Saturday, November 17, 2012


Unfortunately, Bernard Lewis' gloomy predictions that any turmoil in the Middle East becomes always less Arab and more Islamic was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instinctive communal loyally outwits all others. Today, the spread of anti-Western sentiment is reaching a dangerous apex.  Not only is the regional uprising general, it is also incoherent.  From Morocco to Turkey various movements might share in religious fanaticism (which is not uniform by the way) but their Geo-political or tribal agendas differ.  Israel finds itself cornered in an almost impossible situation, given the asymmetry of the hostile environment it has to face.  It has no other alternative than to defend itself aggressively if needed.The West owns the Jewish state an unconditional support.

The current developments are unique, both in their set-up and in their consequences. One needs to apply a case-by-case strategy because the proxies of Iran, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and the Palestinians diverge rather than converge.  Their perceptions of Israel are seldom the same and their sympathy for the Palestinians is generally platonic, for the least. Hence we find ourselves watching a "one against all" situation, understanding very well that in the words of Oscar Wilde: a company of two is none.

A third party is needed which can shuttle, threaten, and propose, blackmailing parties into reason.  Dr. Kissinger's successful diplomacy comes to mind.  Result, in the end, overtakes morality.  Other tentatives by the Quartet, Senator George Mitchell, Tony Blair, Dennis Ross come to mind. They all failed. They derailed for a number of reasons, but primarily because of the stalemate with regard to the Palestinian situation. On top the Western analysis of the Arab Spring only wanted to consider what it liked and looked elsewhere when the first, more unpleasant, developments started to appear. They hoped for a secular rising and they got a repeat of William Robertson Smith's binary "we against them" assertion.  When confronted with the fratricide killings in Syria and Libya, with the Mullahs from Iran's theocracy, or the hired killer's agendas from Hamas and Hezbollah, one is tempted to give up.  Jordan looks like the next possible causality, a repeat of the Shah/Mubarak scenario?   Egypt is not faring well, of course, but President Morsi is more adept at poker than was expected. Until now he has shaken the Mubarak statusquo but has refrained from blowing up the bridges.  He might want to remain a party to a solution rather than aggravate the problem even further.  Let us bear in mind that one of the main resources of Egypt, tourism, is in a standstill.

Nevertheless, a war should be avoided because a lull is not an end. The anti-Israel mood is the only glue that holds Shiites, Sunnis, Alawis and Salafis together.
Israel is far from perfect (after all, it is a democracy) and its leaders have recently not shown political finesse. Neither do the Arabs, but few expected anything of the sort to happen.  Turkey broods, and Jordan is gasping for air.  Benghazi is a tragedy which is unfolding every day but which could hardly be avoided. The Americans made mistakes, but taken together they do not deserve the usual Republican demagogic ire, nor the hysteria in Congress, which are solely politically motivated and directed against the President.

I believe that American diplomacy must return to lean "involvement" with Turkey and Egypt, if possible, and try to get all parties tackling all issues (after all, the main aspects of a peace deal are almost common knowledge.)  Former diplomats dined with the likes of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao & Co. Why not talk to all involved?  And at the same time not be shy to send feelers to the Taliban.  Only the Americans can talk to all and stick the taboos through their throats, once and for all. Israel must adhere to the Two States solution and make concessions in East Jerusalem. Hamas must renege on its nihilist killing agenda. Syrians must be forced by military and humanitarian means to stop the slaughter and Assad has to go. We cannot leave Israel in this hurricane of hatred.  Even if the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan stand, there is no way back to the Mubarak days, when America had a third party by proxy.  America can intervene (not militarily, with boots on the ground) . First its Arabists in the State Department must wake up and try to engage all parties involved, conditionally (Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran included.)  If such a regional Dumbarton Oaks were to succeed, the West would then be wise to distance itself and let the Arabs come up with a blueprint for regional cooperation. Under such conditions, the overall mood might change and the West could finally return to the limelight.  Why not a renewed Obama initiative (on the lines of his Cairo speech) which could embolden a local return to the more normal?

I prefer not to dwell on European moves in the region, which while promising in the post-Oslo days, ended up in a series of generally French "cockcrows" which obliged others to follow suit and ended up miserably, needing a US rescue.

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