Thursday, November 22, 2012


After France, the United Kingdom and Germany had declared war against the Reich, nothing happened for awhile.  La drole de guerre acted as a soporific and the French ended up in a sort of induced coma.  We know the rest. World War II started its onslaught with a vengeance.

Now we have a lull in the Middle East where an ambiguous cease-fire was negotiated with so many unknowns and caveats that nobody really can predict if it will have a chance to last. The actors, with the exception of President Morsi of Egypt, must feel bewildered and should have nightmares after having given Hamas some indirect legitimacy on a silver plate. For sure, Israel could have wiped Gaza from the face of the earth.  Besides, most of the inhabitants of this wretched place are brainwashed by a martyr syndrome and became fatalistic, torn by the hardships of miserable lives and deaths. Unfortunately  the political consequences might follow a different, more  ominous predictable path. The Middle East is becoming a killing field. Conversely the Americans cannot longer leave their former proxies (?) in charge and had to intervene, finally, tiptoeing,with some success it seems.

Morsi became the unavoidable broker of a cease-fire, which was swallowed by the United States and Israel as a bitter pill and is marketed by Hamas as a victory. Besides, by adhering to this arrangement, Hamas got an opportunity to recalibrate its relations with Fatah, which might well become neutralised in no time.

Israel showed its sophisticated might but was not allowed to go for a final K.O. Under the circumstances, Egypt regained its regional influence, and can blackmail both the United States and Israel into making deals which would have been unthinkable in Mubarak's times. The negotiation regarding access and circulation in and out of Gaza will be tricky, the more so since Egypt stole the shuttle diplomacy, reducing the American monopoly, and the role of successive go-betweens and special envoys.
The harvest of the Arab Spring could be poisonous.

Henry Kissinger was "the" actor in the past. The Secretary of State today looks more like a "voyeur." Let's not mention the Europeans, who are absent or who risk uncertain bets in the Syrian furnace as they try pathetically to get the accessory under control while the essential is on fire.

It is unavoidable that Hamas will be part of the solution--if there will ever be one--while still keeping its charter which proclaims the destruction of the Jewish state as its goal.  Hitler couldn't have done better.  Netanyahu might not be the ideal peacemaker, but confronted with such hatred it becomes difficult to be magnanimous and to follow in the steps of Sadat, Begin, Abba Eban, Golda Meir, and King Hussein, in times where there was still room for respect, forgiveness and rebuilding of trust. The Israeli P.M. must also consider the mood of his public opinion which was daily under fire and which is rightly so suspicious of this "truce".

The clash of civilisations is no longer. There is now a clash between civilisation and evil. One cannot generalize and I have enough Arab friends who gave me the proof that there are still pockets of tolerance and willingness to compromise. Likewise, Israel doesn't have do that much for the conditions for serious talk to get a lift. Hamas has to abandon its destructive Mein Kampf claims, which should be easier to do than what is asked from Israel: to stop building settlements or negotiating the final status of Jerusalem.

Behind Hamas and Hezbollah there remains the puppeteer in Tehran who lost some of its "Superbe" after Morsi deprived Iran of the hand with winning cards. Egypt won the gratitude of the Americans and provided tranquilisers for Israel (the peace treaty still holds) and for Hamas (unpredictable and to a large extent still unreliable.)  Israel must feel frustrated, but the special relationship with the "indispensable" power could be reset. It would be extraordinary if, in the last days of her role as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton could see this fragile "no man's cease-fire" be consolidated. The means, which await further discussion, will certainly require some remake of indirect diplomacy wherein Cairo, Jerusalem and Washington could become a triumvirate which would change the whole set up in the Middle East. One can always dream.

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