The Forward is becoming a daily read for me. It does a superb job of captruing diverse views about issues related to Judaism and Israel — and is one of the few American portals I know of where the debates taking place in Israel are published relatively unfiltered.
This editorial sees some parallels to 1973 when regional insecurity and change in geostrategic allignments produced opportunities for Israeli deals with some of its neighbors, achieving partial peace.
The article starts:
As Israelis began trying this week to make sense of their bruising five-week war in Lebanon, discussion has returned again and again to the traumatic Yom Kippur War of 1973. Then as now, Israel’s vaunted military machine was caught with its pants down, locked into a strategic concept — static defense lines then, air dominance now — that had become obsolete. Then as now, the war ended in a victory that felt more like defeat, leaving Israel’s enemies crowing and Israelis fearing for their very future. This time, with Israel’s military deterrent exposed as lacking and jihadist rage mounting among the world’s billion Muslims, the fears feel very real.
But there is another, more hopeful parallel between 1973 and now, for those willing to see it. Back then, the mixed results of the war reshuffled the strategic balance in the Middle East, opening the way for a diplomatic flurry — tirelessly orchestrated by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — that ultimately led to a peace treaty with Egypt, Israel’s most powerful Arab foe. This week, growing numbers of Israeli strategists are speaking of a similar opening arising from the latest war. They see an opportunity for Israel to reach out to moderate Arab and Muslim states, a chance to forge a common front against the extremist threat from Iran and Hezbollah. The price of admission: a regional peace accord, including a resolution of the Palestinian issue and genuine Arab recognition of Israel, that enables the moderates to unite and thus isolates the extremists.
“We need a realignment in the region,” says veteran Labor Party lawmaker Ephraim Sneh, a reserve brigadier general and former deputy defense minister. “We need to create a new balance with the all the moderate countries on one side” — and the extremists on the other.
By “moderate countries,” Sneh is thinking first of all the nearby Arab states that have made peace with Israel or hinted at it clearly in recent decades, beginning with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinians. Not coincidentally, all of them are Sunni Muslim societies that view the Shi’ite Iran-Hezbollah axis with fear and loathing.
As it happens, every one of the target nations has sent urgent signals to Israel in recent weeks, making it clear that they want to do business. Israelis must now ask themselves what price they would have to pay to join the game, and what role they need their American ally to play to make it work.
The Egyptians, as usual, are leading the way. Their security services have been working frantically in the past month to separate the Hamas-led Palestinian government from its Hezbollah allies, to secure the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and to create a unified Palestinian negotiating partner for peace talks with Israel, under the clear leadership of the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.
Hamas — at least its local wing in the territories — seems desperate to buy in; it has endorsed the Egyptian initiative and cracked down on rocket fire. This week it approved a unity government with Fatah and announced that it had “no problem negotiating with Israel.”
I agree with much of this article — but the key question is “where is the indefatigable Kissinger today?”
Does anyone see a top tier strategist in the making in the administration now?
No Acheson, Brzezinski, Kissinger, Scowcroft, Kennan, or Nitze in sight.
Stephen Krasner does impress me. He is now directing Policy Planning at the State Department but thus far lacks the inter-agency muscle to prevail in the battle he’d need to win to pull off a fundamental strategic reallignment.
One note on Ephraim Sneh, mentioned in The Forward piece — General Ephraim Sneh to his friends — he will be speaking at a New America Foundation event on the morning of September 15th in Washington, D.C. Daniel Levy will be chairing the meeting.
Email me if you’d like an invite.
— Steve Clemons