wise to remember the words of Winston Churchill uttered in 1938 after the Munich Agreement was signed, when he said: “And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”
Those words are as true today as they were then even though the world is a different place. While the world today is a different world than it was in 1938, evil people are evil independent of time and place. We dare not forget that and we dare not put our security in the hands of others.