Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Friday, February 25, 2011

The advantage of democracy--Ireland goes to the polls

As the population of Tripoli, Libya and other Libyan cities brave the bullets of regime mercenaries and risk being strafed by pilots who have not yet defected to Malta and elsewhere, the voters of Ireland go quietly to the polls. They are now taking the opportunity to throw out a government that was so feckless that it presided over a property boom that makes America's similar boom look restrained. The Anglo-Irish Bank has collapsed and other banks are in various stages of insolvency--being bailed out by a loan package from the European Union that has very stiff repayment conditions. It is estimated that the Irish debt now amounts to approximately $500,000 per capita. No wonder common skilled laborers could afford summer homes in Ireland or abroad before the debt was called in.

Since 1932, the third election it contested, Fianna Fail has been the largest party in Ireland. It has since that day always received at least 39 percent of the popular vote and until 1989 when it governed--which was most of the time--it governed alone, with either the support of independents as a minority government or as a majority government. Recent polls have Fine Gael at 40 percent giving it possibly enough deputies--TDs--to govern with support from independents.  If not, or possibly simply to gain more stability, Fine Gael will rule Ireland in a coalition government with Labour, its junior partner in coalition governments in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are Center-Right parties, closer to each other in ideology than to their competitor parties. They represent the two sides of the Irish Civil War of 1922-23, fought over the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921 that ended the Irish War of Independence. Ultimately, the war was fought over whether or not to take an oath of loyalty to the British sovereign before entering the Dail. Fine Gael is the successor to the party that won the war and ruled Ireland for its first decade of independence. Fianna Fail is the party of the man, Eamon de Valera, who vowed never to utter the oath and after losing the war did so three years later.  For the next sixty years elections were fought over the civil war and then during the 1980s and 1990s over economic issues and Northern Ireland.  Irish politics were until late last year much like American politics following the Civil War and up until the New Deal and possibly even the 1960s.

It looks like Fianna Fail's junior coalition partner during the 2000s, the Green Party, will be obliterated in this election. Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army, looks to at least double its representation in the Dail from five to ten. Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, the man who claims to have never been in the IRA (but whose nephews and uncles ran the organization in Belfast for decades) quit his always-vacant seat in the British parliament from West Belfast and traveled south to Co. Louth to contest a seat in the Dail. That is where the body of Jean McConville, a Belfast woman murdered by the IRA for either informing for the British or comforting a dying British soldier, was discovered in 2003. A recently published book based on interviews with a former senior IRA operative in Belfast claims that Adams gave the order for McConville's murder. Her daughter has been trailing Adams on the campaign trail acting as a one-woman truth squad. Most politicians have figurative skeletons in the closet; Adams has real skeletons in figurative closets!

Social Democratic and Labour Party leader Margaret Ritchie recently traveled south and injected herself into southern politics to claim that Sinn Fein is acting like "green Communists in the South and red Tories in the North." In other words, they are hypocrites accepting severe cuts in Belfast as part of the ruling coalition but condemning Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour for doing the same in Dublin. 

From the 1840s to the early 1990s the Irish working class has always use emigration as a primary means of earning a living. First it was to America, then to Britain and Australia. And finally to the European mainland after Ireland joined the EEC with Britain in 1972.  The migration flow reversed itself in the mid-1990s as the Celtic Tiger economic miracle took hold and business boomed. For a dozen years the Irish had it good! Now graduating university students will be once more departing to try their luck abroad.  Ireland's loss is the world's gain as well-educated English speakers flock to America, Britain, and the Continent once more.

How the new Irish government handles the new austerity program will be a weather vane for the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain), which are on the verge (or over the edge and on the way to the bottom in Greece's case) of economic insolvency as well.  All of Europe will be watching Dublin closely for signals. Those interested in the fate of the European Union should as well.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

If not two-state then one-state?

The two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has for some time been unrealizable because it is blocked on both ends--by the Palestinian power struggle and the collapse of the Left in Israel and the Israeli party system. As a result a growing chorus of Palestinians, Arabs, and anti-Israel activists in the West have been calling for a one-state solution. There are basically three versions of the one-state solution, although its backers only talk about one of these. The first is the Greater Israel version in which Israel rules from "the sea to the river." Palestinians have few rights. This has proven to be unstable and unacceptable to the Arabs.

The second version is one in which all citizens are equal, ethnicity doesn't matter and "the lamb shall lie down with the lion." This is the naive version put forward mainly by the radicals, particularly Jewish radicals, in the West. It is based on a false equation with South Africa. In South Africa the resistance to apartheid was led by a principled Christian leadership composed of figures from the African churches and the African National Congress. The ANC in exile was led by Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela's former law partner who once trained to be an Anglican priest. The ANC had a policy forbidding the attacking of soft targets--terrorism. It only targeted military installations and government offices, with the aim of minimizing the loss of life. This is very different from the "armed struggle" of the PLO or Hamas. Most of the casualties of the liberation struggle in South Africa were black--caused by interorganizational violence in KwaZulu/Natal province where the ANC faced the ethnic Zulu organization Inkatha, which ran the Zulu homeland KwaZulu. The other main source of casualties were suspected informers.

In the Israeli-Palestine conflict while there have been many Palestinian victims of interorganizational violence among Palestinians, both in the 1936-39 Arab Revolt and in the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza, most casualties have been in fighting between Arabs and Israelis or by Palestinian terrorism. The overall number of casualties has also been significant. In this regard the Israeli experience is much more like that of South Africa's neighbor Zimbabwe. The African majority took power in Zimbabwe after a seven-year liberation struggle that cost the lives of between 20,000 and 50,000. Most of the dead were Africans but most white families suffered either death in the family or a severe wound due to the conflict. In South Africa relatively few whites were killed or severely wounded in either the war in Namibia or the ANC's guerrilla campaign. Both sides in Zimbabwe were left embittered by the struggle and half the white population had emigrated within two years of majority rule--although many of these later returned. Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe was embittered by his wartime experiences and the death of his first wife during the war.

The Zimbabwean peace deal was based on temporary guarantees to whites. Once these guarantees expired after seven years Mugabe began freezing whites out of the economy. He made it clear that the deal was that they could remain in the country only if their children emigrated. Many Israeli Jews feel that Arab acceptance of a sovereign Jewish presence will likewise be purely temporary. This is why nearly all Jews in Israel oppose a right of return for Palestinians to Israel. A one-state solution would effectively mean a right of return by incorporating the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza within Israel. It would mean the end of a Jewish majority and Jewish sovereignty.

The Lancaster House deal of December 1979 that ended the war in Zimbabwe was dreaded by most Rhodesian whites because Africa was a region dominated by one-party autocracies, not to mention kleptocracies. They correctly feared the same fate for their own country. For this same reason many Afrikaners (and English-speakers) feared majority rule in South Africa. They negotiated an end to minority rule only once they felt assured by the ANC leadership and that they had no choice in the long run. Israel still is situated in a region with similar characteristics to that of Africa in the 1980s. 

The third version is that of an Arab-dominated state. The Jews would be a tolerated minority as they once were in Arab states throughout the region and as the Copts are in Egypt today. Lebanese Christians have been unwilling to accept a Muslim-dominated state in Lebanon. This has resulted in two civil wars: a brief civil war in 1958 and a long very bloody civil war from 1975 to 1990. The refusal of Hezbollah to disarm or accept accountability for their actions threatens a repeat of the civil war. The fate of a single state ruled by either Jews or Arabs is the same--chronic instability.

Theodor Herzl in 1895 wrote Der Judenstaat (normally rendered in English as The Jewish State but actually meaning The State of the Jews), not The Binational State. Jews emigrated from Europe and the Middle East to Palestine with the dream of having a state of their own, not the nightmare of sharing a binational state with another people.

In Northern Ireland the logic of demography and politics dictated power sharing as the only stable solution to the conflict. It triumphed 33 years years after it was first tried and failed. Third time's the charm as they say. It may take decades before a two-state solution can be realized in the Middle East, but the one-state solution is a chimera, a mirage, not a solution.

Those who have read my early posts will know that I believe that Northern Ireland is much closer to Israel's past and present than South Africa. But South Africa or even Zimbabwe may be in Israel's future if it is not careful. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why the budget deficit?

The 2010 midterm congressional and state gubernatorial elections were largely fought over the issue of the economy--the failure of the Obama administration to create significant job growth. The Republicans criticized the administration for adding to the deficit with deficit spending. Yet what are the major sectors of the annual federal budget? Defense spending, personal entitlements such as social security and medicare/medicaid spending, etc. Republican lawmakers are unwilling to cut any of them.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a Swedish government-funded think tank that specializes in following defense spending and arms control issues, published figures of the leading 2009 defense spenders in their 2010 annual yearbook. The United States with $661 billion in defense spending that year had 43 percent of world defense spending and more than the combined total of the next 17 countries combined! America's closest competitor with just under $100 billion was China, the country that also purchases much of our dept financing in the form of U.S. Treasury Bonds. Our only real potential near-term enemy among the top spenders was Russia with $61 billion or a tenth of our defense spending.

The defense spending is justified as being required by the Global War on Terror (GWOT)--I guess we have to keep spending until no American is afraid any more! Much of the spending goes to finance two active wars in the Middle East, wars that are incredibly expensive because not only is the military fighting them an all-volunteer military unlike those that fought our major wars in the last century, but the support services are being contracted out to private contractors in no-bid contracts.

The American military found itself fighting two wars that it did not train to fight because after the Vietnam experience it made a conscious decision not to train for or fight counterinsurgency wars. The fact that these are the most common type of wars in the Third World, the area where the United States was most likely to fight after the end of the Cold War, was irrelevant to the brass. So in 2004 the brass found itself fighting two wars that it had deliberately not prepared for. The Bush administration deliberately kept the number of troops deployed to Iraq for the postwar occupation very low--lower than historical levels for successful occupations. This was because the Bush administration wanted to support an agenda of aggressive democracy building in the Middle East on the cheap! The insurgency in Iraq escalated rapidly and was then finally brought under control only when the excesses of the Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists persuaded many of the Sunni tribes to switch sides and back the United States. This, rather than the surge, was the decisive factor in 2007.

The United States is now preparing to withdraw from Iraq, having brought (a rather dysfunctional variety of) democracy to the country at the cost of removing Iran's major foreign enemy. We are fighting a war in Afghanistan, where the insurgents have a sanctuary within the territory of our "ally" Pakistan and Al Qaeda is virtually absent on the ground.

As a result of the large number of severely-traumatized wounded from landmines and improvised-explosive devices (IEDs), the U.S. has also incurred large expenses for decades to come in the form of medical care for our veterans. But these costs appear in the Veterans Administration budget, part of the Dept. of Health and Human Services, rather than in the defense dept. budget.

The real war on terror is an ideological struggle within Islam between moderates and conservatives on one hand and radical fundamentalists on the other. It is really akin to the Cold War rather than to World War II--something that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld finally admitted on CNN's State of the Union today.  George Kennan, the originator of the doctrine of containment in 1947, later complained that successive administrations had misunderstood the concept and militarized it. This is what the Bush administration did with the war on terror.

This new cold war should be primarily fought by the State Dept. and by private citizens. Bush appointed a woman with corporate experience but with no background in the Middle East or real knowledge of Islam to head up America's information effort in the Muslim world. She spent much of her time fielding embarrassing questions from the American media about how the war in Iraq would affect her information effort.

In 1960 as he was getting ready to depart from office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us of the military-industrial complex. This term was picked up by the American Left and used as a catch-all explanation for American foreign policy throughout the Cold War. I did not believe it then nor during the period of transition during the 1990s. But the explanation is making much more sense today. Usama Bin Ladin is hiding out in some village in Pakistan, the senior ranks of Al Qaeda are mostly dead or imprisoned and yet we continue to fight two wars in the Middle East.

Could it be that the military-industrial complex is after all driving American foreign policy?  We continue to produce weapons that are much more appropriate to the superpower rivalry of the Cold War, in quantities that are also appropriate to that era.  We continue to maintain two separate reserve components for both the Army (Army Reserve, National Guard) and Air Force (Air Guard, Air Force Reserve), as well as a Coast Guard and Naval Reserve. Whenever there is a major deployment we have mixing and matching of units and personnel from both components, which creates a nightmare for finance for the soldiers and airmen. Our "model democracy" prevents us from consolidating the separate reserve bureaucracies and thus creating greater efficiency. It also prevents the Pentagon from cancelling weapons systems that the Pentagon brass doesn't really want. 

If you don't believe me, just wait until a presidential candidate proposes real fundamental defense reforms. Then see who provides financing to his leading opponents in the form of soft money contributions from groups like the Coalition for a Strong America or Keep America Strong, etc.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Welcome to Reality, Noam

One of the leading bloggers on the Israeli Left, Noam Sheizaf, has finally recognized reality--the obstacles to peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not all on the Israeli side but are on both sides. The Israeli Left spends its time combating and deploring Israel's march to the right, so it is perhaps understandable that it misses the fact that the Palestinians are even more nationalistic. This is usually excused by the occupation when pointed out. The Palestinians believe that the occupation is a moral "get out of jail free card" that excuses any number of sins such as terrorism, irredentism, fascism, and a complete lack of political realism. No wonder the Israeli Left has problems convincing the Israeli Right (which has its own narcissistic agenda) of this! But in a recent post, No More Peace Plans Please, Noam recognized that the problem was not one of producing a compromise that reasonable people could live with, but of finding a way to get two unreasonable and traumatized peoples to conduct fruitful negotiations. Noam finally realized that the time is not ripe for peace.

During the transition to the Obama administration, I wrote a guest column for Dan Fleshler's Realistic Dove blog in which I argued that Obama would simply be too busy with other problems to invest the necessary time and political capital for a serious peace effort in the Middle East during his first term. It now appears that this will likely hold for his second term--if he receives one from the electorate--as well.

To negotiate peace in the relatively simpler and less complex Northern Ireland conflict the British and Irish governments had to focus their attentions on the problem for some 14 years--over three Irish coalition governments and two British governments. The only American administrations that have shown similar dedication to peacemaking in the Middle East were Jimmy Carter during his first two years in office and Bill Clinton during his final year in office. Carter felt he had a religious calling to solve the conflict. Unless we get a similar president--who is a two-term president who can work closely with the European Union, the conflict will remain unsolved. And before such a president can be effective, there must be an end to the power struggle among the Palestinians between Fatah and Hamas. And the Israeli Center must experience a revival to replace the Labor-Meretz Center-Left coalition governments of the Oslo process of the 1990s.  That is a tall order.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What year is it in the Middle East?

Airline pilots coming in to land at Belfast airport used to advise their passengers to reset their watches to local time--1688. There is developing in the blogosphere a debate over what year it is in the Middle East--1989 or 1848. Like the foreign policy debate between Democrats and Republicans during the second half of the Cold War, where every foreign crisis was reduced to being either another Vietnam or another Munich depending on which party you belonged to, we are given a choice between only two revolutionary years: the Springtime of Nations of the failed revolutions of 1848 and the "10 revolutions" (10 years in Poland, 10 months in Hungary, 10 weeks in Czechoslovakia, 10 days in Germany, 10 hours in Romania) of Eastern Europe in 1989. Eliminated from consideration are other important revolutionary periods of mass turmoil such as 1830-32, 1916-23, and 1968.

In all of the above periods there were revolutions, revolts, risings, etc. that took place in several countries within a short amount of time where preceding events influenced following ones. In 1848 the revolts took place from Paris in the West to Budapest and Krakow in the East. The net result was frustrated rebels and wary reactionary conservatives with conservative nationalists winning out in the long run. The biggest effect was to help put Napoleon III on the throne in Paris. In 1830-32 there were far fewer revolts--mostly in Belgium and Spain, but Belgium did win its independence.

Over a seven-year period from 1916-23 there were revolts and revolutions in Arabia, Ireland, throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and in Munich, Berlin, and Thuringia and Saxony in Germany as well as in Italy. The Arabs with British assistance managed to expel the Turks from the Arab lands of the East, but these then became British and French mandates under the League of Nations. In Ireland the Easter Rising in Dublin in April 1916 failed miserably but the Irish won commonwealth status after a two-year guerrilla campaign from 1919 to 1921. There was a liberal revolution in St. Petersburg in March 1917 that led to a Bolshevik seizure of power in November. As World War I was coming to an end numerous national revolts took place in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which greatly influenced the peacemakers at Versailles the following spring. In Germany all the revolutions of that period failed, but helped to keep the Weimar Republic unstable. But in October 1922 a newspaper editor and war veteran organized a "march on Rome" that led to the Fascists taking power. This latter development had repercussions throughout Central Europe during the interwar period.

In 1968 unrest rocked the West from Chicago to Poland, with major influences in Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, and Northern Ireland. In the United States this climaxed the period of great change from 1964 to 1974 known as "the Sixties." But most of these changes were really cultural rather than political. The major lasting changes were experienced by American blacks who gained genuine voting rights in the South. Elsewhere in Western Europe the changes were mostly cultural--as in America no regimes fell as a result of the 1968 violence, unless one counts the Stormont government in Northern Ireland in March 1972. In Poland a threatened workers strike and Communist Party purge helped to build up the resentment that culminated in the Solidarity trade union movement in 1980-81 and ultimately in freedom in 1989. And "The Troubles" that engulfed Northern Ireland in October 1968 continued at least until the end of the century as paramilitary violence was unleashed on both sides of the ethnic divide.

The trait that all of these periods have in common was that although political turmoil had a chain-reaction effect it was local circumstances and grievances that determined the ultimate fate of the events in each country. It was the local balance-of-power between the forces of the status quo and those of change that determined the outcome. In some cases--as in Northern Ireland (1968-2007)--it may take decades to see the actual outcome of events.  We should keep that in mind as spectators when viewing events in the Arab world today. What started a month ago in Tunis may take decades to play out.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Is Counterinsurgency Warfare a Scam?

Some liberal writers have written as if counterinsurgency (COIN) warfare aka low-intensity or asymmetrical warfare is all a scam to support big defense budgets and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. COIN warfare was first developed as a field of military science in the 20th century by the British army based on its experience in colonial conflicts in Africa and the Middle East and by the U.S. Marine Corps based on its experience fighting "banana wars" in Central America and the Caribbean in the 1930s. It then underwent major modification based on British experience in colonial conflicts in the 1950s and the French experience in Indochina. It is continuously evolving based on experience. The lessons derived are genuine, even if they are often misapplied.

Five cases are usually cited as models or exemplars for successful COIN warfare:  the anti-Mau Mau campaign in Kenya in the 1950s; the Greek civil war of 1944-49; the Malaysian emergency of 1948-60; the anti-Huk campaign in the Philippines in the 1950s; and the British campaign in Northern Ireland. These campaigns have several features in common. First, the insurgents were usually separatist or Communist guerrillas from a minority ethnic group. Second, the insurgents were usually ill equipped in terms of arms and military training. Third, the insurgents were usually cut off from significant outside assistance or in the case of the Greek rebels suddenly had that aid cut off for political reasons. Still, these COIN campaigns lasted on average about eight years before they were successful.

Some advocates of COIN warfare have cited marvelous statistics demonstrating that most guerrilla wars are unsuccessful. This is true--most are. But in cases of wars of national liberation involving guerrillas fighting either against Western colonial powers or where Western armies are doing much of the fighting--as in the Vietnam War of the 1960s, Iraq from 2004--2009, and Afghanistan--the success rate is much lower for the government. This is for several reasons. First, the publics in Western democracies are impatient and want quick results. Second, they are fickle and wars they support today they may turn against tomorrow if the cost is significantly raised. Third, if Western armies use severe repression as did the French in Algeria with their widespread torture, they risk losing public support for the war effort. Fourth, native populations are often sensitive about a Western military presence because of colonialism or imperialism and will often turn against a ruler who depends on foreign soldiers.

If we look at these five cases in detail the results are not as impressive for COIN warfare as one might at first imagine. The Mau Mau warriors were limited to machetes (pangas), and a few shotguns and hunting rifles that they were able to steal from the houses of white settlers. In Kenya the native Kikuyu ethnic group was largely interned in special camps and so many died that Holocaust historian Daniel J. Goldhagen cites it as a case of eliminationist policy in his 2009 book Worse Than War. And three years after declaring the Mau Mau emergency over the British were forced to grant independence to the colony. In all the other settler colonies in Africa the white settlers were either militarily defeated or fought to a stalemate, or, in the case of South Africa, the whites were forced to concede majority rule while they still had the upper hand.

In Northern Ireland after a quarter century of warfare, most of that time against only a few hundred republican terrorists at a time, the British were only able to declare a stalemate and the unionists were forced to make major political concessions to the Irish Catholic nationalist minority (of which the republicans were a further minority at the time). These included power sharing and a political link to the Republic of Ireland. London kept up the fight only because Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom only nine miles by sea from Scotland.

In the other three cases the insurgents were defeated in a shorter period of time without widespread repression. In Greece the royalists had British military advisors, but Greek soldiers did the fighting. When Tito had his falling out with Stalin he cutoff deliveries of East bloc arms to the Communist rebels. The Greek army was also led by a skilled general. In the Philippines an Air Force general served as an advisor to the local defense minister. But Filipino troops did the fighting. In Malaysia the rebels were limited to the ethnic Chinese minority who were disliked by the other main ethnic groups--the Malays and the Indians. The rural Chinese could be physically isolated from the guerrillas and then a "hearts and minds" campaign was successful. A decade later the successful advisors to the counterinsurency campaigns in the Philippines and Malaysia attempted to apply their lessons to another Asian counterinsurgency campaign. The United States ended up aiding a local effort for 21 years at great cost in both blood and treasure. The United States lost because it faced an enemy with an elaborate supply network and foreign sanctuary, the support or active acquisition of much of the rural and urban populations and sympathy throughout much of the Third World. If you haven't figured out yet I'm talking about Vietnam.

Afghanistan, although not as formidable an effort as Vietnam, is closer to being Vietnam than it is to being Malaysia, Kenya, the Philippines or Greece. The Taliban insurgency is backed by the majority ethnic group in the country, the Pashtun, who straddle the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The U.S. Army, as in Vietnam, has a severe shortage of personnel who speak the local languages. As in Vietnam, the United States and NATO controls much of the territory by day and the insurgents control it by night.

The main rationale for the war in Afghanistan is to avoid letting the territory again become a base for Al Qaeda. But this assumes that in the Muslim world there is a shortage of failed states that can act for Al Qaeda as an alternative. Remember, Al Qaeda came to Afghanistan from Sudan in the mid-1990s when Washington pressured the government in Khartoum to expel them. Today the tribal territories in Pakistan, Somalia, the southern Philippines, and Algeria are all possible sanctuaries for Al Qaeda, if it should attempt to rebuild. There are also Arab and Turkish ghettoes in Europe that can serve that same purpose--the banlieus in France, Turkish areas in the major German cities, possibly even Albania. President Obama once famously said that he is not opposed to all wars, just dumb ones--he should seriously consider adding Afghanistan to that category.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Can Israel's Right make peace?

Three recent developments have put the future of the two-state solution paradigm in doubt. These are: 1) the recent unrest in Egypt and throughout the Arab world; the leaks in Al Jazeera of the negotiating positions in the 2008 Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; and 3) the split within the Israeli Labor Party.  The full ramifications of what is happening in Egypt will probably not be clear for several months. We can, however, look already at a worst case scenario there and look at what the effects of the other two developments are.

The two-state solution was historically envisaged as a deal between a Labor-led coalition in Israel and the Fatah party/PLO. The Rabin government of 1992-95 consisted of three parties: the Israel Labor Party, Meretz, and Shas. Arab parties were not included in the coalition but pledged to support with their votes in the Knesset any peace deal. In the February 2009 Israeli election Labor had 13 seats compared to 42 in 1992; Meretz had three seats compared to 12 in 1992 and Shas has stayed about the same with a normal range of eight to 13 seats. Shas, an ethnic-religious party of Middle Eastern Jews, incidentally, prefers joining right-wing coalitions.

Some have thought that Kadima, a splinter party from the Likud in late 2005, might replace Labor as Washington's Israeli peace partner. But the revelations of the 2008 Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that were recently leaked by an unknown source--probably within the PA--to Al Jazeera, disprove that conjecture. Israel was unwilling to make the major concessions necessary to match Palestinian concessions on borders and refugees. Kadima is nearly split evenly between centrist leader and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and hawkish former Likud Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. Although it has lasted longer than similar centrist experiments in the past (Dash, the Center Party), its long-term existence is by no means assured.

Recently former Labor leader Ehud Barak announced that he was leaving Labor with four other members of the Knesset to form a new party, Atzmaut (independence). This leaves Labor with eight seats. Assuming that Kadima keeps its present total of 28 seats in the next election--it lost one from 2006--and the eight Labor MKs are reelected along with the three Meretz MKs, the Center-Left will still be nearly 20 seats short of a majority in the Knesset. Thus, for the foreseeable future an Israeli peace coalition will rely on the votes of the Likud. Is there anything to the argument that "only Nixon could go to China" or "only De Gaulle could make peace in Algeria?"

Although Benyamin "Bibi" Netanyahu paid lip service in the summer of 2009 to a two-state solution, he comes from a very distinguished Revisionist family. His father, Benzion, is still alive at 100 and a major ideological influence on Bibi. Bibi is also the author of an ideological tract, A Durable Peace: Israel and Its Place Among the Nations, which argues that Israel needs to retain the West Bank for security purposes. His five years as prime minister (1996-99, 2009-11) indicate that his highest concern is maintaining the cohesion of his coalition while appeasing Washington.

There are four possible precedents for a Likud leader making peace with either Syria or the Palestinians. I argue that none of them applies to either the Syrian front of the West Bank. First, the first Likud government of Menahem Begin made peace with Egypt in 1979. If a new Egyptian regime either renounces the peace treaty or significantly downgrades it by permanently withdrawing its ambassador to Tel Aviv, this will disappear as a useful precedent. Also the Sinai was never sacred territory ideologically in Revisionism. And it was never annexed by Israel as the Likud annexed the Golan Heights in 1981.

Second, a conservative and nationalist National Party government made peace with the black majority in South Africa in the 1990s. But this was after trade sanctions had been in place by the U.S. Congress and European Union since 1986. President F.W. de Klerk feared that trade sanctions would be significantly strengthened over time and combine with internal guerrilla warfare and unrest to ruin South Africa's economy over decades if peace were not reached. Until the United States implements trade sanctions against Israel over its occupation of the West Bank this example will be discounted by Israeli leaders.

Third, Democratic Unionist Party leader the Rev. Ian Paisley made peace with Sinn Fein in 2007. But this was after the Good Friday Agreement had been in place for nine years and the rival Ulster Unionists had done all the risk taking. This would only be applicable if the Labor Party had actually signed a peace treaty with the Palestinians in the 1990s rather than merely a framework for peace. And Britain had threatened to enact significant economic penalties against Northern Ireland if the parties failed to reach peace. There was significant popular pressure for the DUP to modify its positions as a result. And a major disarmament move by the Irish Republican Army in September 2005, five years after it was supposed to have disarmed, made Paisley's task much easier.

Fourth, the dominant Fianna Fail party in the Republic of Ireland initiated the Northern Ireland peace process in the 1990s. As part of the Good Friday Agreement it amended Ireland's constitution to end the territorial claim to Northern Ireland that it had initiated in 1937. Fianna Fail has several traits in common with the Likud: paramilitary origins, a "princes" phenomenon of dynastic succession, populism, irredentism, and corruption. But Dublin was giving up only a claim--not actual possession--and it had not invested much money in the North. Jerusalem has invested hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars in the settlements. Britain was also never a conventional military threat to Ireland as Jordan and Iraq were to Israel from the West Bank in 1948 and 1967.

And in both the cases of Northern Ireland and Ireland coalition governments consisted of two or three parties rather than the four to six that are typical in Israel. In the case of Fianna Fail its coalition partner, the Progressive Democrats, were a positive influence promoting the peace process. Twenty years of the "peace process" in the Middle East have demonstrated that the combination of the Palestine question and Israel's party system is a "toxic combination" in the words of former Mossad analyst Yossi Alpher.

Washington should start seriously looking for a response to the death of the two-state solution.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Peace Treaty and Israeli Foreign Behavior

The latest post on Dan Fleshler's Realistic Dove ( is a response to complaints elsewhere in the blogosphere that Egypt ending the peace treaty with Israel would be a good thing. The argument made at Mondoweiss and elsewhere is that the peace treaty allowed Israel to deploy its army and air force to make war on the Palestinians and Lebanese because it had a reasonable expectation that Egypt would keep the peace. This is no doubt true, but it is not the whole story.

Because of the lack of trust between Israel and its Arab neighbors, it has decided as a measure of prudence, because its margin of error is relatively low, to only make peace with those neighboring regimes that demonstrate that they will keep the peace. Because the Israeli electorate can only bear the burden of one peace process at a time, this has meant in practice that Israel began with the easiest negotiations i.e. those with the most trustworthy Arab regimes and the least strategic territory and worked its way down. So far it has made peace with two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, whose leaders at the time of the peace treaty had a reputation both within Israel and within the West for moderation and trustworthiness. But even with Egypt, the first peace treaty in 1979, Israel tested Egypt first by concluding two separation-of-forces agreements in January 1974 and September 1975. These allowed Israel to establish that the Sadat regime was trustworthy.

Since the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979, Israeli actions have depended upon the nature of the coalition government in power. Three different parties have lead coalitions since 1979: the Likud, Labor, and Kadima. Under the Likud Israel invaded southern Lebanon in March 1978, bombed PLO headquarters in Lebanon in July 1981, bombed an Iraqi reactor in June 1981, and invaded Lebanon in June 1982 and occupied Beirut. Under Labor Israel withdraw from the areas of the Likud's conquest of 1982 in 1984-85, started a peace process with the PLO and Syria in 1992-95, and continued negotiations with Syria and the PLO in 1999-2000 and withdrew completely from Lebanon in July 2000. The Likud then reoccupied the West Bank's main cities in 2002 and withdrew from Gaza in the summer of 2005.

Kadima, elected to power in March 2006, was involved in two separate wars: in Lebanon in July 2006 and in Gaza in December 2008-January 2009. Kadima was supported in these wars by Labor, which also supported Sharon in reoccupying the West Bank in 2002 and withdrawing from Gaza in 2005.

So the lesson one draws from this seems clear--Israeli behavior depends on which parties are in power. The most likely party to go to war is Kadima supported by Labor. The least likely is Labor supported by Meretz. Any Likud government in which Sharon was either defense or prime minister was likely to go to war.

But the Israeli actions also depended on the activity of the Palestinians and of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah continued to maintain a provocative profile vis a vis Israel despite Israel's complete withdrawal from Lebanese territory according to the UN definition. This was because Hezbollah needed a justification for the maintenance of its guns within Lebanese politics. Hamas also maintained a provocative profile vis a vis Israel throughout the 1990s and 2000s in order to distinguish itself from Yasir Arafat's Fatah and other members of the PLO. It wanted to demonstrate that it offered not only Islamic conformism and discipline but also struggle and steadfastness.

The Egypt-Israeli peace treaty allowed doves and pragmatists to argue convincingly to the Israeli electorate that a surrender of conquered territory could be in Israel's national interest in some circumstances. Hezbollah, Hamas, and Arafat helped to demonstrate to the same electorate that such a surrender was not in Israel's national interest when dealing with the Palestinians or with the Lebanese government. The Israeli electorate is still divided about whether such a surrender of conquered Arab territory is in Israel's national interest when dealing with the Ba'athist regime in Damascus. If Egypt renounces the peace treaty that question will be decisively answered and decided, perhaps permanently.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Coping with the "Peace Process"

You are someone who is deeply interested in peace in the Middle East. Imagine that it has just been revealed that Israel turned down serious Palestinian offers during talks with a lame duck Israeli government, that the Labor Party after a decade of constant downsizing has now split in two, that Kadima is divided into two rival factions struggling for control of the party, and that the Palestinians are divided between one faction in Gaza that doesn't want peace under any conditions that Israel could offer and that the other faction in the West Bank probably cannot deliver on any peace agreement made. Just think how you would feel! Oh, all of that actually did happen, so you better pay attention to my step by step guide for maintaining your sanity.

Step One. Choose two other peace processes that are ongoing and that can be followed in the news. In the early 1990s I chose South Africa and Northern Ireland. I chose South Africa because I had written my doctoral dissertation on the country, but I could have chosen El Salvador.

Step Two. Find a good internet site where you can get daily or weekly updates on the state of the peace process and analysis. In the 1990s I had to rely on the press and had to make weekly trips downtown to buy The Irish Voice from New York to follow what was going on in Northern Ireland. In 2001 a prominent Belfast journalist told me about Newshound, an internet site that carried links to articles in the British, Irish and Ulster press on the peace process and events there in general. This made it much easier to follow along.

Step Three. Read as much general literature as you can about the other two peace processes and the conflicts that preceded them. Be sure to read from multiple perspectives.

Step Four. Read some of the theoretical literature on international mediation and conflict resolution. Just deal with a few simple concepts like ripeness, leverage, and bias.

Step Five. Apply these concepts to the peace processes that you are following. Who is mediating? Why are they mediating? Was the situation ripe for resolution when the peace process began? What leverage does the mediator have over the belligerent parties? Is the mediator biased? Does this affect his leverage? How?

Step Six. By now a couple or more years have passed and two of the peace processes have gotten bogged down. Analyse what went wrong.

Step Seven. Peace has actually occurred in one of the three processes. Celebrate!

Step Eight. Continue to monitor events in the country of the successful peace process to make sure that things stay on track.

Step Nine. Read all the editorials proclaiming that we should just do in the Mideast what they did in South Africa, Northern Ireland, etc. Start to seriously compare the conditions in the one success story to those where the peace process has bogged down or failed.

Step Ten. Think back to all the obstacles that the negotiators overcame to make peace in the one success story. Whenever things go badly in the other two situations, just tell yourself that things were just as bad in South Africa, El Salvador, etc. Think back to when the ANC did a forced march over the Ciskei border and a massacre resulted or about the continuing killings in Natal throughout the peace process.

Step Eleven. Find another peace process to replace your success story. I picked Bosnia and Kosovo. Being in the U.S. Army and being deployed there helped with some of the research.

Step Twelve. Repeat steps two through ten.

Step Thirteen. Decide if you want to become a professional peace processor or get a life!

This process can also be applied with slight modifications to other things like observing regional democracy revolutions. But I cannot guarantee the one in three success rate in regions undergoing democratization or political turmoil for the first time, second time, third time, etc. particularly in the Middle East.  If you have time you might want to go back through the microfiche or microfilm at your local public library and reexamine the revolutions in the Philippines, in Eastern Europe, and in Africa. If you have access to internet databases of newspapers like The New York Times or The Washington Post you can pick one of these historical revolutions to study along with those you are currently observing.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Egypt, Israel and the Peace Process: Three Scenarios

In the past week there have been a number of articles in the American press on how a change in regime in Egypt would affect the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and the overall peace process. Because of the darkness of recent Jewish history, many Israeli and American Jews are quick to imagine the worst possible implications.  In this post I will examine three possible scenarios for the peace treaty and then comment on how they will affect Israel's defense and foreign policies.

I see three possible scenarios coming out of the unrest in Egypt as regards the peace with Egypt: the status quo lite; the frozen peace; and the no peace/cold war scenario. The status quo lite is the scenario that would likely prevail if there is no change in the military regime other than its figurehead--Mubarak. In this case the cold peace with Israel would continue under which there are limitations on Egyptian military deployments in the Sinai, there are full diplomatic relations between the two states, and Israeli tourists are free to visit Egypt but in practice very few ordinary Egyptians visit Israel. The main adjustment is that the regime would refrain from holding joint summits with Israeli leaders at Sharm al-Sheikh or in Washington. There would be no more photo ops. Egyptian diplomats in Tel Aviv would continue to supply Cairo with political and military intelligence on Israel and make critical comments about Israeli policies to the Israeli and foreign press.

This scenario would be designed primarily to protect the military regime's relationship with Washington and the $1.4 billion annually in military and food aid. This aid has been seen by Washington, Cairo and Jerusalem as an American bribe for Egypt to continue to honor the provisions of the 1979 peace treaty. It has worked--although both Presidents Sadat and Mubarak withdrew Egyptian ambassadors from Tel Aviv to show anger at Israeli policies when Israel bombed the Osirak reactor in Iraq in 1981 and invaded Lebanon in 1982.

The second scenario is the frozen peace. Under it Cairo withdraws permanently its diplomats from Tel Aviv and ends all "normalization" with Israel but avoids renouncing the peace treaty or its military terms. This is the most likely scenario if there is a change of regime with a new civilian government taking power and the military returning to the barracks. This scenario is designed to distinguish the policy of the new government from that of the military regime, to put Washington and Jerusalem on notice that the relationship has changed, but to avoid a war or even a serious crisis with Israel and to possibly preserve some of the annual American aid to Egypt.

Egypt hasn't fought Israel since 1973 when under very favorable circumstances Egypt pulled out a tie and avoided a serious loss due to superpower diplomatic intervention. Egypt last fought a foreign enemy, Libya, in 1977, and since then has been responsible only for protecting the regime from the people. While Egypt's military is now equipped with modern American weapons like Abrams heavy tanks, M-60 tanks, and F-16 fighter bombers rather than the inferior Soviet weapons that it used in four wars with Israel (in 1956, 1967, 1968-70, 1973), its army and air force are still inferior to the IDF in terms of both combat experience and training. It would risk losing these modern weapons, the toys of the generals, with little prospect of having them replaced by the United States or any European country. Washington would not replace arms and risk another war and Egypt lacks the disposal hard currency to purchase weapons from any European countries including Russia.

The third scenario would have Egypt renouncing the 1979 peace treaty but not being provocative in its military deployments. This is likely to come to fruition only in the Muslim Brotherhood gains control of the new regime. And even then, it is not likely to come about immediately but rather gradually. More likely the first move would be the second scenario, frozen peace, with Egypt then waiting for a reaction from Israel. Egypt could then move to the no peace/cold war stance during a crisis between Israel and one of its other neighbors--the Palestinians, Lebanon, or Syria. Hamas or Hezbollah might even be eager to provoke such a crisis in order to trigger this response. Hezbollah could do so under urging from either Tehran or Damascus or both and Hamas might be willing to do so under pressure from Tehran if the conditions were right. Or Jerusalem, under the present government or another one on the Right, could trigger such a reaction by intemperate rhetoric. Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman aided Ankara in its reorientation away from Israel with his clumsy rhetoric and as an opposition figure he spoke of bombing the Aswan dam. If a new regime comes to power in Cairo, Bibi Netanyahu might very well risk provoking a coalition crisis in order to avoid such a scenario by replacing Leiberman with a safer figure.

Thus, as can be seen there are several steps between cold peace and cold war let alone hot war. 

How will a new regime in Cairo affect the peace process with Israel's neighbors? In reality, it is likely to have very little effect. As the recent Al Jazeera leaks demonstrated, Israel and the Palestinians are presently incapable of making peace even with a more centrist coalition led by Kadima and Labor. Because of the fallout from the leaks the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has denounced the positions portrayed in the leaks and denied that it ever offered them. Until the split between Gaza and the West Bank/Hamas and Fatah is resolved there will be no peace agreement with Israel.

A change in regime will make Jerusalem less likely to engage in serious peace negotiations with Damascus. But such negotiations were not likely in any case because Netanyahu and Obama wanted Damascus to end its close relationship and military alliance with Iran as the price of peace. A Syrian-Israeli peace agreement would be part of a wider package deal with Washington making payoffs in terms of normalizing its relationship with Damascus and granting military and economic aid. The price for this would be the end of the Damascus-Tehran-Gaza axis. Bashar al-Assad has made clear that he is unwilling to pay such a price. And it is not clear that the present coalition under Netanyahu would be willing to pay the price of giving up the Golan. So we are left with no real change there.

The real change will be in Israel's internal politics. Israel could face a situation in which it is faced with hostile regimes along its southern, eastern and northern borders with only Jordan as a friendly neighbor. Egypt under a civilian government, Gaza under Hamas, Lebanon under or heavily influenced by Hezbollah and Damascus under the House of Assad all add up to a siege state for Israel. Israel would be almost back to where it was before 1979. Almost, because it would still have the peace treaty with Jordan (but it had under the table friendly relations with Amman before 1994). This is likely to intensify the rightward shift in Israeli politics since October 2000.

Israeli politics are very sensitive to regional developments. In this respect Israel is similar to the white minority regime in South Africa from 1975 to 1994. South African white politics were influenced heavily by the collapse of South Africa's white buffer to the north in the form of the Portuguese colonies in Angola and Mozambique in 1974-75, the Smith government in Rhodesia in 1979-80, and finally Namibian independence in 1990. These changes led to a polarization in white politics with many Afrikaners moving to the right to support the Conservative Party in the 1980s and many English-speakers abandoning the me-too United Party in favor of the anti-apartheid Progressive Federal Party. Unlike Pretoria, Jerusalem has a friend in Washington and is much more powerful militarily. So expect the present trend in Israeli politics to intensify. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Who is Next?

Now that the pundits have seen the writing on the wall indicating that Mubarak's days are numbered, and we've seen the hundreds of thousands of fingers doing the writing, who will be the next Arab autocrat to go?

To begin to examine that question intelligently, we must first examine the nature of the regimes in the Arab world. Broadly speaking Arab regimes can be divided into two categories--monarchies (kingdoms, emirates) and military dictatorships. The former can then be further divided into the Gulf States with their oil wealth and the monarchies that lack this--Morocco, Jordan and Oman. The military dictatorships can be divided into two groups: the hereditary republics and the ordinary dictatorships. While there is quite a bit of difference between the Gulf States on one hand and the traditional military dictatorships on the other, there is little effective difference between the non-oil monarchies and the hereditary republics. Both types are repressive and both types suffer from serious economic problems. And members of both groups are aligned with Western powers such as France and the United States.

There have been four Arab countries that fit the description of hereditary republic.(North Korea is the only non-Arab country in this category that comes to mind, which should tell everyone something about the Arab world.)  These are/were: Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Libya. Only in Syria has the first despot been able to transfer the imaginary crown to the head of his son and heir. This is not because Hafiz al-Assad was necessarily wiser than Kaddafi, Mubarak, and Saddam Hussein, but merely because he died first. None of the others wants to transfer power while they are still capable of ruling. Saddam Hussein and his sons are now dead. The senior dictator sentenced to death and hanged by the Shi'ites that he once persecuted; the dictators apparent, Udai and Qusay, killed by American troops that discovered their safe house. It is now too late for Hosni Mubarak to transfer power to his son Gamal. It is still possible that Muammar Kaddafi might yet transfer power to his son Saif--apparently the sole son who doesn't have a reputation as a playboy.

In the Arab world the secret to remaining in power is to buy off the potential classes that could cause problems, retain the confidence of the military, and either buy off, exile or murder any serious potential threats within the regime. The Gulf States buy off the population and especially the middle class with generous education benefits and make-work jobs. These are funded from oil revenues. The clergy is then bought off by funding Wahhabite missionary activities throughout the region and the Arab diaspora in Europe and the United States. The military dictatorships that are aligned with the U.S. use American aid to subsidize heating oil, food, and other basic staples for the lower classes. Formerly the Soviet Union also provided this function for its regional allies, but it is gone. This has forced Damascus to turn to Tehran for an alliance.

Potentially the two countries most immediately in danger are Yemen, which has already experienced political unrest following the fall of the regime in Tunis, and Syria. Syria has not experienced unrest yet and is trying to preempt it with new reforms that have been announced. Bashar al-Assad feels that unlike Mubarak he can breathe easier as he is on the right side of the Arab-Israeli conflict, not having signed a peace treaty with Israel. That is why the hope of getting Assad to switch alliances in order to make peace with Israel is probably a pipe dream--he needs the conflict in order to legitimize his heretical Alawite regime (the Alawis are an offshoot of the Shia).

Jordan is also at risk as well over 60 percent of the country's population is made up of Palestinians--those who fled in 1948 and 1967 and their descendants. Jordan's King Abdullah II inherited from his father, King Hussein, the knowledge of how to periodically change prime ministers while running a show parliament and a facade of democracy. He has just put in place a "new" prime minister--who has ruled before. He, like the king, is a former major general in the army. The security of the regime rests on the army and secret police, which are both manned mostly by Jordanians of Beduin extraction from either Jordan or originally from the Red Sea coast of Arabia. The Hashemite monarchs claim legitimacy as direct descendants of Muhammad. But the king's biggest asset is a light ruling hand and good economic management over the decades that he inherited from his father.

The ruling house in Morocco could also potentially be at risk as there are tensions between the Arabs and Berbers in the country and it is rather poor. Europe is an escape valve for many poor Arabs throughout North Africa. Libya, located between Tunisia and Egypt, is also at risk. Muammar Kaddafi has been in power since 1969--41 years. He should either begin transferring power to his son or be prepared for political unrest.

Lebanon is sui generis. It is neither a monarchy nor a military dictatorship but a collection of mutually hostile sectarian groups of Christians and Muslims. It is sitting on a powder keg because of the UN investigation of the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005.  Hezbollah, which maintains a large private militia in defiance of an agreement by all the political parties to disarm following the fifteen-year civil war, has threatened that it will regard anyone who supports the UN tribunal as an enemy. Its enemies usually experience premature deaths. Syria and Iran both back Hezbollah--it served both as a pressure on Israel and a client militia for the former and was trained by the latter. So far Shi'ite Lebanon is the most successful example of the export of Iranian revolution. Its powder keg has a fuse that is independent of the regional unrest, but could be sped up if Syria experiences significant unrest.