Nostalgia for U.S. Mideast (like in "Arab-Israel") role

One of the leading Israeli architects of the late "Oslo Process," Yossi Beilin has an interesting item in Ha'aretz about the American "non-role" in the recent round Israeli-Palestinian violence:
One of the most striking phenomena of recent weeks, given the stepped-up launching of Qassam rockets on Sderot, the painful incident at Kerem Shalom, and the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, is the absence of the American factor. True, there have been telephone conversations with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. ambassador in Israel receives updates, and the U.S. ambassador at the United Nations objects to resolutions calling on Israel to end its military operation in the Gaza Strip. But in terms of direct influence on the ground, there has been absolute American silence.
He concludes that
The United States was not even mentioned as an option. The White House spokesman on duty did take the time to inform the world that it was Israel's right to defend itself, but said it should do so carefully. Thanks a lot. Really. A different administration, in a different situation, would have sent a special envoy to the region who would shuttle between Syria, Gaza and Jerusalem, trying to calm things down, threatening, promising, fuming - all in order to end the crisis.
The worsening violent conflict in the Middle East is a blatant reflection of the weakness of the American partner. At the moment of truth, when Israel needs a powerful third party capable of moving things in the area, it turns out that little beyond the repetitive recitation of Bush's vision and of the dust-covered road map can be expected, which neither side intends to actually more

I think that Beilin will continue to be disappointed for a very long time. Contrary to what the Bushies had promised (deceived?) us at on point, the road from Baghdad was never going to lead to Jerusalem (more likely to Tehran...). In fact, even without Iraq (or for that matter, 9/11), there wasn't much that Washington could have done to resolve the issues that have made it difficult to reach an Israel-Palestine peace agreement in Camp David (Jerusalem;refugeees;settlements). What has been happening since the Iraq War is that U.S. policies have made things even worse through its policies in the Middle East that have ingnited even more anti-Americanism (and hence make it less likely that it could play a role of a "honest broker") while advancing its nutty democratic crusade (that help bring Hamas to power). The result is that at the height of its Imperial Moment in the Middle East, Washington seems to have almost no power to bring pressure on its client, Israel, and on what remains of the Palestinian entity to try to reach even an interim agreement. Which is exactly where the British Empire found itself in 1947 when it decided to withdraw from Palestine and leave others to deal with the mess it left there. My guess is that sooner or later we're going to have to deal with the Big One in the Holy Land (which could result from a Palestinian mega-terrorist attack in Tel-Aviv or a Jewish terrorist attack on the Moslem religious sites in Jerusalem; well, something along these lines that could ignite global Moslem violence, oil sanctions, etc). At that point, there would not be much that Washington would be able to do and much of the diplomatic and military burden in dealing with the mess will probably fall on the shoulders of the Europeans.


Anonymous said…
Aren't some in the Bush WH glad that Hamas won because it clarified what they see the reality of the PA? With Hamas in charge, it becomes difficult for people to deal with the PA - It seems there are no good solutions. Meanwhile the demographics point to the need for Israel to find some kind of way to chart a realistic future. But how can they do so with Hamas as their neighbor? It's likely the US will pull out of Iraq at some point - then what?
You make good points. There are no good solutions for national/ethnic conflicts only difficult choices. Israel will have to make such choices sooner or later recognizing that the United States would not remain in the region forever. Israel is a nuclear military power and has a strong economy so it's in a good position to make these choices.

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