Tue Jun 8th, 2010 at 01:13:43 PM EST
I already mentioned positions on I/P conflict which the third world countries have taken in view of the seizure of humanitarian convoy by Israel.
FarEasterner: In the third world ... governments are not friends of Israel (evident from UN Human Rights commision) but long ago discarded policies to antagonize the West over the plight of Palestinians.
Today I came across very interesting article on the topic written by Fyodor Lukyanov editor-in-chief of "Russia in Global Affairs" magazine, leading diplomatic magazine in Moscow. You might see Fyodor sometimes on BBC, Zeina Badawi used to invite him for express analysis of Russian foreign policy. For magazine I contributed a couple of articles on my region in the past. His article I translated in full because there is no English variant on the web, I hope I did not make any mistakes.
Russia in Global Affairs: Middle Eastern knot
The seizure of Israeli special forces humanitarian convoy provoked an international crisis, the scale of which, however, should not be overestimated.
Noisy response to Israeli use of force - something familiar. However, long-term effect may be serious.
The fact that the organizers of "Freedom flotilla" were motivated by not mere empathy towards Gazans - obvious. Willing violation of a naval blockade is a political act that has nothing to do with the humanitarian mission. In what proportion human rights activists and provocateurs were aboard should be and will be determined by impartial investigation. However [such investigation] is unlikely to take place, since both parties - Israeli and pro-Palestinian - do not seem interested.
Realistic beginning which may not be tasteful for pro-Palestinian lobby.
Therefore, the question [to be answered] is not who to blame, but who in the long term will lose more. Most likely it will be Israel.
The end of the Cold War had brought to the Jewish state many benefits. Aliya from the former Soviet Union abundantly filled up the human capital of Israel, traditionally its main asset, and the Arab world lost its patron - the political and military. On other side patron of Israel - United States - has become a dominant force throughout the world, significantly strengthening the political-military positions elsewhere, including in the Middle East. The first Gulf War was a blow to Saddam Hussein while Yasser Arafat for his support of the occupation of Kuwait was obstructed - everything promised Israelis a safer era.
The part which might be omitted...
But the spirit of change that swept the world with the end of the Cold War affected the Middle East in other dimensions.
First, the disappearance of the Soviet Union has not eliminated the threat of radicalism, and made it even less controlled. Lack of military-technical and financial support extremists quickly compensated either through new Arab sponsors, or by exploiting chaos in the postcommunist world. [At the same time] A restraining political influence, which the Soviets at least partly exercised, had gone.
Secondly, the disappearance of the bipolarity of the world opened to the United States new opportunities. Israel has remained a key ally, but not as indispensable, exclusive as before the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Thirdly, the momentum of democratization had increased pressure on Israel to reach agreement on the establishment of Palestinian state.
Also uncontroversial part. Pro-Israelis may argue that their protegee is still indispensable but I agree with Fyodor.
The peace process since 1990 ended in failure after few years, yet it completely unbalanced the situation that existed before. Eventually the final blow was delivered by George Bush.
Neo-conservative administration, on the one hand, was considered the most pro-Israel and [succeeded] in destroying the sworn enemy of the Jewish state Saddam Hussein. On the other hand as a result of [these wars] overall situation in the Middle East has deteriorated, and much touted "free elections" in Palestine just legitimized Hamas which thrown the peace process into deep freeze.
The end of historical part...
So what is the bottomline? The idea of the peace process discredited itself, especially in front of Israeli society, as reflected in the adopted political line. Hardening of positions on the Israeli government happened against a background of opposite trends in the West while arrival of more moderate forces is not forthcoming because of belligerent public opinion in Israel. In Europe, which has always had strong left and liberal tendencies, the informal taboo on opposing the policy of the Jewish state, associated with a sense of guilt for the genocide of European Jews during the Second World War, was weakened. In the United States there is growing dissatisfaction with the American policy in the Middle East becoming hostage to support of one state.
These are recent observations which are not common yet in the third world. Lukyanov noticed the momentum the progressive movement enjoys in the West. This point will be important at least for Russian political thinking, currently there are no "progressives" in Russia (so-called "Liberals" like Yulia Latynina still ape neo-conservatives), and I suspect that Medvedev and Putin will be the first to exploit this opportunity, Surkov reportedly already is plotting overhaul of their public images which will be made palatable to the emerging Western paradygm.
The Obama administration is cautiously exploring options for diversification, especially in view of the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict overshadows Washington's relations not only with the Arabs, but also with Muslims generally. Drastic steps for the U.S. are not possible by definition - support of Israel is a symbol of faith for very influential circles in America, but a [changed] trend has emerged. It was reflected in arrival on stage (by assumption with tacit support of influential figures in the administration) of new Jewish lobbying groups opposed to the traditional Israeli lobby, such as the "J-Street", which has also European counterparts. Then even discussion on official level of Israeli nuclear weapons few years ago in America was unthinkable.
This is another current observation, it's funny that like Kremlinologists Lukyanov sees "the hand of Obama" in emergence of J-Street.
These unfavorable changes to Israel are juxtaposed to diminishing returns of actions of the Jewish state. The most important are lack of a coherent logic in the military actions and much reduced efficiency of them. Logic was blurred apparently by increased external pressure. Since early 1990's when under pressure from the West Israel embarked on the peace process, this state found itself wrapped in endless web of conditionalities associated with the duplicity of negotiating partner. It was impossible to separate interlocutors from terrorists. When Yasser Arafat was alive there was no difference, in fact the founder of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), had played all the cards. The split between Fatah and Hamas, it seemed, has created an opportunity for playing "good" against "bad", but the triumph of Hamas in the elections have messed things up ... As a result, Israel can't discuss political solution and can't fight [terrorists]. And even agreeing to a Palestinian state does not seem possible, because of irreconciliable split in Palestinian leadership there is no single interlocutor there who could take up the task of building viable functioning state.
The second point is related to the first. In past decades, by sheer superiority in the Middle East Israel could effectively solve almost any problems by use of force (except for a final political settlement, but it was not pursued). Now it is not obvious. Most revealing in this sense was the war with the Shiite militia Hezbollah in summer 2006. Then, despite the loud international protests, majority of influential players, including the Arab world, would be satisfied if Israel clean south Lebanon out and weaken Hezbollah, behind which Iran was looming. And the international community, in fact, was dragging time, giving Israel the opportunity to complete the "dirty work". Yet despite the damage, the Lebanese Shiites can argue that Israel did not achieve its goals. The operation in Gaza in late 2008 - early 2009's has been more effective, however its objectives, in reducing fighting capacity of Hamas (and more in removing Hamas from power) it spectacularly failed. Israel complains about the international reaction, which forced a cessation of hostilities, but if we compare the operation with the wars of 1960-1970's, the Jewish state had more time, but efficiency was markedly lower. Finally, the seizure of "Freedom flotilla" was executed in a way which cast doubts on professionalism of Israeli intelligence and special forces, who were not prepared for unexpected situation on ships and in the end they left bloody trail which was an image disaster for the country.
I agree with both his points, about lack of logic of Israeli military operations and their reduced efficiency. Lukyanov's analysis is unfavourable for Israel.
Scenarios for the future appear gloomy. Sensing the decline of international support, Israel will take more radical steps, trying to rely on own resources for survival, as well as encouraging the most conservative opponents of Obama in the United States. The Arab side, by contrast, feels emboldened by increased support from outside and will try to increase pressure on Israel. In these circumstances, the more remarkable is position of Turkey, which apparently played a key role in the recent incident: Ankara, it seems, does not consider relations with Israel a priority anymore. It is also important to note that relations with Israel were pursued mostly by Turkish military, which are under intense pressure inside Turkey. All taken together there will be further tightening of already tight Middle Easten knot until it will be blown up by a major conflict, for example associated with Iran. Maybe Israel will initiate with expectation that the United States won't have choice but to support it. Yet everybody in the world of politics will have to face consequences.
[all italics are mine]
The final part of the article is more open to criticism, at least I don't see immediate threat of big war in Middle East and I attribute the gloomy shades of Lukyanov's conclusion only to timing of his writing, the article appeared on June 3, just days after Israeli raid.
I believe the sense will eventually prevail on all sides, but we have to prepare for a rough ride ahead.