by Barry Rubin
You've all seen horror movies in which the stupid characters just don't look behind them at crucial moments.
And you want to yell: "Look out!" Or: "Can't you see that he's the murderer!" Or: "That innocent-looking green globule is actually a man-eating silicon-based creature from Andromeda!"
Welcome to my world, the world of analyzing the contemporary
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero and Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, who is widely considered in the European Union to be their big brain on the Middle East, visited
According to reliable leaks, Moratinos told Netanyahu that
One of the two Spaniards then remarked: "Assad is serious and more responsible….It is possible to reach an agreement with him."
Netanyahu politely, and no doubt firmly, demurred.
When last heard from before this, Moratinos, who seems to take his own middle name as meaning he is the Syrian dictatorship's guardian angel, was advocating signing a major economic cooperation agreement with
Israeli leaders know, largely across the political spectrum, that Assad isn't interested in peace with
They also know:
--The Palestinian Authority is incapable of making a comprehensive peace and not that interested in trying. That doesn't mean some cooperation can't be fruitful but not a full resolution ending the conflict. At the same time, it is clearly recognized that the Palestinian Authority—being too weak and too radical simultaneously—is the main barrier to peace, and that the true moderate transformation of Palestinians and acceptance of a two-state solution has barely begun. Indeed, one can argue that public opinion and politics are moving in an even more intransigent direction.
--Hizballah and Hamas are not interested in becoming moderate and that concessions both enable and encourage them to be more aggressive.
--If radical Islamist groups take over Arab countries they won't moderate, whatever their pretensions to fool the West, and this will be the source of massive war, terrorism, and suffering for the region.
--That all too few people in Western governments either understand the above-mentioned facts or for a variety of reasons (greed for trade, fear of conflict, seeking easy popularity, naiveté, ideology, ignorance, antisemitism, and you name it) won't face these facts.
At the beginning of this year, a new addition was made to this list:
Now it can certainly be argued that Israeli analysts, journalists, and political figures have a vested interest in pushing these arguments. But that isn't exactly true. Many or most of them would be far happier celebrating the great chance for a breakthrough to peace and how apparent enemies just want to get along.
The same goes for ideology as an explanation. A variety of different viewpoints are represented, one can find people who have changed their minds due to experience and developments. And even if you think that someone is "right-wing" or any other category you dislike, it is still worthwhile examining the facts and arguments presented to judge whether they are correct.
So this analysis cannot just be disregarded by assumptions about what the sources of it think or want or need.
How does much of the world respond to the Israeli analysis? Parts do understand it or are learning it to be correct. But many or most simply ignore or demonize it. Once
Another element in this deafness is the unique argument that various dilettantes, visitors, intellectuals, self-proclaimed peacemakers, people in the entertainment world,
It is furthered by the taking up of the idea by certain Jews—usually quite ignorant of conditions in Israel and often committed to movements with different interests—who insist they are the true guardians of a country they know little about and (in many cases) have done little to help in the past.
And so delegation after delegation arrives in
In all cases, politeness inhibits explaining to these people that they are meddling in things of which they understand little or nothing. When they are high-ranking officials of the
Ultimately, anyone who believes too much in soft power is soft in the head. Or as the English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes put it: "Covenants, without the sword, are but words, and of no strength to secure a man at all."
As for the international affairs of the Middle East nowadays, however, one cannot do better than by paraphrasing the American political philospher Robert Zimmerman, also known as Bob Dylan: We're surrounded by people who don't want to "admit that the waters around you have grown" at the very same moment that "the pump don't work cause the vandals took the handles."
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