Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Outflanking Hamas

The current flurry of international activity in relation to Israel and the Palestinians by UN Secty. Gen. Ban-ky Moon and US Secty. of State Rice can be understood as an attempt to outflank or sidestep Hamas and its sponsor Iran.
Pres Bush has made public utterances about the need to make progress on the Israel-Palestine front. He has committed the US to a two-state solution. But, this formula of two democratic states living side-by-side in peace is as elusive as ever with the terrorist Hamas in control of the PA, and with Iran supporting them and thumbing its nose at the international community by continuing to develop nuclear weapons. This means that even if there are "moderate" Palestinians to talk to, such as Pres. Abbas, they are impotent to change this terrible new situation.
There are two reasons for the US to want to make progress on the Israel-Palestine front, first to take some of the focus away from the mess that the US has gotten into in Iraq. And second to placate the other moderate Arab clients of the US, notably Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. The fact that they are the major Sunni Arab countries and that two of them already have peace treaties with Israel, means that some accomodation is not impossible. Note that while the Palestinians cannot make concessions to Israel, seen from their intransigent position, the other Arab countries, although they pretend to support the Palestinians, are not so constrained.
For a long time, over 25 years, the existence of the Kingdom of Jordan has been intimately tied to Israel. If it were not for Israel "protecting" Jordan, with US support, then Jordan would long ago have been swallowed up by its ruthless neighbors, Syria and Iraq. Similarly the US spreads its protective umbrella over Saudi Arabia. If Iran could indeed develop nuclear weapons then the first potential target for blackmail, after or at least in line with Israel, would be Saudi Arabia and its oil fields. This would be like having Saddam Hussein all over again.
So even though the Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah was made in Saudi Arabia, it was a failure for the Sunni Arabs, from King Abullah IV to Pres. Abbas. And even though the IDF destroyed most of Shia South Beirut, the war as a whole was a loss, by not being a convincing win, for Israel. This has emboldened the anti-Israel Arab "street." Both Israel and the Sunni regimes see the Iranian danger looming on the horizon. Condoleeza Rice's plan is to use US hegemony to outflank this common enemy, Hamas and its Iranian sponsors.
The problem however, is getting the Saudis to modify their Plan so that it might at least be palatable to Israel. Rice has been working on this problem, but Israel will not be persuaded to join an enlarged Middle East peace conference on the basis of the current (2004) version of the Saudi Plan, that calls for Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders and acceptance of the Palestinain refugee's "right of return." Such a conference with the international Quartet and several Arab countries would grossly outnumber Israel, and Israeli Governments are wary of being caught in such an ambush. A statement by the Saudi FM, prior to the upcoming Arab League meeting in Mecca next week, that modifications to update their Plan are possible, indicates some flexibility. After all, if former implacable enemies such as Ian Paisley of the UDP and Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein can sit together in Northern Ireland, anything in the world is possible.


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