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 Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Rogue 51st State of America


Peter Preston

Read here full article in The Guardian UK

This injunction couldn't be clearer.

"The United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts."

Notice that "must" word.

Dig deeper in the Baker report text to discover what such "commitment" involves.

"For several reasons, we should act boldly: there is no military solution to this conflict. The vast majority of the Israeli body politic is tired of being a nation perpetually at war.

No American administration - Democratic or Republican - will ever abandon Israel.

Political engagement and dialogue are essential in the Arab-Israeli dispute because it is an axiom that when the political process breaks down there will be violence on the ground."

Thus the road map is rolled out again. Thus UN resolutions 242 and 338 - which mean handing back the territorial spoils of past war - are invoked as foundation documents.

It doesn't sound an easy road - and, of course, it isn't. But there is at least a vestigial pathway here, if anyone wishes to walk along it.

Yet who, first out of the block, seems to hate talking the talk, let alone putting his hiking boots on?

Yes: it's the ally no American administration will ever abandon.

In short order, Ehud Olmert announces that this "attempt to create a linkage between the Iraqi issue and the Mideast issue" is wrong. "We have a different view."

More, he claims, George Bush has always agreed with him.

Meet with Iran? Actually, he doesn't rule out military strikes against Tehran and its "criminal" president. "I rule nothing out."

And as for Syria, Germany's foreign minister takes a pasting for even going to Damascus. "I think he made a mistake."

But fiercely, specifically, Olmert won't let the rest of the region in. It's nothing to do with them.

Except, of course, that that's rubbish.

  • The trouble with Tehran - apart from some fire-breathing presidential rhetoric - is Iran's possible bomb, 10 years away in the making.

  • Who else in the region has such a bomb already? Israel.

  • Whose rockets landed on Israeli territory? Iraq's.

  • Who reputedly plays godfather to Hizbullah in Lebanon? Iran.

  • Who competes relentlessly for influence in Beirut? Syria.
  • The list is longer than that, of course, but the point is a short, sharp one: there is no halcyon world where dominant Israelis and compliant Palestinians can be left alone to work out a deal.

    Everything connects - in emotion and often in practice. And Olmert fears that, which is why he moves so swiftly to exclude Iran and Syria; for including them brings pressure to his door.

    Be clear. This is, absolutely, the reverse of the Baker plan.

    This turndown from day one.

    This is the abandonment of whatever wisdom the independent study group has to offer.

    Who needs enemies to sabotage prospects of a wider peace when "friends" do it instinctively?

    Don't they fear at least some retribution from US public opinion? Alas, no.

    As Jimmy Carter wrote the other day: "

    It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine ... Very few of them would ever deign to visit the cities of Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron, Gaza City or Bethlehem and talk to the beleaguered residents."
    Accept that American attachment to the Israeli cause is total - as Baker himself makes clear.

    The question is how far that attachment should wreck everything else?

    Israel could be propelled into regional talks.

    It floats on a sea of US subsidy. It is, in many ways , the real 51st state.

    But it does not agree with Baker that there are "no military solutions" here.

    Nor will it commit to the necessary level of "political engagement".

    Does more "violence on the ground" follow automatically, then?

    It's a sad, sad way to "abandon" hope.

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