Saturday, March 27, 2010

Petraeus Tries to Backtrack

Petraeus has been reported by Haaretz on 3/27/10 as having phoned Ashkenazi to backtrack on his indictment of Israel as a threat to U.S. security. He claimed that “bloggers” took his remarks out of context. I hereby express my profound thanks to the general for his public reference to my efforts to publicize his courageous attempt to point out the nakedness of the emperor. And, yes, I did take his remarks out of context; after all, the context is in an official report to which I do not have access. If the general will send it to me, I will review the context. Otherwise, I stand by my reporting of his remarks.

And, by the way, Haaretz also reported that Petraeus told reporters:

We noted in there that there was a perception at times that America sides with Israel and so forth. And I mean, that is a perception. It is there. I don't think that's disputable.

Exactly. There is indeed “a perception” on the part of virtually every person on earth that “America sides with Israel.” Obama said we do, Bush said we do, Clinton (Hillary and Bill) said we do, 300-odd Congressional recipients of Israeli money just said in a letter that we do. Petraeus, you have the most incredible talent for stating the truth! No one is arguing with you. Everyone in the word perceives the Washington bias toward Israel because it exists and because all the decision-makers in Washington proclaim it as though it were something to be proud of, and because Netanyahu and Sharon and other leaders of the militarist Israeli right wing sneer about it publicly and dangle their control of Washington in the faces of even the most obsequious American politicians.

And that accurate perception is why the U.S. is properly held responsible for the apartheid, the collective punishment, the aggression, the murder of enemy leaders, the ethnic cleansing. The U.S. paid Israel the coin needed to maintain this policy, and the U.S. will pay again when the victims get revenge. So, that settles that.

Now, General Petraeus, I just have one question: who got to you?
For a concise definition of what "America sides with Israel" means, see this Haaretz report on how Washington is really treating Israel during this "crisis" in bilateral ties.

Friday, March 26, 2010

New Strategic Thinking in Israel: Engage Hamas

Israeli civil society at its best is now far ahead of the Obama Administration in innovatively reevaluating Israel’s national security interests.

Writing in the Guardian on 3/22/10, IDF veterans and founding members of Courage to Refuse Arik Diamant and David Zonsheine call on moral grounds for an end to the murder of Hamas leaders by an Israel addicted to a “culture of killing:”

By killing their leaders, Israel is sending a clear message of rejection and contempt to the Palestinians. Israel is saying, and has been saying for decades: we do not negotiate. Israel's assassination policy should be understood as a complement to its politics; its refusal to arrive at a compromise with its neighbours is the real story behind the extrajudicial killings.

Almost simultaneously with these Israeli dissident patriots, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy makes the same argument in The New Republic on 3/26/10 on practical grounds:

Under the current circumstances—with the destructive gamesmanship of the Palestinian Authority and the stagnation in Gaza—the time has surely come to explore a new relationship with Hamas. Attempts to penalize the group with exclusion have failed; perhaps, the time has come for a strategy that co-opts Hamas….a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that excludes Hamas….would be a fool’s errand…. Hamas has demonstrated a will and a capacity to think and act pragmatically when it believes it useful or necessary. There’s no better example of this than its governance of Gaza…. Current policy, after all, sends Hamas the signal that it is doomed to exclusion come what may and forever. But the more that Hamas is permitted inside the tent, the better the prospects of a modest (yet historic) success.

When Israeli patriots so politically disparate simultaneously reach such a fundamentally revolutionary strategic conclusion on a combination of moral and practical grounds, might it possibly be time for Washington to start thinking creatively?


Robert Reich's broad view of governance from his blog on 3/21/10:

...Reagan’s view of government as the problem is increasingly at odds with a nation whose system of health care relies on large for-profit entities designed to make money rather than improve health; whose economy is dependent on global capital and on global corporations and financial institutions with no particular loyalty to America; and much of whose fuel comes from unstable and dangerous areas of the world. Under these conditions, government is the only entity that can look out for our interests.

Reich did not say that government will look out for our interests obviously, but since you don't vote on the policies of Exxon-Mobile or Goldman Sachs or Xe, your only prayer is the vote you make to select your government officials...and the quality of your oversight.

National Security: U.S.-Israeli Tipping Point?

The Hypothesis.
National security has arguably not been at the core of Washington's attitude toward Israel since Israel's 1956 attack on the Suez Canal with the French and British was stopped cold by Eisenhower (a paleo-con Republican with a real sense of national security). But now, with a decade-old global conflict against extremist/radical/reformist Islam (three very different though overlapping groups that no one in Washington can tell apart) threatening all the gains of America's Cold War victory, the dangers of blind subservience to Israel's expansionist right wing are finally causing some nervousness among Washington national security thinkers.

Several points here may be worth spelling out:
  • By "Paleo-con," in case it is not obvious, I mean a traditional conservative who seriously tries to put the emphasis on U.S. national security, without getting swamped by either fundamentalist myths or unbridled greed.
  • As for the distinctions among extremist, radical, and reformist political movements within a Muslim tradition, think of the differences between Cheney, William Lloyd Garrison, and Dennis Kucinich. In 1825 the idea of eliminating slavery from the U.S. was radical, but Garrison’s carefully reasoned and peaceful approach meant he was no extremist. Kucinich is the classic American reformer who makes the special interests very nervous. A Washington serious about defending U.S. national security would be focusing very hard on finding common ground with political Islamic radicals and reformers to isolate the violence-prone extremists.
  • It is the "conflict" with Islam that threatens the U.S. more than the existence or behavior per se of America's Muslim adversaries, i.e., the danger lies not in them so much as in U.S. attitudes and behavior toward political Islam.
  • It is not the existence of an alliance with Israel but the subservience of U.S. decision-makers to the extremist factions that constitutes the problem.
To the degree that this national security hypothesis is correct (more precisely, is now emerging as the dominant explanation for U.S. behavior toward Israel), the media focus on perceived "insults," on day-to-day shifts in settlement policy, on the emotions of this or that official miss the point completely. We are not seeing a "misunderstanding," a "miscalculation," or confusion about Netanyahu's "direction." We are seeing the exposure of the fundamentally divergent world views (e.g., FM Lieberman's ravings about an "Islamic tsunami") and national security interests of the U.S. and a Zionist Israel.

According to the "national security hypothesis," the issue is the degree to which Israeli policies (such as preventive war, collective punishment, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, the combination of having a regional nuclear monopoly and using it to threaten non-nuclear states, and--most of all--the Israeli right's advocacy of a hard-line, uncompromising, and unsympathetic attitude toward any sort of reformist Muslim political movement) collectively undermine the global U.S. position.

The Evidence.
I penned this hypothesis only yesterday, but already today interesting support has appeared for it in the form of a Haaretz commentary (March 26, 2010) by Akiva Eldar, who asserted that:

As far as President Barack Obama and his senior advisers are concerned, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to blame for nothing less than damaging the standing of the the Middle East and the Muslim world.
Eldar put Washington thinking about Israel in the context of the upcoming Arab League meeting, a perspective that assumes Arab regimes are starting to take the Palestinian situation seriously, perhaps thinking that Iran is scoring some telling points. Eldar claims:
The messages coming to the White House from Riyadh and Amman, then, were starkly clear: If you don't rein in your Israeli friends, Tehran won't be the only Middle East capital where American flags will burn.
Unfortunately, he presents no evidence to support this claim that Riyadh and Amman are getting serious, but an article in the LA Times recently did, arguing that Riyadh is reevaluating its own national security perspective and coming to see Israel as a greater threat to its stability than Iran. (More later on that report.)

As Eldar also noted, paleo-(?)con Robert Gates has also supported the idea that Israel undermines U.S. security, as reported by Qatar News Agency on March 26, 2010:
The lack of progress toward Middle East peace clearly is an issue that is exploited by our adversaries in the region and is a source of, certainly, political challenge….Whether it has a direct impact, I'm not entirely sure. But there is no question that the absence of Middle East peace does affect U.S. national security interests in the region.
Eldar concluded that “Obama decided his moderate Middle East coalition is more important than Netanyahu's extremist one. This is a point of no return.” It may be a point of no return, but Obama hardly has a “moderate Middle East coalition.” A bunch of Arab dictators desperately holding on to power they do not deserve does not constitute a moderate coalition. But Eldar has a more significant point because a “moderate coalition” is exactly what Obama needs. If he worked with Erdogan and met with Palestinian/ Israeli civil society to work out a fair compromise, he might just be able to forge one.

Question: Can the Arab dictators afford to appear less critical of Israel than Washington?

  • For an eloquent summary of the background to the current debate, see Uri Avnery on Hagada Hasmalit (3/23/10).
  • For a view of unofficial American thinking on this issue, see the National Journal's National Security discussion of 1/5/09.
  • For an ominous warning against continued American involvement in what is turning into "unendable Israel-Muslim religious war -- now in the hands of violent zealots on both sides," see Georgetown professor and former CIA manager Michael Scheuer in the National Journal of 3/22/10.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Did Tel Aviv Trip Up Washington on Iran?

Israel is making the U.S. stance toward Iran look confused and self-defeating.

During Obama’s closed-door meeting with Netanyahu, Israel was conducting an attack on Gaza. When Biden visited, Israel sent a message by approving 1600 new homes for illegal colonists, and this was taken in Washington as an “insult.” But when Washington backed down a few days later by sending Clinton to bow before the right wing Israeli lobbying group AIPAC, Netanyahu was naturally emboldened, and this time sent Washington a stronger message.

The right wing Israeli site DEBKA focused on the cool reception Netanyahu received at the White House, overlooking the absence so far of any real concession on the part of Israel. As the White House meetings ended, the Israeli city government of Jerusalem announced further housing construction (Reuters, as reported on Inform) in occupied East Jerusalem.

Diplomacy between the two allies is useful to track as a leading indicator and makes a difference to the degree that it opens American minds to the dangers of supporting the Israeli right wing or signals pro-Palestinian groups that peaceful progress might suddenly be possible. However, diplomacy is at least as likely to be a cover for reality as an indicator of reality.

So far, the substance (e.g., settlement action and attacks on Gaza) have all suggested a complete victory for the Israeli right wing and a defeat for Americans concerned about the long-term strategic implications of alienating the Muslim world or those concerned about the morality of U.S. foreign policy. A critical but hard to measure indicator of reality would be the nature of the U.S. arms flow to Israel, specifically the question of bunker buster bombs that would—if provided--encourage Israeli hardline attitudes toward Iran and stimulate Iranian security fears by signaling a rising danger of Israeli aggression. A useful review of the issue is provided by Little Alex in Wonderland on March 23, 2010. According to the World Tribune on March 18, 2010, the extremely destabilizing plan to position a shipment of these bombs in Israel was stopped at the last minute by Obama, and the bombs instead went to Diego Garcia—in itself a highly menacing move but one that at least keeps control over the anti-Iran campaign in U.S. hands.

When the world is negotiating with Iran over the trivial point of whether Iranian uranium refined for electricity generation will be exchanged for Western uranium refined for medical purposes inside of Iran or outside, a war threat against Iran of this magnitude seems grossly out of proportion, to the extent that Obama appears to be trying to sabotage Western-Iranian discussions. The reality may well be a last-minute effort to prevent Israel from worsening Mideast tensions that will now be interpreted by all Iranians as a threat and by pro-nuclear Iranians as further justification for getting the bomb as fast as possible. If media reports of a quiet Moscow/Beijing push to convince Iran to compromise are true, one can only imagine what leaders there will think of this clumsy American move. The complications introduced into U.S. ties both with allies and Iran by the Israeli factor constitute a major example of how the U.S. entanglement with Israel undermines U.S. national security.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

American Security & Israel: The Core Issues

How American underwriting of the Zionist pursuit of a Greater Israel--with its implementing policies of military pressure against Iran as well as collective punishment, ethnic cleansing, apartheid regarding Palestinians--may affect U.S. national security is an issue of such sensitivity that some just want to shove it under the rug.

Ephraim Kam, Deputy Director of the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, wrote a commentary in Haaretz on March 23, 2010, in which he professed to have difficulty understanding Petraeus’ claim that resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute would mitigate America’s broader problems with the Muslim world.

His piece was opinion, not analysis, but still, just to look serious, he might have asserted straight out that American association with the Israeli apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and collective punishment of Palestinians angers no one else in the Muslim world. He might have asserted straight out that allowing democracy in the Palestinian colony, as was tried with the January 2006 election that Hamas won, rather than creating a militia to overthrow Palestinian parties not favored in Tel Aviv, would do nothing to undermine those members of Hamas favoring anti-Israeli violence and would do nothing to undermine those fringe radical groups that fire rockets at Israel against the wishes of Hamas. He might have asserted straight out that all global Muslim expressions of outrage at Israeli behavior are hypocritical, that in fact no Muslim cares about Palestinians. He might have asserted that resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would have no impact on Lebanon’s Hezbollah, even though it is being pulled two ways – both toward democratic participation in the Lebanese system and toward resistance to Israel. He might futher have asserted that Lebanese Hezbollah members have no patriotic feelings and no interest in autonomy, that all they aspire to is to take orders forever from Tehran. He might have asserted that Syrians also aspire to nothing more than serving Tehran’s highly dangerous foreign policy purposes. He might have asserted that a calmer and more moral Mideast would have no impact on the Iranian national security community’s thinking about the degree of risk that Iran should assume. He might have asserted that a Washington decision-making community freed of Israeli right wing propaganda still would be unable to find the presence of mind to conceive of more effective ways of dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue than economic warfare and threats of military attack.

If he had made all these assertions that flow logically from the pretense that no connection exists between repression of Palestinians and the broader conflict between the West and the Muslim world, then at least the issue under discussion would be clearly on the table, visible for all to see. Then, we might actually have a serious dialogue about the linkages between Israel and that Western-Islamic confrontation.

Well, I guess that explains it: he did not make those logically implied assertions because an open dialogue about such linkages is exactly what he and his fellow right wing expansionists are afraid of.

What Petraeus said was intellectually trite, a fact long obvious to all global affairs thinkers, but politically dynamite. All of a sudden, in the U.S., it is no longer “anti-Semite” to discuss the impact of Washington’s obeisance to the Israeli right wing on American security. Petraeus, being one of the guys on the ground and thus personally at risk, is more concerned about American soldiers being killed than he is about what might be politically correct on the Potomac, and he wants Americans to have that discussion.

What do you say: discuss it or cover your eyes?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sneering and Triumphant, Netanyahu Tours the American Province

On the eve of the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, it is looking more and more like Obama's surrender ceremony.  Will Obama surprise the world by finding his backbone?

Netanyahu has ridden the fear of Iran into power, and he is sacrificing his campaign against Iran for expansion of illegal settlements. But the logical conclusion is not that Netanyahu has magically forgotten his tirades about Ahmadinejad being the Hitler of our times (a conclusion rashly reached by Zakaria and others). The logical conclusion is that Netanyahu was never sincere about his professed fear of Iran in the first place.

Netanyahu is a cunning adversary who should not be underestimated, and he knows exactly which country he gives his loyalty to – and it is definitely not the good old U.S.A. The evidence suggests he knows exactly what he is doing. First, his actions preserve his coalition and are in fact intimidating the Obama Administration, as far as can be judged from the public record of their timid response to date. Second, his words to his supporters (e.g., “building in Jerusalem is the same as building in Tel Aviv”) are consistent with his actions, both indicating his determination to absorb all the best parts into Israel, to ethnically cleanse those parts of Palestinians, and to subject Palestinians to an apartheid regime in the places left to them. That is a far more significant challenge to Obama than the Netanyahu Administration’s egregious insult to Biden last week. As Netanyahu flies across the Atlantic, Obama awaits on his knees. Whether or not Obama will be able to stand up before Netanyahu can deliver the knockout punch is now the critical question both for Obama's reputation and the future course of the Western confrontation with Islam.

Unlike most Americans, Netanyahu--an experienced regional leader who has bluffed and insulted American presidents now long gone--knows perfectly well that Iran is not only generations behind Israel in power and economically weak but has a rather cautious foreign policy. He knows that Iran has its own ideas but that its leaders' bark tends to be worse than their bite.

Iran is not scary to nuclear-armed Israel; rather, Iran is incredibly useful. Talk about Iran is worth billions in US aid to a country that is, as Petraeus has pointed out, harming U.S. national security by its intransigence toward the Palestinians (not to mention by its astonishing willingness to risk yet another war of aggression against a Muslim country—provided that it is fought to the last American.)

But real war against Iran is, as should now be clear, not important to Netanyahu's game plan. His goals are the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians out of all areas that he wants for Israeli colonization and the perpetuation of Israeli military dominance over the Mideast. The latter point does not require actual war against Iran (which is no real threat), but it does require the subordination and humiliation of Iran, rather than the breakthrough in U.S.-Iranian ties that the U.S. needs to shore up its threatened security position from Iraq to Afghanistan.

If in the process, he can also humiliate Obama and thus gain a free field of action to destroy the Palestinians as an organized society, so much the better according to his calculations. Not actually fearing Iran at all, Netanyahu is free to use the “Iran threat” to pressure naive Americans who may hold warm feelings for the Jewish people but know nothing about the Mideast.
Another Perspective
Ray McGovern makes a strong case (Antiwar, March 8, 2010) for a different interpretation of Israeli right wing intentions regarding Iran, arguing that Mullen's warnings after visiting Israel about the danger of attacking Iran and the limits on what such an attack could accomplish indicate Israeli desires for a war; perhaps, but his audience might well have been militarist circles in the U.S. The Israeli right may well view an attack on Iran with equanimity or even eagerness, but I would contend that it has clearly identified the absorption of the West Bank as far more important than addressing the "existential" threat posed by Iran.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Palestine: Emerging Western Terms of Debate

Is a new consensus emerging in the West that, while still very much pro-Israeli, nevertheless dismisses the Israeli right as no more than a speed bump on the road to peace?

British/Israeli historian of the Arab-Israeli conflict Avi Shlaim wrote in The Independent on March 21, 2010:

America subsidises Israel to the tune of $3bn (around £2bn) a year. America is Israel's principal arms supplier, enabling it to retain the technological edge over all its enemies, near and far. In the diplomatic arena too, America extends to Israel virtually unqualified support, including the use of the veto in the UN Security Council to defeat resolutions critical of Israel. America condemns Iran for its nuclear ambitions, while turning a blind eye to Israel's possession of a large arsenal of nuclear weapons….
…since the end of the Cold War, Israel has become more of a liability than an asset.
America's most vital interests lie in the Persian Gulf; to ensure access to oil, the US needs Arab goodwill. Here Israel is a major liability, as a result of its occupation of Palestinian land and its brutal oppression of the Palestinian people.
Now Professor Schlaim is “just” an academic (albeit one who volunteered to join the IDF!), so consider the commentary in that dyed-in-the-wool institutional member of the Israeli lobby in the U.S., the Washington Post:
Jerusalem is the hardest issue of all in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiation, and for that reason, would-be peacemakers have wanted to save it for last. But this month's crisis makes that strategic waffling impossible. Thanks to the Israeli right, the Jerusalem issue is joined.
What's needed now is for Obama to announce that when negotiations begin, the United States will state its views about Jerusalem and other key issues -- sketching the outlines of the deal that most Israelis and Palestinians want. If Netanyahu refuses to play, then we have a real crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations.
The Post commentator, David Ignatius, was certainly not advocating two states; he sneaked in, as though it was a mere detail, the fatal flaw of a “demilitarized” Palestinian entity. That, of course, is exactly what the Palestinians have now. In fact, it is even worse. After all, Gaza has at least an armed militia attempting to defend the ghetto against prison guards with the world’s fourth best air force. So, no one could paint Ignatius’ essay as pro-Palestinian; all he is talking about as a “solution” is Palestinian Bantustan.
Nevertheless, he makes a couple key points critical to destroying the American taboo on thinking honestly about the conflict:
1.      He distinguishes the extreme right wing that demands total victory from “Israel;”
2.      He calls on Obama to lay out “the deal that most Israelis and Palestinians want.”
That deal Ignatius defines as:
real sharing of Jerusalem; no right of return for the Palestinians; a return to the 1967 borders, with mutual adjustments to allow for big Israeli settlement blocks; and a demilitarized Palestinian state.
Perhaps one of those “mutual adjustments” could be a solid land bridge connecting the West Bank to Gaza.
That Ignatius remains far from an “honest broker” position of neutrality is clear if his take is compared with that of the Shlaim, but if even the Post has moved this far, then perhaps there is now hope for a serious dialogue. What Ignatius offers is no solution: Palestinian Bantustan is a set-up for the continuation of Palestinian protests and Israeli repression. But if Ignatius’ conditions are accepted as the minimum, with two viable, defensible states as the maximum, there is room for a real negotiation about a solution that might actually work. Questions would include:
·        How much of a land bridge connecting the West Bank to Gaza would Israel offer in return for being allowed to keep its several hundred thousand illegal residents in parts of East Jerusalem?
·        How much defensive capability will Palestine be allowed to protect itself from Israeli tanks and F-16s?
·        When might an international peacekeeping force deploy in the West Bank remove settlers, prevent settlers from burning Palestinian olive groves, and replace Israeli soldiers?
·        When will the collective punishment of Gazans be ended and the Gaza Ghetto be opened to the world?
Astonishingly, the two writers implicitly agree that Netanyahu is now not a negotiating partner but an obstacle on the path to peace. How far we seem to have come in only a week!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Erdogan, Champion of Mideast Moderation: Reality or Mirage?

Erdogan has intensified his critique of Israel in the aftermath of Biden’s failed visit to Israel, but, as in Washington, so far the reality falls far short of appearances.

Along with the rest of the world, Erdogan has intensified his own rhetoric against Israel since Biden’s failed visit to Israel, judging from Israel’s Ynet News on March 19, 2010. Erdogan’s critique scores on several fronts, leaving him still the rhetorical leader among moderates:

  • Ties with Turkey will not return to normal until Israel ends the siege on Gaza;
  • The approval of new homes in Ramat Shlomo is “unacceptable” and shows that Israel “wants to erase the Palestinians step by step”;
  • Israel’s behavior “can harm regional stability.”

Ankara is still significantly ahead of Washington, having not only laid out demands at the highest level for changes in Israeli behavior in Jerusalem and Gaza but also underscoring the negative international impact of Israel’s conduct.

Going slightly beyond mere rhetoric, Erdogan thus made it clear that bilateral ties are being intentionally downgraded pending a change in Israel’s behavior. This was already clear, but his public affirmation at least makes it official that Turkey has crossed the line from words—so far Washington’s limit—to action. Now the question is whether Turkey or other states will move on to more substantive action than a vague negative tone in relations. More specifically, will Erdogan be able to entice Obama to follow his lead?

Erdogan is gently scouting out new diplomatic ground, laying a trail that seems designed to be as easy as possible for Washington to follow. For example, Erdogan’s reference to Israel harming regional stability follows closely from the recent comments of Petraeus.

The reality of Turkey’s ties to Israel (Israel National News, 3/16/10) are far warmer than Erdogan’s words might suggest, however. This week’s visit by IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi to Turkey for a NATO counterterrorism conference, despite the fact that Israel is not a NATO member and his meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul show clearly the strength of bilateral ties and the depth of the international isolation of the stateless and marginalized Palestinians.

Erdogan would undoubtedly be delighted to get some credit for helping resolve any of the various regional disputes, but he has yet to demonstrate that his anti-Israeli rhetoric is much more than a cover for the continuation of a profitable bilateral military relationship at the expense of both Palestinians and Turkey’s own Kurds.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Quartet Sings Off Key

If mere words matter, then the just-concluded Mideast Quartet meeting had some value. Do they?
The Quartet statement is out. Netanyahu’s refusal to return Clinton’s phone call cost him nothing. With Washington still evidently lying down patiently waiting to be kicked again, the Quartet meeting hardly seems to matter. The statement calls for talks leading to an “independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state” and “urges:”

the government of Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth, dismantle outposts erected since March 2001; and to refrain from demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem.

Carefully avoiding the assumption of any responsibility, it only “urges” Israel to do what it has made clear it will not do, imposes no penalties for Israel’s recalcitrance to date. Worse, it does not even clearly demand the end to the criminal imposition of collective punishment on the population of Gaza, though it does give a nod in that direction as a goal for the future(!).

The words are not bad, perhaps even a bit of a step ahead. The definition of the proposed Palestinian state is pretty solid as a slogan, though there are of course no details. But it is still just words, and there is nothing to stop Netanyahu from thanking the Quartet for taking the words out of his mouth and proposing to discuss…forever…exactly those fine principles.

If the Quartet statement had teeth, say, economic sanctions against Israel for any violation (e.g., demolitions in East Jerusalem or new settlement), then the situation would be totally different; then, the Quartet would be changing reality. As it stands, it is not clear that this statement contributes much. But with the members (except Ban) all representing pro-Israeli states--with not even a Turkey, much less an Iran at the table, could one have anticipated more?

Evidence demonstrating that the above assessment is too pessimistic will be received with pleasure.

Turkey Slapped By U.S. for Independent Thinking

Rejecting consultation with allies who have their own ideas, Washington emphasizes acceptance of its hardline stance on Iran nukes.

On March 17 Washington issued what must sound to Turkey like a thinly veiled threat that it will be spanked if it does not behave. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon warned that:

Many would be disappointed if Turkey is an exception to an international consensus on dealing with Iran

According to Gordon, Turkey's road to "responsibility" is to join the pack:

Turkey wants to be an important, responsible actor on the international scene. And I think joining the majority of the Security Council in doing this would reinforce that image.

For a Turkey being carefully led by Erdogan's moderate Islamic party out of the darkness of military dictatorship, abuse of its Kurdish minority, and subservience to American Cold War goals toward leadership of the emerging moderate camp advocating a compromise solution to Mideast conflict, these words must be both humiliating and disappointing. Beyond that, they confirm an unwillingness in Washington to countenance any "lip" from its allies.

The world, Mr. Erdogan, is hierarchical, and Washington is on top until toppled. Your skill, your intelligence, your creativity are not wanted. It is your misfortune that you do not understand Washington culture. This has nothing in particular to do with you or Turkey or Islam. It is simply the way Washington works - the bureaucracy, the politicians, the whole system. If Washington has to choose between failure on its own terms and accepting advice from subordinates, it will choose failure.

If you want to resolve Mideast conflict, go for it...over Washington's dead body. The core issue is not peace but where the decisions are made. The bottom line is that decisions are made in Washington (especially the decision to be indecisive and let the Israeli right push it around).

If Iran accepts the substance of the Western demand for an exchange of uranium but simply wants it done in Iran so as to avoid Iran being cheated, that completely misses the point, which is not the silly uranium but control of the decision-making process. The core issue is to demonstrate that Washington makes the decision; whether or not X pounds of uranium for electricity is exchanged for Y pounds of uranium for medical research is a technical detail of little concern to global strategists. Whether the initiative stays firmly in the hands of the superpower or becomes shared with a mere "emerging regional power," on the other hand, is critical to global strategy.

Similarly, Mr. Erdogan, your guidance on ways to moderate the U.S.-Iran conflict are at best mere technical issues, at worst irritating interference that blurs the superpower message of top-down control. Gordon put it very clearly: if you want to be accepted as "responsible," you must be what to Washington insiders is called a "team-player." Do not be confused by this pseudo-sports analogy. In Washington-speak, it absolutely does not mean "hit a home run" or "score a touchdown." Quite the contrary. It means, "Kneel down." Suppose you solved the U.S.-Iranian conflict with some sort of a win-win solution that left Ahmadinejad without nuclear weapons but with his status intact, with Iran accepted as an influential Mideast player, with the Israeli princess forced to share the stage with a new and alluring beauty, the whole superpower regional game plan would be overturned! The downstream implications for global governance would be incalculable. Remember carefully that Washington was long close to Saddam Hussein...until he started talking back.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Steps for Obama to Seize the Moral High Ground on Palestine-Israel

I have been writing about what Obama could do to move the Palestinian-Israeli conflict toward resolution. Presumably, if Obama cares about his presidency, he is either contemplating this or planning to do so after the health care vote. Here is Helena Cobban's solid list of first steps (March 16, 2010 on Just World News), underscoring the wide range of options Obama has:

    A. Announce the launching of an administration-wide review of all U.S. policies that have any relationship to the Israeli settlements including policies affecting economic links and trade preferences being extended to settlements as well as to Israel proper; the activities and tax status of U.S. entities, including non-profit entities, that have dealings with or in the settlements. The terms of reference of this review should explicitly spell out that its purview includes the settlements in Jerusalem as well as elsewhere (including Golan.) 
    B. Announcement of a similar review of policies and entities related in any way to Israel's illegal Wall.
    C. Commit to a series of steps aimed at speedily ending the illegal and anti-humane siege that Israel maintains against Gaza and restoring all the rights of Gaza's 1.5 million people.
    D. Sen. Mitchell should be empowered to talk to representatives of all those Palestinian parties that won seats in the 2006 PLC election which was, let us remember, certified by all international monitors as free and fair. Obama and Co. should also inform the Egyptians and all other parties that they want and expect them to be helpful rather than obstructive in the Palestinian parties' efforts to reach internal reconciliation.
    E. Move speedily toward giving the other four permanent members of the Security Council more real role in Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking. They all have a lot to offer and can help the U.S. get out of the very tight spot it currently finds itself in, in the Greater Middle East region.

U.S.-Israeli Scorecard: Netanyahu - 100, U.S. - 0

Over the past week, a pattern of Israeli insults has emerged, creating a superficial storm, beneath the cover of which Israel is hardening its repression of all dissent and continuing its colonization program.

If anyone is counting insults:
  1. Netanyahu insulted Biden by announcing the expansion of illegal housing;
  2. Netanyahu insulted Washington again by apologizing for the timing but not the substance;
  3. Netanyahu insulted Washington again by reaffirming, early this week, that no substantive change would occur;
  4. Netanyahu insulted Clinton by refusing to return her phone call.
Three strikes and you're out...except for Israelis, who get four. Otherwise, Washington is firmly humbled.

Substantively, the week has produced the following:

  1. Israel will continue building.
  2. Israel is not worried about Iran but about expanding into the West Bank.
  3. Israel does not care about the peace talks, which even the most naive now see as meaningless.
  4. Israel will not accept the four conditions demanded by Clinton when she rang up Netanyahu last week.
  5. When Israel wants U.S. advice, it will ask for it.
Now, doesn't that clear the air?

The point here is not to engage in petty counting of insults; they really don't matter much, anyway, because the relationship is more a power game than a love affair. The point is that what we are seeing is not a mistake or a single daring slap in the face but a pattern of Israeli sneering at the patron it manipulates: Israel insults publicly, creating a superficial storm, beneath which Israel marches on changing ground reality with further repression of both Palestinian and Israeli dissent, as well as the advancement of its colonization program. So far, despite a dramatic change in the tone of the relationship in favor of U.S. dominance, the substance of the relationship has become even more one of the Israeli tail wagging the U.S. dog.

Ближневосточный мир или фашизм?

("Online Journal", США)
Уильям де Б. Миллс (William de B. Mills)
Ближневосточный мир или фашизм?

Оптимист смотрит на историю как на движение прогресса, веря в то, что по мере распространения образования оно одновременно проникает вглубь, и мы можем учиться у истории. В соответствии с этой точкой зрения, которую можно назвать «религией», поскольку она по большей степени должна приниматься на веру, варварство ХХ века научит нас ценностям международной законности и демократии, и обе эти института будут использованы не в интересах одного класса или этнической группы, а в интересах всего человечества.

Согласно этому оптимистическому взгляду на вещи, Обама имеет в виду именно то, что говорит, и в конце концов выступит в поддержку мира и справедливости на Ближнем Востоке, полагая, что, если в прошлом «мир», установленный с помощью тоталитарного контроля, достаточно неплохо удерживался в течение продолжительных периодов времени, то сегодня человечество возмужало, а мир сжался до таких размеров, что мы можем оставить 1984 год Орвелла позади. Поэтому Обама еще больше поймет, что мир между Израилем и Палестиной – это лишь одна из сторон многогранной монеты, которая, безусловно, включает и мир между Ираном и Западом, и что наиболее надежный путь к достижению одного требует одновременного движения к другому. Исходя из этого, США будут определять свою позицию поддержки безопасности Израиля, не основываясь на мифе о «богоизбранном народе», представлении о «конце Света», чувстве вины за беспрепятственные зверства нацистов или краткосрочном удобстве использования (Израиля) в качестве «непотопляемого авианосца», а просто потому, что израильтяне - такие же люди и заслуживают того, чтобы жить в безопасности, также как этого заслуживают палестинцы. Обама также поймет, что Иран заслуживает того, чтобы играть активную роль в ближневосточных делах не из-за проводимой им двусмысленной ядерной политики, подобной израильской, а в силу присущей ему важности и оригинальности мысли. Таким образом, Вашингтон предложит Ирану искренний компромисс, а Тегеран проявит зрелость и мудрость, чтобы пойти навстречу. Вашингтон обуздает израильский милитаризм, окажет поддержку находящейся в осаде израильской демократии даже при том, что одновременно будет помогать строительству палестинской демократии. Вашингтон осознает, что путь к миру – это правильный путь, и что вопрос не в том, какой этнической группе следует оказывать поддержку, а в том, что поддерживать - фашизм или демократию. И тогда Вашингтон изменит мир, как это и должна делать сверхдержава.

Пессимисты же воспринимают историю как повторение старых, со времен прародителей ошибок, считая, что гордыня возьмет верх над смирением. Согласно этой точке зрения, которую можно назвать «реализмом», так как она поддерживается большинством свидетельств истории, ничто не ценно, а все цели – краткосрочны.

В соответствии с этой пессимистической точкой зрения, если нефть будет заканчиваться, Вашингтон использует приличный кусок того, что осталось от военных авантюр, для того, чтобы захватить последнюю ее каплю. Если какой-то коррумпированный режим предложит свою помощь, Вашингтон с жадностью ее примет. Обама, будучи черным и имея исламское имя, что сейчас является крайне чувствительным моментом, - не что иное, как необычайно удачное прикрытие, за которым консервативная военно-финансовая элита может спрятать свое манипулирование миром так, как она не могла это сделать при Буше-Чейни. Под прикрытием красивой риторики с подмигиванием и бесконечных разговоров о переговорах палестинцев предадут забвению при помощи бульдозера. Израильская военщина получит все, чего она хочет, но ценой сползания Израиля к фашизму, контролируемому государством-гарнизоном, которое сможет существовать только в условиях нескончаемой войны, плавно распространяющейся с Западного берега к Ирану, объединяя регион мусульманской нестабильности на Ближнем Востоке с регионом мусульманской нестабильности в Центральной Азии. Сверхдержава, сфокусированная на силе, а не на правлении ради людей, превратится в новую Веймарскую республику и, очень вероятно, заразится фашизмом, поскольку ее необразованное население будет становиться все злее и злее, не понимая, к сожалению, причины и следствия. Таким образом, сверхдержава все равно изменит мир, хотя и совсем по-другому.

American and Israeli Security Links

If the Zionist right harms U.S. national security, U.S. feeding of the Zionist addiction to force and expansion harms Israeli national security. 

The completely unsympathetic attitude of proponents of the Zionist right wing both in Israel and in the U.S. toward U.S. national security concerns strikingly exposes their special pleading and, for the American ones, their lack of patriotism. Over the long run, this should help greatly to overcome the taboo on critical thinking regarding the positions of whatever Israeli politician happens temporarily to gain office.

All of that is of course completely separate from the long-term security concerns of the Israeli people; perhaps now, Americans will slowly begin to comprehend this. Many reporters and historians in Israel, ironically, have long understood this and publish their thoughts regularly in the Israeli media. Americans would do well to read such essays, much of which appears in English.

It must come as a shock to carefully protected Americans to find out what open-minded Israelis think about the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Typical of a number of current Israeli writers, journalist Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz on March 18, 2010:

Israel - addicted to the occupation, and showing symptoms of overdose and accumulated damage - has finally found a savior to rescue it from its plight. Israel's redeemer hasn't just stood idly by for 40 years, but has even facilitated the habit. However, it seems that change may at last be in the air....

The facts are clear: Israel has no real intention of quitting the territories or allowing the Palestinian people to exercise their rights. Israel does not truly intend to pursue peace, because life here seems to be good even without it. The continuation of the occupation doesn't just endanger Israel's future, it also poses the greatest risk to world peace, serving as a pretext for Israel's most dangerous enemies.

No change will come to pass in the complacent, belligerent and condescending Israel of today. That's why this difficult, thankless task has fallen on the shoulders of an ally, as only it has the power to get things started.

But politicians, whether Israeli, American, of any other nationality, have a perverse way of looking at the world. Whether or not they will use their power for good is never certain.  Perhaps the right will organize a campaign to slur Mr. Levy as a "self-hating Jew" or pass a Knesset bill to penalize Israeli newspapers that make disparaging remarks about politicians. Mr. Levy said little that I have not said repeatedly on this blog, but he is Israeli and published in Israel's most prominent newspaper. He just wants to live in a real democracy (for all the people, not just the Jews) built on a moral foundation. Is that really too much for Washington-Tel Aviv politicians to handle?

Over the short run, the self-centered self-pleading of the Israeli right and its American, ah, running dogs (?), contrasts so sharply with the professional aura of Petraeus (not whining about being insulted but factually, unemotionally laying out the threats of the U.S. pro-Israeli right wing bias [my language, not his]) that it provides unassailable cover for Obama, should he have the insight to take advantage of it...and help not just Americans but Israelis as well.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Placing 'All Options' on the Palestinian-Israeli Negotiating Table

Were Washington truly to consider "all options," it would revolutionize Mideast affairs.

Washington should consider "all options" toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (see OpEd News, March 16, 2010), reject the irrational extremes that relate to instigating violence, and then start a zero-based review of its enormous array of logical policy options. The graph below puts in context a select set of moderate steps Washington could take now to break the logjam.

The eight selected exemplar options in the "space for a moderate U.S. policy shift" constitute an incremental series of policy steps to include all relevant actors in the dialogue and enable everyone on the two sides to begin to take ownership of the conflict resolution as it becomes defined. These steps have the additional virtue of enabling the average Palestinian on the street to see with his or her own eyes substantive progress right from the start rather than just hearing promises about some indeterminate future while at the same time laying out a schedule for Israeli actions to facilitate the readjustments that the Israeli public will have to make. This approach may minimize violent protest and public fears.

Israeli Extremists Challenge the World

Levantines getting a bit of backbone as Washington gets cold feet.

Jordan's King Abdullah, running a country that is half Palestinian and living very much under the shadow of the IDF, takes great care to present an extremely understanding and submissive public face to the Israeli superpower next door. Yet here is what he had to say about Jerusalem to the EU's visiting foreign policy representative Catherine Ashton:
Jerusalem is a red line and the world should not be silent about Israel’s attempts to get rid of Jerusalem’s Arabs residents, Muslims or Christians...[Jordan] demands the international community take a firm, swift, direct and effective action to stop Israel’s provocative measures in Jerusalem, that seek to change its identity and threaten holy sites there.
First, what did he say? "Attempts to get rid of" Arabs means "ethnic cleansing." That is hard to retract, hard to negotiate about. ("Mr. Abbas, what degree of ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem would be acceptable to your side?") 
["Ethnic cleansing" charges are of course high-powered armaments. For those utterly new to this but serious, Israeli Ilan Pappe is the place to start. Lawrence of Cyberia has an extremely informative blog post with the numbers.]
Second, what is the significance of anything a conservative Arab leader says about Israel? That is harder to answer, but in the current context of Palestinian protest riots, Washington political claims of having been insulted by Israel, and Washington military warnings that Israel is putting U.S. troops in danger, might one reasonably conclude that this represents another piece of evidence that the political ground may be shifting under the feet of Israel's right wing leadership? I am, in brief, suggesting that it may be hard to return from this to business as usual.
Meanwhile, Lula, wearing the new badge of having been insulted by the Israeli government himself, visited the grave of Arafat and struck a Martin Luther King pose with his "dream" of Palestine-Israeli peace. One wonders if Lula and Erdogan are coordinating a tag-team approach to introduce the new concept of moderation to the Mideast.
Even Abbas, now "demanding" some rather logical and moderate preconditions for talking without sitting down together (Israel should keep commitments made by previous regimes), is finding backbone. But mostly, the politicians are diving for cover, Obama apparently planning on taking a trip rather than face Netanyahu when he charges into town next week, Mitchell's trip off, Palestinian presidential advisor Sahib Oreikat's trip to Moscow on hold, and Biden...well, exactly where is Biden and exactly what did he say and does he still believe it? Hillary, no surprise, is losing backbone as fast as Abbas gets his. Not a word has yet been heard from Washington about something even so timid as "fully supporting the security of the Israeli people but hoping for an Israeli administration that will work sincerely with the U.S." Oh, no. Perish the thought of any "space" between the Israeli "obstructionists"--the nail Judah Grunstein so neatly hit on its head--and Washington pols. These guys (the Washington pols) are not exactly big strategic thinkers.
A more cynical and, frankly, probably more accurate assessment was given on March 14 by the Jews Sans Frontiers website:
It does not signal a breach in the relations between Israel and the U.S. The problem for American dominance is not Israel, which is and will remain a valuable ally, but the out of control populist right wing in Israel which has developed a sort of bulimic land eating disorder, and needs to feed more and more often on Palestinian land to feel satiated. That populist right wing is also a problem for the Israeli ruling class, but primarily to the extent that it matters to the US. As long as the US allows it, the Israeli ruling class would rather not confront it. Let the fanatics, as far as the Israeli center is concerned, get their daily nibble at the Palestinian expense. The predatory relation is already deeply institutionalized; the whole Israeli military apparatus is organized around the colonization process; it can be slowed down or sped up, but it cannot be dismantled with serious damage all around. The US will not risk serious damage to Israel, unless it is pushed really hard by its Arab clients. They, in their turn, couldn't care less, except occasionally when they fear that things have gone too far and they need to get a bone that they can hang on their breast as proof to their people that they are not totally venal but can get some respect from Washington. It's a political game whose object for all the players is none other than the ultimate goal of politics according to Raymond Aron, "to make things last." In its Middle East version it is often known as the bicycle principle, in the words of former Israeli FM Meridor: “the peace process [is] like being on a bicycle; one must keep pedaling lest you crash and fall off.” Except it is cycling on training rollers and need not actually go anywhere.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

TIME FOR A CHANGE, WASHINGTON: 'All Options' on the Road to Palestinian-Israeli Peace

It is time for Washington decision-makers to put aside the taboos that are undermining U.S. national security and consider all rational options to deal with the Israeli right wing. [My thanks to OpEd News for publishing the original version of this essay.]

When neo-conservative fans of violence speak of “all options,” they are threatening nuclear holocaust. This is the policy option of the insane, and I certainly do not advocate a nuclear option for the Levant…or any other place on earth. But most other options (almost all of which are excluded by Washington decision-makers) should be on the table in U.S. efforts to achieve a just and peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. The Palestinian-Israeli situation has deteriorated to the point that US rhetoric of any kind is now too little, too late. Action is required.

As reported by Haaretz on March 13:

"In a telephone conversation, Mitchell said the U.S. would make sure Israel stops building in the area," the Palestinian official told the London-based Arabic daily newspaper.

Such words simply no longer cut it. First, it is just another unenforceable promise; second, stopping construction “in the area” is not the issue; stopping construction throughout the West Bank is not even the issue; the issue is the removal of the 500,000 illegal Israeli settlers.

Washington needs a more careful balance between rhetoric and action than we have seen over the past decade or two. This year, in particular, Israel has been changing the reality on the ground under the cover of talking about talking, with the US falling into the Israeli trap one day, trying rhetorically to squirm out the next.
As Israel changes the situation on the ground by adding houses or settlements, by daily jet fighter violations of Lebanon’s border, by police brutality against peaceful demonstrators (now including Israelis alongside Palestinians!), Washington must, to gain the initiative, counter with its own actions on the ground. To do this, it needs to consider dispassionately the enormous range of options available to it.

Further talks with the Netanyahu clique seem a complete waste of time; it is obviously not negotiating with the U.S. in good faith. The situation has passed the point where something symbolic like recalling the US ambassador would suffice, though that would have been an appropriate response to the egregious timing of the insult to Biden (but not an appropriate response to the substantive content of increasing illegal settlement at a time when it should be decreasing). That does not necessarily mean cutting off military supplies or declaring an economic embargo on Israel is needed at this moment. Many less drastic ways to move the peace process out of the gutter of hypocrisy in which it has been mired for a generation are available.

It would be useful to enumerate in a reasonable order substantive steps the US might take to change the reality on the ground in a positive direction.

It now seems time for the US to start talking to any party willing to engage in a cooperative dialogue.
This can proceed on three levels. First, Israelis disenchanted with their government’s intransigence and concerned about Israel’s long-term security are speaking out loudly; listen to them. Second, Turkey, Brazil, and Japan have all made it clear that they are willing to assist in any genuine effort to achieve a Mideast compromise. Third is the Palestinian level. After all, the issue does concern the Palestinians, so why not talk to them? Extend an invitation to all concerned Palestinian parties to meet with U.S. and allied representatives, making clear that Washington will favor not individuals or groups but all those willing to join together in a Palestinian united front dedicated to establishing an independent, democratic state.

A host of steps are available to Washington, should it decide sincerely to pursue Mideast peace by changing ground truth. The following list, in ascending order of severity, covers just a few of the most obvious:

• Publicly announce the cancellation of all administration participation in AIPAC meetings and state that AIPAC is no longer welcome at the White House.
• Invite key non-government Israeli thinkers to join an advisory board to help Washington define a new policy.
• Negotiate with Hamas.
• Terminate Israeli loan guarantees.
• Observe U.S. law and demand the prosecution of Israeli officials responsible for using U.S. arms for offensive purposes (including violations of Lebanon’s border, last year’s devastation of Gaza’s infrastructure).
• State that it is official U.S. policy to seek, via negotiation, the full inclusion of Iran into Mideast affairs simultaneous with the full independence of Palestine and set up U.S.-Iranian confidence-building measures.
• Withdraw security clearances of all dual U.S.-Israel citizens.
• Require all U.S.-Israeli dual citizens to choose which country to give their loyalty and to give up the other country’s passport.
• State that a non-nuclear Mideast is official U.S. policy and support a regional move to set up a multilateral organization to define a Mideast WMD regime and regulate its enforcement.
• Propose to the U.N. the transfer of Gaza to U.N. control.
• Demand, and enforce with U.S. naval vessels and marines, the termination of collective punishment of Gaza and the opening of Gaza to trade & travel.
• Open formal talks with Palestinians to organize a Palestinian united front government.
• Withdraw recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital pending division of the city between Israel and Palestine.
• Demand an Israeli government schedule for the withdrawal of troops from the West Bank.
• Demand an Israeli government schedule for the withdrawal of Israeli settlers from the West Bank.
• Recognize Hamas control of Gaza.
• Recognize a Palestinian state.
• Propose to the U.N. that its peacekeepers on the Israeli-Lebanese border be armed sufficiently so they can defend the integrity of the border (including against Israeli jet fighter violations).
• Launch a zero-based review of U.S. military aid to Israel, with all such aid put on hold pending outcome of review.
• Increase economic aid to Palestine.
• Terminate all economic aid to Israel.
• Coordinate with the EU economic sanctions.

If the Netanyahu regime chooses to exclude itself from the new dialogue described above involving the U.S., moderate Israelis, Turkey, Brazil, and all Palestinians, then simply leave it be. Let history pass it by.

Mideast Peace or Fascism?

Whether peaceful or fascist, the future of the Mideast is an undivisible whole. [My thanks to Online Journal for first publishing this essay.]

The optimist sees history as progress, believing that as education spreads it also deepens, so we can learn from history. According to this view (which one may call a “religion,” since it must be taken mostly on faith), the barbarism of the 20th century will teach us the value of international law and democracy, with both institutions used for the good not of a class or ethnic group but of mankind.

According to this optimistic view, Obama means what he says and will in the end support peace and justice in the Mideast, believing that while “peace” via totalitarian control may have worked rather well for extended periods in the past, mankind has today matured and the world has shrunk to the point of putting Orwell’s 1984 behind us. Obama will thus further understand that peace between Israel and Palestine is one side of a many-sided coin that certainly includes peace between Iran and the West and that the most reliable route to the one is to move simultaneously toward the other. Hence, the U.S. will grope its way toward a position of supporting Israeli security not because of some “chosen people” myth, “end of days” fundamentalism, guilt over Nazi atrocities unhindered, or the short-term convenience of an “unsinkable aircraft carrier,” but simply because Israelis are human and deserve security just as much as Palestinians do. Obama will also understand that Iran deserves an active part in Mideast affairs not because of its Israeli-style nuclear ambiguity but because of its intrinsic importance and originality of thought. Washington will therefore offer genuine compromise to Iran, and Tehran will find the maturity and vision to meet it halfway. Washington will curb Israeli militarists, support the maintenance of beleaguered Israeli democracy even while helping to construct Palestinian democracy. Washington will realize that the road to peace is the right road and that the question is not about which ethnic group to support but whether to support fascism or democracy. Then Washington will, as a superpower should, change the world.

The pessimist sees history as repeating old mistakes since human DNA preordains that hubris will trump humility. According to this view (which may be called “realism” because most historical evidence supports it), all issues are zero-sum and all goals are short-term. 

According to this pessimistic view, if oil is running out, then Washington will use a good bit of what is left in military adventures to seize the last drop. If a corrupt regime offers support, Washington will greedily accept. Obama, being black and having what has now become an extremely sensitive Islamic name, is nothing more than an extraordinarily fortunate cover behind which the conservative military/financial elite can hide their manipulation of the world in a way they never could under Bush/Cheney. The Palestinians will be bulldozed into oblivion under the cover of beautiful rhetoric delivered with winks and endless talks about talks. The eager Israeli militarists will get everything they want, but the price will be Israeli descent into fascism under the management of a garrison state that can survive only amidst perpetual war, moving smoothly from the West Bank to Iran, joining the region of Muslim unrest in the Mideast with the region of Muslim unrest in Central Asia. The superpower, focused on power instead of governing for the people, will turn into a new Weimar Republic and very likely catch the fascist disease as its uneducated population rightfully becomes angrier and angrier but sadly without understanding cause and effect. And thus, in a different way, the superpower will change the world anyway.