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FACTDROP: Israel, Palestine and the art of war


Israel, Palestine and the art of war

Πηγή: Asia Times
By Francesco Sisci
Oct 14 2011

BEIJING - Last week, recently appointed United States Secretary of Defense and former Central Intelligence Agency boss Leon Panetta expressed concern about Israel's growing political isolation while Egypt and Turkey were taking more vocal stands against the Jewish state. This underscores the lingering centrality of the US-Israeli relationship on the backdrop of the ongoing "Jasmine" revolutions that are reshuffling Middle Eastern politics.

In fact, Egypt's politics - unshackled by the absence of former president Hosni Mubarak, who had a central role in the peace agreement with Israel - is drifting towards a more anti-Israeli stand. Turkey, led by more vocal Muslim Prime Minister Recep

Tayyip Erdogan, is stepping into new territory with a growing critical position against Israel. (See Instant obsolescence of the Turkish model Asia Times Online, August 10, 2011.)

Some Palestinians, fighting for the recognition of their state, are openly gloating at what they see as converging international pressure against Israel, possibly able to even move the US from its long-held unwavering support of the Jewish state. Some even think this opens a new chance for Israel to be isolated (Turkey, North Atlantic Treaty Organization member and staunchly anti-Soviet, has been for decades a hidden ally of Israel) and at last beaten. In this vision, the Panetta statement can be considered almost a glitch in the wave of changes in the region.

However, looking at the issue from a Chinese strategic perspective, this vision appears very wrong and self-defeating for the gloaters. It can make a few Palestinians feel better, but it does not help their cause in the long run. The central issue is that over 60 years of experience have proved that Israel can't be beaten. Palestinians and their allies have tried to defeat them with many wars and many strategies - even in very difficult times for Israel - and never managed to do so.

The failure of the Arab cause with Israel is not all the fault (or merit) of the US. The US lost in Vietnam twice, directly and when it supported France against the wily Vietnamese communists. Over one billion Muslims, supported by then-number-two superpower the USSR, had much better odds of winning against puny Israel, yet they could not defeat Israel. So now direct confrontation by a divided Arab front without the support of a superpower is simply impossible, even if one were to add Turkey to this motley equation.

According to Chinese strategy, you should not fight a war you cannot win. You only want to fight a war in which you have a 90% chance of winning. Wars are not to vent anger or to make a point, but to be won. Then the gloating may antagonize Israel without scoring any real points.

Then looking at the Palestinian issue from a sympathetic Chinese viewpoint, it appears that since you don't have a 90% chance of winning against Israel, Palestinians should simply switch their mindset. Antagonizing Israel without a high probability of winning seems to be the worst of all possible outcomes for the Palestinians.

The only positive result of gloating and antagonizing would be to exalt the Palestinians heroic position before the world and especially before Muslims. But even this is tapering out, as the benefits of cutting a long-term deal with Israel could outweigh appeals to the Muslim brethren and as the Jasmine Revolution is dramatically changing regional geopolitics. It may be time for a new mindset also because the Muslim world is moving very fast.

In Turkey, Erdogan's movements on the side of the Muslim cause can be seen as a return to the traditional religious beliefs of many Turkish people, but politically it de facto reclaims Turkey's old role of guidance of Sunni Islam. It reclaims the vestiges of the Turkish Empire over its long-lost territories, just as the return to power of the Shi'ite clerics in Iran was a political appeal to fellow Shi'ites in the Muslim world and also a de facto assertion of the old Persian Empire.

The present social and political difficulties of Egypt and its lack of economic impetus further help Erdogan's more religiously inclined Turkey to regain its role as the political lighthouse of the Sunnis, as Iran has long affirmed its role as leader of the Shi'ites.

This may become an important consequence as the two old empires could vie and clash with each other, like in past centuries, to conquer the divided Arabs with the crown prize of getting to stretch its hand over the oil in the super-rich Saudi dominion.

Here, almost paradoxically, Arabs and Israelis could have common ground, and Palestinians could be in the golden position of being able to mediate between Arabs and Israelis - and between the Arab-Israeli front and Turkish or Persian ambitions. This could change forever the shape of the Middle East, and potentially bring about a more integrated market where Muslims, Christians and Jews could co-exist and thrive outside of an oil-driven economy.

This in turn would change global politics and economics, making the Middle East a source of growth and not of strife. This possibility is extremely important as the Jasmine revolution could turn into more riot and crackdown in the next months. Money is flowing out of Egypt and economy is faltering in many Arab states.

Here, an important political assessment and recognition of the situation is important. Religion without oil did not produce any growth. Turkey and Iran presently have gained political weight thanks to their economies, which developed through secular rule and reforms, under loose military oversight in Turkey and under the shah in Iran.

In fact, religious rule slowed economic and technological development in Iran, which now exports oil but has no gasoline, and it could have a similar effect in Turkey, scaring important partners all over the world and not just in the West.

Here again, more secular Palestinians could play a function in aiding understanding and development.

Against this backdrop, conflicts could be better solved, yet they would not disappear. But with a different atmosphere, a different mindset could help all sides to find a more suitable solution.

It is a pipedream? Possibly. Many theories were proven wrong in the past decades trying to find a solution to a possibly unsolvable tangle of hatred. Yet this is also the land of dreams, the cradle of prophets people blessed by God. Here this time prophets of all religions could have a reason for hope out of despair, the recent Jasmine Revolution, and something to look forward - money to be made from the dividends of peace.

The Palestinian business leaders could be in a special position to play for the welfare of the whole world. Will they be able to play it? Will they be hindered or helped in their play? This remains to be seen, as strong forces in the Middle East remain against peace and development in the region, thinking that the logic of war and a fundamental clash must prevail.

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