The next war in the Middle East coming soon to your home theater

The United States, Israel and the Arabs: Please, not again | The Economist

For all their many horrors, the Lebanon war of 2006 and the Gaza war of 2009 were limited affairs. On the Israeli side, in particular, civilian casualties were light. Since 2006, however, Iran and Syria have provided Hizbullah with an arsenal of perhaps 50,000 missiles and rockets, many with ranges and payloads well beyond what Hizbullah had last time. This marks an extraordinary change in the balance of power. For the first time a radical non-state actor has the power to kill thousands of civilians in Israel’s cities more or less at the press of a button.In that event, says Israel, it will strike back with double force. A war of this sort could easily draw in Syria, and perhaps Iran. For the moment, deterrence keeps the peace. But a peace maintained by deterrence alone is a frail thing. The shipment to Hizbullah of a balance-tipping new weapon, a skirmish on the Lebanese or increasingly volatile Gaza border—any number of miscalculations could ignite a conflagration.

From peace process to war process

All of this should give new urgency to Arab-Israeli peacemaking. To start with, at least, peace will be incomplete: Iran, Hizbullah and sometimes Hamas say that they will never accept a Jewish state in the Middle East. But it is the unending Israeli occupation that gives these rejectionists their oxygen. Give the Palestinians a state on the West Bank and it will become very much harder for the rejectionists to justify going to war.

Easy enough to say. The question is whether peacemaking can succeed. After striving for almost two years to shepherd Israeli and Palestinian leaders into direct talks, only for this effort to collapse over the issue of settlements, Mr Obama is in danger of concluding like many presidents before him that Arab-Israeli diplomacy is a Sisyphean distraction. But giving up would be a tragic mistake, as bad for America and Israel as for the Palestinians. The instant the peace process ends, the war process begins, and wars in this energy-rich corner of the world usually suck in America, one way or another. Israel will suffer too if Mr Obama fails, because the Palestinians have shown time and again that they will not fall silent while their rights are denied. The longer Israel keeps them stateless under military occupation, the lonelier it becomes—and the more it undermines its own identity as a liberal democracy.


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47 comments on “The next war in the Middle East coming soon to your home theater

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  1. Interesting that Obama is credited with “the quality of persistence.” Buddhists recognize persistence as one of the six Paramitas. I hope the author is right about Obama having that quality, because it will take great persistence to get Israel back on the road to peace.

  2. That road to peace is strewn with stumbling blocks left there by the Iranians and their proxies. Hezbollah can’t do other than sow strife at present.

  3. @ CK MacLeod: And the depth of it is that the Hezzis are willing to sacrifice every Palestinian in Lebanon and happy to continue Palestinian misery if it helps to make the Israelis apprehensive and uncomfortable.

  4. I was a bad boy, and excerpted this piece before I had read it in full. The Economist’s straightforward call for an imposed peace – the rest of the article – may be more interesting than its depiction of the threat of war.

  5. @ CK MacLeod:

    no, I don’t think so.

    it’s a calculation that war is likely w/o doing that, but I didn’t read it as saying that if it were done it would be peace in our time.

    setting up a decent Palestine is greatly to be desired, but getting it set up hasn’t proven to be easy and imposing it won’t be easy either.
    it’s might be easier to impose peace on the Israelis and Pals then it was to do so in Iraq, but there are still big bunches of people (mentioned in the Eco piece) that aren’t ready for quiet.
    war ain’t over if you don’t want it.

  6. @ fuster:
    Well, maybe I should have said “an imposed peacierness.”

    It would be an imposed peace between Israel and “The Palestinians” – the latter to be defined as far as the world was concerned as the citizens of the new Palestinian state. Everyone else would be a pretender. It would also presumably coincide, or be intended to coincide, with recognition of Israel and ratified peace between Israel and all or most Arab states.

    Quite likely, I think, this imposed peacierness would also be imposed warrishness to some uncertain extent, between and among various parties who might not like the idea much. The assumption is that the imposed w-ness would be cheaper than the likely w-ness in the absence of action.

  7. @ CK MacLeod: without Gaza’s million Pals, it’s an iffy definition.

    If I thought it would work,and I doubt that it presently could, I would be jumping to take the leap.

    But I think that things first have to happen with Syria and Lebanon that will reduce Iranian sway.

  8. @ fuster:
    An ugly picture, but such pretty pictures! Those Hezbollah guys should be practicing for the Rose Parade, not for mass immolation. Oh well.

    Word to the wise, unless you have a really slow connection, those FP listicles are always easier to read if you click “Single Page” up near the top.

  9. @ fuster:
    As for the proposal, I don’t think the idea is the US and several leading allies draw up the new map, then declare it the new reality as of the following Monday. I think the idea is that the US delineates the desired end state and acceptable transition points – say, Barak plan + reasonable adjustments or some such, West Bank first if necessary, etc. – and then wields all diplomatic and political tools trying to make it real.

  10. @ CK MacLeod:

    So US troops don’t pull the settlers out of the West Bank, we just sit down with some allies and draw up a road map.

    maybe have the UN vote on a partition plan.

    we can lead the horses to water, but can we get them to agree on an equitable division of the supply?

    (one of the things in the Barak plan that I recall was how little of the water in the West Bank wasn’t on the property that the Israelis were keeping and swapping out)

    I doubt that the President of the United States currently has the power to compel the Israelis to sign a deal that they don’t desire.

  11. @ fuster:
    It would depend upon how intent the Izzys (and others) were on calling the U.S. bluff, and how much the U.S. was really bluffing. And vice versa. The main conceptual difference would be no longer starting from the premise that the kids can settle their fight themselves. First one to whine, goes for a timeout. The other gets ice cream.

  12. @ CK MacLeod:

    Let me be more clear. The United States of America certainly has the power to make the Israelis do as we say.
    The President of the United States of America does not.
    Obama can whip the Israeli government except for that pesky US Congress.

  13. @ fuster:
    Would clearly require a Prez and Admin that had a plan, that had a good number of bipartisan gray-hairs lined up, that was ready to sell, that picked the right moment… If it was going to involve pressuring the Israelis, might need the next Flotilla embarrassment, or other crisis. So far, I don’t think Israel’s international slippage and slippage among the opinion elite – even former Peretzniks – has penetrated American public opinion. Clearly it would be a very risky thing for the Admin to be seen aligning itself with all the people “we” hate against the country “we” like, and that’s also clearly how the Rs are prepared to portray any wavering from the Likud line.

    So it’s a wicky sticket. But if the general analysis is correct, then a crisis of some type is inevitable.

  14. Let me ask you, Tsar.

    Do you see the people in Congress going along with any plan that Netanyahu rails against at any time before the 2012 elections?

    So it’s a wicky sticket. But if the general analysis is correct, then a crisis of some type is inevitable.

    endless and seemingly for half a century a crisis is inevitable but but but but maybe things will get better if we stay the course just a little bit loooooooooonger.

  15. fuster wrote:

    Do you see the people in Congress going along with any plan that Netanyahu rails against at any time before the 2012 elections?

    Only if public opinion turns… after nearly five decades of pro-Israeli near-consensus it would take something dramatic… but somewhere the Israelis must know that if and when that consensus breaks, it may never return… it’s not wise for them to risk even risking the risk of the risk… if you know what I mean… up until recently, they’ve seemed to understand that… do they still? If so, then they can be pressured… if not, then maybe they need to be…

  16. Tsar, after the Gaza invasion and then the seizure and siege aboard the flotilla ship, Obama tried to squeeze Netanyahu into a building freeze….and…..

    he didn’t have the leverage because Iran is still blocking any real deal, so Netanyahu can point out that there’s no pay-off. The Israelis have reaching the point that they will not or maybe even can not rein in their fanatics until the Islamist fanatics are reined in.

    Blood will have to be spilled inside of Lebanon and we’re likely going to have to bribe the hell out of the Syrians to get them to swing away from Iran or a hell of a lot of blood will be spilled in Lebanon

  17. @ fuster:
    As you say, Iran is blocking a deal. Iran’s leaders never mention a Palestinian state. Neither does Hezbollah. The Hamas Charter excludes the possibility.
    I don’t believe there has ever been a public opinion poll in the Arab world asking the following question: Would you rather have a Palestinian state that lived in peace with Israel or would you prefer the destruction of Israel and no Palestine?
    It seems to me that the choice of a world without Israel and without Palestine would win a clear majority of the votes.

  18. I don’t really disagree with you, except maybe in thinking there might be more moving parts of significance than Iran. Anyway, we’re just speculating, seeing what sense their might be in the Economist position. So far, we’ve been focusing on negative pressure against the Israelis… All of the tools at US disposal means all of the tools at US disposal… that also means putting together a deal with lots in it for lots of people… and that happens also to target Iran…

    …and, back on the previous point, another crisis of significance would find BHO with his domestic agenda mostly in the rear view mirror…

  19. @ George Jochnowitz:

    Thanks George. It’s all too rare that people remember the day that the “bad ole puddy tat” was martyred for trying to eat Tweety bird.

    and I think that the regime occupying Tehran must be pressured and humbled, but outright destroying it will be counterproductive unless the Iranians do the destroying.

  20. They are supposed to be at peace, are they not, the reality is that the Egyptian government is at odds, if not openly at war with large
    segments of it’s own people. the shameful election aftermath is a part of it. It has little legitimacy, that’s how the likes of Seif al Adel/Mokkawi and Ali Mohammed arise

  21. @ fuster:
    The Israeli military is not a threat to Egypt unless Egypt wants it to be. Egypt and Israel have signed a peace treaty, which Egypt violates by showing movies on government TV of Jews murdering Christian children for their blood, etc. Israel ignores these violations for the sake of maintaining peace.

  22. miggs, George

    Israel and Egypt are at peace and are working together to combat Hamas and thwart Iranian intentions and arms deliveries, but it’s still the Egyptian military’s job to plan for ways to counter possible threats, and who the heck else is near Egypt and has near to as much military strength as the Israelis?

    Don’t equate planning with intention.

  23. @ CK MacLeod:
    Here is Article III Part 2 of the treaty signed in 1979. the key word is “instigating.” There is a difference between what is shown on state-run TV and on private channels.

    Each Party undertakes to ensure that acts or threats of belligerency, hostility, or violence do not originate from and are not committed from within its territory, or by any forces subject to its control or by any other forces stationed on its territory , against the population, citizens or property of the other Party. Each Party also undertakes to refrain from organizing, instigating, inciting, assisting or participating in acts or threats of belligerency, hostility, subversion or violence against the other Party, anywhere, and undertakes to ensure that perpetrators of such acts are brought to justice.

  24. @ George Jochnowitz:
    It’s obviously a judgment call as to whether a foul, racist, conspiracist, etc., depiction of Israel or the Jews amounts to “instigation.” Are all of the people in this country – including people in government or hoping to be – who say foul, conspiracist, etc., things about Muslims or Democrats or the President guilty of “instigation”? Possibly, but we tend to allow and tolerate that kind of speech, applying the term more narrowly – not “x is evil and a threat to all that’s good” but “let’s all go do a, b, and c to destroy x.”

  25. @ George Jochnowitz:
    Only by a broad definition of “instigation” – one that would term all anti-semitic/anti-Zionist conspiracism as “instigation” against the modern day state of Israel. Again, by that definition a lot that goes on in this country, in government, at certain politically motivated and involved TV stations, and in many of the comments at this blog, qualifies as anti-Muslim “instigation.” Much done and said in Israel, including by members of various Israeli governments including the current one, could also be called instigation.

  26. @ George Jochnowitz:
    George, the treaty doesn’t say no instigating, It reads no instigating acts or threats of belligerency, hostility, subversion or violence.

    slander lies and distorted facts seems to be just dandy

  27. George Jochnowitz wrote:

    If you believe Jews kill children to use their blood for ritual purposes, no peace with them or their state is ever possible.

    Well of course it’s possible. Just add a codicil to the next treaty calling for sharesies on the best blood.

    Whatever the viewers of such a TV show draw from its depiction of fictional Jewish conspiracies of 100 years ago, maybe it undermines attitudes toward Israel, but it doesn’t qualify as instigation.

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