Friday, August 1, 2014


The Middle East is a house on fire. The aborted "unconditional" three-day ceasefire looked from the start more like a flight from "fatigue" rather than a real will to negotiate (what?).  Egypt might have tried to come up with something but as long as ideas are suggested by too few, they risk falling on too many deaf ears.  Besides, how would the parties have come together, given their mutual incompatibilities?  The toolbox of "diplomatic acrobatics" looks depleted.  Ad hoc recipes, applied in former times to larger long term geopolitical questions, do not work any longer.  Opportunistic and contradictory imperatives are short-term minded and generally avoid "the heart of the matter" in every way.  When a "third man" is needed we are often in for trouble or for a mismatch confirmed.  John Kerry knows the taste of ingratitude and unreliability all too well.

The macabre rules.  Hamas uses its people as shields and death as a prop, which makes for "good demagogic" television.  Israel is losing the media war and was expected to swallow the ceasefire, which would indeed have been welcome if the other side would have played along.  What is at stake is more than Gaza. The situation might as well be the preview of a deconstructed Arab world (Iran included) wherein a topsy-turvy chaos rules supreme.  Nowadays it's difficult to know where anybody stands, or with whom.  Some allies of the US in the region service Hamas. Sunnis look elsewhere rather than having to side with Hamas.  Syria, Iraq and Libya are hardly alive.  ISIS consolidates its territorial grip.  Egypt, Turkey and Qatar play poker, not with one another but against each other, for influence.  Once again the United States tries to bring some rational perspective to this hellish situation, but it looks as if the takers are few and the appreciation is in short supply.

I continue to think that the individual approach which might still work for a ceasefire is doomed to fail when the stakes become regional.  Only a gathering of all, with the Quartet, can oblige the parties to confront their responsibilities and choices in the open.  The shuttle between A and B is a thing of the Balfour past or Kissinger diplomacy when the region was not yet overrun by hybrids. The second invasion of Iraq and the disastrous management of its aftermath created a sinkhole wherein all better intentions disappear.  The Saudi peace plan might still preserve a two-state solution and marginalize Hamas and Hezbollah.  They have no say in a new Middle East as long as they stick to their unacceptable, heinous platforms.  Only if they are isolated by their own "brethren" might they finally depart from their "killer instinct."  Otherwise, left to their own devices, they will continue to adhere to an agenda of death, denial and betrayal.

It is to be hoped that the American secretary of state will be willing to consider a gathering of all Arab countries and require them to come first of all to terms with what "is" before inviting them, at a second stage, to discuss about what "can be in the future."   Everything has to be put on the table before it can be cleared.  The Annapolis formula has to be disregarded in favor of a more "working party" formula which can be upgraded later on.

A further complication is that the EU is hapless and that Russia might be reluctant to help, under the current geopolitical circumstances. The Americans stand alone and get flack from all sides, some of which is absolutely despicable.  The anti-Israel prejudice is equally unacceptable, given Hamas' total disrespect for human lives under its supposed protection.  Using its people to cover for tunnels and rockets is a war crime. The UN should differentiate blunders (which unfortunately occur) from the deliberate putting of Gaza civilians in harm's way. 

On an additional somber note, the flaring up of anti-Semitism in Europe is ominous. The concern for all should not be misdirected in the condemnation of one!

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