Monday, June 07, 2010

Israel: cold Turkey

"Ah" says Mr. Kissinger, "If only the Bible had been written in Uganda. Everyone would be better off." Saul Bellow- "To Jerusalem and Back: a personal account"
David Seaton's News Links
It came to me when rolling this flotilla crisis thing around in my mind, that what we are witnessing at this moment is a rebirth of the old non-aligned nations group, but without the Soviet Union and with Russia as non-aligned too. 

During the Cold War, the United States attacked the non-aligned movement as a tool of Soviet imperialism, but without the Manichean ideological framework of the Cold War, we are simply talking about countries that are grouping together in variable geometry to protect themselves from becoming American vassals.

Turkey is earning its non-aligned cred in this crisis, it is doing to the USA what Tito did to the USSR. If you look at Turkey's geographical and historical position you can see what opportunities await them. They are set to become an extremely powerful geopolitical broker. Turkey's stepping forward to claim a leadership role that everything: location, history and present power entitles them to, changes the whole balance of power in the region. Right now the Turks are mending fences with the Greeks and the Armenians, with Syria, Iraq and Iran, They are a major trading partner with Russia and as founding members of NATO, have troops in Afghanistan. This is very positive for the region as a whole. Positive also for the USA, which is literally aching to devote more of its dwindling power to addressing its innumerable problems at home.  

But not positive for Netanyahu's Israel. Not one bit.

What doesn't fit into the non-aligned script for the Middle East or the Mediterranean, for that matter, is Israel. Jerusalem is beginning to create the same problems for the USA and Europe that N. Korea creates for China and the rest of Asia (enormous pain in the tuchas); with the huge difference that the North Koreans don't have a lobby in Beijing that makes the Chinese Communist Party sit up and beg.

There are two major problems Israel presents at this point, as I see it:
  1. It destabilizes the ME, which is a very important place, not only because of the oil, but because it lies between Europe and Asia and within it lies Mecca, the heart and soul of Islam.   Today's communications connects Mecca and the idea of Mecca instantly with the nervous system of a lot of other strategic and sensitive places all over Asia and Africa. The Internet has made Mohamed's dream of the Umma a reality and this means that what happens to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank instantly complicates otherwise unrelated situations all over the world.   If Israel were located in Africa, as Kissinger would have preferred, and having problems with oil-rich Nigeria, I'm sure we could all live with that... we cannot live with an endless world war with Islam.
  2. Israel has way too much power over the US political system and this power is much too blatant and increasingly employed as a blunt instrument. This makes the USA look weak and ineffectual: the tail wags the dog. Allies and enemies both get the impression that anything the USA does or says must first be vetted by Jerusalem. Bad for brand America. Bad for American Jewish people too, as Philip Weiss, M.J. Rosenberg and J-Street are pointing out daily. A serious backlash against the lobby could rend America's social fabric beyond repair.
In my opinion Turkey's moving into its natural role in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean makes this a whole new ballgame. Israel's position is more precarious now than at any time since the Six Day War. This time the danger is political more than military. It has not one ally in the region where it lives and totally depends on a distant power with grave domestic difficulties that require its entire attention.

The danger in coming months is that Israel may "do a Samson" and pull the roof down on all our heads by striking out in all directions in a desperate attempt to totally rearrange a dynamic that is radically unfavorable to them. DS


Stephanie said...

Israel's difficulty is Turkey's opportunity, no question.

I don't think that American Jews have to worry about a turnaround in public opinion for the foreseeable future. When it comes to Israel the US mainstream press suddenly goes all Pravda - the coverage is stupefyingly slanted - and polls are showing support for Israel remains reasonably strong, which is unsurprising given what people are seeing on the telly and hearing from the politicians.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

What is happening, and this is what is getting the Israelis frantic, is that the USA no longer really controls the situation. So US polls can show what they want, but the situation will develop despite those polls.

Diane Mason said...

I'd be frantic too if I'd bet everything on the US and suddenly realized that the era of the US as the sole superpower was turning out to be incredibly short.

You'd think somebody in Israel would have realized that nobody's empire lasts forever, but apparently no one thought very far ahead.

Sometimes it's hard to grasp the potential for momentous change, when you're living in the status quo. When I was a teenager, the Berlin Wall had been standing for my entire life, and I assumed it would be there forever. Then poof it was gone overnight and all Europe was changed.