Monday, April 21, 2003
Want proof America isn't an imperial power? We're not doing stuff like this: chopping up Iraq to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
No, seriously, this is a fantasy that I've indulged in myself in the past, but it will never happen and it's time to stop fantasizing. America is in a position to obliterate any army on earth, but we are in no position to carve up the world the way Britain did 75 years ago. Any effort to do so would have absolutely no legitimacy. Putting a Hashemite in charge of Iraq and the West Bank would just guarantee the fall of the Hashemite family. I would love to find a Jordanian solution to the Palestinian problem. Indeed, I think there is no other possible solution; even a nominally independent Palestinian state will be a practical dependency of its neighbors, and therefore could only come into being with the active involvement of the Jordanians. Yosef Goell claims to be looking for nothing more than a "cold peace" with the Palestinians, and not a permanent solution. But a "cold peace" was possible with Egypt because Egypt was led by a patriot, Anwar Sadat, who chose his nation's interest over his own glory, and was killed for it. The Palestinian people do not want such a leader. Benny Morris, famous for his revisionist (not Revisionist) accounts of the 1948 war, wrote a devastating piece in a recent New Republic (available for subscribers only here) about just how committed the Palestinian people are to the elimination of Israel, and just how willing they are to sacrifice their own and their children's and their children's children's lives for the sake of that cause. So long as that remains the case, even a cold peace is impossible, and the Hashemites would be fools to bloody their hands by getting involved.
Speaking of the Palestinians and their leaders: the struggle between Abu Mazen and Yasser Arafat is really quite interesting, and somewhat unexpected. That is to say: I never expected such a struggle to be so open. Abu Mazen has been a kind of "pocket moderate" - agreeing with Arafat on all things but keeping his hands sufficiently clean that the Israelis still feel they can deal with him (unlike, say, Arafat).
The main source of the dispute between Arafat and Abu Mazen is Abu Mazen's determination to install Mohammed Dahlan in his cabinet. Dahlan has a reputation for being both credible on "the street" and credible with the Israelis (the latter meaning that he has taken concrete action to thwart terrorist attacks originating from Gaza). I have always been skeptical of this profile. I think it's mostly an artifact of Dahlan's presence in Gaza rather than in, say, the West Bank. Jibril Rajoub was similarly considered credible until Israel invaded the West Bank territories of the P.A. His utter inability to resist the Israeli invasion devastated his credibility. Well, Israel has not imposed itself so strongly on Gaza because, for simple geographic reasons, Gaza is more easily contained. So Dahlan has never had to choose, and consequently he remains credible. In any event, the very best that may be said about him is that he may be - may be - an "our thug" type. I am very skeptical that he could survive any serious effort to crush Hamas, or even the terrorist groups under the Fatah umbrella. So what is the point of him? Well, right now the point of him is that he is not Arafat, and humiliating and weakening Arafat is an absolute precondition to any kind of progress. It's a necessary, but far from sufficient condition.
(I say humiliating, by the way, because that is the only way to decisively remove Arafat from power. If he goes down fighting, he doesn't go down.)
It will be interesting to see what the Europeans do if Arafat and Abu Mazen break publicly and Arafat tries to pick another, more plible Prime Minister. Will they actually admit that the rais is something of a problem? I doubt it. I'm still a seller of the proposition that the Iraq war will do anything to improve the situation in Israel and the territories. *Nothing* will improve that situation - not for another generation.