Tuesday, May 11, 2021


The current events in East Jerusalem are spreading. They show yet again the desperate state of Israeli-Palestinian affairs.

The earlier, tentative efforts towards a form of modus vivendi became victim of four years of theTrump administrations's ignorance of precedent. The brutal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital was both a slap in the face to the Palestinians and a return to the mindset of the discredited Bernard Lewis, considered the grave digger of a two-state solution.

Years have been lost in phantom performance wherein hubris overruled reason. All efforts had only one purpose:  isolating Iran. Tehran doesn't deserve any sympathy, obviously. Nevertheless, Obama made a smart move by putting the Iranian nuclear threat on a slow burner, while making sure that this was not done on the back of other issues in the region.

Trump chose show over substance, exclamation over reasoning. His Chaplinesque playing with the globe, together with the Saudi king and the Egyptian president, said it all.  He found in Netanjahu the best actor to fill in the part of the accessory. Nobody disputes Israel's right to consider West Jerusalem as its capital. In a final agreement both the Israelis and Palestinians might find a way to live close, if not together, in Jerusalem as a shared capital.  To preempt a single outcome however is equal to sabotage the whole. To let the Jewish settlers have their way shows contempt for historical accuracy when it doesn't fit the official version or narrative.

The Sadat/Mubarak/(even Begin) days are over. The MENA euphoria is extinct. The Quartet is no longer. The EU is nowhere to be seen and it might be for the better, after the Ankara "farce". Everyone is looking at the US again. Biden will be very wary to get involved now.  Afghanistan will be a house on fire. Iran will prove to be a most reluctant suitor. Both the Arabs and the Isrealis will wait and see what President Biden might come up with. As usual, the Palestinians are on their own, second-class citizens in their own "territories". They have in Hamas or Hezbollah deceitful partners and among the Arabs more promise than deed.

The stalemate is absolute for now. What might happen in the UN doesn't count for much. Shuttle diplomacy ( Secretary Baker engaged in the last one) with partners as these is just another vanity trip. The patient needs shock therapy.

The Arab Gulf states huggers cannot hide the fact that they are often at loggerheads. Syria and Lebanon look like Covid patients. Egypt, Turkey and Tehran wield power. Jordan prefers to maintain a low profile. The Saudis with MBS now come to the realization that Trump gave them a crown in cardboard. Not to mention Sudan or Libya which are balast. Only the Maghreb fares better (for now).

A second Madrid summit (the first was cosponsered by the USA and Russia in 1991) might bring some form of minimal lowering of tensions between sworn enemies and dubious friends. Biden might be reluctant to initiate such an uphill battle. He must count on the diplomatic largesse of Russia and China. A Madrid outcome will require that all parties accept that they are in fact exhausted and often in need of a total overhaul, which can only happen if some creative forward looking mindset is still in the cards.

The Palestinians await a clear decision to halt corruption and any form of ambiguity towards Hamas. One might wish for a Swiss or other magic solution, but unrealistic goals are as deplorable as the continuance of the objectionable.

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