Arab opinion is far from uniform. At least three points of view are identifiable: a small, dedicated but not very vocal group genuinely believing in co-existence with Israel; a much larger group seeking to destroy Israel by permanent confrontation; an offshoot willing to negotiate with Israel but justifying negotiations domestically as means to destroy the Jewish state in stages. Are the moderate Arab states prepared to expand and strengthen the group committed to genuine co-existence? Will recognition of Israel bring an end to the unrelenting media, governmental and educational campaign in Arab countries that presents Israel as an illegitimate, imperialist, almost criminal interloper in the region?
Several moderate Arab states have been extraordinarily reluctant to come to Annapolis. If they appear, will they treat their presence as their principal contribution for which one-sided pressure in Israel is deemed the appropriate concession?
Even more portentous will be the profound implications for the balance of forces within the Arab world. Moderates there will be less praised for their achievement than accused of having betrayed the Arab cause. The statement of the supreme leader of Iran attacking the Palestinian peace process and warning Arab states not to participate in it is likely to be the beginning of a systematic campaign. The US will be able to sustain the proposed course only if it is prepared to extend long-term support to its Arab partners against the foreseeable onslaught.
The peace process will therefore merge with the generic conflicts of the Middle East. The Annapolis conference cannot be the end of a process; rather, it should lay the groundwork of a new, potentially hopeful phase that will continue into future administrations. But it should not be driven by the US political calendar. If either America's Arab or Israeli friends are asked to take on more than they are able to withstand, there's the risk of another even larger blow-up. A preparatory “solution'' that tears the body politic of the parties apart will prevent ultimate progress. Breaking the psychological back of the US's Israeli ally would only embolden the radicals and thereby destabilise the entire region — whatever contrary arguments conventional wisdom advances.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
From the Khaleej Times (UAE):