August 17, 2006

Home Rule: The struggle between sovereignty and chaos in the Middle East (Gadi Taub, 08.17.06, New Republic)

Both Hezbollah and Hamas had much to gain from dragging Israel back into the territories from which it withdrew. Take Lebanon first. Hezbollah is a guerrilla army inside a sovereign state. When Israel was the occupier, Hezbollah guerrillas could portray themselves as freedom fighters seeking Lebanese independence. With Israel gone, they looked more like agents of foreign powers bent on undermining Lebanese independence. A stable and prosperous Lebanon–not to mention peaceful coexistence with Israel–would spell Hezbollah’s doom. Nasrallah may have been surprised by the ferocity of Israel’s response. But, if he is able to portray himself as a hero in the holy war against Zionism, and if he can make Lebanon seem like Vietnam (which many people believe he did), he will have bought himself years of political prestige and vitality.

Hamas is a different case. Unlike Hezbollah, Hamas now holds sovereign power and will lose it if Israel reoccupies Gaza. On the surface, it doesn’t make sense that a ruling party would voluntarily risk losing power. But, in the case of Hamas, it actually does: Hamas prospered under the occupation, and its uncompromising anti-Israeli ideology thrived on despair. A sovereign Gaza threatens to force it into the pragmatic world of politics, which would compromise the very ideology that brought it into existence.

Hamas, then, has all the old reasons for preventing partition. Partition would neuter the most effective weapons in the war to destroy Israel: demography; the international isolation of Israel caused by the occupation; the unified Arab front against Zionism; and the corrosive effects of the occupation on Israel’s internal unity and democratic institutions. Could it be that Hamas overheard what Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israelis during the last election campaign–that partition is the only way to save Zionism? Did they act to subvert his plans for withdrawal?

Think of it this way: Any lasting peaceful solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict depends on the logic of sovereignty. This means stable governable states, separated by acknowledged borders. Whatever undermines this logic–terrorism, continued occupation, chaos, invasions–subverts the chances for future peace. It is in Israel’s interest to support and strengthen stable sovereign governments on the other side of its borders.

If Israel were serious about subverting Hezbollah as a terrorist organization it would treat Nasrallah as a head of state and foment the sovereignty of South Lebanon.


August 8, 2006

France’s Next President? (DAVID TWERSKY, August 8, 2006, NY Sun)

One can almost see President Chirac getting off a plane, waving a piece of white paper, and describing the draft Security Council resolution aiming to halt hostilities in Lebanon as ” peace in our time.” But imagine if the current crisis in Lebanon could have occurred on the watch of a different French president, a leader wedded to neither the reflexive anti-Americanism nor the pro-Arab policies of Mr. Chirac.

Impossible? Not really. The French elect a new president next spring, and under the Fifth Republic, all foreign policy powers are vested in the presidency. As it happens, at least one serious contender is significantly more pro-Israel and pro-American than the rest of the pack. That candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, has maintained a position on the Lebanon war completely different than the others. […]

As opposed to the pathetic comments of Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy about Iran, Mr. Sarkozy insisted that “There are more than suspicions about the links between Hezbollah and Iran [and that] Iran is not the only country concerned.” Instead of repeated calls like that of Mr. de Villepin for an “immediate cease-fire,” Mr. Sarkozy, urged, Israel “to maintain levelheadedness and restraint.”

Finally, the July 20, 2006 Le Monde carried a report of a public meeting at which the visiting Israeli minister recounted his meeting earlier with Mr. Sarkozy. According to the report, Minister Zeev Boim said that Mr. Sarkozy asked him, “How much time does the State of Israel require to complete the work?”

Given how isolated W was supposedly leaving us by attacking Iraq without the permission of other Western states it’s pretty amusing to watch them all elect leaders who follow his political line.


August 7, 2006

World Celebs: Respect Cuban Sovereignty (Prensa Latina, 8/07/06)

Over 400 world notables, including eight Nobel prizewinners, urged the US Monday to respect Cuba”s sovereignty, and condemned the threats against its territorial integrity.

The document, “The Sovereignty of Cuba Must be Respected” conveys support to President Fidel Castro, who on July 31 provisionally delegated responsibilities due to his health condition.

No regime that does not govern by the consent of its own people has a legitimate claim of sovereignty.


August 1, 2006

Bush’s Embrace of Israel Shows Gap With Father (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, 8/02/06, NY Times)

“He told Sharon in that first meeting that I’ll use force to protect Israel, which was kind of a shock to everybody,” said one person present, given anonymity to speak about a private conversation. “It was like, ‘Whoa, where did that come from?’ “

That embrace of Israel represents a generational and philosophical divide between the Bushes, one that is exacerbating the friction that has been building between their camps of advisers and loyalists over foreign policy more generally. As the president continues to stand by Israel in its campaign against Hezbollah — even after a weekend attack that left many Lebanese civilians dead and provoked international condemnation — some advisers to the father are expressing deep unease with the Israel policies of the son. […]

Unlike the first President Bush, who viewed himself as a neutral arbiter in the delicate politics of the Middle East, the current president sees his role through the prism of the fight against terrorism. This President Bush, unlike his father, also has deep roots in the evangelical Christian community, a staunchly pro-Israeli component of his conservative Republican base.

The first President Bush came to the Oval Office with long diplomatic experience, strong ties to Arab leaders and a realpolitik view that held the United States should pursue its own strategic interests, not high-minded goals like democracy, even if it meant negotiating with undemocratic governments like Syria and Iran.

The current President Bush has practically cut off Syria and Iran, overlaying his fight against terrorism with the aim of creating what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls “a new Middle East.” In allying himself so closely with Israel, he has departed not just from his father’s approach but also from those of all his recent predecessors, who saw themselves first and foremost as brokers in the region.

In a speech Monday in Miami, Mr. Bush offered what turned out to be an implicit criticism of his father’s approach.

“The current crisis is part of a larger struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror in the Middle East,” Mr. Bush said. “For decades, the status quo in the Middle East permitted tyranny and terror to thrive. And as we saw on September the 11th, the status quo in the Middle East led to death and destruction in the United States.”

What could be more damning than that the Realists are neutral as between a democratic ally and enemy dictatorships?