Friday, February 13, 2009

Random Paragraphs

I don't have a feel for Barack Obama's Middle East policy yet. Obviously US policy will be mostly similar to US policy under Bush, which was fundamentally similar to US Middle East policy under Clinton and previous US presidents. But, for example, my guess is that Israel would have reentered Gaza if Bush was president or even if McCain had been elected and did not under Obama. The Gaza war, Netanyahu's rise in political power and a more pliant tone from Iran beginning with a new Iranian president may also have some impact in the future.


There also seems to be a softening of tone in Iran with respect to the US that is somewhat recent. Dennis Ross has not been officially announced as the senior Obama administration official regarding Iranian issues. If he is announced in that position, clearly it will be a setback and if not, it will be a reflection of communication that is not occurring between the US and Iran.

The US has unofficially announced that it has covert plans to sabotage Iran's enrichment facilities. The plans are less news than the fact that the plans were disclosed in the New York Times, and not even by Hersh as the New Yorker. My take is that an unofficial disclosure of their existence is a necessary condition for an offer to cease these efforts. They are related to talks in some way, because for there to be bluffing, there has to be communication. This disclosure was either a threat or part of a dance whose goal is a diffusion of tension. From here I can't tell which, but the target of this message cannot have been Israel, which has much more reliable ways to get insights into the US perception of its position with respect to Iran.
This account of the expanded American covert program and the Bush administration’s efforts to dissuade Israel from an aerial attack on Iran emerged in interviews over the past 15 months with current and former American officials, outside experts, international nuclear inspectors and European and Israeli officials.
Khatami's run in Iran, and his expected victory, may be part of an Iranian effort to communicate back with the West. We'll see how the dust settles at some point this year. A US lurch towards Iran, similar to the 2007 NIE, will indicate that an understanding has been reached behind the scenes.


The Democratic Party consensus, at least according to Matthew Yglesias, is that previous US presidents have been too cooperative with Bibi Netanyahu. A rightward swing in Israel's political system will alienate Israel from its supporters. I'm not sure how much and I'm not sure what the final result will be.
My understanding is that the big divide in Democratic circles is between people who don’t really like Bibi, and people who feel that those people were too soft on Bibi last time around.

It is becoming widely accepted that an Israeli two-state solution with Palestinians may not be possible. Netanyahu's rise accelerates that perception in the West. If a two state solution is not feasible, the West markedly prefers a one state post-Zionist arrangement to either the status quo or ethnic cleansing to allow a Jewish one-state solution.

Jews in the West are more generally fervent in their support of a Jewish state for its own sake than non-Jews. Non-Jews in the West support a Jewish state, but more than Jews, they support a two-state solution with a Jewish state out of a conviction that a one-state solution is impractical. As a two-state solution begins to be seen as impractical, I expect greater divides to become apparent between US Jewish and US non-Jewish perceptions of the region.

Non-Jews generally do not perceive a necessity for the world to have a Jewish state as greater than the necessity that the world should have a Roma (gypsy) state or even a sovereign Creek Native American state. Jews, even if they cannot rationalize it, emotionally proscribe a special importance to the existence of a Jewish state.


It seems that anti-Zionists have made relatively better use of the internet than Zionists. My explanation is that while there has always been information to support either position available, anti-Zionists have had a relatively more difficult time interacting and coordinating with each other. While the internet makes interacting and coordinating easier for everyone, for Zionists, the advantage over what was available previously is smaller and relatively is negative. The time when most acknowledged Western Middle East experts are sympathetic to Zionism continues. But it is more possible today to create a convincing argument (meaning convincing to people in the West) that the acknowledged Western Middle East experts are wrong than it was ten years ago. "Wiped off the map" is an example of this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Israelis and their backers in the US will be adamant about preventing a potential US-Iran rapprochement too, and so they'll naturally seek to undermine any Obama outreach to Iran.