The neoconservatives who dreamed up the Bush Doctrine
– promoting "democracy" would be the U.S. mission in the Middle East – may
be about to hold yet another "Seconds Thoughts" conference.
Certainly, Israel must be having second thoughts on the folly of having
yielded to U.S. pressure and allowed Hamas to participate in elections. For
Hamas, which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel and employs suicide-bomb
attacks on civilians, has just won a sweeping political and moral victory in
Freedom and democracy are on the march, says President Bush. Perhaps. But
there is no doubt Islamism is on the march.
Not only is Hamas now the voice of Palestinian nationalism, Hezbollah used
elections to establish itself as the political power in south Lebanon. In Egypt,
the Muslim Brotherhood swept over half the parliamentary seats it was allowed
to contest and appears the probable beneficiary to the political estate of President
In the Iraqi elections, Shia militants wiped up the floor with secularists
like ex-Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and Ahmed Chalabi. In Iran, the dark horse
who stormed to victory in the 2005 elections is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose commentaries
on the Holocaust and wiping Israel "off the map" have even the Ayatollah nervous.
In the two provinces of Pakistan that border Afghanistan, pro-Taliban fundamentalists
swept the boards in recent elections.
That Zogby poll of
3,900 people in six Arab nations which revealed rampant distrust of U.S. motives
and widespread detestation of Bush and Sharon appears to have been on the mark.
But what do we do now?
For Israel, it is an uncomplicated question. Both the "peace process" and the
"roadmap," agreed to by the European Union, United Nations, Russia, and the
United States, have long been, as Sharon aide Dov Weisglass put it, in "formaldehyde."
Israel will not negotiate with a government that includes Hamas and will proceed
on the course set by Sharon after Bush gave him a green light in April 2004.
Having pulled out of Gaza, Israel will wall in all Jewish settlements surrounding
Jerusalem and the city itself, deny Palestinians any right of return, annex
the choicest cuts of the West Bank, and leave the shank to the Palestinians.
No one – not the Palestinians, not the Arab world, not the EU – will accept
this Bantustan solution, except the Americans. But that is all that counts with
Israelis – be it Labor, Likud, or Kadima.
What will Bush do? Nothing. Any attempt to force Israel to negotiate on settlements
or East Jerusalem would put the White House in a withering crossfire. The Christian
Right and neocons would accuse him of a "Munich," while Democrats and the Israeli
lobby savage him for forcing Israel to "negotiate with terrorists."
Down deep, Bush probably agrees with them.
But if Israel's course seems clear – proceed to a separation of the two peoples,
wall herself in, and rely on U.S. moral, military, and materiel support indefinitely
– what should U.S. policy be?
Having touted elections as America's roadmap to peace, Bush cannot credibly
say we will only accept elected leaders who share our views and values. But
he should demand, as we did after the Oslo Accords, that every party to any
negotiation renounce terror.
As for negotiating with terrorists like Hamas, is this not just what Bush did
when he agreed to lift sanctions on Gadhafi, who had been behind the air massacre
of Pan Am 103? In return, Bush got a commitment from Gadhafi to compensate the
victims' families, surrender his weapons of mass destruction, and forego any
right to build such weapons.
During the presidential campaign, Bush's men touted the Libya agreement
as a diplomatic triumph that proved the mailed fist in Iraq had induced moderation
in the Arab world.
As the situation is evolving in the Middle East, Bush is going to have
to modify or abandon his democracy crusade, or eat some crow and start talking
to the Islamists who get elected. As for Israel, she may believe isolationism
and reliance on America is a winning strategy. Demography says otherwise.
Here are the latest UN
population projections [.pdf] for mid-century for Israel's neighbors, friend
Nation –– Population in 2050
Lebanon –– 5 million
West Bank, Gaza –– 10 million
Jordan –– 10 million
Syria –– 36 million
Saudi Arabia –– 49 million
Iraq –– 64 million
Iran –– 102 million
Egypt –– 126 million
Of Jordan's 10 million, 6 million will be Palestinians. Of Israel's estimated
population of 10 million, 2.5 million to 3 million will be Arabs.
What recent elections tell us is that Arab peoples believe they have been
misruled by corrupt leaders, with U.S. support, and the Palestinians have been
brutalized, with U.S. support, and their only hope lies in Islamic militants
who understand this.
Whether Israel talks to these folks, or slams the door in their faces,
is her call. But if we do not wish to be as isolated, we have to talk to them.
For, in the Middle East, time does not appear to be on our side.
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