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Lost On the Road to Nowhere - Obama's Route to Peace

Discussion in 'Middle Eastern Politics' started by The Bare Knuckled Pundit, May 21, 2009.

  1. The Bare Knuckled Pundit

    The Bare Knuckled Pundit Active Member

    May 21, 2009
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    Charleston, WV
    In the wake of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's state visit to Washington, talk of the "road map" to Middle Eastern peace once again dominates the blogosphere and punditocracy. Though the imagery of his meeting with President Obama is one of respectfully resolute, though cordial statesmanship, one thing is strikingly clear. While the two leaders share a commitment to traveling the road to peace, they are navigating from distinctly different maps.

    Indeed, President Obama's route begins in Jerusalem, with the first milestone nearby in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. For Netanyahu, however, the point of embarkation is Tehran, with follow-on stops at Iran's nuclear facilities at Bushehr and Natanz coming shortly thereafter. Regardless of which path is ultimately settled on, both are fraught with perils and potholes that may well derail the arduous journey. In addition to the treacherous political terrain itself, it is home to bandits and malcontents skulking in the shadows with malevolent intent. While some snares and pitfall are easily found, others though more subtle and less perceptible are no less dangerous. As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. So join me, if you will, as we take a look at a few of the dogged issues behind the headlines that will determine in large part where the road ultimately ends.

    As previously noted, one of the first stops on the President's road map is the Israeli-occupied West Bank. While Obama believes that an immediate halt to the expansion of Israeli settlements in the territory is the first crucial step to jump-starting the journey towards peace, the Israelis point to their withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as a harbinger of things to come should they acquiesce to this request.

    Not only did Israel fulfill it's commitment to surrender Jewish settlements in Gaza, but it sent Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in to forcibly remove those who would not comply with Jerusalem's order. To the Palestinian's delight, images of IDF personnel manhandling and dragging away kicking, screaming and crying settlers in restraints were broadcast across the globe. Heralded as a great victory by Hamas and the Arab street, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) subsequently failed to keep their end of the bargain.

    Not only were there no similar scenes of raids on weapons caches and Hamas members being led off in custody from clandestine munitions shops, the PA was eventually driven out of Gaza and replaced by the terrorist group. Having established their writ and dominion over the Strip, Hamas then set about turning it into a literal launch pad for it's corp of rocketeers. This set in motion an escalating series of events that culminated in Israel's weeks-long offensive immediately prior to Obama's inauguration. Given the Palestinian's track record and the transformation of seceded land into bases from which attacks are launched at Israel, it is natural that security guarantees designed to prevent a recurrence of this calamitous state of affairs would be a top precondition of Jerusalem and Netanyahu.

    The issue of security in the wake of an Israeli withdraw from West Bank settlements is a doorway that leads to the more complex and intertwined issues of both long term Israeli security and the true extent of sovereignty a Palestinian state might expect to exercise.

    For obvious reasons, Israel would prefer a militarily toothless Palestinian state that focused primarily on police, intelligence and security forces should one eventually be established. For similarly obvious reasons, a Palestinian state would want the ability to exercise it's sovereignty to the fullest extent. Part of that is the right to defend itself through the establishment and retention of military capabilities, however meager they may ultimately be.

    The Palestinians will vehemently argue they have a right to defensive military capabilities. The Israelis will respond there is no need for anything more than police and security forces as a Palestinian state will have no natural predators against which it must defend itself. The unspoken rationale behind the Israeli position will be the desire to A) prevent the Palestinians from developing a credible and potentially threatening military capability and B) facilitate the retention of a balance of power that dramatically favors the Israelis and C) allows them the ability to militarily intervene in Palestinian affairs without fear of reciprocal military reprisals.

    In addition to this, the Israelis will insist on three non-negotiable security concessions the Palestinians will chafe at. First, they will demand the Palestinians forgo the development of any militarized air capabilities, including both fixed and rotating winged craft. Next, they will seek to restrict Palestinian airspace to commercial use only. Finally, Jerusalem will attempt to constitutional prohibit the Palestinians from entering into military-to-military mutual cooperation agreements and alliances. The Palestinians will view these demands not only as intolerable, but also as an infringement on their sovereignty - a de facto extension of the Israeli political yoke.

    Again the Israeli rationale is obvious - maintenance of unchallenged military superiority and prevention of the transformation of a Palestinian state into a base of operations for Iranian Quds Forces.

    The unspoken fear in Jerusalem is that should the Israelis acquiesce to Obama's preferred route, the time necessary to resolve the Palestinian issue will allow Iran to obtain their long sought after nuclear capability. Even more frightening is the thought that the birth of a Palestinian state will be accompanied by a declaration from Tehran that not only is Iran the latest member of the nuclear club, but they are extending their nuclear umbrella over Israel's newborn neighbor. Depending on the alignment of the political stars at the time, Tehran might likewise extend it's strategic shield to encompass both a Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon and their clients in Damascus as well. This would leave Israel facing Tehran's nuclear-protected proxies on four fronts, an unacceptable and potentially untenable strategic position for Jerusalem. That being the case, one wonders if Netanyahu and the Israelis can convince the President his route is not the road to peace, but will ultimately leave them all lost on the road to nowhere.

    We're on a road to nowhere, come on inside, faithful readers. Takin' that ride to nowhere, we'll take that ride.

    Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant and we see if the White House has the common sense to pull over and ask directions when it gets lost.

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