Isseroff: If Annapolis fails, US could abandon ME

Ami Isseroff wants the Annapolis Summit to succeed. We differ on that but there is no denying that he has a good handle on things.

Annapolis: The consequences of failure

[..] The chief overall purpose of the meeting from the American point of view, is to secure the American position in the Middle East, and the positions of what Americans perceive as their client states, and to form a coalition against extremist elements, led by Iran and its satellites The conference was fueled by a confluence of events, circumstances and policies. The first was the reiteration of the Arab Peace Initiative at the recent Arab summit. Secretary Rice wanted to follow this up immediately with a conference of Arab states and Israel, but at the time, the Arab states demurred. Apparently, the Arab peace initiative adopted or reiterated at the recent summit was meant to be a declaratory statement with no practical consequences – another diplomatic bomb dropped on Israel, to “prove” that Israel doesn’t want peace.

Ami believes that solving the Arab/Israel conflict is central to keeping the US in the ME. Thus he agrees with the ISG. I don’t share this view. Better a strong Israel as an ally than weak Arab states as allies together with a weak Israel. Also this conflict is small potatoes compared to the headaches the US is having reconciling the Kurds and the Turks. Now that is an important issue.

A second factor behind the conference is the impending catastrophic failure of the US effort in Iraq. The notion inserted in the Iraq Study Group report, that solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem could magically make up for US incompetence in Iraq is charitably described as quaint. It reflects the anti-Israel prejudices of Ray Close who invented the idea, and of those who approved it, but the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict undeniably makes it easier for extremists to discredit the US, and it makes it harder for Middle East moderates to support US positions.

Another factor that serves as a backdrop for the conference was the alarm, in some Arab quarters, at the nuclear plans of Iran, and at the advances of Iran and its satellites in Lebanon. The fact the Hezbollah emerged intact from the Second Lebanon war and continues, along with Syria, to threaten the democracy and integrity of Lebanon, is no doubt in the background.

Finally, the violent takeover of Gaza by the Hamas represented yet another victory for extremists, and it became urgent to support the peace process, opposed by the Hamas, and the government of Mahmoud Abbas which supports the peace process.

If the conference succeeds, it could, theoretically, create a new reality in the Middle East.

Everyone is invited, provided they play by the rules. Even the Hamas, as Ami Ayalon suggested, could be invited, provided they agree to be partners in the peace process. But wouldn’t that be an admission that the government of Abbas and the PLO are not the sole representatives of the
Palestinians? Syria already chose to opt out of the conference, and Hamas would no doubt do the same if they were invited. The conference would thus be the basis of a “coalition of the willing” build around the peace process and the Arab Peace initiative. It would establish both Israel and the Palestinian government of Mahmoud Abbas as legitimate regional players, with Saudi Arabia and Egypt as the leading Arab states that calls the shots. It would get the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under control and on the way to solution, and clear the decks for a concerted effort to save Iraq and counter Iranian and Syrian extremism.

The problem with this grandiose plan is that though the US threw a party for everyone’s benefit, all the guests of honor are not very interested. The Palestinians would apparently rather rot for another hundred years then give up the idea of destroying Israel through right of return of refugees. The Israelis would rather hold on to some trailers peopled by fanatics then make peace with Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabians perceive that the US is weak so they cozy up to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and stab the moderate Palestinians in the back with calls for “unity” with Hamas. In general Dr. Rice should have understood that when you are in a position of weakness, it is a bad idea to initiate diplomatic maneuvers.

The Egyptians allow Hamas and Islamic Jihad extremists to freely infiltrate into Gaza, and look the other way at the extensive Palestinian smuggling of arms, and the Americans look the other way at the Egyptians looking the other way at the extensive smuggling. Some of this irrational behavior is no doubt due to pressures of internal politics — making peace in the Middle East can be bad for your health — some is due to what each country or actor may think of as legitimate national goals such as “Arab Unity” or “Greater Israel” or “Palestinian Rights.” And some of it, no doubt, is due to lack of confidence in the ability of the US to back its clients and carry out its policy goals – which are never completely defined. Nobody wants to be on a losing team.

In current circumstances, it was totally unrealistic for Dr. Rice to say that the time is ripe for a Palestinian state. How can there be a state that makes a peace agreement, when a chunk of Palestinian territory and a substantial part of the Palestinian people are under the rule of the Hamas? Will there be two states? How can there be a state, when the Palestinians admit, and the Americans agree, that the Palestinian security forces are not at all ready to control terror, and are barely able to contemplate beginning ordinary police work to control crime??

Nonetheless, in certain circumstances, something could be retrieved from this conference, an outcome that at least would make some real progress toward solving the Israeli Palestinian conflict and strengthen the position of the US in the Middle East.

Everyone should understand the consequences that will most likely ensue if the Annapolis conference is a dud, or doesn’t happen at all. For the United States, it will probably mark the end of their involvement in the peace process, and signal a marked diminution of US influence in the Middle East.

The latter will be sealed by a rapid exit from Iraq and a deal concluded by engaging Iran and Syria. The essentials of that deal would be to give Iran a free hand in the Gulf region and Arabian peninsula, and to give Lebanon to Syria, in return for protection of major US interests such as the unimpeded flow of oil. The Americans would get their oil, the Iranians would get their regional hegemony and respect, the Syrians would get their nice Beqaa valley Hashish crop and opium routes, and (almost) everyone would be happy.

For the Palestinians, failure of the conference would mean collapse of the Abbas government, to be replaced by the Hamas, or “unification” of the Abbas and Hamas governments, under the actual direction of Khaled Meshaal and the Hamas/Syria faction. Palestinians in the West Bank, like those in Gaza currently, would then live in peace and harmony, enjoying the “benefits” of an undeclared Islamic Republic.

For the Israelis, collapse of the conference will firstly mean establishment of a Hamas terror state, de facto, in the West Bank. At that point, neither the quartet or anyone in the Middle East would be interested in maintaining an embargo against the Hamas, or able to do so. Missiles brought into the West Bank would be fired on flights at Ben-Gurion airport – the scenario predicted by right-wing anti-peace activists. Katyusha rockets, and worse, would rain down on Jerusalem.

Diplomatically, Israel will inevitably be blamed for failure of the conference no matter what the facts are, and would be even more isolated than it was in 2001.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other US-backed states, if they don’t come under Iranian control, will slide toward the Sunni variety of extremism.

Given the stakes, the attitudes of all the major players are surrealistic. Dr. Rice babbles about peace and Palestinian states while Islamic Jihad gangsters run loose in the West Bank, controlled only by the IDF, and Palestinians can’t get into the Jordan valley. Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues insist on timetables for a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, when they have no power in Gaza, and can’t even control pickpockets in Nablus. Right now, a free passage between Gaza and the West Bank, as demanded by the Palestinians, would be a conduit for bringing the Hamas and its supporters, and their smuggled arms, into the West Bank. Most of the PA officials insisting on this free passage would probably then get their kneecaps smashed and would be thrown from the tops of buildings in Ramallah. Ehud Olmert and his crew keep babbling about peace while doing everything possible to undermine the regime of Abbas that is supposed to be a peace partner. The Egyptians, the Saudis and other players do their best to undermine their own Arab peace initiative by supporting Hamas and refusing to make any constructive contribution toward a settlement. Perhaps the Iranians have been feeding everyone a new secret drug that makes them all behave irrationally, or perhaps it is just the same old Middle East.

There is a way out perhaps. The keys are in the hands of Dr. Rice and the United States.

October 29, 2007 | 5 Comments »

Subscribe to Israpundit Daily Digest

5 Comments / 5 Comments

  1. I was going to post something here but after yamit’s dressing down, it would only be superfluous.

    Rinse and repeat, yamit!

  2. I love it when Ted posts his Leftist friend Isseroff!

    I feel I am in some kid of time warp the same players more or less the same mantras, (NEW MIDDLE EAST) Fear of American disengagement, fear of dire consequences more or less defined as Hamas take over of WB, and the Big Kicker we will be blamed for all the ills and failings of the World! Wow I am shaking in my zipper slippers I bought when I lived on a Kibbutz in another life!

    Abbas the Nazi and master Mind of Munich and Arafats #2 is a Peace partner? Only in the Nutty Leftists Wet Dreams is this piece of shit a Peace Partner! There are only,( Mr. Isseroff )2 kinds of Arabs, smart ones who say what you want to hear and Dumb ones who speak what they mean openly.

    As far as I am concerned any Israeli Jew who buys into Abbas being a [peace partner is no better and even worse than they are as you and people like you have done so much damage to the cause of continued Israeli existence. This is not to theorize just count the bodies, and look at all the wrecked lives you and your fellow travelers have caused.

    America disengaging from the middle east? Do you really buy into such drivel, even if they wanted to they are stuck. All vacuums will be filled by the Russians, Chinese, Iranians , YOU NAME IT! America is a Player, Oil to be gotten, weapons to be sold, Boeings to be ordered , Lots of interests besides messing around with Olmert and Abbas.

    There can never be peace in the middle east until we assert out hegemony over the whole of the British mandate and retake the temple mount from Islam. It is not important enough for most of them to be incinerated in a mushroom cloud.

    You insist on defining Fatah and Abbas as Moderates and Hamas as our enemy, Are you just stupid or do you do what all of the left does daily just cherry pick those details that support your appeasement quisling positions? IDF is Keeping ABBAS ALIVE by being in and controlling the WB. Most of the attempted terror operations either committed or thwarted are from Abbas Fatah organization. Half his men under arms belong to Hamas as they did in Gaza, They just joined up to get paid ea 6mos if they are lucky/ Your moderat guys are robbing the poor Palis blind and they have so many leftist Jews here as business partners in crime!

    Did it ever occur to you that a complete Hamas take over would free our politicians and the IDF and Security forces from the shackles and constraints that have led to our Schizophrenic behavior towards our implcable enemies and use the full force of our might to defeat them once and for all. Then we can have some modicum of peace not your Utopian peace but less or no killing of Jews. I think this is doable!

    Has any one told you that the American Surge policy seems to be working and that given time America might actually come out ok in Iraq is Hillary is not elected which I am sure would be a great disappointment for you!

    You call Lebanon a democracy and Lebanon can hardly be called a country today. Hizbola is shy 1 or two seats to take over the whole shebang. America is building an Ai base in the north of Lebanon that will eventually fall to the Shia, wait and see.
    Must I remind Isseroff that our purpose and reason for existence , is not to help America in solving and or promoting American interests. We are supposed to have our own (not clearly defined nor agreed upon) interests divorced From Americas.

    You Blame Olmert of all people for not being more forthcoming and helpful to an entity that you already describe as being near hopeless and corrupt with no enforcement powers, propped up by Israel and then you criticize Olmert for not doing more? Very fuzzy concepts.

  3. Three possible outcomes from the point of view of Jewish survival:
    The conference doesn’t happen – the best (for Jewish survival);
    The conference happens, Jews do NOT attend – not so good, but still OK;
    The conference happens, Jews attend – the worst (Final Solution).

    If Jews attend in any way, shape or form, the conference CANNOT fail.

  4. Isseroff does not see success in the Annapolis conference, but rather dire consequences for its failure.

    Interestingly, he states in his last paragraph:

    Ehud Olmert and his crew keep babbling about peace while doing everything possible to undermine the regime of Abbas that is supposed to be a peace partner.

    Is Olmert’s game plan really to run as fast as the Americans demand of him, all the while standing still? If so, maybe he is the Godsend Israel needs at this time.

    From what Isseroff says of Abbas in his article preceding the above quoted passage, he is hardly endorsing Abbas as a partner for peace with Israel.

    To sum up, Isseroff’s litany of consequences for the Annapolis Peace conference failing are plausible. There are however just too many variables, fluidity and dynamics of politics and circumstances to predict with any degree of certainty just what the consequences of failure will be.

    For that matter, it is uncertain what the consequences would be if the parties in attendance lay claim to some success.

    Success is the word the pundits used to describe Oslo I & II and other accords between Israel and the Palestinians. As things turned out, success was a wishful thinking illusion that circumstances each time quickly shattered.

    Success is also not the word one could use to describe the current situation between Arabs and Israel and Palestinians and Israel.

Comments are closed.