Carry On Levant

Another short war for Israel then, accompanied by the repetitive chimes of every ineffectual politician calling for a cessation of hostilities and a return to the negotiation table. No issue validates the name of this blog more than this particular one, as I draw a notably prolonged sigh of frustrated fatigue. I feel wearied enough but to imagine the sense of futility experienced by someone of even one generation above me, who had maybe only a few more years of exposure to this endless feud, is deeply unpleasant.

My interpretation of the situation is that the current approach is equivocal to flogging a long dead horse and I don’t want to go anywhere near the suggestions of one side doing this or the other that, or if this happened then maybe that could happen, but ultimately it has to start with putting down the guns and talking and so on, so forth. As far as I’m concerned, Israel is an ultra-conservative military state surrounded by antagonists in either Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran and they all share a sense of existential struggle free from the burdens of rational consideration. There is no solution unless there is a profound and thus improbable change in the temperament of either side.

I lament the deaths and troubles of those Israelis and Palestinians who would rather just live a semblance of a peaceful life, and don’t mean to be dismissive of the humanitarian issues that root this conflict in our minds. But no logical or reasoned approach of mine pertaining directly to this conflict is going to do any more for them than did all the simplistic jargon of Douglas Alexander MP, Shadow Defence Secretary, on Sunday Morning AM.

What we could still be talking about, of course, is Syria. There I see an attainable solution. As infuriating as it is that the news media of the world almost instantaneously forgot about the ongoing civil war in a nation removed from Israel only by the sliver of geography that is Lebanon and the Golan Heights, it still continues more violently and possibly more crucially.

There were actually some incredibly exciting developments in Syria before matters to the south started to run amok again. The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces was consolidated and recognised as the legitimate representative of that country by the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, Arab League, Turkey, France and USA. The momentum of this event should have been allowed to surge ahead with broader recognition and the beginnings of material support, but has been stifled thanks to diverted attentions. This is rather troubling as resolution to the Syrian conflict and the establishment of a democratic rule, taken into consideration with a major shift in the Middle-East towards democratic governance, could have a much more dramatic impact on the fate of Israel than cyclical rounds of conflict and half-heartened bouts of negotiation ever could.

Think for a moment about the nations that Israel pre-emptively attacked during the Six Day War. They have all endured, or are still enduring, huge changes. Egypt is now democratically led by a Muslim Brotherhood candidate in Mohamed Morsi who has thus far dealt with the Israeli-Gaza conflict with admirable restraint although expressing reasonable condemnation. This is incidentally a neat slap in the face to those hawks across the Western world who decried his election to power. Jordan is pushing itself towards a system of constitutional monarchy and King Abdullah II seems rather more keen on a conciliatory international PR campaign than reopening old wounds. These two countries remain the only members of the Arab League beyond the Palestinian National Authority who maintain diplomatic relations with Israel.

Iraq seems to be in some sort of netherworld when it comes to news media attention and although still riddled with sectarian issues is ever so gradually stabilizing and will probably spend many years to come searching for its own identity as a democratic nation. Despite the disconcertingly developing relationship with Iran, it is no position to be overtly involved in the regional politic. And as we well know, Syria has nigh on torn itself to shreds and with the state military thoroughly attending to the slaughter of its own people will not likely be poking its nose around for some time to come.

Essentially, the old neighbouring enemies are going through a process of moderation. Iran remains a looming threat to regional security but is isolated now that Syria is consumed by internal war and Lebanon is and always has been at most a viable thorn in Israel’s side when adequately supported. But despite Israel’s patently heavy hand in Operation Pillar of Defence, not one of these nations has mobilised forces or done anything beyond vocally criticise the aggression.

With the exception of an obstinate Iran, it seems the sensible thing to place focus back onto these surrounding nations and secure and nurture this drive towards moderation. If Israel existed in a region of stable, democratic and economically secure nations with which the outside world had a working relationship, then a solution for Israel would be so much more simple. There would be an incentive for Israel to have proper political and trade relations with its neighbours which in turns gives them an incentive not rile them with unilateral aggression against the Palestinian territories.

As the region has been for decades now a hotbed of conflict and tension, it must be a relatively simply equation for the Israeli government when considering actions. They exist in a climate of hostility and so choose hostile recourse. But if we arrived at a situation where Israeli aggression was the sole example of aggression in the region then the perception would have to change. I believe this process would be best enabled at present by comprehensively dealing with Syria, which is to say enabling the Syrian opposition to achieve a quick victory against a morally dead state and rapidly rebuilding the country’s infrastructure to achieve stability.

Any reasonable alternative suggestion is welcome at this stage as frankly it becomes increasingly difficult to remain engaged with such an extended conflict as what we see between Israel and the Palestinian territories. Bear in mind one definition of madness is the repetition of the same process over and over again but expecting different results each time. That’s what the standard approach is beginning to feel like. Stop shooting at each other so you can talk until you start shooting at each other again is not the way out. I await the outcome of the current ceasefire talks in Egypt with only partially baited breath.


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