A Truce Without a Sustainable Equilibrium


Only a few hours ago a fourth rocket to hit Israel since a truce was agreed to with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has cast further doubts on the durability of this stopgap measure. That coupled with an increasingly wobbly Olmert, besieged on all fronts by his own Kadima party, Labor, and Likud, feeds a cyclical dynamic that is wearing thin the patience on both sides.
Competing internal actors retain perverse incentives to play spoiler in order to preempt a resolution that leaves them weakened or excluded from power. In the case of the most recent rocket attack, it is the Fatah-aligned Al-Aqsa Martyrs that seems to be playing spoiler to a Hamas-initiated truce. Robert Malley and Hussein Agha had warned against such possibilities earlier this year writing:

The truth is, none of these two-way deals is likely to succeed. In tandem, no two parties are capable enough to deliver; any one party is potent enough to be a spoiler. There can be neither Israeli-Palestinian stability nor a peace accord without Hamas’s acquiescence. Intra-Palestinian reconciliation will not last without Israel’s unspoken assent and willingness to lift its siege. Any agreement between Hamas and Israel over Abbas’s strong objection is hard to imagine.
For any of these dances to go forward, all will have to go forward. Synchronicity is key. Fatah and Hamas will need to reach a new political arrangement, this time not one vigorously opposed by Israel. Hamas and Israel will need to achieve a cease-fire and prisoner exchange, albeit mediated by Abbas. And Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will need to negotiate a political deal with Abbas, who will have to receive a mandate to do so from Hamas.
The current mind-set, in which each side considers dealmaking by the other two to be a mortal threat, could be replaced by one in which all three couplings are viewed as mutually reinforcing. For that, the parties’ allies ought to cast aside their dysfunctional, destructive, ideologically driven policies. Instead, they should encourage a choreography that minimizes violence and promotes a serious diplomatic process. Otherwise, no matter how many times President Bush travels to the region, there is no reason to believe that 2008 will offer anything other than the macabre pattern of years past.

Perhaps the vacuum opened with the United States going MIA allowed some durable options to emerge through regional leadership from Ankara and Doha. But despite some recent success on other fronts, the Middle East will continue to command U.S. attention and remain the defining challenge of this (and perhaps future) decade(s).
To examine these prospects and the contours of a durable equilibrium and why these Middle East challenges won’t go away, the New America Foundation will be hosting a discussion with American Strategy Program Fellows Ghaith Al-Omari and Daniel Levy — two of the most prescient observers of the conflict. Joining them will be Aaron Miller, a former U.S. negotiator and important voice on this issue.
For those who cannot attend in person, the discussion will stream live by webcast on this page.
— Sameer Lalwani


17 comments on “A Truce Without a Sustainable Equilibrium

  1. RabbleRouser says:

    That article by Muhammad Cohen from the Asia Times is old,
    and has been refuted by both Senators Feinstein and Lugar.
    And what kind of name is Muhammad Cohen? His parents
    obviously didn’t have a “separation wall” in the middle of their
    bed 😉
    Dianne Feinstein won’t do jack shiite to stop an attack on Iran.
    Her husband, Richard Blum’s, company “won” hundreds of
    millions of $$$ worth of no-bid contracts to rebuild Iraq while
    Feinstein sat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and lied to
    the world about Iraq’s phantom WMDs.
    The Iraq invasion made Feinstein an even richer woman than she
    was. Dianne Feinstein, hon, you can’t take it with you, but if
    there’s a god, you are sure going to be held to account for all
    those hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, and thousands
    of U.S. soldiers you helped slaughter.


  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Amazing, isn’t it? Heres a thread about the Isr/Pal issue, and our resident Islamophobe trolls have little to say. I guess their strategy REALLY IS to disrupt the discourse on unrelated subjects, eh?


  3. Kathleen says:

    As if all the above isn’t bad enough, that Kyl-Lieberman ammendment is about to kick in….so we can have some bloodshed in Iran tooo… Senators Feinstein and Lugar are rightfully in a twist over it.
    Bush ‘Plans Iran Air Strike by August’
    By Muhammad Cohen
    28/05/08 “Asia Times” — – NEW YORK – The George W Bush administration plans to launch an air strike against Iran within the next two months, an informed source tells Asia Times Online, echoing other reports that have surfaced in the media in the United States recently.
    Two key US senators briefed on the attack planned to go public with their opposition to the move, according to the source, but their projected New York Times op-ed piece has yet to appear.
    The source, a retired US career diplomat and former assistant secretary of state still active in the foreign affairs community, speaking anonymously, said last week that that the US plans an air strike against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The air strike would target the headquarters of the IRGC’s elite Quds force. With an estimated strength of up to 90,000 fighters, the Quds’ stated mission is to spread Iran’s revolution of 1979 throughout the region.
    Targets could include IRGC garrisons in southern and southwestern Iran, near the border with Iraq. US officials have repeatedly claimed Iran is aiding Iraqi insurgents. In January 2007, US forces raided the Iranian consulate general in Erbil, Iraq, arresting five staff members, including two Iranian diplomats it held until November. Last September, the US Senate approved a resolution by a vote of 76-22 urging President George W Bush to declare the IRGC a terrorist organization. Following this non-binding “sense of the senate” resolution, the White House declared sanctions against the Quds Force as a terrorist group in October. The Bush administration has also accused Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program, though most intelligence analysts say the program has been abandoned.
    An attack on Iraq would fit the Bush administration’s declared policy on Iraq. Administration officials questioned directly about military action against Iran routinely assert that “all options remain on the table”.
    Rockin’ and a-reelin’
    Senators and the Bush administration denied the resolution and terrorist declaration were preludes to an attack on Iran. However, attacking Iran rarely seems far from some American leaders’ minds. Arizona senator and presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain recast the classic Beach Boys tune Barbara Ann as “Bomb Iran”. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton promised “total obliteration” for Iran if it attacked Israel.
    The US and Iran have a long and troubled history, even without the proposed air strike. US and British intelligence were behind attempts to unseat prime minister Mohammed Mossadeq, who nationalized Britain’s Anglo-Iranian Petroleum Company, and returned Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to power in 1953. President Jimmy Carter’s pressure on the Shah to improve his dismal human-rights record and loosen political control helped the 1979 Islamic revolution unseat the Shah.
    But the new government under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini condemned the US as “the Great Satan” for its decades of support for the Shah and its reluctant admission into the US of the fallen monarch for cancer treatment. Students occupied the US Embassy in Teheran, holding 52 diplomats hostage for 444 days. Eight American commandos died in a failed rescue mission in 1980. The US broke diplomatic relations with Iran during the hostage holding and has yet to restore them. Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric often sounds lifted from the Khomeini era.
    The source said the White House views the proposed air strike as a limited action to punish Iran for its involvement in Iraq. The source, an ambassador during the administration of president H W Bush, did not provide details on the types of weapons to be used in the attack, nor on the precise stage of planning at this time. It is not known whether the White House has already consulted with allies about the air strike, or if it plans to do so.
    Sense in the senate
    Details provided by the administration raised alarm bells on Capitol Hill, the source said. After receiving secret briefings on the planned air strike, Senator Diane Feinstein, Democrat of California, and Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, said they would write a New York Times op-ed piece “within days”, the source said last week, to express their opposition. Feinstein is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Lugar is the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.
    Senate offices were closed for the US Memorial Day holiday, so Feinstein and Lugar were not available for comment.
    Given their obligations to uphold the secrecy of classified information, it is unlikely the senators would reveal the Bush administration’s plan or their knowledge of it. However, going public on the issue, even without specifics, would likely create a public groundswell of criticism that could induce the Bush administration reconsider its plan.
    The proposed air strike on Iran would have huge implications for geopolitics and for the ongoing US presidential campaign. The biggest question, of course, is how would Iran respond?
    Iran’s options
    Iran could flex its muscles in any number of ways. It could step up support for insurgents in Iraq and for its allies throughout the Middle East. Iran aids both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Israel’s Occupied Territories. It is also widely suspected of assisting Taliban rebels in Afghanistan.
    Iran could also choose direct confrontation with the US in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, with which Iran shares a long, porous border. Iran has a fighting force of more than 500,000. Iran is also believed to have missiles capable of reaching US allies in the Gulf region.
    Iran could also declare a complete or selective oil embargo on US allies. Iran is the second-largest oil exporter in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and fourth-largest overall. About 70% of its oil exports go to Asia. The US has barred oil imports from Iran since 1995 and restricts US companies from investing there.
    China is Iran’s biggest customer for oil, and Iran buys weapons from China. Trade between the two countries hit US$20 billion last year and continues to expand. China’s reaction to an attack on Iran is also a troubling unknown for the US.
    Three for the money
    The Islamic world could also react strongly against a US attack against a third predominantly Muslim nation. Pakistan, which also shares a border with Iran, could face additional pressure from Islamic parties to end its cooperation with the US to fight al-Qaeda and hunt for Osama bin Laden. Turkey, another key ally, could be pushed further off its secular base. American companies, diplomatic installations and other US interests could face retaliation from governments or mobs in Muslim-majority states from Indonesia to Morocco.
    A US air strike on Iran would have seismic impact on the presidential race at home, but it’s difficult to determine where the pieces would fall.
    At first glance, a military attack against Iran would seem to favor McCain. The Arizona senator says the US is locked in battle across the globe with radical Islamic extremists, and he believes Iran is one of biggest instigators and supporters of the extremist tide. A strike on Iran could rally American voters to back the war effort and vote for McCain.
    On the other hand, an air strike on Iran could heighten public disenchantment with Bush administration policy in the Middle East, leading to support for the Democratic candidate, whoever it is.
    But an air strike will provoke reactions far beyond US voting booths. That would explain why two veteran senators, one Republican and one Democrat, were reportedly so horrified at the prospect.
    Former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen told America’s story to the world as a US diplomat and is author of Hong Kong On Air (www.hongkongonair.com), a novel set during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance and cheap lingerie.


  4. nir rosen says:

    YNET.com (Israeli News site linked to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth)
    UN: Israel violated truce 7 times in one week
    UN records 7 incidents of IDF soldiers attempting to drive Palestinian farmers away from border fence by shooting at them. Only one offence marked against Palestinians for firing on Sderot; report does not include most recent rocket fire
    Roi Mandel
    Published: 06.27.08, 00:31 / Israel News
    Since it went into effect last week, at least eight violations of the new ceasefire agreement with Hamas and the Palestinian factions have been recorded, a UN source told Ynet on Thursday. According to the source, seven violations were committed by the IDF, while the Palestinians are responsible for just one.
    However the UN report does not include the Qassam fire launched towards the Negev during the day. “It is important that both sides honor the ceasefire, in order for it to be the first constructive step towards a wider and more extensive peace process between the sides,” the source said.
    Most of the offences committed by the IDF include shots fired by soldiers at Palestinian farmers attempting to reach their land near the border security fence. According to the UN, on June 20 an IDF patrol shot at Palestinian farmers near the fence east of Rafah. The soldiers fired for ten minutes in order to drive the farmers away, but no injuries were reported.
    During the evening of the same day a similar incident was recorded, in which IDF forces shot at Palestinian farmers near the Maghazi refugee camp. Soldiers reportedly fired for five minutes, and no injuries were reported. An hour later soldiers fired towards fisherman near the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya in an attempt to drive them away.
    Early on June 21 Navy forces opened fire in the same area, and later the same morning forces fired towards Palestinians near the Maghazi refugee camp. No injuries were reported in either case.
    70-year old Jamil al-Gahoul was injured from IDF fire two days later, when an army patrol opened fire on a group of Palestinians reportedly gathering wood near Beit Lahiya at 7 am.
    Only one Palestinian offence
    The first violation committed by the Palestinians was recorded a day later, on June 24, when Islamic Jihad fired three rockets at Sderot from the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun.
    On Wednesday morning IDF forces opened fire towards Palestinian farmers near the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis. An 82-year old man was seriously injured from the fire, which lasted a few minutes.
    Regarding the accusations against Israel the IDF stated that no attacks had been carried out in the Gaza Strip during the past few days, but that some incidents had occurred in which IDF soldiers had carried out operations.
    Israel and Hamas have accused each other of violating the ceasefire agreement. Following the rocket fire at Sderot, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the fire constitutes a blatant violation of the truce. Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided that the Gaza border crossings would remain closed following the fire, causing Hamas to accuse Israel of infringement of the agreement.
    Hanan Greenberg contributed to this report


  5. EA says:

    The ME is like terminal cancer: no cure, only palliative options.


  6. Sweetness says:

    “Seem the US press has for the most part left out a few facts…..like
    who threw the first punch. No wonder more people depend on the
    internet for news now…we have no professional press or
    uncensored coverage of this conflict in the US.”
    Actually, this reported in the Washington Post.


  7. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    Any move of reconciliation, pacification and rapproachment between the Palestinians and the jews seems to be a contineous trajactory of political entrapment engineered by the US- israeli diplomats on the one side while there seems to have been an intra-Palestinian cleavage on the other, having had this frame of obervation in mind, one can yet pray for providential intervention in this behalf.


  8. Carroll says:

    Everyone knows what the problem to attaining a peace in Pal-Isr is right here in the US. In the US Congress and AIPAC and dozen other zio-neo nazis organizations. If I hear one more word about the “diplomatic process” I am going to throw up. For 40 years Israel has been the scorpion on the frog’s back of the so called peace “process”. They don’t want peace, they want Palestine, all of it. Are all of our ME “policy” wonks stupid or are they just trying to draw their area of speciality conflict out till they have enough years to retire or what?
    We all know what has to be done.
    From Jim Lobe:
    When A Map Is Worth a Thousand Words
    June 26th, 2008
    Or maybe even 674 pages, the length of Douglas Feith’s recent opus, War and Decision.
    As you can imagine, Israel does not figure prominently in Feith’s book, and you would never guess from reading it that, as early as 1996, Feith — along with David Wurmser and their common mentor, Richard Perle — was already thinking that the ouster of Saddam Hussein was the key to transforming the regional balance of power decisively in favor of Israel, thus permitting a Likud-led Israel to make a “clean break” from the Oslo peace process and “secure the realm” of the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, as well as its pre-1967 borders.
    I don’t intend to review of the book, at least now. But the map that appears next to Feith’s “Introduction” depicting Iraq and its neighbors as of 2003 offers some insight into his worldview and Israel’s rightful place — or, more precisely, its size — within it:
    Click on Jim Lobe site to see the map:
    Not much space for a Palestinian state, is there? Good strategic depth around Jerusalem. Looks like the Golan isn’t supposed to revert to Syria, either. No suggestion of occupation. It’s all Israeli.
    Incidentally, In his book, Feith claims that it was Fred Ikle that got him the undersecretary for policy job, but I have it on excellent authority that it was Perle, the only man who Rumsfeld (who himself referred to the West Bank and Gaza as “so-called occupied territories”) believes is his intellectual equal, whose recommendation was decisive. And it’s good to know that the Washington Post still considers Perle credible enough to give him space on its op-ed page to warn against the perils of multilateralism in dealing with Iran, as it did today.”


  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    UN records 7 incidents of IDF soldiers attempting to drive Palestinian farmers away from border fence by shooting at them. Only one offence marked against Palestinians for firing on Sderot
    Since it went into effect last week, at least eight violations of the new ceasefire agreement with Hamas and the Palestinian factions have been recorded, a UN source told Ynet on Thursday. According to the source, seven violations were committed by the IDF, while the Palestinians are responsible for just one.


  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Peace Now: Construction Beyond the Green Line – A nail in the coffin for Annapolis
    Peace Now’s General Director, Yariv Oppenheimer, responded to the reports over expected declarations by Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim regarding the construction bids in Har Homa and Pisgat Ze’ev:
    “The announcement is a nail in the Annapolis Peace Summit’s coffin. The only legacy Olmert’s government will leave is the expansion of settlements and turning Jerusalem into an unsolvable problem.”


  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Damn, those pesky Palestinians, how dare they launch crude inaccurate missiles at a military superpower. Unethical, it is. Don’t they know they’re only supposed to lob rocks? Uppity sand niggers, why don’t they just lie down and take it, or get the hell off of Israel’s land?
    They must be lunatics, just like those nasty Iranians.
    Besides, any self respecting evictee should have the common sense to pick up a hammer and help the new owner of his property build a apartment complex. After all, its the subservient thing to do.


  12. Carroll says:

    Seem the US press has for the most part left out a few facts…..like who threw the first punch. No wonder more people depend on the internet for news now…we have no professional press or uncensored coverage of this conflict in the US.
    Jerome Slater, the scholar of press coverage of Israel in the Times and in Haaretz, had an incisive take on the Times coverage of breaches in the fragile truce between Hamas and Israel:
    “The Times may be a-changing, but not that much.
    Last Thursday a truce between Israel and the Palestinians went into effect in Gaza.
    On Tuesday morning, the Israelis broke the truce, sending a hit team to kill two Islamic Jihad militants.
    Later that day, Islamic Jihad retaliated, feebly, by firing several rockets into Israel, with little effect.”
    I have been watching this conflict since Sharon led his famous march back in 2001 or 2002… he knew would stir up a new violence….and it’s been going on this way ever since.


  13. David says:

    Forces opposed to a just settlement abound. The most distressing point is that too few Israelis acknowledge Israel’s role in this nightmare, just as too few Americans acknowledge America’s role in the ongoing nightmare in Iraq. It is the “We are the good guys, they are the evil ones” syndrome, a syndrome that just succeeds in wreaking more havoc and getting more people killed. There is right and there is wrong that can be identified, but no one in either of these conflicts wants to do it comprehensively or honestly. There are too many nationalistic political considerations, and the voices of reason are still too faint and too few. And given the realities of the looming climate change catastrophe, for which a melting polar ice cap as doorway to polar navigation and resource exploitation is one truly pyrrhic “victory,” we really don’t have the luxury of being bogged down in militaristic insanity and neocolonial occupations in the Middle East – but we are, and we’re screwed, along with everyone else on the planet. Gated communities aren’t the answer to anything.


  14. WigWag says:

    That should have been same old same old from Washington Note readers.


  15. WigWag says:

    Same old same old from Washingron Note readers.


  16. Joe M. says:

    I just want to point out, contrary to the traditional narrative that blames the Palestinians for everything, ISRAEL HAS VIOLATED THE CEASE FIRE MUCH MORE THAN THE PALESTINIANS HAVE:
    So please, the problem, as usual, is not a couple Palestinian firecrackers ever now and then, but the entire “security” structure of Israel, and obviously their continued occupation of all of Palestine…


  17. Dirk says:

    Maybe all the parties do need to be involved but it is clear to me that any truces/agreements need to involve the occupied West Bank as well as Gaza.
    If Israeli assassins continue to operate in the West Bank but proclaim a truce with Gaza, it seems obvious that the aggrieved parties will attempt to retaliate.


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