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It's Time to Give Up on Mideast Peace

By David Warren

No sooner has Tony Blair retired as prime minister of Britain, than the "Quartet of Middle East mediators" -- the U.S., E.U., U.N., and ex-Soviet Russia -- are discussing his suitability to be mediator-in-chief. This news seems to have been over-reported from the BBC to Fox: I have no idea, at the time of writing, but am assured by the media's unnamed experts that it is a done deal. Moreover, it seems so typical of the people who endlessly draw "roadmaps to peace," that I will take it as very plausible.

To my mind, the idea of Mr Blair reviving the "roadmap," while Ehud Olmert is releasing 250 Palestinian psychopaths from Israeli jails as a "gesture," and making the same-old-same-old "overtures" to the "moderate" Arab "states," is not a happy one. I used to think the Arabs never learn. Now I think that we don't.

The Israeli and Western diplomatic approach to the conquest of Gaza by the psychopaths of Hamas, has been to caress and pile aid upon Mahmoud Abbas and the psychopaths of Fatah. Since the obvious objection to this shouldn't have to be explained -- never give weapons to psychopaths, nor food unless you have them securely in custody -- let me deal with the more subtle, tactical end in view.

So far as it could have any merit at all, the idea appears to be "divide and conquer." The reasoning goes: this is the moment to embrace Fatah, against the outwardly more radical party the Palestinians actually voted into office, to have a "peace partner" who is scared enough by what Hamas has just achieved in Gaza, to welcome our embrace. Moreover, those "moderate" Arab "states," starting with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are themselves aware that Hamas is, like Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, now beholden to Iran, and that revolutionary Iran is quickly becoming a bigger worry for them than Israel could ever be. Surely, under these circumstances, hay can be made. Let's everybody who is frightened by Iran (and with cause) come to an arrangement that will subvert the ayatollahs.

It is one of those ideas, too clever by at least half, that has never worked in the Middle East, where all alliances are temporary, and no enemies are ever forgotten. The very concept of "national interest" does not exist among the Arabs. (I know that sounds strong, but it's true.) This is not only because pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism have successively kept an alternative to the nation state alive, but because from the origin of modern Arab statehood, almost every Arab state has been almost constantly governed by a family clique. The Arab states remain today essentially dynastic, as well as essentially tyrannical. The interests being served are thus the interests of the clans -- whether Sauds, Assads, Hashemites, Mubaraks, or the others. In each case, the nation is perpetuated only as a kind of monstrous family business, and organized on the principles of the Mob.

We nevertheless persist, in the West, in thinking that we are dealing with states. Israel is a state, and we can certainly deal with it; the Americans are attempting to create proper states in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the difficulties we are encountering in the latter cases are such as we would encounter anywhere in the region.

In Palestinian society, no effort has been made, or been allowed, to create anything resembling the material, political, and cultural conditions for the creation of a state. To speak of a "two state solution" between Israel and Palestine is therefore to speak rubbish.

But beyond the West Bank and Gaza, each of our potential "peace partners" is surfing a boiling cauldron, and generally, one which he has helped to heat. The long-term demonization of Israel, and the broader argument that the Arab/Muslim world is the way it is today, not from any fault of its own, but because of external oppression, have been employed so long and so effectively by each of the "moderate" despots, that it can never be abandoned. For any of them to actually make peace with Israel, as the late Anwar Sadat tried to do in the 1970s, would be for him to abandon his surfboard. It would be an act of suicide (as it vwas for Sadat) -- and on behalf of his whole clan.

In other words, it won't happen. It is sad that it won't happen, and cannot happen, but there you have it: some things are sad.

Another legacy of perpetual tyranny, is the paranoical belief in various secret agendas, being pursued behind the open ones. The more brilliant the commentator, the more entertaining the paranoia. It has been suggested, passim, through the Arab and Muslim media, that Israel and her fair-weather friends (whom they think Israel controls: ha!) are actually embracing Fatah in order to destroy it. Better for Israel to face Hamas and its Iranian sponsors head-on. It has even been suggested, and by Amir Taheri -- a Persian commentator who is normally a source of rationality and good information -- that the U.S. and Israel ordered Mahmoud Abbas to "take a dive" in Gaza, presumably in return for all that aid he is now receiving.

Oh, please. Our side is not as smart as that. Our side is not even smart enough to realize that the whole idea of a "roadmap to peace" between Israel and the Arabs is, in its very nature, absurd. This is a region where power alone counts, and agreements are for suckers.

otiosus@sympatico.ca

© Ottawa Citizen


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