Monday, February 09, 2009

Not so different (?)

From an emailed paper, 9/1/09, by Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal:

...Compared to the past, there’s far less difference between the three main parties. This is largely due to the objective situation, which is rather inflexible.

...The dominant theme in international media coverage is to say Israelis are moving toward the right. ... the real Israeli move has been toward the center, which is represented not only by Kadima and Likud but also by Labor. The great majority of Israelis are about to vote for parties close to centrist positions [more] than at any time in history...

...What have Israelis learned over the last decade that shapes their thinking?
  • ...Palestinians and Syrians are unwilling and unable to make peace.
  • ...Fatah is still full of extremism and its leadership is too weak and too hardline itself to make a comprehensive peace agreement.
  • We viewed the rise of Hamas as a group dedicated to permanent war with Israel and its seizure of one-half of the Palestinian-ruled territories, using land from which Israel withdrew as a base for attacks.
  • We experienced the continuing hatred of the Arab world and Muslim world toward Israel, largely undiminished by Israeli concessions.
  • We observed Iran’s rise as a power, potentially nuclear armed, whose regime explicitly seeks Israel’s extinction.
  • We noted the world didn’t reward Israel for making concessions and taking risks. Indeed, the more Israel gave, the higher the degree of slander and hostility rose in many sectors.

As a result of this, there has arisen in Israel a national consensus around the following points:

  • Israel wants peace and will make real concessions for true lasting, stable peace and a two-state solution
  • Few think the Palestinian leadership—PA, Fatah—is willing or able to make such an agreement for decades. The same applies to Syria.
  • As a result, any real changes on Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or West Bank settlements are far off.
  • No deal can be made with Hamas. But Hamas isn’t going to disappear either. The same applies to Hizballah.
  • The key point is to defend Israel and its citizens so they pursue their normal lives.
  • Iran is a real danger and when it appears about to get nuclear weapons, a big decision will have to be made on attacking these facilities.

As a result of this national consensus—accepted by Labor, Likud, and Kadima, along with many others—the next government can be a national unity government. Whoever becomes prime minister would do well to bring in one or both of the other two main parties. What is Israel’s consensus policy for the next government?

  • To stress that we want peace, are ready for a Palestinian state, aren’t responsible for the conflict and violence continuing. T
  • o maintain deterrence and defend ourselves.
  • To preserve the best possible relations with the United States, Europe, and other countries as long as it does not involve risks to Israeli national interests and citizens.
  • Security cooperation with the PA to prevent terrorist attacks on Israel in exchange for helping them economically and against Hamas to ensure that it doesn’t take over the West Bank. Without illusions regarding Fatah and the PA, this effort seems to be working.
  • To decide when to strike back at Hamas—and potentially Hizballah—based on any attacks on us. Precise response depends on timing, opportunity, and their behavior.
  • To work for the isolation of Iran, Hizballah and Hamas.

Where are the main differences among the leading parties? They are more atmospherics than real: offering small concessions; making small demands. If much of the election revolves around personalities that is because strategy and policy are not hugely different among them. Bibi isn’t going to embark on a settlement-building campaign; Tzipi isn’t going to give away east Jerusalem.

And that’s a good thing for whatever faults they have, this trio is basically making appropriate responses to the situation.

What do you think? Please use the comments facility to share your thoughts...

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