MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
At this moment, there are a number of disasters waiting to happen in the Middle East. That has probably been true at any time in the last 80 years, but it is especially acute right now. It is also true that the people in charge in every country and sphere, those who should be on the side of the "good guys," have all demonstrated frightening incompetence at every turn. When and if any of these disasters occur, they will be the ones in charge of damage control.
Iraq - Everyone is waiting for the apparently inevitable US collapse. If that happens, it will entrain a series of very unpleasant consequences for all Gulf countries, and for Israel, Egypt and Lebanon.
Iran - While the chances of an actual Israeli or US attack are fairly small, it is still the closest disaster in sight in Iran. Announcement by Iran that it has developed a nuclear weapon is still a few years down the road and will produce its own disaster.
Lebanon - The Hezbollah is confronting and paralyzing the government, while at the same time steadily building its military capabilities. Deals are rumored and the rumor bubbles continually burst. The UN emergency force has not been successful in removing the military threat posed by Hamas. If there is quiet, it is because quiet serves the goals of the Hezbollah at present.
Syria-Israel - The Israeli intelligence assessment that Syria is not planning to start a war next summer can be taken with a grain of salt. Israeli intelligence failed to predict five of the eight last wars!
Israel-Palestinians - The impasse cannot last forever. Hamas is arming itself and the Arab world has, in the Mecca accords, presented Israel and the Quartet with an unacceptable fait accompli that they insist must nonetheless be accepted. The continued misery of the Palestinians is equally unacceptable. Meanwhile, Gaza is being slowly turned into a chaotic version of an Islamist Republic, where any sort of entertainment not in line with the Hamas world view is liable to be terminated violently.
Egyptian politics - Everyone prays for the health of President Hosni Mubarak and worries about what might happen if, after 120 years, he is no longer running Egypt. We wish him long life and good health. However, people dying or becoming incapacitated is not an unknown eventuality, and President Mubarak is not a young man. In the Middle East, the bad is the enemy of the much worse, which is always waiting to replace it.
Israeli politics - Polls show that at least 64% of Israelis believe Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should resign and new elections should be held. At present, the leading candidate to replace him is hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party. As I wrote, in the Middle East, the bad is the enemy of the much worse, which is always waiting to replace it.
At one time, Israelis at least, could comfort themselves with the thought that no matter how impossible affairs seemed to be, those in charge are "bigger and smarter" than we are, and will find a solution. Everyone now understands however, that those in charge are completely clueless. A picture is worth a thousand words. The symbol of incompetence in Middle East leadership is Defense Minister Amir Peretz, reviewing IDF military excercises through capped binoculars.
Peretz's symbolic blunder is a symptom of much worse actual blunders. Israeli PM Ehud Olmert actually testified that Israel planned the fiasco of the Lebanese war. That is, contingency plans to respond to kidnapping of Israeli soldiers were made several months previously. Despite this "planning," it did not occur to Israel to drop a broad hint about this possible response that might serve as a deterrent. It did not occur to anyone to check the state of civil defense and home front readiness, to prepare shelters or an emergency plan for the functioning of local governments. Nobody checked that IDF logistics warehouses contained the equipment they were supposed to contain. Nobody thought about some training for reserve units. The plans were made before Amir Peretz became Defense Minister and the failures could not be attributed to his incompetence. Everyone was viewing the world through capped binoculars. Perhaps when you view the Middle East through capped binoculars, it is not as black as reality. Not surprisingly, this crew that is incompetent to make war, is also incompetent to make peace.
Israeli incompetence is matched by the incompetence of all other players in the Middle East. The US is engaged in a last ditch effort to save its position in Iraq, with no backup plan. The Arab League seems to be intent on the project of trying to force Israel and the Quartet to accept a Hamas government as a "peace partner," though that Hamas government tells the world repeatedly that it will never make peace. Everyone agrees that in Mecca, Mahmoud Abbas essentially negotiated away any influence the Fatah and secular forces might have had in the Palestinian authority.
The upcoming Arab Summit will probably be another occasion for ineffectual resolutions that do not help to solve any of the problems facing Arab countries. There is no plan to deal with Syrian influence in Lebanon, no plan to deal with Iran and no realistic plan for peace with Israel or for making the situation manageable for both Israelis and Palestinians. In Lebanon, UNIFIL has proven it is incompetent to deal with Hezbollah, and Lebanese of all persuasions are aghast at the stupidity and small mindedness of their politicians, who are leading their country to a dead end. Of course, everyone is frightened of the Iranian nuclear project, but nobody seems to have a clue regarding what to do about it.
Not everyone in the Middle East is incompetent. In Beirut, Hassan Nasrallah, who heads the Hezbollah, seems to know exactly what he is doing, and likewise in Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has proven himself adroit at maneuvering Iran to a position where it can call most of the shots in the Middle East, while everyone else stands around wringing their hands. Look at the relatively tiny resources that Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad command, against the oil wealth of Saudi Arabia and the military might of Israel and the United States, and consider how much they have accomplished with virtually nothing. Their only advantage is that they do not have lens caps on their binoculars, and they know what they want to do. What a pity it is that what they want to do is make everyone else's life miserable.
What we would love to see happen in the best of all possible worlds: the Arab summit will come up with a version of the Arab peace plan that is a real basis for negotiations. The Israeli government and the Palestinians, including the Hamas, will accept this plan. At the same time, a regional coalition will be formed to deal with the problem of Iraq and the nuclear ambitions of Iran. It can happen. It only requires a miracle. Apparently, the foreign policy of most Middle East players is predicated on the occurrence of this miracle.
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/00000574.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to email@example.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.
Replies: 4 comments
"the Arab summit will come up with a version of the Arab peace plan that is a real basis for negotiations. "
It is true that the Arab peace plan is insufficient for any Israeli right of the Arab parties. But the current Israeli government doesn't want to negotiate for other reasons: (1) it is unwilling to make the Palestinians a sufficient offer -- the best they can offer is a Palestinian state in insufficient temporary borders; (2) it is unwilling to stop strikes into the West Bank, or release prisoners, or stop pressure on the Palestinian government for fear that it will be blamed for any increase in terrorism; (3) it is afraid that if it negotiates with te Palestinians without a clear end to terrorism it will be blamed for tolerating terrorism and negotiating under fire; (4) it is afraid of the consequences of a collapse in the peace process wil have similar results to the collapse of Camp David; (5) it lacks any public support for any form of daring policy because of its failure in Lebanon; (6) it is certainly incapable of making any clear spoken concessions on major issues. Under the circumstances it is pointless to expect the Arab states to somehow create a bridge over all the reasons that prevent both the Israelis and Palestinians to reach peace. Cerainly not o the issue of the right of return. I the were really daring they might have tried to make some bridging proposal on Jerusalem, but they're not.
"Arab League seems to be intent on the project of trying to force Israel and the Quartet to accept a Hamas government as a "peace partner," though that Hamas government tells the world repeatedly that it will never make peace."
IOsrael could offer to negotiate with the Palestinian Hamas government and let them do the rejecting. It could also use the terms which even the Hamas has accepted, and start negotiating with Abu-Mazen over a deal that will then be presented to the Palesinians in a referendum. A start of negotiations in and of itself can create a change in the situation, and actually reaching a deal with Abu-Mazen is also a possibility, even if an unlikely one. But, like I said, the Israeli government has reasons not to try these options.
"That is, contingency plans to respond to kidnapping of Israeli soldiers were made several months previously."
Clearly, the plans of the army even back then were not very good. He who wants peace must prepare for war, and the Israeli army has to learn how to deal with wars that involved trained guerillas and missiles, and it must do it fast.
Posted by Micha @ 03/09/2007 03:06 AM CST
Let me quote from Jeff Halper (THE PROBLEM WITH ISRAEL. November 16, 2006)
"Letâ€™s be honest (for once): The problem in the Middle East is not the Palestinian people, not Hamas, not the Arabs, not Hezbollah or the Iranians or the entire Muslim world. Itâ€™s us, the Israelis. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the single greatest cause of instability, extremism and violence in our region, is perhaps the simplest conflict in the world to resolve. For almost 20 years, since the PLOâ€™s recognition of Israel within the 1949 Armistice Lines (the â€śGreen Lineâ€ť separating Israel from the West Bank and Gaza),every Palestinian leader, backed by large majorities of the Palestinian population, has presented Israel with a most generous offer: A Jewish state on 78% of Israel/Palestine in return for a Palestinian state on just 22% â€“ the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. In fact, this is a proposition supported by a large majority of both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples."
"If Israelis truly crave peace and security â€“ â€śthe right to be normal,â€ť as Olmert put it recently â€“ then why havenâ€™t they grabbed, or at least explored, each and every opportunity for resolving the conflict? Why do they continually elect governments that aggressively pursue settlement expansion and military confrontation with the Palestinians and Israelâ€™s neighbors even though they want to get the albatross of occupation off their necks? Why, if most Israelis truly yearn to â€śseparateâ€ť from the Palestinians, do they offer the Palestinians so little that separation is simply not an option, even if the Palestinians are willing to make major concessions? â€śThe files of the Israeli Foreign Ministry,â€ť writes the Israeli-British historian Avi Shlaim in The Iron Wall(2001:49), â€śburst at the seams with evidence of Arab peace feelers and Arab readiness to negotiate with Israel from September 1948 on.â€ť
Posted by Peter Reilly @ 03/11/2007 06:42 PM CST
The claim that the almost exclusive reason for the problems of the Middle East are rooted in the existance and intransigence of Israel is fallacious and a convenience for the various Arab governments. Surprisingly the existance of Israel does not mandate nor direct the sectarian violence, misogenist violence, homophobic violence and general denial of human rights across the region. Nor does it compel the gross inequalities of opportunities and distribution of commonwealth across the region.
Posted by Rod Davies @ 03/12/2007 10:46 AM CST
A needed requirement a Covenant for Middle East Peace
International organizations have failed.
It is time for a new regional responsibility which can
The only legitimate or practical geopolitical
The mindset of Arab brotherhood and unity should move
I would like to suggest a new regional security
These lesser military organizations, whether militias
The past can not be changed however the future need
( Coalition transfer of Iraqi security and training )
Given the political stale mate in the gulf region over
Shortly after the coming installment of the new
( Counter Pressure Measures for Middle East Peace)
The answer should be the establishment of a
After giving this much thought, and after examining
There is a counter to that position. In areas where
This plan would not entirely disrupt the overall land
NATO should be brought in as a security umbrella over
NATO could be a stabilizing force politically as well
Thank you for your consideration.
Craig Scott Aberle Tel-(763)428-3988
Posted by Craig Scott Aberle @ 03/15/2007 12:31 AM CST
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