Boot Vs. Bolton

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No, not exactly. Just a juxtaposition of their views regarding Israel’s struggle against Hamas and possible solutions. Starting with Max Boot,

The Wall Street Journal today runs my article on the prospects for the Israeli invasion of Gaza. To sum up, I basically think that Israel has no choice but to strike back against Hamas, but it also has scant chances of eliminating Hamas or winning lasting peace. Hence the headline: “Israel’s Tragic Gaza Dilemma.” A year ago, in another Journal article I compared the Arab-Israeli conflict to the Anglo-Scottish conflict which ran for almost 450 years (1296-1745).

I hope I am not being too gloomy here. I realize my perspective runs counter to the typical American attitude that there is no problem in the world without a “solution.” Yet all attempts to “solve” the Israeli-Arab dispute have made, at best, limited progress–for instance with the cold peace that prevails between Israel and Egypt and Jordan. Notwithstanding those peace accords, which are deeply unpopular with the people of Egypt and Jordan, there is little reason to think that the Arabs as a whole, and the Palestinians in particular, have accommodated themselves to Israel’s right to exist. The more common view seems to be that, yes, perhaps Israel will exist for a few more decades, maybe a century or two, but eventually it will be wiped out just as were the Crusader kingdoms established by Europeans in the Holy Land during the Middle Ages.

Given this reality, Israelis have no choice but to get on with their lives as best they can while recognizing they will have to fight a constant, low-intensity struggle against groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. The real risk for Israel is not fighting these types of wars; it is the risk of complete annihilation which is raised by Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.

John Bolton disagrees:

[W]e should ask why we still advocate the “two-state solution,” with Israel and “Palestine” living side by side in peace, as the mantra goes. We are obviously not progressing, and are probably going backward. We continue poring over the Middle East “road map” because that is all we have, faute de mieux, as they say in Foggy Bottom.

The logic to this position is long past its expiration date. Unfortunately, it is hard to imagine a new approach that the key players would receive enthusiastically. If the way out were obvious, after all, it would already have been suggested. So consider the following, unpopular and difficult to implement though it may be:

Let’s start by recognizing that trying to create a Palestinian Authority from the old PLO has failed and that any two-state solution based on the PA is stillborn. Hamas has killed the idea, and even the Holy Land is good for only one resurrection. Instead, we should look to a “three-state” approach, where Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. Among many anomalies, today’s conflict lies within the boundaries of three states nominally at peace. Having the two Arab states re-extend their prior political authority is an authentic way to extend the zone of peace and, more important, build on governments that are providing peace and stability in their own countries. “International observers” or the like cannot come close to what is necessary; we need real states with real security forces.

I sympathize with Bolton’s perspective but is it politically possible? I doubt it. Neither Egypt or Jordan seems likely to agree, or the Palestinians. Why would they? Given this dynamic, Boot’s “gloomy” analysis may be the best Israel can hope for, especially in the short to medium term.

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2 responses »

  1. My primary problem with Bolton’s proposal is that the countries he’s suggesting take over the occupied territories are not democratic. I don’t believe that long-term security would be enhanced by this. Al Qaeda’s roots lie in part in the prisons of Egypt.

    Were Egypt to be persuaded to take over control of Gaza, there is no reason to suppose they would be in a position to eliminate Hamas, particularly as they have already been ineffective in preventing Hamas smuggling arms through Egyptian territory. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where Hamas launch attacks from an Egyptian-controlled Gaza, and Egypt is faced with violently suppressing Hamas and thereby igniting radical Islamist forces in Egypt proper, or doing nothing, which would lead to Israeli strikes on Egyptian-controlled territory with a similar result. The dangers of an undemocratic Egypt thereby becoming increasingly vulnerable to Islamist revolution seem pretty obvious to me.

    The contrast which strikes me this New Year is between Israel’s occupation and Iraq, in one case unresolved after over forty years, in the other a complete handover of sovereignty to a democratic government within five years of invasion. Obviously there are massive differences, but perhaps making the comparison and looking at the differences in detail might be helpful.

  2. Piggybacking on Kellie’s comment, it’s also doubtful that any of the state’s Bolton mentions would actually want control of Gaza. The Arab states around Israel have been content to have the radical Islamists in their societies spend their time and resources fighting Israel over the last 35 years, rather than directed at their autocratic regimes. Having these people’s scorn directed at Israel and not their governments is something few will be willing to give up, and by taking on responsibility in Gaza, they will inherit the same problems Israel is dealing with in Gaza.

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