By Ted Belman
Ami Isseroff wrote Mr. Bush: You are not in Kansas anymore in which he commented on the peace process and on Halkin’s article below. It is really a worthwhile article. As I have often acknowledged, Isseroff understands what’s going on but he and I differ on the conclusions to be drawn therefrom. But not this time.
For instance he begins,
Not much peace is likely to come out of President Bush’s upcoming visit to the Middle East. As Hillel Halkin notes, nobody in the Middle East probably wants peace anyhow.
Unlike Hillel Halkin, I do not think this is a Good Thing. But it certainly seems to be a fact. As I note elsewhere, if US diplomats ever grasp this truth, it may set US policy in the Middle East on a much firmer footing. Since sometime after the Six Day War, the U.S. has held to the same policy in the Middle East. It is based on these principles:
Arab-Israeli peace will stabilize the region and open the way to further progress.
The various actors in the Middle East really want peace, though they each want it on their terms.
Peace can be obtained by using US leverage on Israel to extract territorial concessions from Israel.
By achieving peace and return of territories, the US can leverage Israeli return of territories into US influence with Arab states.
I certainly agree with that.
The US can maintain its leverage over Israel by making Israel dependent on US aid and weapons, and likewise, it can use the same mechanism to maintain leverage over other states in the region.
The model that is supposed to have validated the thesis is Egypt. Egypt made peace with Israel and got its territories back, and Egypt and Israel remain firm allies of the US, in part because of hefty foreign aid subsidies. But what if all the above assumptions are false? What if peace between the Arabs and Israelis would violate cultural taboos that have been in place in the Arab world for the last 100 years? What if it would destabilize all the regimes that signed peace treaties with Israel, by labeling them as “Jew lovers” and an easy target for extremists? What if the Israelis, once anxious for peace even in 1967 borders have in the interim gotten used to the “new” situation that has prevailed for 40 years, and are not anxious to trade real estate for flimsy peace agreements like the one with Egypt? What if instability in the Middle East, backward conditions and volatility are the cause of the Israel-Arab conflict rather than the effect?
Then he provides his take on the following,
Syria has made it plain that it doesn’t want the Golan back, it wants to use the peace negotiations as a way to force the US to deal with it and to give it what it really wants: Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia never fought really a war with Israel and its “sacrifices” in the conflict have been more than paid for by the high price of oil, kept high by Middle East instability. Saudi Arabia needs a Palestinian state like it needs cancer.
The same is true for every other Arab state. Far from pacifying radical voices in the Arab world, a peace treaty with Israel, even a postage-stamp sized Israel, would be advertised by Al-Qaeda as “fitna” and would be the occasion and excuse for giant economy-sized terror attacks in the “occupied peninsula” as they call the Arabian peninsula. If radicals are sore at Saudi Arabia now, what will they say when the Saudis sign a peace treaty with Israel?
Mahmoud Abbas wants a Palestinian state, but he can only sell his people a peace agreement that would be unacceptable to Israel – one that would effectively destroy Israel. Any Palestinian Arab leader who gives up right of return will be labeled a traitor. Given the continued presence of Hamas in Gaza, there is no chance of implementing any such agreement in any case, so what is the point of making concessions?
He is obviously playing my tune.
He concludes by saying the US leaders “don’t have a clue that they are not in Kansas any more.”