Just like bouts of poison ivy, every few years we see a watershed visit to Israel by a sitting US president. And every time that happens we’re all supposed to take heart. Then the usual drift sets in, there are international incidents and resolutions of the United Nations.
President Obama has just concluded such a session with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and although it depends upon who’s reporting, Mr Obama was seen to be backing Israel while belittling the Palestinians. This is understandable in terms of US current internal politics but is folly for the long term…
Let me make this point now. I do not believe that the so-called Jewish lobby, insofar as it pleads Israel’s case without criticism, represents Jewish people in their hearths and homes. They certainly, in their counterpart, the Canadian Jewish Congress, do not. In fact I daresay that American Jews and Canadian Jews see far too much sabre rattling in Israel and are far from comfortable with Israel’s constant settling of seized territory. (It is worth acknowledging here that The UN does not recognized annexed territory and has ordered Israel to desist in the practice.)
Mahmoud Abbas, perhaps the spokesman for Palestine, the hesitance to be positive on that score because of the split in Palestine, has called this the «last chance for a settlement». Many will say, in the words of that old ditty, «it seems to me I’ve heard that song before». And you have the real fear being that it will be too late sometime and it’s hard to see the situation getting better as time goes by.
Readers will know that I’ve made this point before – but it bears repeating. Be careful what you ask for, which implies that things are getting better with Israel’s neighbours. This simply isn’t so and the very opposite case is easier to make. The Arab Spring is rapidly looking as if the «bad guys» are being replaced with those no better or demonstrably worse.
I recognize that leaders with some permanence have yet to emerge but they will. We need only look to Egypt to see the lurking danger as the Muslim League, long time foe of Israel, are a huge factor. There are already bad signs that the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty of 1979 will be ended. If it does, and if the Israeli «Right-Wing» element is still in force, that Israel will reoccupy the Sinai.
What will Syria look like when the current mess ends? Israel still occupies the Golan heights and no new Syrian government can last if it doesn’t pledge to recover this land.
Before we get back to Israel, let’s look at the rest of the problem. Pakistan is always in political turmoil real or apprehended. It is a nuclear power.
Going back to and including Alexander The Great, no foreign power has been able to «control» Afghanistan. This lesson was lost by George Bush II even though the Russia example was staring him in the face. The US went in with the stated objective to «get» Osama Bin Laden and only made things demonstrably worse internally and more chaotic with its neighbours, especially Pakistan.
We know about Iran and its presumed quest for nuclear capability but seem to have overlooked the new relationship between them and Iraq, These two bled each other nearly dry in one of the worst wars in history, running 8 years between 1980-88.
Now they are, if not pals, on much better terms. They have two things in common – they hate Israel and they hate the USA. We must remember the old Arab adage –the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Perhaps one of the most dangerous state in the Middle East is little acknowledged – Jordan which is actually considered «friends» by the US. We overlook the fact that about half of Jordan’s population are Palestinians. King Abdullah, with a peace agreement with Israel, is unsteady on his throne. A war between Israel and its neighbours would be a serious if not terminal impact on their 1994 peace treaty.
Then there’s Saudi Arabia. Their internal situation cannot carry on for long. Looking at it somehow reminds me of when I was a child in an English style private school and having it driven into us that the British Empire would reign forever – that it was God’s will, Imperishable.
How stupid does that looks today! Saudi Arabia looks as strong as the Berlin wall did in 1979. And in truth, a Saudi Arabian collapse, whether from a civil war or internal coup is certain and America should know that the Wahabi, who will be or control the next government, not only dislike the US but hate it. Of huge importance is the continuance of its oil revenues and that is in serious danger given the drop in exports to the US which claims, at any rate, that it is soon to be energy sufficient
America must survey not just what is today but what the unfolding landscape will look like and judge its position with Israel in that light. In the mix it must be recognized that Israel’s population is over 20% Arab and growing.
Here’s what President Obama must do.
First he speak at home a new and more aggressive policy towards Israel, In that regard, Mr Obama must establish as a condition precedent to future discussions that she tear down the settlements – all of them – and pledge to desist in this practice. One suspects that the only reason Israel has followed this policy is an «up yours» to its neighbours.
Second, Israel must consent to a «two state» policy including Gaza.
Thirdly the United States must guarantee the safety of Israel’s new boundaries.
Fourthly, America must set up but not be part of, an organization much like the Organization Of American States (OAS) if only as a «talk shop» to keep dialogues going amongst the various states.
How can the US force Israel to seek reason?
With money, the oldest and best weapon in history. The US funds to Israel are critical. They must be the pressure points in US policy.
This isn’t intended to state that Israelis the only naughty child in the region but it is to say that she is the object of hatred throughout. No one expects that new firm boundaries will mean peace and harmony in the area. As I often say to my wife, we’ll have peace in the world just as soon as a village can draw up a dog by law that everyone can live with.
The days are numbered and even an uneasy peace requires that America and its president broaden their horizons and deal with the situation not so much for today but with that which is bound to be.