Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | April 1, 2010

Israel and the West, Geostrategically Speaking

One of the most troubling aspects of Barack Obama’s remarkable treatment of Israel is the strategic shortsightedness of it.  Others have written eloquently of the irresponsibility of Obama’s diplomatic posture: its unprofessional, uncollegial treatment of an ally; its partisan bad faith if the US expects to be respected as a mediator in the region; the signal it sends to other allies about the lack of standing or regard they can expect from this administration.

But the geostrategic implications of Obama’s policy trend require comment as well.  What Obama is doing by treating Israel with such partisan disdain comes perilously close to signaling that as far as the United States is concerned, the secure existence of Israel could very well be up for grabs.  And that one signal, as I argued last year in the series “The Next Phase of World War IV,”* is enough to unleash a frenzied joust for power, influence, and control of the Middle East – a free-for-all that would remake the foundations of global geopolitics in a way we have not seen since 1945.

An American president ought to be wiser than to think everything in the Middle East hinges on Israel’s housing policy in east Jerusalem – particularly a section of east Jerusalem never claimed by the Palestinian Arabs in any current or previous negotiating process. The whole point of being a superpower dedicated to promoting peaceful coexistence and recognized sovereignty in the region is rising above transient, single-issue partisanship. The function of a mediator is to help the parties get off top-dead-center – not hand them, on a silver platter, reasons they themselves didn’t even come up with to dig their heels in.

But a superpower won’t long endure that doesn’t also go beyond temperance and evenhandedness in mediation, to operating from strategic insight.  Obama is further from doing that than any president in my lifetime.  He doesn’t even seem to start from the basic premise that the US should have a vision for stability in the Middle East, as a pillar of our national security policy.  Having such a vision is simply statesmanship of the most basic kind; not imperialism but statecraft.  America exists and trades in an increasingly close and interconnected modern world. Our only alternatives are having and promoting our own vision, or being at the mercy of others’.

In relation to Israel and the Arab world, the closest Obama seems to come to vision in this regard is sympathy with the “plight” of the Palestinians, and indignation on cue about whatever would putatively displease them. The Obama policy is very much one of striking attitudes in support of Palestinian resentments – actual or imagined – and leaving the outcomes of harsh reality to take care of themselves. The dynamics are much more like taking sides in a middle school dispute than like playing the role of a responsible statesman.

I don’t, in summary, think Obama really has any sort of vision for what it would look like in practical terms for the Palestinian Arabs to get an outcome that would satisfy them.  The Palestinians themselves have never expressed a concrete, negotiable vision in this regard.  It’s possible to point to the Saudi proposal – the “57-state solution” – as one that at least has some specifics, but no Palestinian faction has adopted it. The history instead is of the Palestinian Arabs using the peace process as just that:  a process.  Their recurrent tactic is to refuse to negotiate until Israel has made concessions.  This has won them a lot of concessions from Israel, but no outline has emerged from these iterations to clarify what, in the minds of Palestinians, a future of coexisting with Israel would look like.

The curious shortcoming of the Obama policy is that it seems merely to be aligned with this visionless, resentment-of-the-week-driven posture.  Serious danger lies in that alignment.  For a great power, it is a perilously inverted way of looking at a political problem.  In implying that support is receding for the validity of one of the sides, it undermines the stability of the process itself, inviting opportunism and Machiavellian maneuver from third parties.  Team Obama may not think of its adoption of the Palestinian perspective as a signal that Israel is up for grabs – but Pan-Arabists will, as will Islamists of every stripe from Tehran to Tripoli.

The Obama administration seems to have little idea that it’s creating a policy vacuum other actors will inevitably try to fill.  This is of a piece, however, with the administration’s apparent lack of understanding that America’s alliance with Israel is, in a pretty close analogy, the linchpin of the entire West’s policy for a non-hostile Middle East, one that is open to safe maritime and airborne navigation at the very least, but also to cultural contact and commerce if possible – and one that is not a source of threat to our civilization and way of life.

Israel is a Jewish state, yes, but she is also an outpost of the West, the great civilization of which the Jews are an integral part.  Support for her secure existence in her historical land is a marker – not of intent to conquer or colonize, which we could have done at any time in the last 60 years if we had actually wanted to, but of the intent to avert hostile dominion on our eastern flank.

Israel’s availability for that role is voluntary and arose independently of it, brought about because the reestablishment of Israel is what her people wanted.  It would have been neither possible nor desirable to create an artificial state where there had previously been no sense of nationality or impetus to realize statehood.  But because these quantities did and do exist, and because there are multiple reasons why a state of Israel, in Israel’s ancient lands, is justified, the orientation of the West to Israel – and in particular of America – has become the foundation stone of Middle East policy.

Affirming Israel is, inevitably, affirming precisely the characteristics of Western culture that differentiate us from the Islamic Middle East:  religious pluralism, the consensual approach to politics, ethnic tolerance, quiescent secularism, scientific and philosophical modernity, cultural liberality.  The historical context of Israel’s geographic position is significant as well.  The Levant has been occupied alternately by the powers of both the East and the West, and as strategic territory it has never ceased to matter, from the days of ancient Persia when it hosted the Hebrews and the seafaring Phoenicians to the present era, when coastline facing the Suez Canal and the eastern Mediterranean is vital to the security of Europe and of world trade routes.

The Levant, like modern Turkey, lies on the border between historic civilizations of markedly different character; and affirmation of Israel’s existence in this border area is inherently an affirmation of the Western principle of coexistence.  After periods of relative stasis, people begin forgetting that coexistence has always required enforcement, a historical truth of which Israel is now a daily reminder.  The very need for coexistence arises because of differing levels of liberality on either side of the divide.  The Western principle that there is no area of the globe over which illiberality must be ceded prior rights, because of geography, custom, or ideology, is upheld with the affirmation of Israel.

Something few of us have thought about – certainly not, to all appearances, the Obama administration – is what the security implications for the West are of America ceasing to affirm this principle; and in particular, affirming it in the border area where East meets West.  Occasionally a sympathetic pundit in Europe or the US draws an analogy between Israel and other Western nations regarding the confrontations of radical Islamism (and usually ends up calling Israel the canary in the coal mine, which is why I think of this line of thought as “Israel My Canary”).  But the concept is typically treated at a level of abstraction that doesn’t quite get at the issue – which is that Israel’s strategic significance to the West arises from who and where she is, considered together.

The chokepoints of the world's "great junction"

Israel is located in the Levant, bordering Europe’s southeastern flank and situated on the doorstep of the Suez Canal and Red Sea, the chokepoint into which the island-infested (and centuries-disputed) eastern Mediterranean funnels maritime traffic.  Since Napoleon declared that “the place to strike at England is Egypt,” strategic planners have understood that maritime traffic through the Middle East is the principal ongoing vulnerability of global commerce – and of the great trading nations whose livelihoods depend on it.  Indeed, if the vulnerability were one day to start with Morocco, at the Strait of Gibraltar – as it has in the not-so-distant past – the entire stretch from there to the Gulf of Aden, where the pirates of Somalia now roam, would represent 3300 miles of potential danger to shipping from questionable shores.  Israel sits at the heart of this gauntlet, a lone representative, on the southern and eastern coasts, of Western ideas about order, culture, and commerce.

Israel, unlike her neighbors, is not ambivalent about – or hostile to – the Western mode of political, cultural, and commercial relations among nations and peoples.  This would matter even if she were located high in the Himalayas next to Nepal, but it matters more because she is located at the mouth of the Suez Canal, and on the historical line of confrontation between the Ottoman and Persian empires and the empires of Europe, from the days of colonialism back through Rome and ancient Greece.  It is not possible to be located more at the nexus of competing civilizations and global tradeways than Israel is.

The fate of Israel is thus more than a parochial dispute between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs.  The fate of Israel carriers the momentum of civilizational will with it.  Perhaps the closest modern analogy in this regard is to West Berlin, whose independence and Western orientation became emblematic during the Cold War of the West’s will to enforce a livable coexistence with the illiberal, Communist East:  not servitude, not ever-encroaching fear, not self-constraint from a defensive crouch, but freedom to live in the liberal manner the West affirms as good.

This will was never expressed perfectly or with the requite of frequent tactical triumphs.  In the main, it accepted encroachments over time and operated defensively – but it took as fundamental its symbol of Berlin, and that ruled all geostrategic decisions made in the West from 1947 to 1989.

Israel’s significance in this regard is not merely civilizational but geographic.  The religious symbology of Israel is very important as well, but it’s in conjunction with Israel’s geographic situation that the religious dimension – radical Islamist anti-Semitism, and the proclaimed importance of Jerusalem to Islam – takes on critical momentum.  The junction of these three factors – civilizational, religious, and geographic – means something Team Obama seems to have no understanding of:  it means that Israel and the rest of the Levant will never be left to sort themselves out in a neutral or static condition.

This in turn means more than that Arab nations will aspire to influence the outcome, for tribal, Pan-Arabist, religious, or ideological reasons.  It means that Israel has prime coastline at the heart of the “great junction” of the world, where sea meets land and East meets West.  Israel is inherently located on the security perimeter of Europe and Russia.  She is on the border of the region that Iran’s current leadership aspires to attain hegemony over:  the most important border, the one with the European West.  Seated at the entrance to the maritime chokepoint of the great junction, her territory has significance for any nation in whose global strategy the great junction figures, including China’s and America’s.

Israel and the Palestinian Arabs cannot be left alone.  America is either pushing back against other third-party forces that work from their particular interests, or those other third-party interests will come to the fore.  There is no such condition as Israel and the Palestinians working things out without at least the Arab nations, Iran, and Russia trying to govern the outcome.  These other actors respect an independent process only to the extent that America and the NATO West put it under our protection.  And even under that condition they seek to influence the process through back-alley methods, from Iranian and Saudi sponsorship of insurgent factions in Lebanon and Israel to Russia’s provision of intelligence to Hizballah.

The “Middle East peace process” is either an American-sponsored process with some semblance of ordered neutrality, or it is thrown open to the energetic machinations of multiple parties who are the opposite of neutral.  This free-for-all holds the promise of very quickly reenergizing and focusing sentiments and aspirations that have languished in abeyance for 20 or 40 years.

Nothing will resurrect belligerent Pan-Arabism, for example, like the prospect of declining American support for Israel.  Muammar Qadhafi, he of the paramilitary attack on Israel in 1990 and the mining of the Red Sea in 1984, is still with us.  Syria, firmly under the rule of Bashar al-Assad, will radicalize to whatever extent Assad wants.  With Turkey’s current leadership moving toward Islamist radicalization – and deepening its ties with radical Iran, Syria’s regional partner – the conditions for a critical mass of Syrian radicalization – Pan-Arabist as well as Islamist – are only building.  In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak is getting on in years, but the danger of that is that he will require replacement, and in an environment of instability and renewed fervor, the stakes for gaining leadership of the most populous Arab nation will be high.  The Egyptians would be unlikely to enjoy choosing a new leader on a consensual basis, and uninterfered with.

The rivalry between the Arab world and Iran, stretching back centuries to the age of ancient Persian imperialism, will quickly be focused down to attaining rule of Jerusalem if America leaves Israel to her fate.  Being the force that overruns Israel and claims Jerusalem for Allah is key to establishing primacy in the Islamic Middle East, a dynamic that has a Shi’a-Sunni as well as a Persian-Arab dimension to it.  Iran’s involvement in the Levant would become more intense, more overt, and would be oriented on keeping the Arab states disunited while maintaining alliances of convenience with some of them.  Making the Arab Middle East uncomfortable for Western businesses and residents – and those who deal with them – would be one of the principal methods.

But Iran would not be the only regional power trying to leverage the free-for-all over Israel to her advantage.  Russia is already restoring her Cold War-era links in the Middle East – and Russia’s interest in the region is more purely geostrategic than Iran’s.  (Iran’s is geostrategic as well as religious-eschatological.  Iran’s revolutionary Islamist leaders don’t want to blow up the entire Middle East; they want to rule it.)  If we want to accelerate Russia’s activism in the region, the best possible way is to waffle on our commitment to a sovereign, defensible Israel by adopting the grievance-oriented perspective of the Palestinian leadership.

This is inherently a signal that we no longer intend to uphold principle – the principle of national sovereignty with which we and the other Western nations approach the UN, the principle of honestly-brokered negotiations and mediator’s neutrality – and instead are aligning ourselves with the side that favors situational sentiment and irresponsible opposition over a consensual basis for order.  We make ourselves look weak and foolish by doing this; and we automatically lose the respect of a nation like Russia, for which our willingness to put force behind principle has set boundaries since 1945.

That respect can’t be lost without trouble following.  Russia has as much motivation today as she has had for three centuries to break what her autocratic leaders have traditionally seen as her “encirclement,” by whichever Western maritime power rules the waves in the Eastern Mediterranean.  We must expect Russia to exploit the vulnerability opened by putting Israel’s security in question.  Russia can easily envision a Middle East, and an Eastern Mediterranean, without Israel, and can see advantages in that prospect for herself.  If the territory of Israel is “in play,” and might, with sufficient encouragement, switch character and allegiance from West to East, would America be more likely to benefit from that, or would Russia?

Russia historically has the great land power’s appreciation for the value of position and territory.  She will focus on gaining and leveraging both, and will have much less interest in ideological sentiment about it than any other actor in the region.  Russia, seeing the Pax Americana in the Eastern Mediterranean as being maintained against Russia, will favor whatever methods and regional connections are necessary to supplant it with her own security scheme.  If the conditions for Israel’s secure existence are thrown into question, that will move Israel’s territory to the top of the Russian list of areas where opportunism, maneuver, and cynical power-dealing can achieve the greatest effect.  Israel must be at the top of that list:  that’s where Iran and the Arab nations will be concentrating their efforts.

It bears emphasizing, moreover, that if Russia, by exploiting Western weakness and punch-pulling in the Levant, begins to gain greater positional advantage through convenient alliances in the region, China will only accelerate her counter-effort on its periphery (e.g., in Sudan, Kenya, Iran, and Pakistan).  Such maneuvers from the Asian powers would inevitably alarm Europe (as well as Asia) – and draw the US back into the problem but with less leverage and independence of action than we can summon today.  Where we react from weakness rather than intervening from strength, bloodshed is the greatest.

There is a significant swath of the world that can imagine a Middle East without Israel; and of course, nations and factions that are working toward that end.  The West is the swath, by contrast, that has a major stake in Israel’s secure survival.  Israel is the living symbol of the principle of coexistence:  of the affirmation that all our human politics and power struggles are not bringing us ever nearer to a state of subjection to whichever global faction can remain recalcitrant, restive, and offended the longest.

Israel is also the nation that gives the West a territorial foothold in the world’s great junction.  We cannot weaken our commitment to that foothold without releasing the brake on regional turmoil.  Moderate Arabs who are merely satisfied to deal tolerantly with the West, while retaining their own cultural identity, will be no match for radical factions armed and cultivated by Iran and Russia.

It has been cheap and easy to buy the narrative that the evils motivating Islamists – and putatively hated by all other Muslims of the region – are the existence and manifold sins of Israel, and the regional presence of the US and the West.  But that is a selective and misleading narrative, designed principally to make the West doubt itself and finger Israel and America as “the problems.”  The greater truth is that there is only so far we can tolerate being constrained in our actions by the resentment toward us harbored by radical Islam.

Ultimately, we will have to affirm the principles that made us who we are, or cease to exist as the civilization we still, today – for all our existential weariness – represent.  It is not acceptable for radicals with no responsible, positive vision of human life to control our actions through a resentment expressed by blowing up our children and neighbors.  We do not accept being excluded from whole areas of the globe, or driven out of them with relentless homicidal harassment, because some see fit to declare us “infidels.”  We reject the very concept of “infidel” as actionable in the realm of political organization or the use of force.  We reject the premise that he who declares himself the most offended defines, at his own whim, the limits of tolerance.

We reject, moreover, the prospect of illiberal polities expanding their power at our expense.  We are not embarrassed to have an outpost of our civilization in the Levant; we are proud, because of everything it means about the inherent strength of philosophical liberality; about the universalism of our commitment to freedom of trade, travel, and cultural engagement; and about coexistence itself, which has no meaning if one side is extinguished.  Under our enforcement of coexistence, those on each side have been able to trade, travel, engage in cultural and political expression, form alliances, and negotiate their borders as they see fit.  Those who hate these conditions may despise us for enforcing them – but if we fear their antipathy and trim our sails to fit their preferences, we are no longer ourselves.

The state sovereignty of Israel – the sovereignty that means Israel orders her own affairs, negotiates her own agreements, and is not subject to open-ended vetoes wielded by other parties – was recognized on the principle of “sovereignty” established by the liberal West.  Sovereign nationhood is our means of achieving a basis for peace and order while promoting individual freedom; a feat neither anarchy nor unwieldy empire can perform.  Everything we are is encapsulated in that affirmation.  Obama cannot treat Israel’s national sovereignty contemptuously without undermining sovereignty itself for all other nations.  To the extent he does deal dismissively with Israel, he signals to everyone who opposes America and the West:  Game on.

* The “Next Phase of World War IV” series can be found at these links:

The Next Phase of World War IV?

The Next Phase of World War IV? – Part 2

The Next Phase of World War IV? – Part 3

The Next Phase of World War IV? – Part 4/Final


Responses

  1. What a thoughtful, diplomatic summary of a very difficult problem.

    But, really, did you think that Obama cares a fig for the deterioration of the US as a superpower?

    I understand — even though I am dismayed by — the stance of the Palestinians. They believe they have been displaced by the US/European creation of Israel. They believe that, eventually and one way or another, Isreal will be destroyed/abandoned and the Palestinians will take over all of Israel (or at least force a single state, in which the Palestinians, by dint of their superior numbers/reproduction, will dominate). A selfish view. A view that has led to years of unnecessary suffering for their people. But at least an understandable, consistent view. And one that can be said to have some justification, at least to the extent that nationalism can be a good cause.

    But Obama has no such rational basis for his current “policy.” We know now much more about his domestic view/policies. He wants a massively increased role for government. He will do whatever it takes to get his way. He is ego-centric — greatly concerned with his place in history. And he’s a very cold fish.

    Why shouldn’t we conclude that all of these concerns and characteristics define his foreign policy, particularly in regard to Israel? His father was a Marxist who felt, probably correctly, that he was a victim of racial discrimination. Obama was named, and raised, a Muslim. Hey, he identifies a lot more with the Palestinians — i’m not saying he shouldn’t — than with the Jews.

    He’s a liberation kind of guy. A Marxist at heart. A redistributionist. Worried most about how people might hurt all those poor Muslims, when only a handful — say 100 million or so — are radical jihadists or strong supporters of jihadists. The beneficiary of 20 years of Rev. Wright’s hatred of the Jews. Obama refuses to be photographed with Netanyahu, not because he’s annoyed at him (although I’m sure he is more than annoyed) but because he doesn’t want the Arab street to see him in a photo with a Jew. By the way, I’ll bet Obama never goes to Israel.

    So Obama’s policy on Israel is simple: he wants to show the Muslim world that he can control Israel, or at least put it a bit in its place. It would be nice if he could somehow force Israel to agree to something that would push it towards Palestinian domination, but, hey, he’s a realist, so he’d just settle for some humiliation.

    That’s why Obama and Biden were so upset with the screw-up (and it was Netanyahu’s screw up) over the new construction in East Jerusalem. Instead of showing proper respect for the US’s first black president (and this year’s Nobel Peace prize winner — how quickly we forget when the honor is not deserved), the Israelis were pushing back. Very uppety. And a loss of face for a man who is very status conscious.

    So it was time for a little tit-for-tat, Chicago diplomatic style. So the berating of Netanyahu at the White House, the simply bizarre “You wait here, I’m going to dinner with Michelle” and the Dahli Lama out the back door with no photos treatment.

    As I write this, I realize how mundane it seems in comparison to Optimistic Con’s erudite piece. But I do think that there is more than a grain of truth in what I write. Obama is a very ideological man. I don’t think he thinks out of the box at all (except for his political moves, which are occasionally brilliant). Indeed, if he really were a transformational personality, he would have come up with some original (as opposed to the hackneyed Dem talking points of the last 30 years) ideas. His ideology re Israel is: the Palestinians are oppressed; therefore, we need to attack the oppressors.

    And of course, there is that problem of Iran. We all know, I assume, that Obama is going to do nothing to stop Iran from getting the bomb. Oh, he’ll huff and he’ll puff, but then he’ll do nothing. He’ll also do nothing when Egypt and Turkey get the bomb. Hey, maybe it’s a good thing — more power to the Islamic victims.

    So one day, Israel will conclude that Iran going to do the dirty deed, and Israel will launch a pre-emptive strike. And that will permit Obama to be the transformative figure on the international stage, just as he now believes himself to be the transformative figure on the national stage. He’ll be the one who condemned Israel and ended the special relationship.

    By the time he’s done, Obama will be a figure, all right: the worst President in the last 150 years.
    The President who drove the economic superpower into the dumpster, and who lost Israel.

  2. Optimist , your essay probably states much of the US foreign policy going back decades. Obama doesn’t exist as a lone wolf, what happened to the US State Dept. ? Surely there must be someone left in the State Dept. who has a similar analysis to your analysis, so where are they? P.S. Many of your outcomes sound just like chapters in the Old and New Testaments. Nothing like a little Middle East mess to really give plenty of Americans with a Christian background the creeps and I think there are enough Americans of Christian background to influence how other Americans would react to a Middle East blow up. All previous bets would be off as to what could go on here in the US in the event of major a Middle East upheaval.

  3. Really, really poor essay.
    It should be rather obvious that the United States has no interest in Israeli apartments being built in East Jerusalem or Israeli assertions of sovereign interest in Hebron absent any negotiation with the Palestinians.
    The Israeli government’s calculation that the US will continue to support Israel despite Israel’s disregard for our interest, and public statements of same, is too widely shared by other nations and of no benefit to the US.
    Our position, and our commitment to principle, is only strengthened by our sticking to it, despite challenges by our potential rivals or by purported friends.

    • Really, really lame objections fuster.

      It’s Obama who is portraying additional Jewish apartments as of interest to the US, not JE.

      Can you not see the forest for the trees? The whole thrust of the essay’s reasoning is the International, geo-strategic consequences for the US and the West in abandoning Israel, which arguably, Obama is in the process of doing.

      Despite the coverage of his public pronouncements, I’m also confident that Netanyahu doesn’t, in the least, take for granted Obama’s support of Israel.
      Obama’s loyalties are quite obvious to anyone without ideological blinders on.

      Netanyahu also has to be aware that only 57% of the American people now think that the US should take Israel’s side in a conflict between them and the Palestinians.

      “Our position, and our commitment to principle, is only strengthened by our sticking to it, despite challenges by our potential rivals or by purported friends.”

      To which principles do you refer?

      And, ‘Potential rivals’ and ‘purported friends’? Could that be a bit of that “situational sentiment” J.E. mentioned?

  4. aligning ourselves with the side that favors situational sentiment and irresponsible opposition over a consensual basis for order”

    J.E., “situational sentiment and irresponsible opposition over a consensual basis for order” is an exact description of the left and its operative philosophy, post-modernism.

    Which of course, provides great insight into why the left harbors such “sympathy with the ‘plight’ of the Palestinians.”

  5. The entire thing is utter nonsense Geoffrey if it posits that the US is or would abandon Israel. I don’t believe it to quite go that far. But the idea that rebuking Netanyahu is equivalent to compromising Israel is the kind of silliness appropriate to the day.
    The principle that our commitment is to justice rather than persons, G. There isn’t justice to be found in what the Israelis are doing to the Arab inhabitants of Jerusalem.

    • Obama will betray Israel in such a way as to ensure its collapse.
      http://shrinkwrapped.blogs.com/blog/2010/04/when-1-1-3-1.html#comment-6a00d83451b8f869e201347f948cd6970c

      That assertion of ‘utter nonsense’ you will come to regard through the prism of hindsight, and, within but a few years, as blindly obvious fuster.

      The US publicly rebuking Netanyahu compromises Israel because of two reasons; he is the sole political figure in Israel able to marshal majority support for substantive resistance to the forces arrayed against Israel. And, the rebukes of Netanyahu are part of a larger, emerging campaign to facilitate his government’s fall from power.

      Should his gov’t. fall, it will almost certainly be replaced with a liberal gov’t. solely interested in accommodation. Olmert’s gov’t., an example of such, previously admitted that to achieve peace, one of the concessions that Israel would have to make is a return to her pre-1967 borders. Obama, during the campaign, also advocated such an Israeli ‘concession’.

      Militarily, politically and socially that would severely ‘hamstring’ Israel.

      A commitment to the principle of justice is admirable, do you also regard the principle of the right to self-defense as admirable too? If you do, then Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian’s is understandably necessary. If you don’t, then you are, in effect advocating genocide.

      • Geoffrey, you continue the baseless confusion of building apartments in East Jerusalem, the US’s interest in not having them built, and my approval of the US (my own) government’s position with somehow approving genocide?

        Geoffrey, I tend to get over-excited in argument, but please tell me that you’re not standing by the assertion that supporting slapping Netanyehu’s face amounts to supporting the death of all Israelis.

        There’s but an hour and a half of April Foolishness left here and that attempted equivalency is too much to cram into the remainder….or something.

  6. Why, the prior statement of Jones, Power, Malley,
    et al, along with Obama, are determinative, why
    make a fuss over settlements, when the Iranian
    bomb is the real regional issue, although you wouldn’t know if from his UN address.

    • Some conjecture has emerged that the Obama administration is using the Jerusalem ‘incident’ as a pretext, to rebuke Netanyahu as part of a campaign of intimidation, so that Israel won’t unilaterally attack Iran before they get the bomb, as Obama has decided he can live with a nuclear Iran. The consequences of which, he is unconcerned with or even privately welcomes.

  7. Pajamas Media recently printed a blog post from Ed Koch, former Mayor of New York, the title:”Never Again Should We Be Silent”. The point of the commentary was that Ed Koch , himself, is now questioning the Obama admin.’s policies toward Israel. When men who have been big political players in their lifetimes don’t get the direction that the Obama admin. is pursuing, a lot of us non-political players tend to get nervous. The current commander in chief has never negotiated with a major city police dept. (any mayor of a large city has) so why should anyone assume that Obama knows what he is doing in real time strategic situations.

  8. We have to keep in mind that everything Obama and his Chicago handlers do is meant to further the Obama phenomenon. There is no guiding philosophy or long range plan for the US, the US economy, or the US place in international affairs. As is typical of superficial, egotistical, pseudo-intellectuals, the Obama team has spent its energy on public relations and advertising, creating the Obama persona. Thus, rather than plotting a course to a defined objective, they have put themselves into a position where they must react to the maneuvers of others. No one in America knows at any given moment what the next Obama move might be because there isn’t any general direction other than extending the rock star/statesman adulation frenzy. For instance, supposedly opening much of the eastern continental shelf for oil exploration isn’t a change in the Obama anti-petroleum industry mind-set. After all the lawyers have gone through the leasing and permitting process and federal judges have decided if it can be done, we’ll all be laying under marble rectangles. No oil will be added to the US supply and no jobs, except for attorneys, will be generated. But the neophyte president will be able to say that he did what he could for energy independence. The environmental lobby is yawning at the announcement.
    It probably won’t be that difficult to predict a “crisis” in the near future and the impromptu response it will produce. For instance, many economists predict a big uptick in inflation, perhaps with the deliberate assistance of the Fed. What might the Obama/Chicago answer be? Everyone on the financial side of the administration must be aware of the possibility but nobody in the media seems to have bothered to ask the big shooters what they will do about it should it occur. But rest assured that the number one priority of the Chicagoans will be to keep the legend alive.

  9. fuster,

    After reading again my comments, what I meant is clear enough, therefore your obtuseness is intentional.

    I’m not confusing anything, in fact it is you who is obfuscating the issue.

    Privately reprimanding an ally is one thing, public humiliation another and, when the intent of that criticism is part of an emerging campaign of discrediting another head of state, it crosses over the line into interference in the affairs of a sovereign nation.

    Denying a people the right to self-defense, against a murderous aggressor is advocating a position which must lead to genocide.

    In WWII, someone couldn’t say they were on the Nazi’s side but didn’t support the Holocaust because that’s what the Nazi’s stood for…

    Viewing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms which willfully denies the utter malevolence of the Islamic threat toward Israel and the Jews is condoning preparation for another Holocaust.

    Willful obtuseness and denial of reality doesn’t absolve the advocates of such a policy from their complicity in enabling, what amounts to plans for genocide.

    The conflict could end tomorrow.

    Israel wants peace and the Palestinian/Arabs/Persians/etc. do not. It’s that simple because the motivations of each side are that simple.

    The only solutions the Muslims will accept is the exodus of all Jews from Israel or genocide. The Muslims have been for more than 61 years unerringly clear on this position.

    If you’re for the Palestinian’s, you are condoning either expulsion or that failing, genocide.

    That’s the brutal truth.

    Because that’s what the Palestinian’s stand for, there’s just no escaping it.

    And no, this isn’t an April fools joke.

    It’s what the religious hate that promotes suicide bombings, leads too.

  10. Geoffrey, you’re silly again. How the heck is demanding no new Jewish apartment complexes built in East Jerusalem anything at all like throwing the Israelis into defenselessness?
    Silly.
    And you’ve no clue as to what the Palestinians stands for, particularly as they don’t stand together or for any one thing.
    The Palestinians living in Jerusalem aren’t advocating genocide. That’s silly.
    The Palestinians living in the West Bank aren’t the same as Hamas, are they?
    Distinguish between people, Geoffrey.
    The Israelis aren’t all the same either, they aren’t all a bunch of backward buffoons rioting against parking lots doing business on Saturday, or all gross goons descending from the hilltops to beat Palestinian farmers any more than all Palestinians are out to fire rockets at Israeli schoolkids or drive bulldozers over traffic cops.
    Less stereotyping, more consideration of how to deal with people in conflict in a way to avoids another hundred years of the same tired sad stuff.

  11. Darkness (I hate calling you that!) — I fear you may be right about the “Chicago politics” aspect of this. My post, of course, wasn’t intended as an explanation of Obama’s behavior but as an analysis of the effect it will have, regardless of what his motives or intentions are. You’ve identified some likely motives for him, however.

    Certainly, in all this, the most extreme and decisive possibility is Iran being convinced that a catastrophic attack on Israel would be permitted by the US. But I don’t anticipate things playing out that way.

    The more likely scenario is Iran and the Arab nations being emboldened, first of all, to ramp up the pressure on Israel through terrorist activity. Maneuvering in the region to achieve two particular goals is a supporting effort: the goals of simultaneously surrounding Israel with radicalized nations, and of making that same territory actively hostile to the US. Making it hostile to Western trade is a subset of the latter goal.

    Hence Iran’s pushes in Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Yemen (supporting Islamists, Shi’as, and anti-US factions with arms, gaining a military basing concession in Eritrea).

    Russia exploiting these aspirations is a given. Putin’s Russia will play the Arabs off against Iran, and vice versa, to gain whatever she can. The sense that there is a serious competition on, to get hold of Jerusalem and make the Jewish state disintegrate and flee in disorder, will accelerate the perceived necessity for maneuver.

    None of this is the same thing as Iran or the Arab nations launching a genocide of the Israelis. There are indeed some radicals who want to commit such a genocide, but Israel’s security can be undermined without the genocide whacking us in the face on Day 1.

    I don’t know that it’s useful to argue these points with fuster, GB. Good on you for making the effort, but I have doubts about the utility of it.

    Contra fuster, events are moving too fast now for us to pretend we are in an unshakeable stasis, anywhere in the world.

    Back in the 1930s, a whole lot of people were sure that the threats predicted by a few couldn’t come to pass. After all, there had been unfavorable developments before without calamity ensuing.

    But 1939 and 1941, the Axis outburst against worldwide shipping and the genocide of the European Jews — those WERE the calamities that ensued on the previous unfavorable developments. They ensued because the few had been right: the Allied powers failing to correct course earlier had emboldened the Axis powers to believe they could get away with it.

    Orcas — it IS interesting, isn’t it, that living people perceive advantage in behaving the way Bible prophecy says they will. I don’t think Russia has a focused animus against Israel today, in 2010 — although in the Soviet period, Russia supported the Arab nations against Israel in ’56, ’67, and ’73. There’s an extensive history of anti-Semitism in Russia, but the Soviet-era alignment with the Arab nations had more to do with the fact that that was an alignment against the US, I think. (And of course, the method of gaining allies and basing rights in the Middle East.)

    That said, the more Russia perceives her geopolitical interests to lie with the Islamic actors in the Middle East, the more we can expect Russia to adopt a de facto policy that disfavors Israel.

    I believe GB agrees with this last thought: that there is no such thing as a natural stasis in geopolitical relations. There is only enforced security. We are either maintaining a steady strain on the lines of perpetual enforcement, or the situation is deteriorating. There is no neutral state.

    • Of course Americans think there is a neutral state. Immigrant ancestors came here because it was a neutral place, they wanted to get away from the politics of “great powers”. The Russian people are interesting (I mean since Ivan Terrible). I guess they really have some emotional need to be seen as and be a world power. In terms of their Christian religious identity, they used to call their Orthodox Russian Church , the third Rome (the first was Rome, second was Constantinople, third Moscow). So even their religious leaders mixed geopolitical dominance with spirituality.

    • probably not too useful, when all you have is a sack, without a fact, full of hot air.

      perhaps, though, when you can explain why a public dispute with Netanyahu over building apartments means more than three billion dollars annually, you might have a start. keep basing your case on nebulous premises and you should best not bother.

    • It probably is a waste of time answering fuster J.E.

      For the life of me, when I reread his comments to try to understand his position, other than his assertion that your analysis is full of hot air and that I’m just silly, I can’t quite get what he’s actually saying. It’s like right in the middle of making his point, his clarity dissipates into thin air…leaving me scratching my head.

      He appears to maybe be trying to assert that Netanyahu is working against his own interests, by placing the building of apartments, over the three billion dollars in annual aid Israel receives from the US.

      If so, that fails to appreciate two factors; the reality Israel faces, expressed by; Lady Gaga Versus Mideast Peace –
      Are settlements more offensive than pop stars?

      And secondly, the clear strategy of the Israeli’s for decades having been to gradually push the Palestinian’s out of more and more territory in service of one of two outcomes; the probably vain hope that eventually the Palestinians will wake up and realize that they’d better settle, while they still have something to settle for OR the incremental and de facto eviction of Palestinian’s from all of Israel.

      Israel recognizes that Islam doesn’t want peace and that militarily, Gaza especially and, the West Bank to a slightly lesser degree, represent a tactical vulnerability for Israel.

      “there is no such thing as a natural stasis in geopolitical relations.”

      In principle I do agree, though prior to the downturn in our relations with both Great Britain and Israel, I would have perhaps disagreed. I now realize that regardless of the ‘special relationship’ between kindred peoples, like any good marriage, it only flourishes if both parties invest in it.

  12. Geoffrey, fuster is asserting that Netanyahu is working in the interests of Israeli right wing politics and fuster thinks that Israeli right wingers are only slightly more willing to come to a land-sharing agreement than Hamas.
    yes, very certainly fuster thinks that Netanyahu is not not working toward what fuster considers to be Israel’s best interests.
    more importantly to fuster, fuster thinks that Netanyahu’s government is not working toward the United States’ best interest. fuster, as an American, places greater value in US interests and thinks that unconditional public support of Israel is not always good for General Bullmoose.

    secondly, fuster wants to emphasize that the Israeli policy of using settlements as a motivational factor toward impelling the Arabs to negotiation was a good tactic that has now overstayed its utility. There’s really little juice left in it. The Palestinians (and the Arab States) are motivated and would have likely reached a deal if they weren’t blocked by the Iranians and their proxies.

    • fuster!

      Well, thank you for clarifying that for us.

      No, Netanyahu is NOT working in the interests of Israeli ‘right wing’ politics.

      He’s working, in what he believes to be, the interests of Israel and, his positions on the issues are generally categorized as right wing in nature.

      That’s not merely a difference in semantics, as you, intentionally or not, imply that Netanyahu places the interests of his party above those of his nation. I do not believe that to be true. He may be mistaken in his views but he is first a patriot.

      Israeli right wingers orthodox religious zealots are only slightly more willing to come to a land-sharing agreement than Hamas.

      Netanyahu is NOT an “orthodox religious zealot” and if he was certain that a reasonable land deal with the Palestinians was the only barrier to peace, he’d make that deal in a heartbeat.

      As an American, I too place America’s ethical interests ahead of Israel’s. In what ways does Netanyahu’s interests diverge from ours and how is he unethically forwarding Israel’s interests to the detriment of ours?

      Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that Israel enjoy unquestioned and unconditional support from the American public and government. There’s a difference between privately chastising Israel or publicly refraining from support on an issue and offering support to Israel’s enemies.

      “the Israeli policy of using settlements as a motivational factor toward impelling the Arabs to negotiation was a good tactic that has now overstayed its utility”

      I think that’s probably true and that’s why I previously categorized it as probably hoping in vain for that. I think that the former secondary goal, the incremental but steady ejection of Palestinian’s from ‘greater Israel’ is now the primary goal of that policy. I support that goal because I don’t believe that the Palestinian’s will lay down their arms until compelled to do so by overwhelming destruction.

      “The Palestinians (and the Arab States) are motivated and would have likely reached a deal if they weren’t blocked by the Iranians and their proxies.”

      I see no basis for that assertion, perhaps I missed something important, please provide the evidence that would support that claim.

  13. see Saudi peace plan, Geoffrey, for evidence about the Arab states support for a partition.
    the PA was on board and still is. Egypt and the Gulf States have been prodding Hamas to settle up with the PA, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and negotiate a settlement.
    the hold-up is that Hamas plays keep-away from signing the agreement to end the war with the PA that it has, in principle, okayed months ago.
    Rather than trying to lay all that out, I’m gonna cheat and offer this from television..
    Watch the episode from Mar 15, if you will…
    http://www.thedohadebates.com/debates/past.asp#

  14. Heaven help us!

    This torturous and convoluted argument reads like nothing so much as the sort of arguments the British mustered against pulling out of India and the French from Indochina. Your vision is a vision for perpetual war.

    Our kind host just doesn’t get it. The principal US interest in the Middle East is stability. The festering sore of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is the greatest impediment to achieving that stability. Don’t take my word for it. Don’t take your President’s word for it. General Patraeus has said it in terms that are crystal clear (and so uncomfortable for the neo-cons that they are writhing around trying to twist his words into saying something other than what they said).

    Some phrases in this tract leap out of the page.

    “Signal to our allies”: Our allies – the western democracies that share our values and security-interests – are four-square behind the ME policies of the Obama administration, and totally opposed to the ongoing colonization of the territories conquered by the Israelis in 1967. Our KH seems unaware that the Israeli settlements have been contrary to stated US policy under every US administration of every hue. The “signal” we are belatedly sending is that when we tell a foreign country that something is contrary to US interests we mean it. Recent administrations have merely wrung their hands while the Israelis took our money and continued the expropriations and settlement. Appeasement never works. It only encourages disrespect. Our real allies, who stand by us in frustration while we all spend blood and treasure fighting terrorism have been mystified as to why we allow the Israelis to act as a recruiting sergeant for the same terrorists. Our real allies (The ones who don’t have to be paid several billion bucks of our money every year) have been totally supportive of this move towards coherence and consistency in our foreign policy. In other words, your assumption is baseless.

    “Partisan disdain”: Three billion US tax-dollars up-front, our best weaponary at knock-down prices, and an open-ended security-guarrantee is the sort of “disdain” that other, more obliging, allies might well envy.

    “A section of East Jerusalem never claimed by the Palestinian Arabs”: This is plain incorrect. The Palestinians have never conceded the right of the Israelis to settle any part of the occupied territories. I defy you to produce one bit of hard evidence to back up what you have stated as fact. (I presume that you were merely regurgitating some or other right-wing Israeli opinion on what the Palestinians should or should not think).

    The US has a vital interest in the stability of the ME. The Palestinian/Israeli conflict is damaging to that interest. History teaches us that stealing the land of others is about the most provocative and destabilizing act that exists in the panopoly of international interaction. It is at the root of most wars. People whose homes, farmland, and water is being stolen out from under them are not inclined to view stability and democracy as their priorities. Both are US priorities in the region.

    President Obama was elected to prioritize US interests. The Israeli land-grab is contrary to our strategic interests (and moral values) and he told Netanyu so. About time too.

    Some interesting points occur:
    1. The Israelis say that the supposed nuclear threat from Iran should be our priority, and that peace with the Palestinians should wait (Haven’t we heard that one before?). If the Israelis actually considered Iran to be such an existential threat wouldn’t you have thought that they would have been more careful about picking a fight with their one indispensible ally over the supposedly peripheral issue of settlements at this time? The logic of Netanyahu’s position strongly suggests that the colonization of the occupied territories and not Iran is the number one priority of this Israeli government.

    2. A viable Palestinian state will require the removal of a large number of Israel settlers from the West Bank – many of them avowed fanatics. The longer the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel goes on and the more of these colonists there are in the occupied territories the harder it will be to resolve within the context of two states. What does the Israeli right and its US apologists suggest Israel should do with the Palestinians in the absence of a two-state solution (There will be an overall Arab majority in the combined area within a decade)? The choices would seem to be either to grant them democratic rights in what would then become a binational state, or solidify the current West Bank status-quo and rule over a majority Arab population while denying it equal rights. There is a third option of course – the one advocated by Israeli extremists (including some in the present Israeli government) – rounding-up and putting several million non-Jewish men women and children in trucks and “deporting” them. Is this something we and our allies should support?

    A parting thought. I am sure that you, KH, like I, acquired your home by lawful means – probably by way of the fruits of your honest labours. I wonder do the Israeli “settlers” ever ponder on why they got their property so cheaply?

  15. I have been indulging a heretical thought lately that the Israeli Palestinian conflict might actually be a stabilizing factor in the Middle East. I am not nearly as smart as Petraeus and I certainly don’t like what I see in the West Bank or Gaza. Nevertheless, I have a nagging doubt that were there to be some settlement or decisive victory between the Palestinians and Israelis, that we would see anything resembling peace as a sequelae. Much as I would love to believe it, I simply don’t see the Arab world not needing someone to fight. If they did not have the Israelis to make them strain the leash they would probably set upon one another as they have about run out of Copts and Berbers to bully and as they seem prone to do with one another often. I find this sort of funny since they are in conflict with Hindus in India, Buddhists in Thailand and Myanmar, Jews in the ME and pretty much the entire Christian West (I know those conflicts involve few Arab Muslims but I take as an assumption that the Arab dispensation is pretty much the only dispensation in the Islamic world.

    I don’t mean this in the sort of crass way that it might at first sound and its not meant as a criticism of the Beduoin Islamic ethic in a religious sense. They just seem to crave conflict.

    As far as the US/Israeli relationship. I recognize its importance for many people in the US. I will confess that with some of my fellow citizens here in the Bible Belt (which I say with no perjorative connotation at all) the dedication to that relationship is a bit more decided than I am comfortable with as an American. I would certainly defer to JE’s opinion about its geostrategic importance, or at least give it tremendous weight. Nevertheless it seems to me that the non-emotional case for the importance of the relationship is rarely given or I have missed it.

    Overall the whole situation reminds me of a terrible domestic violence incident. Both are right and both are wrong and anyone who tries to mediate or step in better not turn his back to either of them.

  16. […] Uno dei motivi per grandi Obama non dovrebbe essere schiaffi Israele è intorno a quella che è geostrategicamente stupido. URL articolo originale https://theoptimisticconservative.wordpress.com/2010/04/01/israel-and-the-west-geostrategically-speak… […]

  17. […] For a more extended treatment of Israel’s geostrategic significance to the West, see here. […]

  18. […] AND THE INAUGURATION OF THE CONGRESS SYSTEM OF EUROPEAN DIPLOMACYWe need to live each momentIsrael and the West, Geostrategically Speaking var jplayerswf = […]


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