Sunday, September 10, 2006

Life After Bush

Israeli officials recently expressed some concern that a Democratic Party less sympathetic to Israel will win theCongressional elections and the Presidential elections to come. Haaretz is saying the obvious when they noted that the disappointment with President Bush and the hostility toward him have strengthened the influence in the Democratic Party of groups among whom Israel is not popular.

Zbigniew Brzezinski delivered a paper this past summer that does confirm these fears. The reader will remember Brzezinski was Carter’s National Security Adviser. He is a critic of Israel along the lines of Jimmy Carter. I think his position is a close approximation of what American Middle East policy might look like if AIPAC and the Evangelical Protestants didn’t exist. Here are some highlights:

‘’The experience of recent times teaches us that neither Israel nor the United States in the final analysis have the capacity to impose a unilateral solution on the Middle East. Only neo-cons think that either the United States or Israel can impose a solution.

I do not see Israel being able to change the mindset of the peoples involved and particularly not by use of force. Use of force can achieve certain short-term objectives; perhaps even today in Lebanon Israel might achieve some modest success in interdicting some Hezbollah military capability. But use of force breeds its own antithesis: the mobilization of deeper resistance, the radicalization of those around you, and a growing sense of outrage and determination to survive.

The difficulty in resolving the Middle East crisis is increasing rather than decreasing and that the hostility is hardening. The number of moderates is diminishing, and the prospects for protracted violence is growing,

The parties that are fighting now in the Middle East, particularly the Israelis and the Palestinians can never resolve their conflict peacefully, no matter how much they try, no matter how sincere they may be. And when they are sincere, unfortunately it is not synchronized to the sincerity of the other side, and more often than not, one or the other is not sincere. Quite often, neither is sincere. As a result, there has been no peace in the Middle East.

The solution can only come if there is a serious international involvement that supports the moderates from both sides. That means a deliberate peace effort led by the United States, which defines openly in a semi-binding fashion how the United States and the international community envisage, the outlines of the accommodation. In short, the kind of adoption of the Geneva Accords or the Taba formulations or some of the formulations by Clinton at Camp David, accompanied by very explicit indication that rejection by the Palestinian side will gravely affect our degree of support and acceptance for the Palestinian regime and exactly the same vis-à-vis Israel.

If we’re not prepared to do that, then we might as well kiss the prospects for peace goodbye. Right now every indication is that we’re not prepared to do that. Worse than that, we have abandoned our traditional position from being a mediator and have adopted a policy of almost complete partiality and that contributes to the intensity of the conflict.’’

In 2001 at Taba a solution was almost reached that provided for two-states, with the Palestinians receiving a workable state not truncated or walled-in. The Palestinians would give up the right of return to Israel, recognize Israel explicitly and condemn terrorism unequivocally. What Brezinsky is hinting at when he says that our degree of support and acceptance of Israel will depend on Israel accepting these plans is this: If Israel rejects the plan the U.S. would continue to support Israel’s existence, but no longer act as if Israel’s interests and U.S. interests are identical. It would end its military and economic support of Israel. While I understand the potential leverage America has on Israel, I do not understand what leverage we have with Hamas. We do not give them any support or recognition today. How can we give them any less? On the other hand I would think the Palestinians even under a Hamas régime would be tempted to sign such an agreement, since it would end the occupation and give them a state. Israel is the party that would be most likely to resist.

Many presidents would have liked to impose a settlement, certainly Bush1, Carter and Clinton, but were held back by domestic political pressure, primarily the Evangelical Christians, the Jewish vote and AIPAC. Brzezinski’s views are held by many left of center Democrats. Stanley Hoffman, a respected Jewish foreign policy academic made the exact same proposal in a recent issue of New York Review of Books. A NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in late July showed a large gap between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to support for Israel. The poll showed that among Republicans an overwhelming 84% say they sympathize more with Israel (1% sympathize more with Arab states); by comparison, just 43% of Democrats do so (12% sympathize more with Arab states). Many feel Jewish neo-cons working in Israel’s interest were the determining factor in our going to war in Iraq. The emergence of a newly energized left wing of the Democratic Party as evidenced by Lieberman’s loss in the primaries is not good for Israel.

The Republicans are being held back primarily by their major constituency, the Christian right. The Democrats don’t have to worry about these Evangelicals since whatever they do they will not get their vote. The most likely way a a Taba type plan will be imposed on Israel and the Palestinians is after the election in ’08 and a Democratic victory. I would hazard a guess that 40-60 percent of American Jewry is liberal, anti neo-conservative, anti Likud and anti occupation. At least 80 percent are anti Bush. It is difficult to imagine a President friendlier to Israeli settlement on the West Bank than Bush2.

I would think the best time to negotiate a deal is while Bush is still around and American policy is so very supportive. The next administration even if it is Republican will not be as friendly.

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