Israel And The New Middle East

A reader sent me a recent column by the legendary William Pfaff syndicated in the international edition of the NYT. What he writes there would not, I bet, appear in the domestic NYT. Because what Pfaff does is debate the reality of the Middle East and weapons of mass destruction in ways almost never heard in mainstream American media – but ubiquitous abroad.

He posits two possible outcomes of recent developments. First off, he cites the so-far remarkably successful effort to find, secure and destroy the Assad regime’s chemical weapons stockpile. Incredibly as it seemed only a few months ago, we look as if we may be on the path to removing those hideous weapons from the world – a big advance in collective security. But imagine if the talks with Iran also conclude successfully – which may well happen, if they aren’t deliberately scuppered by the Christianist-AIPAC alliance in the US Congress. Then you’d have Iran’s nuclear program monitored as a civilian enterprise under the Non-Proliferation Treaty – and Obama would have helped remove WMDs from two Middle East powers, a big advance toward lowering the potential for an apocalypse in that part of the world.

But guess who that leaves as the sole WMD power in the region, with chemical and nuclear weapons not under any international supervision? Pfaff:

The conclusion of such a series of developments could be the regulation and legalization of the conventional weapon stocks possessed by Syria and Iran, leaving Israel as an outlaw not only because of its possession of weapons of mass destruction, but because of its aggressive expansion and apartheid policies with respect to the Palestinian territories and their populations.

If Syria and Iran give up their WMD potential – Israel is going to find itself extremely isolated in global opinion – even more so than today. The Israelis will not be able to argue that their WMDs are designed to deter other WMDs, since those other WMDs will have been neutralized. Israel will argue, understandably, that because of its uniquely despised existence in the region, it still requires a deterrent of huge magnitude. I’d be very sympathetic to that case. But it will be difficult to argue that and to argue that it will never give up the West Bank as well. Neither the US nor the European powers would be able to support both Israel’s retention of nuclear and chemical weapons and the continuing occupation and relentless de facto annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

I can even see a strategy where a successful conclusion to the Iran negotiations and to the Syrian chemical stockpile would increase the pressure on Israel to end its brutal occupation of the West Bank. What is Netanyahu’s strategy for dealing with that? Pfaff sees warfare against Iran as Netanyahu’s response to such advances – against US wishes. But I think that would intensify Israel’s isolation, especially if the Iranians were close to a deal – or even past one – with the West as a whole. Netanyahu is a Ted Cruz figure, but even he would not go there, I guess.

Is it therefore possible that developments in Syria and Iran could help advance a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine? Know hope.