Looming Western Appeasement Strategies Imperil Israel
By Guest Contributor, C. Hart | November 16, 2006
With a Democratic majority in both the U.S. House and Senate, signs are already showing of a shift in American policy towards the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's recent visit with U.S. President George W. Bush revealed that an appeasement policy toward rogue states may very well dominate U.S. Administration policy in the coming year. Bush is quoted in news sources as saying he would consider a dialogue with Iran and Syria, while also emphasizing a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear problem, and without acknowledging a military option. Israel is pushing for a military option if diplomacy fails, something Bush will not publicly commit to at this time. Sources indicate that one of the reasons the U.S. is hesitant to get involved in any military option regarding Iran is because of the fact that America is entrenched in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its military forces are already spread too thin. If the Democratic majority in Congress pushes for an early pull-out from Iraq, it would free up American forces. On the other hand, it would, most likely, result in another Shiite dominated state in the region.
Bush has also talked about a dialogue with Syria, which Olmert does not oppose. Yet, it is pro-Syrian forces in Lebanon, like Hezbollah, that are trying to destabilize the Lebanese government; this, with the hope of forming a stronger Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis in preparation for a future war against Israel and western interests in the Middle East. Hezbollah is deeply rooted in Lebanese society, and after its perceived successes in this summer's war against Israel, the terrorist party enjoys the popular support of a majority of the population. Hezbollah has called for either a national unity government, or a new government in Lebanon, preparing to cause instability by threatening mass street protests if it does not gain its political objectives.
Many in the international community do not yet see clearly how Lebanon and Iraq are being positioned to become Shiite strongholds in the Middle East, along with other nations in the Shia Crescent. This Crescent stretches across a vast land area from Iran into Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, with significant impact inside Gaza. This is already beginning to upset the balance of power in the Middle East, weakening western democratic influence and strengthening radical Islam. Moreover, a nuclear Iran would exercise Iran's regional dominance by increasing Shiite power over moderate Arab states, threatening Israel's peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has continually called for nations to join in his efforts to wipe Israel off the map, could use the nuclear threat as a future base of superiority.
Because of this Iranian thrust for nuclear power and global dominance, Israeli leaders are increasing their vocal support for a military option against Iran, but, the international community is dragging its feet. The issue of Iran could become a point of possible contention between Israel and its western allies as the current diplomatic appeasement policy continues. Israel's military officials believe that nothing will stop Iran's quest for nuclear weapons unless the world stops Iran from reaching its goal.
The question of why Israel hesitates to take on Iran alone is becoming clearer. The long-distance between both nations, and the concern that Iran has put many of its nuclear installations underground, makes it difficult for Israel to act militarily without having to conduct numerous air strikes. Preparing for another round with Hezbollah and possibly Syria in the not-to-distant future, and with no solution yet to solving the rocket barrages that affect Israel's northern and southern communities, it appears that Israeli leaders aren't ready, at this time, to deal with Iran directly; that, along with the fact that the IDF is licking its wounds after a not-so-successful military campaign in Lebanon this summer. Moreover, military leaders here are still weak in the eyes of the Israeli public, with frequent calls for the resignation of Israel's chief of staff and defense minister.
Some world leaders are linking a successful campaign against global terrorism to a successful peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians. This could lead to calls for an international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something Israel strongly opposes. As U.S. Democratic leaders consider strengthening ties with the Arab world to solve the crisis in Iraq, the pressure for such a conference may increase, with support finding its way through the corridors on Capital Hill.
The liberal majority in the U.S. Congress could result in a groundswell towards forcing a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A potential national unity government between Hamas and Fatah would, most likely, receive international approval by an already eager global community anxious to see the peace process move forward. This would revive not only Bush's U.S. foreign policy but help British Prime Minister Tony Blair's government, as well.
The Quartet's policy that it will not interact with any Palestinian government that refuses to recognize Israel may end up eroding under a potentially new Palestinian government banner. Making sure that Hamas leaders do not head up future Finance and Foreign Ministries, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas may have effectively found a way to convince world leaders to give financially, while also jump starting peace negotiations.
It appears that Abbas and Hamas officials have agreed on a "hudna" policy with Israel which they are reportedly planning to present to world leaders. It calls for "a mutual cessation of violence" between the Palestinians and Israel. A "hudna" would give the illusion of a long and lasting peace, but realistically, is a way of Islamic radicals gaining time to build up their military forces until it is to their advantage to engage in a future war with Israel. An international conference, if it did take place, would result in significant pressure on Israel to accept the "hudna" in order to appease the interests of the international community.
To sweeten the deal, Abbas is expected to enter into a prisoner exchange with Israel which would result in the release of Israeli kidnapped soldier, IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit. His release from captivity would be in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners sitting in Israeli jails, as well as Hamas legislators currently being held by Israeli authorities. While Shalit's freedom would inevitably capture the hearts of the Israeli population, the Palestinians would be focused on receiving millions of dollars in financial aid from the international community in order to build up the Palestinian Authority and its army, while also relieving the hardships of the Palestinian population. It may all end up looking like an international diplomatic success story except for the fact that the new Palestinian government would still be calling for Israel's destruction in its charter.
With Iran's intentions bent on Israel's destruction, along with similar policies of terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, it is no wonder that some Israeli leaders are engaged in saber-rattling. It's expected that Israel will soon conduct another major offensive in Gaza to try and stop rocket attacks reigning in on Israeli towns and cities. But, acting against Iran is still on the horizon and not for the immediate future.
The current troubling issue is that the U.S. and Europe are now engaged in new foreign policy appeasement initiatives that encourage dialogue with rogue states. The track on the western political front is to talk not act. The track on the Israeli Middle East front is to act and not talk. The question remains: What is the way of moving forward toward a safer more secure global community in the future?
C. Hart is a 25-year veteran journalist in print and broadcast media, living in Israel since 1995, reporting on political, military and diplomatic issues in the Middle East.