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Middle East alternative realities - no danger of a shortage


Whatever would we do without the New York Times for amusement? In Sunday's paper, Thomas Friedman provides the latest brilliant exposition of how withdrawal from Gaza will leave Israel in control of more territory, not less, plus, why the Arab-Israeli conflict is George W. Bush's fault. And that's just for starters.

Friedman writes:

But in the struggle between Mr. Sharon and common sense, America should be with common sense. The late Yitzhak Rabin wanted to get out of Gaza to make peace with the Palestinians, because he understood the danger of "Jews, Israel and America" all getting melded together in the nuclear age. Mr. Rabin knew that no peace deal would resonate in the Arab-Muslim world if it did not have a legitimate Palestinian partner. Mr. Sharon seems to want to get out of Gaza to make peace with the Jews. His aides have made clear that he is getting out of Gaza in order to entrench Israel even more deeply in the West Bank and the Jewish settlements there.

In the face of this plan, the Bush team is silent. This is partly because the Palestinians continue to stick with Arafat as their leader, even though this bum has led them to ruin - so the U.S. has nothing to offer Israel. And it's partly because the Bush team, which is so inept at diplomacy, has never had the energy or creativity to shape a better Palestinian alternative to Arafat. As a result, the Sharon vision of getting out of Gaza in order to take over the West Bank will probably win by default.

So, if only Washington had the gumption to install the proper Palestinian leadership, then it would be possible to fend off Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. I guess this is what it means nowadays to support Arab democracy and self-determination, not to mention common sense.

But compared to some things, Friedman's column seems downright reasonable. In Monday's paper, leading Professor of Middle Eastology Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski positions himself for the role of Secretary of Nothing Much in a future administration by offering the double-backflip-with-a-twist grand strategy:

A grand American-European strategy would have three major prongs. The first would be a joint statement by the United States and the European Union outlining the basic principles of a formula for an Israeli-Palestinian peace, with the details left to negotiations between the parties. Its key elements should include no right of return; no automatic acceptance of the 1967 lines but equivalent territorial compensation for any changes; suburban settlements on the edges of the 1967 lines incorporated into Israel, but those more than a few miles inside the West Bank vacated to make room for the resettlement of some of the Palestinian refugees; a united Jerusalem serving as the capitals of the two states; and a demilitarized Palestinian state with some international peacekeeping presence.

Such a joint statement, by providing the Israeli and Palestinian publics a more concrete vision of the future, would help to generate support for peace, even if the respective leaders and some of the citizens initially objected.

Secondly, the European Union would agree to make a substantial financial contribution to the recovery of Iraq, and to deploy a significant military force (including French and German contingents, as has been the case in Afghanistan) to reduce the American military presence. A serious parallel effort on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process might induce some Muslim states to come in, as was explicitly suggested recently by President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. The effect would be to transform the occupation of Iraq into a transitional international presence while greatly increasing the legitimacy of the current puppet Iraqi regime. But without progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, any postoccupation regime in Iraq will be both anti-United States and anti-Israel.

In addition, the United States and the European Union would approach Iran for exploratory discussions on regional security issues like Iraq, Afghanistan and nuclear proliferation. The longer-term objective would be a mutually acceptable formula that forecloses the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran but furthers its moderation through an economically beneficial normalization of relations with the West.

So, let's see if I have my notes straight: in return for a joint press conference announcing that the Road Map leads to the Clinton Plan, European states already busy in Afghanistan will find a couple of hundred thousand troops for Iraq, allowing America to hand off the world's biggest mess and depart in good order.

Then we'll settle all our differences on Iran by asking the radical mullahs there to join Europeans and Americans in a big round of "kumbaya." Yes, the same ones fond of justifying their hold on power by portraying America as a satanic menace.

Prof. B., like a good student, I have a question. What have you been smoking, and where can I get some? Also, is it true that you once ran the world, and if that's so, how is it that so many of us are still alive to recall it?

In the meantime, Yasir Arafat isn't going anywhere, and until he does, neither is the peace process, may it rest in peace. Iraq's horrors only deepen. Iran's leaders are waiting for the earliest opportunity to resume enriching uranium. But it's good to know that on the opinion pages of the New York Times, at least, a sparkling optimism about the region's future still prevails.


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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000306.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Analyst @ 06:35 PM CST [Link]


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Replies: 3 comments

I never thought I'd come to Friedman's rescue, since he is always lucid in his columns. It is surprising when his reasonable statement about the motives of one prime minister versus another's in vacating Gaza, is scorned as non sensical. And Friedman has every reason to question the lack of anything coherent coming out of Bush's strategy for the middle east.

As to Brezinski's comments, I agree that it is an exercize in wishful thinking.

Posted by Israel Bonan @ 10/27/2004 11:53 AM CST

I struggle with the entire discussion. This area of the world has been in turmoil for decades if not centuries. Who are we to impose our will? We must support Israel because they are our allies. Why would I support people who support terrorists and burn our flags. Let the Palestinians crumble and starve under ineffective leadership. Contain them until they are civilized by the natural force called starvation. Then let them rejoin the world community.

Posted by Robert Young @ 10/27/2004 08:46 PM CST

im doing a geography report and ur not helping me so i think u all suck

Posted by william @ 11/04/2004 08:06 PM CST

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