Friday, December 8, 2017

Shifting Sands in the Middle East

All the teeth-gnashing you hear is coming from the foreign policy grandees who have worked ceaselessly to produce peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. They have done their best to be honest brokers, not taking one side or the other, trying to give equal face to both contenting parties.

As Dr. Phil likes to say: How is that working out?

With a stroke of his pen President Trump has exposed the fatuity of it all. There never was a real peace process. The Palestinians never wanted to live in peace. They wanted to destroy Israel and to kill as many Jews as possible. Legitimating them as participants in a peace process keeps bigotry alive and allows the Palestinians to represent their cause as yet another chapter in the worldwide revolution against capitalist hegemony.

I would like to point out that if you think that the Marxist cause is still alive, you have a sorely deficient view of history.

As Mahmoud Abbas learned from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the war is over and the Palestinian cause, initiated by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, a close ally of Adolph Hitler, is finished. The only thing that remains is to negotiate the terms of surrender.

Anyway, for today a couple of interesting and thoughtful articles. In the New York Times, the left leaning Roger Cohen finds solace in the fact that Donald Trump did not perpetuate the peace process nonsense.

He wrote:

It was, at least, not more of the same peace-process blather.

Yet, Cohen did not see the peace process as a way for the Palestinians to fight a war that they could not fight any other way. He saw it as a means for Israel to expand its hegemony.

In his words:

If anything the “process” has been ideal camouflage for the steady growth in the number of Israeli settlers (now more than 600,000), favored by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government. It has given steady Israeli expansionism the international benediction of mythical reversibility. I am not convinced Trump gave a lot away.

One might notice that the Palestinians have been at war with Israel for every day of its existence. And one might note that Israel did evacuate Gaza and give it over the Hamas. How did that one work out, Roger? True enough, as Cohen noted, the Palestinian people live under occupation and feel humiliated by Israel. If they had been willing to call off their war and stop the terrorism they would find themselves living with less humiliation. If not, then perhaps, as I have often suggested, the only way forward is with more humiliation.

As for those who are wringing their crying towels over the fiercely ferocious power of righteous Palestinians, Cohen remarks that Palestinian policy has manifested powerlessness:

Well, Trump has provoked the unswerving ire of the Palestinians (who now refuse to meet with Vice President Mike Pence during his upcoming visit) and destroyed any chance of peace. But there is nothing unswerving about Palestinian policy. It is big on rhetoric, feeble in action, reflecting powerlessness. 

Frankly, it is time that the United States took sides with Israel, as Saudi Arabia apparently has. True enough, it will take time for the Palestinians to throw a few face-saving riots. But, eventually, they will probably come around… what choice do they have?

Trump said his statement did not prejudge “the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem,” but its most damaging aspect was to give strong implicit backing to Israel’s claims, with no mention of Palestine’s. It also put American lives in danger and humiliated a people, the Palestinians, whose lives under a 50-year-old occupation are a daily exercise in humiliation. It flouted United Nations Security Council resolutions, so undermining international law.

As for the situation in Saudi Arabia, key to the current machinations in the Middle East, we turn to Myron Magnet in the City Journal.

Happily, Magnet sees the situation in much the same terms that I have. This explains why I have given the matter so much attention on this blog:

How extraordinary to see a world-historical revolution unfolding before one’s eyes and not know how it will turn out: that’s what’s happening right now in Saudi Arabia. 

At one level it’s an economic story, with Saudi Arabia trying to drag its people into the modern world, to give them opportunities, to advance their economic prospects and to wean themselves from dependence on oil revenue:

Economic modernization and diversification, the prince saw, were essential, and they required social liberalization as the first order of business, beginning with allowing women to drive cars, the royal road to women’s liberation. Already, Saudi women are casting off the hijab and seizing modern social pleasures. The important point is that half the kingdom’s potential workforce will become free to produce, with hugely positive consequences for the economy.

As we all know the Saudi royal family has been funding terrorism around the world. Considering that the family has thousands of members, we do not know which ones are sneaking money to al Qaeda or ISIS and which ones are financing schools that teach radical Islam. We can guess that some of those responsible are now under house arrest in the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh.

Magnet explains:

Crucially, the royal family will find it harder to fund the radical Wahhabi Islam that OPEC has let grow like mushrooms. It’s hard to imagine that this well-established, well-fed worldwide network of terrorist-supporting fanatics, in their opulent mosques and madrassas—and especially in the more Spartan ones in Pakistan—will go quietly; little wonder that the prince has surrounded himself with a repressive security apparatus reminiscent of the Shah of Iran’s. He appears to be a quiet but inexorable foe of Muslim extremism, and consequently it is uncertain that he will emerge from his heroic and visionary remaking of the Saudi order with his head intact on his shoulders. 

The situation is fluid. We do not know how it will work out. We all hope for the best, but we recognize that the course of history never did run smooth:

Recall that the Protestant Reformation ignited three decades of ferocious religious warfare in Europe, laced with massacre, torture, and forced exile. Let’s hope that the Islamic version is short and mild, but conclusive enough to deglamorize the dream of terrorism not only in the Middle East but also in the minds of those Western Muslims whose cultural alienation has sparked so much vile carnage. They, like so many others, have nothing to lose but their ideological chains.

[Addendum: See also Jonah Goldberg's column today in National Review.]

[Addendum 2: See also Bret Stephens in the New York Times. h/t AO]


Sam L. said...

Who was it said that the Palestinians never missed a chance to miss a chance? The PLO and Hamas and all the others want their youth and youthful to kill Israelis (and get killed by Israelis) while the kleptocracy scoops up all the loose money coming in and gets rich. As I see it.

Sam L. said...

Oh, yes. Those "foreign policy grandees" are pretty much doing the same thing (except wanting the youth and youthful to kill and get killed, if I am not overly optimistic.) They have money coming in, and wish it to continue.

Cynical? Moi? How could I not be.

trigger warning said...

It might advance the "peace process" if the Paleos would stop paying terrorists (and their families, assuming the "martyrs" are with the 72 Versions) to murder Israelis eating pizza, crossing the street, riding the bus, nursing babies, and sleeping in their beds while Jewish.

James said...

Stuart, You're right about the world going through something as drastic as the Reformation and it's aftermath or even perhaps the collapse of the Classical World. Of the US I often think of the English Revolution, Cromwell, and the Roundheads and it's aftermath.

Anonymous said...

Where is AO with his antisemitic take on Israeli security issues?

Ares Olympus said...

I see Bret Stephens is on board too. It sounds like the answer for peace is a new Palestinian government of the people that will accept peace under Israel's terms. Some people call that surrender, but after generations of failure, surrender doesn't seem like the worst choice available. Let's be hopeful.
What Jerusalem is is the capital of Israel, both as the ancestral Jewish homeland and the modern nation-state.

So why maintain the fiction that Jerusalem isn’t the capital?

The original argument, from 1947, was that Jerusalem ought to be under international jurisdiction, in recognition of its religious importance. But Jews were not allowed to visit the Western Wall during the 19 years when East Jerusalem was under Jordanian occupation. Yasir Arafat denied that Solomon’s Temple was even in Jerusalem, reflecting an increasingly common Palestinian denial of history.
Recognition also tells the Palestinians that they can no longer hold other parties hostage to their demands. East Jerusalem could have been the capital of a sovereign Palestinian state 17 years ago, if Arafat had simply accepted the terms at Camp David.
For the international community, that means helping Palestinians take steps to dismantle their current klepto-theocracy, rather than fueling a culture of perpetual grievance against Israel. Mahmoud Abbas is now approaching the 13th anniversary of his elected four-year term.