Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Wrong Vision from Bush, Blair and the Iraq Study Group

“In relation to what the President was just saying a moment or two ago on Israel and Palestine, I think that one thing that is very clear is that the old Middle East had within it the origins of all the problems we see. I mean, this terrorist problem that we faced in the last few years, it didn't originate, I'm afraid, a few years ago. It's been building up over decades. It's come out of a series of states of oppression, of warped ideology, based on a perverted view of the faith of Islam. This has been building up for a long period of time. And it has basically come out of the Middle East.

Now, my view in the end is that you go back to the origins of this and say, well, how do we resolve it? And the only way we resolve it is by having the right vision and then the practical measures to achieve it.

Now, I think the vision is absolutely correct. What we've got to do now -- and this is exactly why the President was talking about the way forward -- is that we've got to get the right way forward -- this is where Baker-Hamilton helped -- in order that we have the practical policy that bolsters and gives effect to the vision, because the vision is the right vision. You leave a Middle East in which the Israel-Palestine issue is not solved, in which there's no moves towards democracy, in which Iraq goes back in its old state, in which the Iranian people have no chance to express themselves, maybe not in the months or one year, two years, but you'll have the same problem.”

Tony Blair—from today’s White House Press Conference with President Bush


Peace between the Arabs and the Israelis won’t come easily, even if one starts with the right vision. But starting with the wrong vision will lead to disaster. Tony Blair’s vision is the same as George Bush’s: a two-state solution contained within the geography of Israel and the territories. His vision is wrong, but his assessment of what happens if one tries to implement the wrong vision is right. Sadly, this wrong-headed vision is endorsed by the Baker-Hamilton, Iraq Study Group Report.

What follows is quoted text from the Iraq Study Group Report dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict (with my interlaced editorial comments).

“The United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.”

They favor the unworkable two-state solution. Consider the group’s motivation. As other world community leaders, Bush and Blair included, the study group participants want stability in the region. They can’t be expected to deeply care whether Israel or a Palestinian State is viable, except in so far as it furthers stability. Stability is in their perceived interest. If they can fashion a solution that would leave Jews and Arabs of the region suppressed but quiet, that would meet their interest. Every other achievement might be a welcomed bonus, but not necessary.

“The United States does its ally Israel no favors in avoiding direct involvement to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. For several reasons, we should act boldly:

• There is no military solution to this conflict.”

This bit of conventional wisdom, often repeated, has always been false. Why does the world request Israel to return to the 1949-1967 borders and not to the smaller 1947 U.N. General Assembly partition plan borders? Or the smaller Jewish State borders proposed in the 1930s? When winners truly win and losers truly lose, the losing side loses its taste for battle for a very long time. Witness Germany.

No one likes war, but it is the threat of it, and the fear of it, that makes the other side do what it otherwise is not inclined to do. The real threat of military conflict, and the knowledge by one side that they will likely lose that conflict is the prime driver of diplomacy. Fear of being next, kept Syria and Iran at bay in Iraq for a while. When the fear was gone, all hell broke loose.

Treaties, agreements and contracts are not worth the paper they are written on unless there is a remedy section that can be enforced against the party that is contemplating a breach. Yes, there are incentives, and disincentives—even out and out bribes—used by the stronger side to help the weaker side see the bigger picture of what’s in its interests, but the truth is, there is always a military threat that stands behind diplomatic efforts.

“• The vast majority of the Israeli body politic is tired of being a nation perpetually at war.”

This is true. And it is dangerous. This situation leads to extremes: capitulation, or lashing out at one’s enemies.

“• No American administration—Democratic or Republican—will ever abandon Israel.”

This is not a thoughtful statement. Even a fortune-teller wouldn’t be so bold. Demographics change. Interests change. Alliances change. France was once an ally of Israel. For a variety of self-interested reasons, among them oil and a growing Muslim population, France is no longer Israel’s ally.

“• Political engagement and dialogue are essential in the Arab-Israeli dispute because it is an axiom that when the political process breaks down there will be violence on the ground.”

It is also axiomatic that when a party to a conflict cannot thrive on the scraps the world is willing to allow it to have, the political process will break down. A wrong-headed political process in the Middle-East, even if it brings temporary respite, will over time lead to greater violence, not less. Tony Blair is right about this.

“• The only basis on which peace can be achieved is that set forth in UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and in the principle of “land for peace.””

The only basis on which peace can truly be achieved in the Middle-East is through a new Muslim consensus understanding of the Quran. Until then, there will be no peace for the nations of the mostly Christian West, between Muslim sects, or for Israel.

With or without peace, Israel must be large enough to be viable or it will wither. But only with a new understanding of the Quran will Israel be allowed to live peacefully in borders of a sufficient size for it to be viable. Only in that day will Muslim society at large prosper throughout the vast amount of Middle-East territory that they dwell in.

“• The only lasting and secure peace will be a negotiated peace such as Israel has achieved with Egypt and Jordan.”

There is no lasting and secure peace between Israel, on the one hand, and Egypt and Jordan on the other. Free elections in Egypt would lead to the nullification of the treaty. A treaty with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is only good as long as a Hashemite King rules over Jordan—not a good long-term bet.

“This effort would strongly support moderate Arab governments in the region, especially the democratically elected government of Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority under
President Mahmoud Abbas.”

Moderate governments that are not democracies (i.e., all Arab governments) shouldn’t be afforded the label “moderate.” They are unelected, and supporting them is no virtue. Lebanon is a place on the map drawn by the French. It is a country in name only. Its army does not control the State. The weeks ahead are likely to show this once again.

“RECOMMENDATION 13: There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon and Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.”

This is the wrong approach as noted above, and discussed in more detail in my book.

“RECOMMENDATION 14: This effort should include—as soon as possible—the unconditional calling and holding of meetings, under the auspices of the United States or the Quartet (i.e., the United States, Russia, European Union, and the United Nations), between Israel and Lebanon and Syria on the one hand, and Israel and Palestinians (who acknowledge Israel’s right to exist) on the other. The purpose of these meetings would be to negotiate peace as was done at the Madrid Conference in 1991, and on two separate tracks—one Syrian/Lebanese, and the other Palestinian.”

What is the true point of any Israeli meeting with Palestinians that excludes Hamas? The world will not let Israel defeat this foe, and unless it is defeated, Israel cannot have peace with the Palestinians.

What is the true point of any Israeli meeting with Lebanon that excludes Hezbollah? Unless it is defeated, Israel cannot have peace with Lebanon.

“RECOMMENDATION 15: Concerning Syria, some elements of that negotiated peace should be:
• Syria’s full adherence to UN Security Council Resolution
1701 of August 2006, which provides the framework for Lebanon to regain sovereign control over its territory.
• Syria’s full cooperation with all investigations into political assassinations in Lebanon, especially those of Rafik Hariri and Pierre Gemayel.
• A verifiable cessation of Syrian aid to Hezbollah and the use of Syrian territory for transshipment of Iranian weapons and aid to Hezbollah. (This step would do much to solve Israel’s problem with Hezbollah.)
• Syria’s use of its influence with Hamas and Hezbollah for the release of the captured Israeli Defense Force soldiers.
• A verifiable cessation of Syrian efforts to undermine the democratically elected government of Lebanon.
• A verifiable cessation of arms shipments from or transiting through Syria for Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups.
• A Syrian commitment to help obtain from Hamas an acknowledgment of Israel’s right to exist.
• Greater Syrian efforts to seal its border with Iraq.”

All one can truly say about this recommendation is that it is fantasy. For instance, can one really expect the Syrians to cooperate in an investigation of the Harari/Gemayel assassinations when the West has already suggested that Syria had a hand in it?

“RECOMMENDATION 16: In exchange for these actions and in the context of a full and secure peace agreement, the Israelis should return the Golan Heights, with a U.S. security guarantee for Israel that could include an international force on the
border, including U.S. troops if requested by both parties.”

It is true that if there is full peace with Syria, like the peace that exists between the Untied States and Canada, it really won’t matter who controls the Golan Heights—as long as Israel has sufficient other territory to be viable. When Syria is a democracy, and when the vast majority of the people who dwell within the confines of this modern-day British/French created entity agree that their territorial borders are final for the foreseeable future, Israel ceding the Golan might be a safer bet.

“RECOMMENDATION 17: Concerning the Palestinian issue, elements of that negotiated peace should include:
• Adherence to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and
338 and to the principle of land for peace, which are the only bases for achieving peace.
• Strong support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to take the lead in preparing the way for negotiations with Israel.
• A major effort to move from the current hostilities by consolidating the cease-fire reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis in November 2006.
• Support for a Palestinian national unity government.
• Sustainable negotiations leading to a final peace settlement along the lines of President Bush’s two-state solution, which would address the key final status issues of borders, settlements, Jerusalem, the right of return, and the end of conflict.”

Again, the contemplated two-state solution is no favor to Israel or the Palestinians. Read my book for greater detail. Pushing and attempting to implement a wrong-headed vision will lead to regional, if not global disaster.

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