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A Mirage of Mideast Peace

With the truce in the week-long Gaza war, Barack Obama is being prompted by right and left to re-engage and renew U.S. efforts to solve the core question of Middle East peace.

Before he gets reinvolved in peacemaking, our once-burned president should ask himself some hard questions.

Is real peace between Palestinians and Israelis even possible?

Is there any treaty that could be agreed to, or imposed, that would be acceptable to Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank, let alone to Hamas, which has emerged from its defiance of one of the most intensive bombardments of modern time with new prestige?


What are the obvious impediments to such a treaty?

First, Bibi Netanyahu, who has presided over the expansion of Israel settlements and joined Avigdor Lieberman, a supporter of ethnic cleansing of Israeli Arabs, in a coalition of the Israeli hard right.

Would Bibi agree to a treaty that required removal of scores of thousands of Israeli settlers from Judea and Samaria, when he opposed Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal of a few thousand settlers from Gaza?

Would Bibi agree to Jerusalem becoming the capital of Palestine as well as Israel, a non-negotiable demand of Arab nations?


Could a Palestinian Authority that gives up all rights to Jerusalem survive?

A second roadblock is the correlation of forces in Washington.

Should Obama begin to pressure Israel to remove settlers from the West Bank and accept a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem, he would ignite a firestorm among evangelical Christians, the Israeli Lobby, the neocons, and a Congress that, not long ago, gave Bibi 29 standing ovations after he dressed-down Barack Obama right in the Oval Office.

Obama has acquired much political capital with his election victory, but not that much.

In a Bibi-Barack face-off over settlements and Jerusalem, with whom would ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other Democrats looking to 2016 stand? As for the Republicans, we already know. Their policy on Israel: “No daylight between us,” and, “We’ve got your back.”

A third impediment is the altered environment between Israel and a newly radicalized Middle East.

Israel now looks north to a Lebanon where Hezbollah possesses more and better rockets than the metal-shop jobs Hamas fired off. Beyond lies a powerful Turkey whose prime minister just declared Israel a “terrorist” state.

To the northeast lies Syria, where the 40-year truce on the Golan is unlikely to last after Bashar al-Assad falls and is replaced by a Sunni regime rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood, or becomes a failed state saturated with jihadists and loose chemical weapons.

To the east lies Jordan, wracked by riots, a monarchy that looks to be a candidate for an Arab Spring uprising.

To the south and west are Hamas, a Sinai that is a no man’s land, and an Egypt dominated by the Brotherhood, millions of whose people would like to see the Israeli peace treaty trashed.

Israel is as isolated as she has been in a region that is more hostile to her presence than perhaps at any time since the war of ’48.

The time of Yitzhak Rabin, when Israel had treaties with Egypt and Jordan and had entered into the Oslo Accords with Yasser Arafat’s PLO, seems ancient history. Looking back, with the Rabin assassination and Netanyahu accession, the window that appeared to be open may have closed for good.

Israelis appear now to have entrusted their future to a U.S.-guaranteed military superiority — F-16s, smart bombs and an Iron Dome missile defense — rather than peace talks and parchment.

Which is their call. But what of us? What do we have to show for decades of involvement in the Middle East?

Despite our “liberation” of Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya at a cost of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, despite plunging hundreds of billions into foreign aid, America’s influence has never been lower.

Hillary Clinton, who cut off her Asian tour to fly to Israel and Egypt, was a bystander in brokering the truce. She is not even allowed to talk to Hamas. For we have designated Hamas a terrorist organization.

Astonishing. What was Joe Stalin when Harry Truman talked with him at Potsdam? What was Nikita Khrushchev when Ike invited the “Butcher of Budapest” to Camp David? What was Chairman Mao when Richard Nixon toasted him in Beijing in 1972?

We tie our own hands and wonder why we cannot succeed.

Today, as Obama is being pushed toward another futile round of peacemaking in the Mideast, prodded to intervene in the ethnic-civil-sectarian war in Syria and goaded to draw a “red line” for war on Iran, he should ask himself:

How would America’s vital interests be imperiled by staying out of this particular quarrel, conflict or war? Why are all of these crises somehow ours to resolve? What are the odds that we can resolve them?

We are out of Iraq, and leaving Afghanistan by 2014. Should we go back in, or as Obama pledged, do our “nation-building” here at home?

Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of TAC and the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? [1]” Copyright 2012 Creators.com [2].

13 Comments (Open | Close)

13 Comments To "A Mirage of Mideast Peace"

#1 Comment By Philo Vaihinger On November 23, 2012 @ 7:59 am

A belated happy Thanksgiving to Pat, his family, his friends, and his readers.

And thanks to him for resuming advocacy of a foreign policy approach to the Middle East, Israel, and Islam not only to the left of the Islamophobes, the neocons, and Mitt Romney but also to the left of Barack Obama.

#2 Comment By LarryS On November 23, 2012 @ 11:18 am

Golda Meir said, “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people… It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist.”

Perhaps she had a point. What would happen if those people now living in Gaza and the West Bank started calling themselves Israelis?

#3 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 23, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

The genuine interests of the American public don’t count for much against the interests of corporate donors with financial interests overseas nor with the consequent calculations for the geopolitical dominance of those interests.

Gen. Smedley Butler put it well long ago, but many decades have passed and nothing’s changed.

#4 Comment By Mario On November 23, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

Obama is laying the ground work for an attack on Iran next year, nothing else.
If Bibi wants to commit demographic suicide by building more settelments, Obama is in no rush to stop him

#5 Comment By The Wet One On November 23, 2012 @ 6:07 pm

Nothing that a good, solid, all out war to death wouldn’t solve. It would have to be done Greco-Roman style, where you kill all the men age 12 and over and enslave all the women, but it would definitely settle the matter. It would definitely offend modern sensibilities in the Western world, but it worked for humans for millenia before Christ and almost 2 millenia after Christ.

They should give it a try and let’s see the result. I’m not entirely sure that the Isrealis would lose. They are one heck of an intrepid lot.

The Wet One

#6 Comment By jick On November 24, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

This post ignores the obvious fact that the US holds the pursestrings for both the Israeli military and much of Palestinian civic life. Obama has no choice but to be involved seeing that he already is. The real mystery is, with so much leverage, why we don’t ever seem to threaten to turn of the money faucet until each side acts in accordance with the international community’s widely accepted peace plan (i.e., land swaps, ’67 borders, an end to the settlement project, disarming the Palestinian militias, and a right of return for some refugees and financial compensation for most)

#7 Comment By Georgina Davenport On November 24, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

The Israel-Palestinian problem is not unlike our many domestic problems. Not that there isn’t a solution, but there is no sincerity and political will for the solutions. The GOP, it seems, in this middle eastern conflict as in domestic issues, like to be the stubborn “No” guy in the negotiation room because they always want it all. Israel cannot keep invading West Bank when supposedly is negotiating for peace. It’s like a cheating spouse who goes for couple counselling while keep seeing his/her lover.

#8 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 24, 2012 @ 7:00 pm

This is one of those I love you but comments . . .
I love Israel, but the time has come for her to change her dynamic with her neighbors. For that to occur, the United States must withdraw some levels of support for her behavior. She is part of the international community and to that end, we must no longer keep silent every time she kills a suspected terrorist. Those days must simply end.
To that end the United States must cease attacks on suspected terrorists unless said action occurs during ‘normal’ military operations. Not only are these drone and fighter attacks ineffective in shaping US foreign policy on the grand scales in we need to succeed, but it’s just not cost effective. But the US must again behave as though she lives in an international community as opposed to a sole actor.
Reducing support would leave Israel in a somewhat weaker position whereby she will be forced to fight to a finish or out the shear desire for survival begin the process of negotiating for some semblance of stability in the region. Currently, Israel behaves as though she were a helpless child. She is actually the most powerful girl on her block and certainly now the most stable. But the luxury of US support relieves her of the necessary burden of self reflection beyond her own mirrors. L’est she forget that she too was a petulant and impatient child engaged in murdering innocents as a strategy for movement on the promises of Balfour which were not meant for her alone.

We must support an immediate creation of a nation state or states with functioning governments and civil agencies. The current status lends itself to incursions because no identifiable authority exists to enforce borders. A Nation or nations that are sovereign agencies within the international community, states, with civil authority tasked and supported in terminating rogue individuals whose purpose is to retaliate for past wrongs. A series of reparations must be addressed to compensate those who previously lived in what is now Israel proper whose land was taken without compensation during Israel’s return. This redress must be part and parcel to any negotiated settlement. An Jewish woman once confronted me with this: “When in history have a people who lost land or resources as the result of a war been given the land back (or been given any compensation)?” My only reply: “Israel.” But her question is part of the self reinforcing mirror of oppression that Israel, in part creates for herself and which we heretofore supported. She seems to forget that many made adjustments and continue to do so against their own perceived self-interest. She must be reminded.

There will be plenty of “you and me against the world” scenarios. An unconditional relationship does not mean one condones, ignores or provides out and out support for self destructive acts. I am not advocating peace at any cost, but a more pointed policy in the region, pushing for a more measured response to perceived violations or grievances.

For the believer, I understand the need to “Bless Israel” and I understand the principle. But the Israel in which God bestowed promises is not the Israel that exists today. She is a completely different entity. I understand that for many her protection is a mandate by God. But that protection and support does not mean Israel is always right in every act she labels as self-defense, nor is her conduct as to her foreign affairs policy.

The Palestinians and Muslims in the region must also grow up. As with Israel, they must begin to resolve matters via the international body of laws and expectations that operate in the international community.

Unless we support and obtain actual nation states in the community – the neurotic knee jerk retaliatory scenarios will continue.

To Israelis who claim this will just create a region in which she will be further surrounded by enemies, my response is this. We all learn to live with neighbors who don’t like us. It is life. You will have to make a way. If millions of black people who lived under vicious oppression for more than 100 years, can come out of it forgiving those who denied them, killed them beat them — certainly, the chosen of an all loving God, and the the peace loving worshippers of Allah, can do the same.

I am under no illusions: it will require the very same force of will to marshall such an effort as it currently does to foster the current tit for tat neurosis.

#9 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 24, 2012 @ 7:30 pm

I do not have the confidence that an immediate withdrawal of all support will yield positive results for the US or the region.

#10 Comment By Adam Nedsoulis On November 25, 2012 @ 7:43 pm

America should not only stay out of further involvement, it should pull out of current involvement, i.e., no more money or materiel for the Israelis. Hey, it’s the fiscally-responsible thing to do!

#11 Comment By kim serca On November 25, 2012 @ 8:26 pm

“Despite our “liberation” of Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya at a cost of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars…”

Lumping Libya in with the other adventures won’t work Pat. The difference: Obama authorised a limited engagement to assist a process already underway. The reward? A people that are now genuinely pro-US – if someone told you in 1986, in the White House, that Libyans would be demonstrating in solidarity with a murdered US ambassador, would you have thought it possible? – in a hostile region, and not a single american casualty. You lump Libya in there, so you’ll have something done by a Democratic president, rather than admitting that the GOP stuffed up the region

#12 Comment By W. C. Taqiyya On November 26, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

Maybe there are insurmountable obstacles to my proposal. If so, I hope a reader points them out to me. Meanwhile, as I have posted elsewhere, I think Israel should draw Russia into a closer relationship. With it’s large but undeveloped gas reserves in the Mediterranean, Israel needs a partner to help recover, transport and protect that fuel. Russia has lots of experience in gas and oil. Further, after Bashar Assad falls, Russia will very likely lose it’s only remaining Mediterranean port. Putin would kill to gain access to the fine ports in Israel. The prospect of technology transfers and expanded trade from Israel should also be very appealing. In return, Israel will have gained a powerful partner to help guarantee it’s safety. It’s difficult to imagine an Egypt, Syria or Turkey attacking Israel with Russian warships comfortably parked in it’s ports. Working more closely together in the southern Caucasus, as they reportedly have already begun doing, would also provide an important hedge against Iranian aggression. Both nations would increase their regional influence, wealth and sustainability. America has been depleting it’s treasury trying to buy off and/or bomb into submission nearly every country in the region. It hasn’t worked. It’s time America took a step back and let it’s competitors get their hands dirty. Plus, the bottom line is that American’s in general and American Jews in particular don’t really care that much about Israel. And those that do, can emigrate if they wish. Those who don’t can send their own money to the Hamas terrorists. And, I’m just tired of my tax dollars being used to sustain all of the factions in the ongoing thousand year tribal conflict. Left to their own devices, they will gladly kill each other for free. Free is better.

I would also invite about ten Chinese infantry divisions into Afghanistan. At the very least, they should be safeguarding their own ruby and copper mines. Besides, what better way to give the Russians and Indians something to complain about other than American imperialism? But, that’s another story.

#13 Comment By Farnaz Mansouri On November 29, 2012 @ 9:58 pm

If Israel decides to resume negotiations with Abbas and if the Jews are to be expelled, I would expect Israel to discuss the possible expulsion of its 1.8 million Arab Muslims.

This, in fact, is what Egypt did with Palestinians when a state seemed likely twelve years ago, but that is not the point.

It is true that Israeli Muslim Arabs have never indicated the slightest desire to leave Israel, unlike their counterparts from ME Muslim nations, who fled to the tune of millions.

That, however, is not relevant. The Jewish settlers don’t wish to leave either.

Negotiations are negotiations. Quid pro quo.