Monday, September 26, 2016

Where Unicorns Go to Die

Oddly enough, the oft-repeated claim that the Israel-Palestinian conflict has to be solved first before any other Middle Eastern problem can be solved has been killed during the American administration most prone to believing that notion. And Israel has a better reputation among Arab states than we do.

Ponder the distinction between our "outreach" policies and Israeli resolve:

The reason that Bibi [Netanyahu of Israel] has been more successful than Obama is that Bibi understands how the world works better than Obama does. Bibi believes that in the harsh world of international politics, power wisely used matters more than good intentions eloquently phrased. Obama sought to build bridges to Sunni Muslims by making eloquent speeches in Cairo and Istanbul while ignoring the power political realities that Sunni states cared most about — like the rise of Iran and the Sunni cause in Syria. Bibi read the Sunnis more clearly than Obama did; the value of Israeli power to a Sunni world worried about Iran has led to something close to a revolution in Israel’s regional position. Again, Obama thought that reaching out to the Muslim Brotherhood (including its Palestinian affiliate, Hamas) would help American diplomacy and Middle Eastern democracy. Bibi understood that Sunni states like Egypt and its Saudi allies wanted Hamas crushed. Thus, as Obama tried to end the Gaza war on terms acceptable to Hamas and its allies, Bibi enjoyed the backing of both Egypt and Saudi Arabia in a successful effort to block Obama’s efforts. Israel’s neighbors may not like Bibi, but they believe they can count on him. They may think Obama has some beautiful ideas that he cares deeply about, but they think he’s erratic, unreliable, and doesn’t understand either them or their concerns.

We have far greater military power than Israel, but a larger number multiplied by a perceived American resolve factor that is close to zero weighs heavily in favor of Israel.

This doesn't mean that Israel's problems with the Palestinians are dead.

And it doesn't mean that America can't restore our position--just improving the resolve factor can change perceptions overnight.

But it is an interesting case study in the power of hope and change in a region that values power.

Do read it all.