While the American media concentrate on such important topics as Miss California’s breast implants and Simon Cowell’s threatened departure from American Idol, a time bomb that could destroy the world as we know it ticks ominously and almost unnoticed in the Middle East.
At issue is the likely reaction of the Muslim world if Israel persists in its opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu opposes this “two-state” solution to the chronic conflict with the Palestinians. And in remarks yesterday, Israel’s national security adviser, Uzi Arad, seemed pessimistic about the chances of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
“There are many hurdles” on the road to living side by side in peace with the Palestinians, Arad said, citing the takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas in June 2007. “That is the presence of a huge terrorist infrastructure that was put in place, established precisely at the time when Israel evacuated Gaza and allowed the Palestinians to rule themselves.”
The current Israeli government also opposes the Obama Administration’s conciliatory approach to Iran and Syria. Israel fears such efforts could lead to tolerance for Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which Netanyahu regards as the greatest threat to his country.
My daughter, Grace, sent me an article from the New York Post that accuses President Obama of getting the Iran problem backwards. To illustrate his point, the writer, Alan M. Dershowitz, quotes this excerpt from the Jerusalem Post:
The task of forming an international coalition to thwart Iran’s nuclear program will be made easier if progress is made in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has said, according to sources in Washington. Israeli TV stations had reported Monday night that Emanuel had actually linked the two matters, saying that the efforts to stop Iran hinged on peace talks with the Palestinians.
Dershowitz believes Iran’s nuclear program should be halted before Israel resumes peace talks with Palestine. And I am sure Netanyahu does, too.
That’s a big disagreement, and it makes me wonder whether any progress will be achieved when Netanyahu and Obama meet today in the White House to discuss the Mideast conflict. The Arab world is resolute in its determination to see a Palestinian state, and I doubt any pressure short of the use of military force will deter Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from developing a nuclear weapon – unless there is progress towards Palestinian statehood. So, I don’t see much chance of defusing the Mideast’s ticking time bomb unless one side or the other softens its position.
The implications of this stand-off are frightening. Dershowitz makes the point that the threat from a nuclear Iran is existential and immediate for Israel. And he says:
It also poses dangers to the entire region, as well as to the U.S. – not only from the possibility that a nation directed by suicidal leaders would order a nuclear attack on Israel or its allies, but from the likelihood that nuclear material could end up in the hands of Hezbollah, Hamas or even Al Qaeda. Recall what Hashemi Rifsanjani said to an American journalist:
[Rifsanjani] “boast[ed] that an Iranian [nuclear] attack would kill as many as five million Jews. Rafsanjani estimated that even if Israel retaliated by dropping its own nuclear bombs, Iran would probably lose only fifteen million people, which he said would be a small ‘sacrifice’ from among the billion Muslims in the world.”
With suicidal zeal so evident on both sides, I shudder to contemplate the implications of this deadly stand-off.
Photos show Arab demonstration (top) and Israeli protest (bottom).