Skip to content
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

The Munich Agreement: Lessons for the Future

Filed under: Conferences

The question is, what are the lessons for the future of our discussion here? So, two things came to mind when I considered speaking a second time. I think, first, we have to avoid false history because part of what the forces that want us to appease them are trying to do is make us feel guilty, whatever the story is. You know, in the case of World War I and the Versailles Treaty, it was clear that, as we said earlier, guilt over the Versailles Treaty led to dangerous flexibility in Munich, and today, as we said before, the Iranians love to remind the Americans of their role in overthrowing Mossadegh. So, even if that is exaggerating, today historically if you try to identify why Mossadegh fell, there are multiple factors and it isn’t Kermit Roosevelt of the CIA that is the principal factor. That has still been useful up until recently.  So, they would weave the story of false history and try and gain something in the field of diplomacy. You have to avoid false history.

By the way, in our context with the Palestinians we are getting false history big time. Obviously, we’ve been dealing with this in the Jerusalem Center. I mean, why do they use UNESCO to produce this entirely made-up narrative about the history of Jerusalem? And they take the Temple Mount and they remove all references in UN resolutions to our historical background and make it an exclusively Islamic site. So, this is part of the insertion of false history, which is now part of diplomacy. So, in the past Israeli diplomats might have smiled sheepishly and not taken an assertive position against this, but you have to. You can’t let the international community be told these stories.

I will never forget, I was at a UN conference as director general of Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Istanbul, and I ran into the secretary-general of UNESCO and she was lobbying me to become the next Secretary General of the United Nations, as she lobbied everybody who was taking a coffee break there. So, I said to her, we were starting to think about who we should invite to Jerusalem, like all the UNESCO ambassadors. So, I said, “I have an idea for you. The next time you hear this rubbish that there never was a Temple, why don’t you invite all the ambassadors to UNESCO for a Roman holiday?” She looks at me. Roman holiday? She expected Jerusalem. I said, “You guys can go to the arch of Titus and you can see the kelim, the implements of the Temple itself. They didn’t have Polaroid cameras then, but they did chip away its stone to show you what existed at the time, and we can stop this ridiculous argument.” So, I think she thought it was a cute mention of mine, but it’s part of this whole thing. You just can’t let this stuff continue.

Now, just as you have to avoid false history, you have to avoid false diplomacy. The whole story of Oslo is selling the people of Israel a bill of goods, excuse me for being blunt, that Yasser Arafat and the PLO at the time had really changed. This was the ANC. This was Nelson Mandela, but just with a keffiyeh, and there was no comparison between what the PLO was like and had become and the story of the ANC. The ANC had been a terror organization and now was fully in the area of diplomacy. That wasn’t true. We kept getting surprised when buses would blow up, and we’d find collaboration between Hamas and the PLO. So, that created this false diplomacy, which I think became more and more discredited, unfortunately because you have to reach a peace settlement at some point. But if your opposite is completely discredited because of the false assumptions of false diplomacy, you’re never going to be able to reach any kind of understanding. So, it just discredits the whole process. It becomes important during a process to make demands of the other side that show that they’re listening to you. I remember I got involved the negotiations with the Turks in the last five years, and we’d gotten solid intelligence that Hamas had a command center in Istanbul, and that command center was issuing orders to attack Israelis in the West Bank. The man who ran that whole operation was well known for those who like to stay up late at night reading about Hamas. His name is Saleh al-Arouri, and one of our demands in the middle of this negotiation (this is when my team came in) was, “Guys, Turks, this isn’t going anywhere unless you get rid of Arouri,” and Arouri was gone within two weeks. He moved to Qatar. Now I hear he moved to Beirut, but regardless, you have to make demands to have credibility to show that it’s not false diplomacy where you’re claiming you’re getting stability, but you’re not.

Finally, what you have to do is, we used to call it hasbarah. What you have to do is expose your adversary. If your adversary is engaged in nefarious activities, let the world know. Don’t sit on the material, and don’t be in a position like a Stanley Baldwin: “If we tell people that the Germans are violating the Versailles Treaty, they’ll never vote for us again.” Well, show them what the Germans are doing, whoever the Germans are, and whenever they’re doing it. So, those are my lessons for the future from this period within the 1930s, and I think those lessons will remain relevant no matter who is on the other side.