Any end-of-term Israeli-Palestinian peace push by the Obama administration would likely be viewed in the Middle East as “legacy-seeking grandstanding rather than as a contribution to peace,” the Washington Post said on Sunday.
In an editorial criticizing the “self-defeating passivity” of outgoing President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies, the paper cited the “absence of any preparatory diplomacy” as the reason that a new effort to advance the peace process would go nowhere.
Earlier this week, veteran Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer said Hillary Clinton supporters must call on the Democratic presidential nominee to ensure Obama refrains from making any diplomatic moves against Israel during the remainder of his time in office.
As reported on extensively by The Algemeiner, concerns have been growing that Obama might not protect Israel at the United Nations during the lame-duck period between the presidential election on Nov. 8 and the inauguration of Obama’s successor on Jan. 20.
In a video interview with the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Jonathan Schanzer — vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) think tank in Washington, DC — said Obama was considering six different “punitive measures” aimed at “score settling” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama’s choices, Schanzer said, range from “recognizing a Palestinian state to a UN Security Council resolution that details parameters for the peace process, or perhaps…, even more likely, a UN Security Council resolution against settlements.”
“If those fail,” Schanzer continued, “then we think that there could be a Rose Garden speech or some other parameters speech that the president delivers in the last several months of his presidency. They’re also apparently weighing the option of sanctions, or at least barring organizations that support settlements through IRS regulations.”
In Sunday’s editorial — which took particular aim at Obama’s inaction in Syria — the Washington Post said that the next White House occupant “will be confronted by a pressing need to revitalize and reshape US engagement in the Middle East. Though many Americans share Mr. Obama’s evident desire to write off the region, it remains vital to US interests — as a source of energy, as well as of terrorism, destabilizing flows of refugees, potential nuclear proliferation and crimes against humanity.”
“In short,” the piece concluded, “what’s needed is a president who recognizes the need for American leadership in the Middle East.”
Today, one fact that the entire world agrees upon is that the civil wars in Iraq and Syria have reached a point that necessitates the maps of these countries to be redrawn. Indeed, this is so relevant that every day, a new map lands on the front pages of newspapers. Most recently, the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel published a map uniting the borders of Iraq and Syria and dividing it into three parts. Going a step further, it named these three countries as so-called Kurdistan, so-called Sunnistan, and so-called Shiastan. The region also includes two other candidates for division: Libya and Yemen. On the brink of separation, the two countries are struggling to survive. These prolonged civil wars have irreversibly brought people to the brink of division. In fact, it is high time to abandon such ambitions for maps. The map of the Middle East drawn by Gertrude Bell, Winston Churchill, Lawrence, Mark Sykes, General Edmund Allenby, Arthur James Balfour, Reginald Wingate and Harbert Samuel at the beginning of the 20th Century has brought nothing but conflict to the region for the last one hundred years. Obviously, however, people have yet to draw a lesson from this tragic mistake. Thousands of kilometers away from the region, everyone is busy drawing up arbitrary maps and devising plans to impose them. Meanwhile, millions of Middle Eastern Jews, Christians, Muslims, Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Maronites, Shiites, Wahhabis, and Sunnis do not wish to spend another century struggling with wars.
The map drawn by Robin Wright and published in The New York Times newspaper in 2013 revealed another imminent danger. According to this map, the Middle East’s biggest and wealthiest country, Saudi Arabia is to be divided into five parts. In this scenario, there would be a Hormuz Strait region, Eastern Arabia; in the Hejaz, Western Arabia; in a region near Yemen, Southern Arabia; and in the north, Northern Arabia is to be founded, while a Riyadh-centered Wahhabi Arabia is to be formed in the middle region of the country. It goes without saying that the intention of those who introduced this map to the global agenda, which is shaped after the geographical distribution of the pre-Saudi Kingdom tribes, is to break up Saudi Arabia.
Immediately after the introduction of the map, developments in this direction began to occur one after another. The civil war in Yemen, the country’s southern neighbor, escalated to a dire level, obliging a Saudi Arabian-led coalition to intervene. In Saudi Arabia, protests arose among the Shiites, who constitute 15% of the country’s total population, and a Shiite region located in the west of the country announced its desire to unite with Bahrain. In the wake of King Fahd’s death, an artificial atmosphere of crisis was created among his heirs. At this point, today Saudi Arabia finds itself besieged on all sides, just as Libya, Iraq, Syria and Egypt were before.
The 250-year history of Saudi Arabia is fraught with civil wars, political assassinations, and tribal conflicts of varying intensity. Since the 18th century, three kingdoms have been founded and destroyed; the currently existing Saudi Kingdom is the fourth one in the same region. The initial cause of these wars was Arabian tribes rejecting each other’s rule. Of course, England exploited this antagonism to their advantage.
The artificial borders drawn up at the Cairo Congress of 1921 were dictated to Saudi Arabia by means of military and economic coercion. Although Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 under the guidance of Sultan Abdulaziz, the internal strife within the country has seen no end. Succeeding Abdulaziz as the king, his son Saud was dethroned by the family council after 10 years of rule: King Faisal, who succeeded him, was killed by his nephew. Although during the reigns of the succeeding kings Khalid, Fahd, and Abdullah, disputes within the royal family were calmed, many incidents such as the 1979 Siege of Mecca, the Gulf Wars, and the emergence of al-Qaeda have hampered the proper establishment of domestic peace in Arabia.
Robin Wright includes the strife between the royal family members among the current causes of Saudi Arabia’s potential separation. When King Abdullah was on his deathbed, there were many provocations concerning the succession to the throne that could have led to discord. A nondescript social media account named “Mujtahid” reported a good deal of provocative news stories with the aim of setting the two potential candidates to the throne against each other. However, common sense prevailed and Salman bin Abdulaziz inherited the throne in conformity with the kingdom’s succession laws.
Economic welfare, which is seen as another reason hindering Saudi Arabia’s unified integrity, has also long been used. Saudi Arabia has about $1.5 billion dollars worth of investments in the USA and England. With the recently enacted compensation law coming out of the US Congress, Saudi Arabia is now facing a significant risk with a volume of $7.5 billion dollars at stake.
The Shiite-Sunni conflict is yet another destabilizing factor endangering the Arabian Peninsula. The movement known as “British Shiism” by Khamenei is exhibiting an extremely hostile attitude towards Wahhabism, and in this way, is instigating Wahhabis against Shiites. Additionally, the execution of the Shiite leader of Arabia al-Nimr at the beginning of this year brought Iran and Saudi Arabia to the brink of war.
There have been many provocations during the Yemeni Civil War as well, which put Saudi Arabia in a difficult position before the global public. In September, 140 people died and 535 were injured in one of the bloodiest attacks in recent years. This attack, which targeted innocent women, children and the elderly who had gathered at a funeral service to offer condolences, was blamed on the Saudi government as well. The US media constantly reports news of how Saudi Arabia funds terrorist organizations. Terrorist bombs explode and tragedies occur during the hajj period in Medina. Similar incidents occurring one after another make the country look as if it is under heavy siege.
The recently crowned king, Salman bin Abdulaziz is aware of the danger and is in search of new allies. Saudi Arabia wishes to partake in the recent alliance formed by the initiatives of Putin and Erdoğan. The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Muhammad bin Nayef, made his intentions clear by stating: “Turkey and Saudi Arabia are being targeted, so we need each other’s support.” Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Russia attended the USA-Russia meeting held last week as allies.
For 200 years, the cartographers of the Middle East have intricately shaped the region in accordance with their plans. They imposed their own policies upon the region by holding sway over states, armies, clans, and political or religious leaders. Today, every state whose borders are in question is faced with a grave danger. No state or political leader can cope with this organized attack alone. Solid alliances built upon loyalty and trust are needed for the struggle against partition to be effective. Every state that has to wage an individual struggle will be an easy target. For that reason, “all ranks need to be closed urgently.” The only solution for the countries of the region lies in unity. The alliance between Turkey and Saudi Arabia will be the core of a heartfelt union that, before long, will gather other Muslim countries around it.
Israel is successfully expanding its global network at a time of strained U.S.-Israeli relations over Palestine.
Israel’s growing diplomatic, military, and economic ties across the Middle East, Africa and Asia should shatter an enduring myth: that the Israel-Palestinian conflict will make Israel an international pariah.
These ties reflect not only the foresight of Israel’s leaders, the doggedness of its diplomacy and the strength of its economy, but also the rise of Iran in the region and the spread of terrorism beyond it.
Consider the irony. Israel’s ties to the United States and Europe are strained over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, particularly with Washington, the Iranian nuclear deal – even though Israel is the lone nation in the turbulent Middle East that shares the West’s values of freedom and democracy.
Meanwhile, Israel’s ties to regional states, African nations and Russia and China are growing due to shared military challenges or economic opportunities – even though Israel has little in common with them.
To be sure, the U.S.-Israeli relationship remains a paramount concern in Jerusalem. Israel relies heavily on U.S. aid as well as America’s backing at the United Nations and other global bodies. The two nations share intelligence and work together on mutual concerns in the region and beyond.
Nevertheless, Israel’s growing global network is enhancing its flexibility on the world stage and reducing Washington’s leverage over Jerusalem. That’s good for Israel at a time of strained U.S.-Israeli relations, and it leaves America and Europe looking obsessed with an issue of reduced global concern.
Consider the contrast. Early this month, the Quartet (the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations) warned that Israeli settlements threaten the viability of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, echoing the repeatedwarnings of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande, who hosted 28 nations in Paris last month as a “first step” toward organizing an international conference to restart peace talks, told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last week that he’s committed to leading global efforts to find peace.
But, across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, nations have far greater concerns than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Jerusalem is capitalizing on the opportunities that those concerns now offer. It’s working more closely with Egypt, with whom it has enjoyed a mostly cold peace since 1979, due to their shared concerns over terrorist activity in the Sinai Desert. Israel has allowed Egyptian forces back into the Sinai, while Egypt has allowed Israel to use drones to target terrorists.
An upcoming book about Israel’s occupation of the West Bank won’t tell the whole story.
A retired Saudi general visited Israel last week with a delegation of academics and businessmen, reflecting Riyadh’s growing interest in closer ties with Jerusalem as each faces an increasingly aggressive Iran.
And in June, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a reconciliation agreement with Turkey, a once-close ally that now faces a host of security concerns both within and on its borders.
However important are these growing regional ties, more impressive are the inroads Israel is making in Africa after decades of isolation in the aftermath of the Six-Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973 – after which a slew of African nations cut ties to the Jewish state under Arab pressure.
In early July, Netanyahu took the first trip by an Israeli leader to Africa in decades. While he was there, Tanzania announced it would open an embassy in Israel and both Kenya and Ethiopia announced they would push for Israel to receive observer status at the African Union regional bloc.
Since then, Guinea has announced that it will resume ties with Israel 49 years after cutting them, while Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold traveled to Chad to meet with President Idriss Deby. Meanwhile, top officials from Mali, Chad and Somalia – none of which have diplomatic relations with Israel – secretly visited the Jewish state recently, perhaps presaging stronger ties down the road.
Rather than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, these African nations care about expanded trade with Israel as well as its expertise in agricultural technology, water conservation and counter-terrorism.
For Israel, Africa may be poor, but its economy is growing quickly, presentingopportunities for trade. That’s important at a time when Europe is growing more slowly and threatening sanctions over Israeli settlements.
Perhaps more important, greater ties with Africa will enable Israel to better protect itselfat the United Nations and other global bodies. That two African nations, Rwanda and Nigeria, helped block Palestinian efforts in 2014 to push a deadline for statehood through the Security Council could be a sign of the future.
A wise Washington would see that its obsession with Israeli-Palestinian peace and its propensity to blame Israel unfairly for the impasse are shared by fewer nations in the volatile region and beyond.