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1 What, me worry?  Feb 17, 2011 8:24:41pm

However, aren’t we reasserting our position by not voting for the resolution or vetoing it? We’re doing the right thing by opposing it.

2 jordash1212  Feb 17, 2011 8:52:45pm

I see two problems here.

One, why does the United States, or any Western power for that matter, need to be a “primary broker” in Middle East diplomacy? Maybe it’s time to let the Israelis, Palestinians, and other Arab states figure this out for themselves, and let the United States, EU, and Russia sit in back instead of in the driver’s seat. Would it be so wrong for the Israelis to send some new attaches to the Arab countries and make some new concessions to the Palestinians? What is there to fear? And on another note, it’s not as though what the Middle East is yearning for is more American involvement (hint hint, Egypt).

Two, the problem when advocating for American involvement in Middle East diplomacy is the brand of double speak that has characterized the last half dozen presidencies. ‘We will always support Israel but yet we want to help the Arabs and the Palestinians’ works only inasmuch as you don’t make any real push for peace because you can’t have it both ways. You can’t implicitly support Israeli settlements (vis-a-vis vetoing this UN bill) when the Palestinians demand they be stopped. The best thing the US can do is take a concrete stance with with firm positions and real red lines, not the kind of rhetoric that is catered to both sides.

3 Bob Levin  Feb 17, 2011 8:57:27pm

re: #1 marjoriemoon

I hope they do veto it. But my reasons are not those of cold hard politics.

The business of the State Department is cold hard politics. I think the State Department, for good reason, is at wit’s end over the entire region. They will view getting more involved as a necessary factor in long-term safety. So how do they get their foot back in the door? Clearly they’ve been shut out the last few months.

We still don’t know what they are going to do. Right now they are trying to convince Abbas to drop the whole thing.

With the exception of Israel, the Middle East is barely being governed. The US has two choices, veto, not veto. However, the projected consequences of each choice could be in the hundreds. We will never know the results of their game theory.

So we watch the news.

4 freetoken  Feb 17, 2011 9:08:41pm

re: #2 jordash1212


One, why does the United States, or any Western power for that matter, need to be a “primary broker” in Middle East diplomacy?

The weight of the past - no one can escape it. And, countries in the region expect us to get involved and even request at times that we do.


What is there to fear?

Probably a lot.


The best thing the US can do is take a concrete stance with with firm positions and real red lines, not the kind of rhetoric that is catered to both sides.

The heart of the conflict may be inherently irresolvable in a peaceful manner, and thus we play our part mostly to further other US agendas.

5 jordash1212  Feb 17, 2011 9:10:21pm

re: #4 freetoken

By responding to those three points in one sentence each tells me you haven’t really thought about any of it.

6 freetoken  Feb 17, 2011 9:11:09pm

re: #5 jordash1212

By responding to those three points in one sentence each tells me you haven’t really thought about any of it.

Or perhaps I don’t have time to write a lengthy treatise?

7 jordash1212  Feb 17, 2011 9:13:33pm

re: #6 freetoken

I’m sure you don’t.

8 jordash1212  Feb 17, 2011 9:16:16pm

Then again, sometimes actually writing lengthy treatises helps develop and compose our thoughts.

9 Bob Levin  Feb 17, 2011 9:19:41pm

re: #2 jordash1212

There are more than two problems.

One, why does the United States, or any Western power for that matter, need to be a “primary broker” in Middle East diplomacy?

The key word in foreign relations, stability. The US knows what it wants, what it’s going to do—and so they can heavily influence current events.

Maybe it’s time to let the Israelis, Palestinians, and other Arab states figure this out for themselves, and let the United States, EU, and Russia sit in back instead of in the driver’s seat.

Not as long as there is oil in the ground and shipping that needs to go through the Suez Canal.

Would it be so wrong for the Israelis to send some new attaches to the Arab countries and make some new concessions to the Palestinians?

Not allowed. Religious boycott by the Arab nations. A broker is needed.

And on another note, it’s not as though what the Middle East is yearning for is more American involvement (hint hint, Egypt).

In realpolitik, it doesn’t matter what the countries are yearning for. Again, stability, oil, shipping is what the rest of the world really cares about. No one cares about the Israelis, no one cares about the Palestinians, or the Egyptians, or the Iraqis, or anyone living in the old Ottoman territories.

Which brings us to your second problem. That’s a problem for us civilians.

Stability, oil, shipping are what matters to governments. There are also substantial US research efforts that take place in Israel, and Marjorie can tell you more about the products of the research. For instance, I’ve read that an Israeli team had a significant role in the building of Watson, a new super search engine that could have a huge impact in all of science, education, medicine—our modern world. Add that into the equation of precious resources from the Middle East.

All is not so bleak. Israel has also developed technology in agriculture and water purification—which could be a blessing to the arid climates of the Arab nations, and alleviate much of the pain behind the riots. The question is, given the boycotts and conflict, can the technology get to the people that need it? A broker will be needed.

10 Bob Levin  Feb 17, 2011 9:20:53pm

re: #6 freetoken

I do.

11 Bob Levin  Feb 17, 2011 9:21:30pm

re: #8 jordash1212

You are wise. ;-)

12 jordash1212  Feb 17, 2011 10:09:28pm

re: #9 Bob Levin

The key word in foreign relations, stability. The US knows what it wants, what it’s going to do—and so they can heavily influence current events.

There are other key concepts besides stability in foreign relations. Let’s be honest here, historically American pursuit of stability in the Middle East hasn’t always yielded the best results. Good intentions might have been motivation, but still bad results ensued. Just look at the two oil embargos all caused in large part by the United States’ involvement in the region. There is a long list here both for and against.


Not as long as there is oil in the ground and shipping that needs to go through the Suez Canal.

You make a cogent point about the Suez and oil, but the Suez only concerns Egypt. Israel, to a certain extent, plays a role but only up to the point in which normalization between the two countries is maintained. Oil is a concern, but in this country we’re willing to pay in body parts to fill up. Unless the Suez is closed (and I can’t find evidence it will be), I don’t see a need for the Europeans or the U.S. to step up, and so far the Saudis have remained quite secure on their throne, so let’s not get too hyperbolic about stability and oil flow. What I’m suggesting isn’t to completely overthrow regimes and create anarchy. I think the U.S., Europe, and Russia are capable of grabbing the steering wheel if Israeli-Palestinian-Arab hands become unsteady.


Not allowed. Religious boycott by the Arab nations. A broker is needed.

A broker may be needed, but the Israelis can supply an attache as I suggested. It’s a false dichotomy to say that it’s either the Israelis or the West that communicates with other Arab nations. And are you really going to believe these Arab countries aren’t banning public communication with Israel only to save face? It’s not like Israel hasn’t struck up secret deals or anything with the Palestinians or other Arab nations. Think Oslo, think Palestinian Papers, etc.

It’s not that I don’t agree with you about maintaining stability. I’m all for American involvement, but I really don’t think we are in a position to maintain our position as the primary broker in the region. Let’s try something new and actually make the Arabs, Palestinians, and Israelis accountable. In due time maybe a truly democratic Egypt, which historically has considered itself at the helm of Arab culture, can begin the peace process afresh.

At this point, the best thing the US can do is make a very clear position about where it stands on democracy in the Middle East, self-determination, foreign relations between all countries in the Middle East and the U.S., and its position on the Arab-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I really hope you’re not looking at this entirely through a realist lens because that will diminish your optimism on what’s possible for the region. Like I said earlier, stability isn’t the only key concept to foreign relations. A lot of terrible mistakes have been made for the sake of “maintaining stability.” But then again, if all you care about is making sure your gasoline prices remain low, perhaps it is in your interests to make sure the oil sheikhs still have the Israelis to scapegoat for their country’s poverty, underdevelopment, and misery.

Goodnight. I’ll check back tomorrow.

13 Bob Levin  Feb 18, 2011 12:03:50am

re: #12 jordash1212

Thanks for putting it in three paragraphs.

1st paragraph—I am in no way a fan of the State Department. I don’t think they have the best of intentions, and I’m not convinced of their skill. But make no mistake, the oil embargo was a result of a change in Arab strategy to eliminate Israel. They tried militarily in 1947, 1956, 1967, and 1973. By this time the US did not like that the Soviets had so much control in the region, again threatening the clear flow through the canal. In fact, the 1956 war was primarily about the canal.

After 1973, when the US decided it was in our best interest to be allied with Israel, the Arab world decided it could not win a military war with Israel. A truce was declared in 1973 as Israeli tanks were heading towards both Cairo and Damascus. At this point the Arabs began a political and economic war with Israel. There has never been peace, true peace. There has always been an effort in the Arab world to—as Nasser put it, ‘push the Jews into the sea.’

The nations of OPEC chose to fight with oil, the US didn’t force this to happen. There doesn’t have to be a war, there is no Causus Belli that is causing this conflict, there are no natural resources that anyone needs from Israel. No matter what Israel has done regarding the ceding of territory, it has never been enough to achieve a true peace.

Arab tactics changed again, adding a terrorist mode of fighting, led by the PLO, and a PR war, attempting to de-legitimize Israel and brand it as an outlaw. Part of the reason for this prolonged battle is to deflect the Arab people from the corruption of their leaders, but that strategy seems to be running out of gas, so to speak.

2nd paragraph—The Suez concerns the entire world, and affects the price of, just about everything. So the western world is very particular about who runs Egypt, and the deal is—keep the canal open and you can do whatever you want. That is presently being negotiated again.

You can say what you think will happen, but your one idea is up against game theory computer programs which run every day. If A happens, how will this affect the Suez and oil, if B happens how will this affect the Suez and oil, and if A and B happens, ad infinitum. The results always lead to the same conclusions, try to keep a shaky peace between the Arabs and Israel, and hope the casualties don’t get too high.

I haven’t even gone into the de-stabilizing effects chaos will have on world stock markets, and therefore currency valuations. Just multiply all variables by an exponent of 100.

3rd paragraph—I didn’t say any reason why the boycott is there. It just is. I’m not allowed in Saudi Arabia. No Jews are allowed in. It’s not something I lose sleep over, but I know it’s there. However, the Israelis and the Saudis are communicating through back channels. After the last economic crisis, the Saudis began to invest in Israel because the economy is so good. (Don’t say that too loudly.) There is always back channel communication and lots of spying. And that’s another variable the US has to consider, Israel is a valuable source of intelligence because they have so many folks who speak many Arabic languages and dialects.

14 Bob Levin  Feb 18, 2011 12:12:25am

re: #12 jordash1212

(Still on the 3rd paragraph)—I don’t know if the US will maintain its position in the region, but I do know that it is going to try. That’s written in stone. Your idea about something new has been tried repeatedly, since Reagan. Every new President comes into office saying exactly what you said, and they end up doing the same old—every time. I’ve been posting on the Middle East pretty regularly, trying to see through the smoke and mirrors, and I think things are changing, way before these latest uprisings. I watch for announcements on trade, technology, various things—not politics, which will be the last thing to change.

This latest conflict around the region, with prominent roles played by Facebook and Twitter, might change things. It will certainly make the new leaders think about providing food and infrastructure to the population, who can now organize rapidly. If they choose food, then there will be a slow adoption of Israeli technology. No country knows more about growing food in the desert than Israel.

This statement is too good not to quote:

But then again, if all you care about is making sure your gasoline prices remain low, perhaps it is in your interests to make sure the oil sheikhs still have the Israelis to scapegoat for their country’s poverty, underdevelopment, and misery.

You have just explained the last 40 years of history in one sentence. That is indeed the extent of the care.

Thanks for the time.


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