Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | September 21, 2011

The danger of not vetoing the Palestinian statehood bid

Amid the circus atmosphere and all the sound and fury, a trademark Obama administration solution for the Palestinian statehood bid is emerging: kicking the can down the road.

For several days, the Security Council option of referring the statehood bid for study and consultation, rather than holding a vote and having the US veto it outright, has been a quiet buzz.  The decibel level increased yesterday, and Politico and Haaretz, among other outlets, have reported that the postponement option is gathering steam.  Ynet even reports a US plan for the statehood bid to be deferred for one year (which would put the next eruption in the fall of 2012, seemingly bad timing for an Obama reelection quest).

This makes perfect sense given the administration’s record of postponements on the US debt issue.  Indeed, 2011 may become the Year of Postponement, with the can kicked down the road on the US national debt and the Palestinian statehood question.  Abroad, the EU has been able so far to postpone a Greek default and the collapse of the euro – a bitter medicine Brussels (and Berlin) have not been prepared yet to go ahead and swallow.  In the South China Sea, China’s status quo-busting determination to drill for oil in the economic exclusion zone claimed by the Philippines has apparently entered a twilight zone, with the whereabouts of the giant marine drilling platform intended for the job unknown.  (The Filipinos, monitoring their EEZ daily, say the platform isn’t there.  Vietnam, which also patrols the South China Sea regularly, hasn’t publicly reported seeing it.)

A lot of freighted business is being rescheduled for 2012.  Postponing the Palestinian statehood question at the UN carries a danger that can be divided into at least two components.  One was articulated by an unnamed US official in Politico’s original reporting yesterday:

“It [deferral] actually is a good idea because it is like a Damocles [sword] hanging over our heads,” an American official said. “It creates an urgency to start negotiations.”

(Politico has removed this line from their article, but the original was spread verbatim to numerous other websites like this one. H/t:  Daled Amos.)

The Obama administration has reason to like the deferral option, because it puts the US in charge of a process and a threat held over Israel.  The move has obvious drawbacks, in that using the threat in the six weeks preceding the 2012 election looks pretty dumb, at least as things stand today.

But the other component of the danger is that postponing this reckoning leaves the parties with the same old failed “peace process” as the fallback position.  Yet Mahmoud Abbas is officially abrogating the peace process by going to the UN unilaterally.  His commitment to it, such as it ever was, has obviously expired, and with it Israel’s expectation of a serious negotiating partner.  There is, therefore, no peace process to fall back to – and with the prospect of simply renewing his unilateral UN push in a year’s time, Abbas has no incentive to participate meaningfully in a new set of talks.  His move this month will prove, after all, that the Obama administration would rather do just about anything than use the Security Council veto.

Preventing the Security Council from considering the motion at all – ensuring that Abbas can’t get the 9 of 15 votes that he needs – would still be the US administration’s preferred outcome at this point.  It is not impossible for a Security Council vote to be averted, although France just this morning broke with the Obama administration policy by calling for the Palestinians’ status in the UN to be upgraded, and for a statehood process, with “negotiations and a precise timetable,” to begin.  (Russia and China are expected to vote in favor of a Palestinian statehood resolution, but they are not twisting arms to make the vote happen.  The diplomatic energy is on the other side of the question.)

All that said, the US has articulated good reasons for a veto already, and a veto would be a better outcome than a deferral.  Deferring the question would effectively take all the old post-Oslo assumptions and move the process built around them into the UN, where multiple nations can stake out equities they don’t necessarily have in the current deliberations of the Quartet.  (France’s unexpectedly bold call for basically this plan seems motivated by the opportunity it presents for France to act outside the EU rubric.)

Deferral, particularly using some form of the active model implied by France, would also give Abbas a period in which other pressures were suspended.  He could focus on making exciting things happen with the Palestinians’ new status as a non-member observer state, which would vault them into organizations like the International Criminal Court.

A veto, on the other hand, would shut the door to unilateral approaches and put a period to a failed chapter in multilateral diplomacy.  Coupled with forward-looking initiative from the US, it would be an act of leadership, in default of which the most realistic prospect is of a full-scale reversion to the old, colonial/Ottoman-era patterns of European and Middle Eastern maneuvering.  In many ways, in other words, a return to the League of Nations model.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.


Responses

  1. But what about the “New Paradigm”? If the peace process is dead, why worry about incentives to return or stay away from it? If there is no peace process, the two state solution can only be enacted through unilateral acts on both sides that somehow correspond with each other, which seems very unlikely in the short run but may be the de facto solution in the long run, once exhaustion sets in and the “international community” loses interest. No UN resolution can create a state, even if it is not vetoed–and the Palestinians give no signs of being able to establish and manage a functioning state. I would also prefer a US veto to “deferral,” but why not start thinking about what comes next? There is obviously a vacuum where US leadership used to be–who will fill it, how, and then what?

    • I agree we need to think about what comes next. The vacuum where US leadership used to be can’t be filled, however. That’s something few have come to grips with.

      We’re so accustomed now to singular global leadership that we have forgotten what anything else looks like. There is no nation that can fill the US leadership role. There are only alternative international power schemes in which there is NOT, in fact, one, unifying leader for everyone to play off of.

      In some things, we will sink back into regional schemes of organization. Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, Brazil, and Venezuela all have such schemes brewing for their regions, and those schemes will come into collision in various ways.

      In other things, it will be convenient for most nations to continue respecting the conventions of the Pax Americana. Where they don’t — e.g., with Iran and the waters from Suez to Hormuz — there will be ad hoc methods of addressing the problem.

      The character of the international picture will resemble the period 1919 to 1939 more closely than the period before 1914, I think. As I implied in concluding the original piece, a UN without effective US leadership is basically a League of Nations. It will perpetrate a great deal of unenforceable silliness, and be ignored at will by the ill-disposed.

      • I think your account is pretty plausible. In short, everyone’s going to be on their own. We could probably see Erdogan’s recent outbursts as an attempt, more of less thought-out, to see what is possible now. I don’t know how to look at this from the U.S.’s point of view, since I assume our present foreign policy, or lack thereof, to be extremely transient. There’s no point to saying we should do this or that while Obama’s in power. And we do have the luxury of re-entering the system with some force a few years down the road if we want to get serious again–not as a superpower or ultimate arbiter, but as a fairly wieghty hegemon, at any rate. If I look at it from Israel’s much more constrained and urgent perspective, though, it seems like the whole Palestinian question is a sideshow at this point–the issue is out to prevent the catastrophic collapse of the Arab/Muslim worlds from spilling over uncontrollably.

  2. forcing a postponement of a vote is far better for the US than is issuing another veto on Israel’s behalf.

    it’s nothing but good for the US to maximize its leverage and avoid being forced to take sides with this Israeli government. Standing squarely with Netanyahu costs the US plenty and the deferral lessens the cost.

    Netanyahu and his band of merry bigots has been unwilling to stand with us and feels free to ignore requests from our administration. squeezing Bibi into a bit compliance with our views is all to the good. if he remains unwilling or can not disappoint the racists and settlers and accept our demands, the thought that the US might not accept the cost of honoring Israelis request for our veto, the Israeli people might be moved to find a new PM.

    the same old peace process is quite dead and Netanyahu’s guys aren’t looking to look like they favor finding a new one.

    continued expansion of the settlements can’t go on and continued use of the Israeli state apparatus to support the settlers means continued active repression of the Palestinians in the West Bank. that’s what this Israeli government intends, and it’s no good for anyone, especially Israel’s claim to be a democracy.

    the US should stand for Israel’s existence but it can’t afford to stand up and issue veto after veto when it means standing with endless military occupation and repression.

  3. Well, some things will go on, and since one of those things won’t be serious, consequential, negotiations and one of the things that will keep going on will be Palestinian violence against Israelis, it seems likely that Israeli expansion of settlements might go on as well. Why not? If there is never to be an agreement, why not continue to strengthen your position? If you simply stop building, what incentive is there for the Palestinians to stop negotiating when they feel like it, terrorizing when they feel like, and demanding the same conditions each time around? Expansion creates difficulties, but who knows, maybe there’s a way forward: incorporate territory little by little, eventually grant individual Palestinians willing to live with Israelis citizenship, wait for conditions to get so bad that Palestinians start leaving the West Bank and Gaza. That approach seems as likely of success as any other.

    • “If there is never to be an agreement, why not continue to strengthen your position?”

      the settlements don’t strengthen it. they’re a drain and a lousy waste of Israeli money, manpower and moral standing. the propaganda against the Israeli state itself doesn’t have much traction with the wide world, but the occupation and the settlements are an enormous “kick me, I’m an oppressor” sign and the really lousy thing is that it’s true.

      • As long as the Palestinians are incapable of (or uninterested in) establishing statehood, or acting responsibly enough to even discuss the matter seriously with, the Israelis will be “occupiers” because they will be unable to avoid intervening heavily in the West Bank and Gaza. The alternative, I suppose, would be to stand pat indefinitely at the 1967 borders and never respond to attacks from the Palestinian side. Maybe a foreign relations theorist at an American think tank could make a rational case for that, but no democratically elected leader could proceed in such a way. In that case, since the demonization of Israel for the forseeable future is a given, it is better to keep growing outward from Jerusalem and the other settlement blocs, because it will give Israel a stronger position should miraculous changes in the Palestinian polity make negotiations possible and, if no such miracles occur, it will make it possible for Israel to construct a far more effective security system in the event of attacks from other countries than the 67 lines (even with “minor adjustments”) could ever provide.

        • adam, the position that Israel is in vis a vis the Palestinians is one of nearly total dominance….keeping the settlements doesn’t add anything. they’ve become debilitating and figuring out the best way to get rid shut of the occupation is israel’s real problem.

          the occupation deepens Israel’s isolation and precludes many other, productive things for Israel and the region.

          the thing that’s kept the Palestinian’s from making peace with Israel is centered in Tehran and a person more paranoid than myself would suspect that the current Israeli government isn’t all that interested in a peace deal either.

          • I don’t see how Iran is responsible for the Palestinians’ political incompetence and intransigence. That incapacity seems to me much more deeply rooted in both Palestinian political culture and the political culture of international pro-Palestinian activism, which encourages the Palestinians to maintain their state of absolute victimhood.

            And it’s not so much the settlements themselves as the territory that Israel needs, not so much against the Palestinians, but against other threats in the region, which are multiplying rapidly.

            • the threats against israel aren’t multiplying, the isolation is.
              the territory isn’t needed and the territory isn’t their own in any case.

              • We’ll have to agree to disagree on whether the territory is needed–I’ll leave that up to the Israelis. The territory isn’t anybody’s until sovereignty over the territory is determined.

                Your distinction between isolation and threats seems a bit too subtle for me. There’s Iran, threatening to blow Israel off the map for years now; there’s Turkey, threatening to accompany the next flotilla with warships, and taking alliance with Egypt, which seems likely to tip Islamist–and who knows what’s next. We can’t be certain that a radical Islamist government won’t be in power in Jordan in a few years. Israel is isolated because most people in these countries want to destroy it, and no one is willing to help except, increasingly unevenly, the US.

              • actually, adam the parcels of land do have owners and the Israeli courts not only recognize that the land is mostly owned by Palestinians, but also recognize that Israel doesn’t have a claim to permanent sovereignty over it and holds it only in belligerent occupation.

                we can disagree as to whether Israel “needs” to take the land, particularly since there’s no longer any real prospect that any Arabs are gonna be sending armor and infantry.
                what we pretty much shouldn’t be disagreeing about is that might makes right and Israel can take the land and hold it using force and that the world shouldn’t take notice and object.

                There’s not much subtlety required in noting that Iran’s position is that Israel should be wiped out and Turkey’s position is that a broad blockade of Gaza, that prevents importation of an endless number of things other than weapons, is a lousy thing,

  4. I think that an important part of this problem is that the US refuses to publicly acknowledge that the palestinians are not really going to accept a lasting peace. Land for peace will not work. The palestinians have had several opportunities to accept that trade and have walked away every time.

    The answer to that situation, from our side, seems to be for us to continue to feed the aligators. Something that resolves nothing.

    There is one single-minded objective behind all this: The destruction of Israel as a nation. Everything else is just more window dressing which we continue to validate and perpetuate by stopping and gawking at it.

  5. There is one single-minded objective behind all this: The continuing armed robbery of the land of the Arab population in the Occupied Territories; the maintenance of a situation where the non-Jews in the Occupied Territories have no legal recourse to protect their persons and properties, and the eventual elimination of the non-Jewish population in the Occupied Territories – particularly those with education and ambition – by making their lives as difficult as possible.

    This Israeli project is proceeding uninterrupted. Giving the Palestinians national recognition would not have done anything more than give the Palestinians access to the possibility of legal recourse and protection. It would not have determined final borders. Neither would it have “de-legitimized” Israel – unless you subscribe to the ridiculous proposition that giving me legal rights somehow deligitimizes yours.

    The United States has now turned its back on its values, its principles, its moral integrity, and has inflicted an enormous diplomatic injury on itself. Having, under every administration, Republican and Democrat, declared ourselves in favour of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with mutual adjustments, we have now, at a time we are declaring support for freedom and democracy in the Arab world, shot ourselves in both feet by this excercise in double-standards.

    We are opposing the rule of law, effective legal recourse, and legal equality for non-Jews in the Occupied Territories.
    We are opposing the incorporation of the non-Jews in the Occupied Territories as equal citizens of Israel.
    We are opposing the recognitation of an independent Palestine.

    In short, we are opposing giving to the Palestinians things which our Founding Fathers have declared to be self-evident core US Constitutional values. Our Western Allies are all on the other side of this argument. We have betrayed our allies and empowered those who point to us as liars and hypocrites. But far, far, more importantly, we have betrayed ourselves.

    We have soiled ourselves.

  6. So, the purpose of being recognized as a state is just to “give the Palestinians access to the possibility of legal recourse and protection.” This claim is both bizarre and interesting. Bizarre, because I doubt that any demand for or declaration of statehood in the history of humanity was made in the name of “legal recourse and protection” (“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to seek access to legal recourse and protection from another…”). They don’t really want to rule themselves, in other words, and that’s what’s interesting: this application to the UN is really aimed at nothing more than giving the Palestinians a bigger megaphone and morpseudo-legal levers to push. If only they had something to say.

  7. “We have soiled ourselves.”

    And shouldn’t this be kept to yourself?

  8. “actually, adam the parcels of land do have owners and the Israeli courts not only recognize that the land is mostly owned by Palestinians, but also recognize that Israel doesn’t have a claim to permanent sovereignty over it and holds it only in belligerent occupation.

    we can disagree as to whether Israel “needs” to take the land, particularly since there’s no longer any real prospect that any Arabs are gonna be sending armor and infantry.
    what we pretty much shouldn’t be disagreeing about is that might makes right and Israel can take the land and hold it using force and that the world shouldn’t take notice and object.

    There’s not much subtlety required in noting that Iran’s position is that Israel should be wiped out and Turkey’s position is that a broad blockade of Gaza, that prevents importation of an endless number of things other than weapons, is a lousy thing,”

    • The parcels of land can’t be dealt with separate from the question of sovereignty–if my neighbor is using his backyard as a launch pad to lob grenades at my house, and there is no police force (as there isn’t in international relations) that I can call upon to intervene, his property rights must take a back seat. That’s what I meant by “whose land it is.” (Of course, if Israel wants to give individual Palestinians access to the courts, I’m all for it–it might be a way of weaning at least some Palestinians from their addiction to hatred and violence.) Nobody has a claim to permanent sovereignty. If negotiations won’t do, might will have to, when it comes to settling competing claims. I note that you challenge my claim regarding Palestinian incapacity, but if the Palestinians can’t, and don’t even want to, govern themselves, what does anything else matter? Can any Palestinian government make and enforce an agreement that Israelis can accept? Or even one they can’t accept? I never see anyone address that issue, despite its obvious relevance.

      You downplay significantly Turkey’s rhetoric–a threat to accompany with warships is no mere expression of disapproval. And I don’t have as much confidence in my ability to predict the forms future warfare against Israel might take as you apparently do.

      • Even under Erdogan, adam, Turkey ain’t getting into a shooting war with Israel.

        It serves Turkey’s short-term goals well to disassociate themselves from Israel. As Turkey seeks to expand its trade and influence in the ME, they’re gonna be rubbing against the Iranians on a number of things. Right now, it’s Syria,and missile shields, and the iranians are quick to denounce the Turks as tools of US policy.

        I don’t like their rhetoric and I don’t trust Erdogan’s government or party. I just don’t think that they have all that much capacity to take on Israel and doubt that NATO would allow it.

        Yeah, I am pretty confident that any mass ground invasion of Israel isn’t possible in coming decades. That doesn’t seem any more likely than horse cavalry, catapults and Greek fire.

        • Erdogan’s just shooting off his mouth; I agree. Of course, the Six Day War started with Nasser shooting off his mouth. There’s too much sheer hatred of Israel, too much obsession with its every move, too much scapegoating, too much craziness for me to be assured that economic interests or a realistic assessment of capacities provides a guide to coming events. Israel needs to be ready for lots of unknown unknowns.

          Again, though. Do you think the Palestinians are prepared to make an agreement with the Israelis–an agreement that would genuinely settle the conflict, that successive, unified Palestinian governments could honor, and that they can govern themselves? What source of legitimacy for any Palestinians government makes that seem even remotely possible? and if it’s not possible, what are we talking about?

          • No, adam. Nasser didn’t just shoot off his mouth. He made plans, he made alliances and he got arms and training and a bit of backing from the Soviet Union.

            I think that the PA is prepared (near desperate) to make a deal that they could trumpet as a victory (and that the Saudis are just as desperate to have that deal) and even though I believe the PA to be sincere,,,,,,

            they can’t deliver a damn thing to the Israelis.

            Iran has Hamas blocking and it’s impossible to change that without first breaking the Iranian’s influence.

            Strangely enough, Turkey is gonna to help to do just that by joining with the Saudis to put an Islamic face on the international effort for the ouster of Assad. Syria falls out of the Iranian camp and things start to change.

            • Well, from your description here, Erdogan has some plans himself. Anyway, while I disagree with your reading of the Palestinians (what kind of deal could they trumpet as a victory, given all they have claimed and refused in the past?), I would certainly like to see Iran’s hold on the region broken, and if it starts to happen the way you say here, that’s fine with me. While Iran’s influence on Hamas may be all people say it is, though, I think that tendency within Palestinian politics is indigenous–the Iranians may have exploited it, but they didn’t create it.

              • Right now, the plan is to oust Assad and Turkey’s working it.

                ARMS EMBARGO

                ———“Erdogan said this week that Turkey was coordinating its efforts with the U.S. Washington has called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to resign and imposed sanctions on some Syrian officials, blocked assets they may have in the U.S. and banned any U.S. import of Syrian oil or petroleum products. Erdogan told Turkish journalists after talks with President Barack Obama in New York late Tuesday that he was no longer in contact with Syria’s leadership. “I have cut all contacts with the Syrian administration,” Erdogan said. “We never wanted things to arrive at this point, but unfortunately, the Syrian administration has forced us to take such a decision.”——-

                Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2094763,00.html#ixzz1YtmAvOd5

                and

                MP warns of Syrian support for terrorism

                http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=mp-warns-of-syrian-support-for-terrorism-2011-09-23

  9. I wish Turkey luck in ousting Assad, but I don’t see how this affects Israel’s broader security situation much less its relation to the Palestinians.

    • Syria has been the base from which Iran has armed Hezbollah. Without Syrian support Iran has no reliable way to ship rockets into the area.
      Without Syrian backing, Hezbollah’ greatly weakened.
      Syria has also been home to Hamas’ HQ. They’ve been moving out of Syria and talking about maintaining ‘quiet’ while they evaluate.

      Without Syria, which of Israel’s neighboring states threatens it?

      • It depends who comes to power in Syria and Egypt. It also depends on whether steadfastness in the struggle against Israel remains the common currency of Islamic and Arab politics. Turkey might find it has good reasons to keep Hezbollah and Hamas going, or Egypt. If things work out as swimmingly as you expect, though, I’m sure Israelis will be willing to rethink things.

        But all this raises another question–if this is what Turkey is doing, presumably for its own reasons and not to make Israel feel safer, what does Netayahu’s supposed intransigence, belligerence, bigotry, etc., have to do with anything? Why the obsession with settlements, with East Jersualem, etc.?

        • Yes indeed, Adam. Why the Israeli obsession with the settlements? Why, at a time when Israel claims to be under multiple threats would Israel deliberately pick a fight with its one indispensible ally, the US, over the settlements? Why, when Israel claims to be concerned at its growing isolation, does it continue with the one action that, more than any other, antagonizes its neighbours and the international community? Unless, that is, the settlements themselves, and the colonization of the West Bank, not the supposed threats, are the real issue for the Israelis.

          On the other hand, it is quite understandable why the settlements are the primary issue for the Palestinians. It is their land, homes, water – and the very viability of a future independent Palestine – that are being stolen from them by the continuing settlement activity.

          You have, perhaps unwittingly, put your finger on the nub of what is going on.

        • the military is in power in Egypt, adam, and they’re not going to disappear nor fight against Israel.

          hard to imagine that any replacement regime in Syria could be any worse for Israel than the present one. Even if you think that jihadists are gonna be running Syria (not too likely) it’s still a short-term improvement for Israel’s security vis a vis Syria, an improvement for Israel in Lebanon …and a big blow against iranian ability to threaten the Israelis.

          If you can’t understand why the rest of the world, including the USA, don’t like Israel’s settlements in the occupied territory, it’s only because you don’t wanna.
          you can argue that there are excuses for the settlements, but you can’t ignore the prima facia illegality and immorality of them.
          that’s way the obsession.

        • Well, like I said, if the threats appear more remote, the attitudes of Israelis will change. Again, you are much more certain about the causality, and our ability to nail it down, of future events in the region than I am. The desire to appear the protector of the Palestinians, and the way that might implicate competing would-be hegemons in events they don’t desire, seems to be off your radar screen.

          I understand the objections to the settlements, even if I don’t share them. The obsession is something else. Plenty of countries do a lot more immoral things than building/expanding the settlements (even accepting the worse construal of them). The belief that an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians is the key to–something, peace or stability in the region or, even more grandly, democratic transformation, the defeat of muslim terriorism, etc.–that’s the source of the obsession, or at least the justification for it. The reason I mentioned it in this context is because your assessment clearly contradicts that belief–if Turkey, on its own (with the US’s help, you say), is determined to overthrow the Syrian government and thereby neutralize Iran and pull the plug on Hezbollah (I’m stipulating to the whole chain of events you posit) then, self-evidently, such things can be done without any progress in the “Peace Process” at all. Let people gripe about the settlements, then–wrong or not, it’s a marginal issue and the quickest way to start changing the facts on the ground is not racheting up the anathematization of Israel but by having the Palestinians show a genuine interest and demonstrable capacity for self-government. A strict localization of the issue would be in the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians.

          • Turkey is not on its own. The desire to remove Assad is,in great part a desire to wound iran and roll back its influence in the Arab states …and is being spearheaded by the Saudis and GCC as well as Turkey.

            Yes, it can go on without Israel …but the Saudis have been driving for a deal for years, not out of love for the Pals, but because they want to be able to work with Israel against Iran.

            There is no peace deal while Iran has the ability to block it, but Israel could make rolling back Iran easier by speaking softer, refraining from expanding the settlements, and speaking nicely about Abbas and noting the lack of threat from the West Bank and play up the contrast with Hamas and Gaza.

            Instead, they go hard and inflexible and they get a PA that’s being squeezed between the Izzys and Hamas and decides put a patch over the deep and bloody rift with Hamas and go to the UN where the Pals are inevitably gonna a get sympathy vote and a veto from the US….and deepen the isolation of Israel and make it more politically difficult for anyone associated with them.

            As always in this mess, there’s no perfect choice for anyone, and Abbas’ move to the UN isn’t all Netanyahu’s fault, but he surely could have nipped it before it budded.

            II’s not like no one warned him.

            And it’s also not like he hasn’t burned his last chit with the US.

            After this, we owe him and his government an effort to boot his butt out of power.

            • There’s still a hole at the heart of your analysis and your rosy scenario: Why, exactly, do the Saudis need Israel to say nice things about Abbas, etc., in order to work with the Israelis against Iran? After all, the Israelis, I’m sure, would be willing to work with the Saudis even though they don’t let women drive, Christians open churches, etc. What is the higher priority for the Saudis than countering Iran?

              If it’s so obvious to you that no deal is possible as long as Iran can interfere and that, therefore, squashing or marginalizing Iran is a prerequisite to any deal, then can’t the Saudis and everyone else in the region see that as well? So, why isn’t there an emerging consensus in favor of working with Israel against Iran, and then using the leverage they would have thereby gained with the Israeli public to help broker a deal with the Palestinians? Does anyone actually want an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, other than us stupid Americans? What’s the sticking point here? Why don’t all these realistic, strategically minded (in your portrayal)states just say, “the hell with it!–Israel would be great to have on our side!”?

              The more I listen to you, the more it sounds like Israel should just stay as quiet as possible, mouth a few platitudes about peace when they are called for, and let everyone else have it out. There would be some great irony in Turkey and Saudi Arabia taking care of Iran for Israel. If they can do it.

              Israel may be out of chits with the US as long as Obama is President, but unlike the PA we have elections here, and there’s one coming up in a little over a year. Who knows, Israel’s stock might go up afterward. And displacing Netanyahu might be hard, given what an opportunistic moron Livni is. But maybe you want to first displace her as opposition leader…

              • the more it sounds like Israel should just stay as quiet as possible, mouth a few platitudes about peace when they are called for, and let everyone else have it out.

                that’s pretty much what I’m urging…and I’m saying that staying quiet means reining in the settlers and disappointing their Yesha Council allies in the cabinet……and, most of all, shutting Lieberman’s yap. The israelis REALLY don’t need to answer Erdogan’s nasty bits of bombast in kind.

                they’re better served by stressing that they’re historically friends with Turkey and “we regret that Prime Minister Erdogan feels that way and feels the need to resort to sweeping simplistic statements of such dubious verity. we remind the Prime Minister that Turkey deals with terrorist threats to her security in ways that are not dissimilar to our approach.”
                They could have handled Abbas with kind words and an open invitation to meet for discussions.

                And it’s not a hole in my analysis that the saudis need some sort of minor concessions and a little more public relations work from the Israelis.
                That’s just the way it is after sixty years of fighting and the monumental arrogance of the Saudis and fanaticism directed at the Zionist usurpers. The Saudis long fed the beast and didn’t snap out of it until the beast started blowing things up in Saudi Arabia 7-8 years ago.
                They’re scared and they’re slowly changing, but they’re still prisoners of their own vile rhetoric even though if Israel wanted to bomb Iran, the US wouldn’t let the Israelis use Iraq’s air space but the Saudis would let them overfly Arabia.

  10. The primary issue for the Saudi regime is, well, the Saudi regime. However, the Saudi regime isn’t the Saudi population. The Saudi population, like the Egyptian population, is incensed at the ongoing dispossession of its Arab and Moslem brethren by the Israelis. They are not very impressed by what they see as appeasement by the gutless unelected regime that rules over them. The Saudi regime is well aware that the attitude of the Iranians more closely reflects Saudi public opinion in its attitude to Israel. There is no question that a more democratic Saudi Arabia would see an end to the policy of appeasement.
    It is a fallacy that the Saudi regime is obsessed with Iranian military power, or the (highly unlikely possibility that non-Arab Iran would have imperialistic or expansionist ambitions in the Arab world). Their obsession is with the fact that the Iranians, in their more independent and more pro-Moslem attitude, represent an attractive and subservsive example to a restless Saudi population.

  11. I’d say that Paul Lite’s assessment of Saudi Arabia, i.e., that its people are more anti-Israel and more confrontational–and, indeed, more drawn by Iran’s militant stance–than the regime itself, is at least as plausible as fuster’s. Indeed, fuster’s own delicate remarks about being “prisoners of their own vile rhetoric” seems to acknowledge as much. I don’t think that I, or the Israelis, would be unreasonable in assuming that a few minor concessions and better PR wouldn’t make much difference here. “Hole in your analysis” was a way of pointing out that you are assuming governments very much at odds with popular feeling, and such governments generally fail to do what they want or succeed and are overthrown, making things much worse. Anyway, the tiptoeing around fanatical hatreds you would have Israel do is simply too intricate. This has always been the problem for Israel: what’s the point of signing a deal with Abbas if he might get blown up and replaced by an advocate of the “armed struggle” at any moment? That’s why Netanyahu, back in the 80s and 90s, used to insist that a democratic transformation of the Arab world must precede real peace–that was the original “neo-conservative” position. But democracy in the liberal sense, of rights and regular elections, change of government, etc., not just more popular regimes. As the Arab Spring plays itself out, we will see if it brings us closer to or further from such possibilities.

  12. And, I’ll add, Paul Lite’s term “incensed” provides the key here. I suspect if we went through his comments we would find, underneath the heavy handed Chomskyian-style irony, words like “rage,” “enraged,” “outraged,” etc., fairly liberally sprinkled. That’s what we’re dealing with here: a politics of rage. Rage is not interested in amelioration, in negotiation, in incremental progress: rage is interested in revenge, in honor, in having “guts” (unlike the Saudi regime). Even though Western participants in Arab and Muslim rage have done an excellent job of framing the dispute on the model of Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, at the root of the rage is the unacceptable temerity of a subject and despised people, the Jews, not only defying Muslims but daring to rule over them. That’s why there’s no market for talk of reconciliation in the Arab and Muslim world, or interest in political institutions (including those of the Israelis which might provide some helpful models) or the various means the Palestinians might employ to get themselves a state. That’s why the much yearned for Arab Mandela, King, Havel, or even Gorbachev never shows up. There are just those with guts and those without. The only response to the politics of rage is calm defiance and patience.


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