Discussion:
Trump gets "A rare Middle East triumph", where Obama failed
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a425couple
2020-09-16 20:42:06 UTC
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from
https://www.registerguard.com/story/opinion/columns/2020/09/16/stephens-rare-middle-east-triumph/5806520002/

Stephens: A rare Middle East triumph
Bret Stephens The New York Times

For years, the Trump administration’s peacemaking efforts in the Middle
East have been the object of relentless derision in elite foreign-policy
circles, some of it justified. Yet with Friday’s announcement that
Bahrain would join the United Arab Emirates as the second Arab state in
30 days to normalize ties with Israel, the administration has done more
for regional peace than most of its predecessors, including an Obama
administration that tried hard and failed badly.

There are lessons in this, at least for anyone prepared to consider just
how wrong a half-century’s worth of conventional wisdom has been.

At the heart of that conventional wisdom is the view, succinctly put by
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres in February, that “resolving the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains key to sustainable peace in the
Middle East.” Untie that Gordian knot, so the thinking goes, and the
region’s many problems become easier to solve, whether it’s other
regional conflicts or the anti-Americanism that feeds international
terrorism.

That thinking was always dubious — what, for instance, did the Iran-Iraq
War, in which a million people or more died, have to do with Israelis
and Palestinians? — though it had the convenience of giving Arab regimes
a good way of deflecting blame for their own bad governance. But since
the (misnamed) Arab Spring began nearly a decade ago, the view has
become absurd.

The rise and fall of ISIS, civil war in Syria and anarchy in Libya,
Turkey’s aggression against Kurds, proxy battles and hunger in Yemen,
political turmoil and repression in Egypt and Iran, the bankruptcy of
the Lebanese state, the plight of Middle Eastern refugees — if any of
these catastrophes have something in common, it’s that they have next to
nothing to do with the Jewish state or its policies. One may still hope
for a Palestinian state, but it won’t save the region from itself.

What would? The best option is an alliance of moderates and modernizers
— anyone in power (or seeking power) who wants to move his country in
the direction of greater religious and social tolerance, broader (that
is, beyond energy) economic development, less preoccupation with ancient
disputes, more interest in future opportunities. Such an alliance is the
only hope for a region being sucked into the maw of religious
fanaticism, economic stagnation, environmental degradation and perpetual
misrule.

Now this alliance may finally be coming into being. Unlike Israel’s
peace with Egypt and Jordan — both based on strategic necessity and
geographic proximity — the peace with the Emirates and Bahrain has no
obvious rationale, even if a shared fear of Iran played a role.

The larger factor is shared aspiration. Israel is the most advanced
country in the region because for seven decades it invested in human,
not mineral, potential, and because it didn’t let its wounds (whether
with respect to Germany in the 1950s or Egypt in the 1970s) get the
better of its judgment.

The choice for the Arab world is stark. It can follow a similar path as
Israel; be swallowed by Iran, China, Russia, Turkey or some other
outsider; or otherwise continue as before until, Libya-like, it implodes.

As consequential as the peace deals themselves is the Arab League’s
refusal to condemn them, eliciting a furious Palestinian reaction.
That’s not surprising: It means the Palestinian grip over the league’s
diplomatic agenda may finally be loosening.

Perhaps it also means that the grievance-driven politics that have
dominated the Palestinian issue for decades are finally over, too. If
so, it’s bad news for those Palestinian leaders and activists who think
that, with unflagging obstinacy, they can somehow restore the status quo
ante 1948, when Israel didn’t exist.

What’s bad news for some Palestinian leaders may be good news for
ordinary Palestinians. Peace between Israelis and Arabs will not come
from the inside out — that is, from a deal between Jerusalem and
Ramallah that wins over the rest of the Arab world. Decades of
diplomatic failure, culminating in John Kerry’s failed mediation efforts
in 2014, should put an end to that fantasy.

Yet it isn’t crazy to think that peace might come from the outside in:
from an Arab world that encircles Israel with recognition and
partnership rather than enmity, and which thereby shores up Israel’s
security while moderating Palestinian behavior. If that’s right — and if
states like Oman, Morocco, Kuwait, Sudan and especially Saudi Arabia
follow suit — then this summer’s peace deals might finally create the
conditions of viable Palestinian statehood.

A final point about these deals: This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not
under the leadership of Israel’s supposedly bellicose Benjamin
Netanyahu; certainly not through the diplomatic offices of the usually
crazy/amateurish/perverse Trump administration. Luck and timing played a
part, as they always do.

But it behooves those of us who are so frequently hostile to Netanyahu
and President Donald Trump to maintain the capacity to be pleasantly
surprised — that is, to be honest. What’s happened between Israel and
two former enemies is an honest triumph in a region, and a year, that’s
known precious few.

Bret Stephens writes for The New York Times.
patrick
2020-09-17 00:19:52 UTC
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I'm hoping it's something more than a "peace for weapons" deal. I suspect that there might have even been a side deal setup with the Russians that if the Arab states that got the deal couldn't get what they wanted from the US, the Russians were ready to supply whatever the states wanted. I seem to recall that several of the states in that region besides the obvious 800 hundred pound gorilla have nuclear programs that could easily lead to a nuke in short order. I still think the place is a powder keg waiting for the (next) fuse. Then again perhaps that's just the cynic (and 70 years of age)in me. Pat
a425couple
2020-09-17 16:46:09 UTC
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Post by patrick
I'm hoping it's something more than a "peace for weapons" deal. I suspect that there might have even been a side deal setup with the Russians that if the Arab states that got the deal couldn't get what they wanted from the US, the Russians were ready to supply whatever the states wanted. I seem to recall that several of the states in that region besides the obvious 800 hundred pound gorilla have nuclear programs that could easily lead to a nuke in short order. I still think the place is a powder keg waiting for the (next) fuse. Then again perhaps that's just the cynic (and 70 years of age)in me. Pat
It opens the way for trade and interaction.
In every trade, or transaction, two sides think
they are gaining value (or else they would not do it).
When a country thinks it is gaining value by
peaceful trade, they are much less likely to
go to war.
Or even stir up unhappiness and irritation.
If we can reduce Arab / Palestinian versus Jewish
hatred, over time the area can grow more peaceful.
patrick
2020-09-17 17:32:38 UTC
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I completely agree with the premise that it opens the door to further economic/social ties that might end in a peaceful region. Just that we've been playing this tune for a long time and the ME is still on the edge. Syria/Libya/Turkey/Iran/Yemen/Saudi/Iraq - going to be a long time to put all that toothpaste back in the tube...... IF the treaties are based on sale of f-35's (which the Israeli's don't want to happen)and more advanced drones.... "meet the new boss, same as the old boss". I'd be VERY happy to be proven wrong! Pat
Gernot Hassenpflug
2020-09-18 06:48:43 UTC
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Post by patrick
I completely agree with the premise that it opens the door to further
economic/social ties that might end in a peaceful region. Just that
we've been playing this tune for a long time and the ME is still on
the edge. Syria/Libya/Turkey/Iran/Yemen/Saudi/Iraq - going to be a
long time to put all that toothpaste back in the tube...... IF the
treaties are based on sale of f-35's (which the Israeli's don't want
to happen)and more advanced drones.... "meet the new boss, same as the
old boss". I'd be VERY happy to be proven wrong! Pat
As soon as a small group starts to centralize wealth, then other groups
gain leverage for destabilization once again. Opening for trade is
clearly a wine for a more stable society overall. On the other hand,
globalization, sustainable development (technocracy) are movements in
the opposite direction, so I guess we can expect that those factors will
continue to be destabilizing in the long term also in the ME.
--
NNTP on Emacs 25.2 from Windows 7
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