Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, “Second Thought: a US-Israel initiative”
February 25, 2019, https://bit.ly/2GMh4HR
The enhancement of US national security interests behooves the architects of US peace initiatives to recognize the inherent constraints set by the 14 century old Middle East reality since the 7th century emergence of Islam. Middle East reality has been shaped by systematic inter-Muslim and inter-Arab relations, conflicts, back-stabbing, subversion, terrorism and wars. These endemic features have been totally unrelated to the Arab-Israel and the Palestinian-Israel conflicts.
Architects of peace initiatives should be cognizant of the predominance of inter-Arab and inter-Muslim threats and challenges, which have superseded the Palestinian issue. The latter has been showered with much Arab talk, but hardly any Arab walk, militarily and economically. For example, on January 30-31, 2019, the Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, the UAE and Bahrain convened in Jordan, in order to discuss the clear and present dangers of Iran’s Ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS and additional top Middle East priorities. The absence of a Palestinian representative and the lack of any discussion of the Palestinian issue – while counter terrorism and intelligence cooperation between these six Arab countries and Israel is surging – underlined the fact that the Palestinian issue has never been a top regional priority, nor the crown-jewel of Arab policy makers, nor the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The architects of peace initiatives should pay attention to a Texas colloquialism: “When smothered by sandstorms, while driving in West Texas, don’t get preoccupied with the tumbleweeds on the road.”
As demonstrated by the Arab Tsunami, which has engulfed the Middle East since 2010, and contrary to conventional Western “wisdom,” the Arab-Israel conflict has never been “the Middle East conflict.” It has been substantially superseded by inter-Arab and inter-Muslim conflicts.
Peace initiatives must be aware of the supremacy of the following 14 century old fundamentals of inter-Arab, inter-Muslim relations in shaping the Middle East arena, including peace accords: volatility, unpredictability, violence, intolerance (religiously, ethnically, socially and ideologically), absence of peaceful coexistence (locally, nationally and regionally), minority rogue regimes, abuse of civil rights, domestic and regional fragmentation and the tenuous and provisional nature of regimes-policies-agreements. Most importantly for Muslims has been the expected dominance of the abode of the “believers” (Islam) over the “infidel,” while allowing for temporary accords (Taqiyya) with the “infidel.”
A cardinal rule of Middle East politics stipulates that Middle Eastern leopards don’t change their spots, only their tactics.
The well-intentioned pursuit of Israel-Arab and Israel-Palestinian peace must not sacrifice the highly complex, perplexing and explosive Middle East reality on the altar of oversimplification and wishful-thinking.
Peace initiatives must be based on the worst-case-scenario, which is usually consistent with Middle East reality. For instance, a potential toppling of Jordan’s Hashemite regime – which should be averted by immense US and Israeli efforts – would transform Jordan into an Iraq, Syria and Libya-like platform of Islamic terrorism, which would threaten the survival of the pro-US regimes in Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula, transforming the longest, most critical and most peaceful border of Israel into a lethal nightmare, potentially extending the Ayatollahs’ posture to the Jordan Valley and beyond.
US peace initiatives should be driven by US national security interests, which would be severely undermined by a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River. A Palestinian state would doom the Hashemite regime east of the Jordan River (with its Palestinian majority, entrenched Muslim Brotherhood presence, intra-Bedouin fragmentation, neighboring Iraq, etc.), triggering a domino scenario, which would haunt all pro-US Arab regimes in the Persian Gulf area, according Iran, Russia and China a geo-strategic bonanza, including a land, air and/or sea presence in the newly-established Palestinian state. The nature of the proposed Palestinian state may be realistically assessed based on the track record of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership from their collaboration with Nazi Germany, through their embrace of the Soviet Bloc, Ayatollah Khomeini, international terrorism, Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, China and North Korea.
The attempt to minimize Middle East instability and advance the US interest, on the one hand, and establishing a Palestinian state, on the other hand, constitutes a classic oxymoron, adding fuel – not water – to the Middle East fire.
The well-intentioned architects of peace should be aware that all prior US peace initiatives failed to advance the cause of peace and to enhance the US strategic stature, due to the impossibility of subordinating the complex, uncontrollable, tectonic and violent Middle East reality to peaceful intentions, which wish to bypass that reality.
The eagerness to advance the cause of peace must not produce an immoral “moral equivalence” between the intended victim (Israel) and the 100 year old Arab aggression against the existence (not the size) of a Jewish State in “the abode of Islam,” nor between an unconditional ally of the US (Israel) and a close ally of enemies and rivals of the US (the Palestinian leadership).
Peace initiatives should not ignore Middle East reality where the submission of a US initiative forces Arabs to outflank it from the maximalist side, and where concessions to rogue and terrorist elements whet their appetite and intensify violence.
US peace initiatives which downplay Middle East reality are doomed to be dashed against the rocks of reality, severely undermining the national and homeland security of the USA.