Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Subsumed

The meeting in Annapolis last month marks the transformation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a component of the battle for hegemony in the Middle East between the United States and Iran. Of course, the dynamics attending the 100 year struggle between Israel and the Palestinians are still very much in evidence. But the main direction of development is shaped, more and more by the larger conflict.

As in the Iraq crisis, the United States prepares to use military force to prevent further political-economic deterioration in its regional and international status. However, many well informed observers stress the low probability of armed United States intervention against Iran. There is indeed no shortage of clearly recognizable, serious considerations against the military option against Iran. These should indeed, by all logic force the Bush government to give up on the idea of another military expedition in the Gulf.

However, the political fall out of the Iraq fiasco has not prevented Bush from escalating new threats against Iran, including two major statements on the danger of a third world war, even an atomic one, to save Israel. Of course, the recent “intelligence” to the effect that Iran had scuttled its nuclear weapon program as far back as 2003 has further complicated matters for those pursuing a military option. But given the will to go to war with Iran, the obstacles are in no way decisive.
The Bush administrations wants a show down with Iran, but knows that such a war would be, to say the least, highly unpopular in the United States. But if it is a bit crude to attack Iran directly, variations and combinations that could lead to the same result must be examined. Even the Bush people can figure out that by including Israel’s fate in the equation, this would weaken considerably the reservations in the US public and in congress regarding a clash with Iran. If Bush wants to break out of relative isolation on the Iran issue, his best bet is to create a situation wherein the confrontation with Iran begins as, or is perceived as, an Israeli-Iranian confrontation.

In the past, the Democratic party leadership had no choice but to reflect rank and file pressure against US policy in Iraq. There exists, of course, a great deal of suspicion regarding Bush’s motives and plans in Iran. But Bush might finesse that opposition by involving Israel and “its security” in the coming hostilities. It will be very hard for the current Democratic leadership to oppose aggressive actions against Iran if they are sugarcoated as necessary to Israel’s security or even its very existence.

The manipulations required to structure a military confrontation with Iran as one between Israel and Iran are a relatively simple matter. There is no need to resort to work on a complicated conspiracy because all the makings of a new war are all out in the open. Israel will not fail to cooperate in getting an anti-Iranian operation off the ground for the simple reason that it has been campaigning energetically for such an operation since the debacle last summer in Lebanon. Every minister and general is on record supporting an attack on Teheran; the only disagreements are tactical. There are no questions as to “if” but there are natural shades of opinion on how and when. One of the central questions being examined is whether Israel can work out a joint activity with the US administration that involves the US coming to the aid of its faithful ally, embattled as it were against the combined forces of terrorism engulfing the region. Of course, there are too many factors involved to suggest that we can predetermine the path of events. The comment regarding the possibility of US-Israeli collusion is offered against unwarranted certainty that Bush has run out of means to further his aggressive goals.

Any of the numerous potential flash points for conflagration between pro-Iranian forces and the Israeli army provide ample opportunities to get things moving. Burgeoning hostilities between the proxies, Israel on one hand and Hamas, Hezbollah or Syria on the other hand would place Israel in the line of “indirect” Iranian fire. , The resulting tensions would enable Bush – even Bush – to sell war with the Iranians as an absolute necessity for Israeli survival. The Israelis face “pro-Iranian” formations in three fronts: Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Syrians, in three areas, on the Golan, in Lebanon and along the Syrian-Lebanese border. There is no shortage of opportunities for large scale provocation, there is no shortage of room for major maneuvers that can create real threats to Iranian allies. Normal, stable circumstances in the region are the exception, the situation looks like a war waiting to happen. And Israel, will not have to stand alone.

Do Not Take This Pledge Card to the Store
Bertold Brecht once remarked that rulers unappreciated by their constituencies may on occasion have no alternative but to disperse the people. The Annapolis network has a new kind of problem. The Abu Mazen group has, via U.S. sponsorship, earned the right to receive a considerable flow of arms and funds. It has a problem, though. Abu Mazen does not have the political constituency or the territorial integrity necessary to absorb the gifts that he has earned by joining the Annapolis network.

The international community, on some sort of guilt trip, after the empty antics at Annapolis, is lining up in Paris at a donors conference. An impressive pile of pledge cards accumulates on the table. The investment sums being promised are impressive. But each card has some small print on it which says that the commitment is subject to on the ground conditions permitting its effective implementation. But Palestine, under the Hamas regime in Gaza and under the non-regime of Abu Mazen, has in the given political conditions close to zero capacity to absorb and enjoy serious growth oriented economic investments. The “international community” under U.S. hegemony does not want to invest in Gaza and cannot invest in the West Bank which is totally controlled by Israeli military, economic, logistic and geographic domination. In addition to the IDF, the relatively small region is criss-crossed by some 300 Israeli settlements, all of which fervently oppose any serious constructive activity on behalf of the Palestinians.

Thus, the donors who refuse to invest in Gaza because that would be aid to “terrorists” are unable to invest in the West Bank because of the political vacuum and the suffocating Israeli presence.
But do not despair. Condeleeza Rice has informed us that George Bush is coming to the region next month to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. She explained, somewhat mysteriously, that Bush has special ways of solving problem.