December 08, 2004

Egyptian Peace Processing Watch

There is clearly a very significant amount of diplomatic activity currently underway as between and among the Egyptians, Israelis, Syrians, Gulfies (Kuwaits/Saudis etc). Much of it quite positive--what with Israeli-Syrian feelers in the air and talk of establishing diplomatic relations between Kuwait and Israel (perhaps a tad easier with Saddam gone, no?).

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is visiting Kuwait trying to widen the circle of participants in a peace process with Israel, and appears to be coordinating his efforts with the Palestinians. Mubarak is trying to persuade Kuwaiti ruler Prince Jabber Ahmed al Sabah to open negotiations with Israel for diplomatic ties, and to pressure Syria to demonstrate more daring political moves that will persuade Israel of Damascus' seriousness about renewing the political process with Israel.

Meanwhile, the Egyptians (and, of course, Americans) appear very busy on the Israeli-Palestinian front itself (a somewhat more measured take here):

Palestinians and Israelis have agreed in principle to proposals which could serve as the basis of a comprehensive settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Egypt's official news agency MENA said on Tuesday. Egypt's official news agency said that significant progress had been made in international efforts to end Israeli-Palestinian violence. But both sides to the conflict termed talk of a deal premature.

Quoting unidentified high-level sources, MENA said the steps, including an Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire, had the support of both the United States and the European Union.

"High-level sources confirmed an important understanding -- reaching the point of an agreement in principle -- has been completed between Egypt, Israel, the Palestinians and several active international parties, America and Europe, regarding a comprehensive settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle," MENA said.

We're not there yet (not by a long shot). Even just for a so-called "agreement in principle." But, and keeping in mind that major caveat, material progress certainly seems to be underway nonetheless. Just don't look for too much in depth coverage about it in the predictable quarters. Such good news, after all, doesn't fit the oft-ordained narrative that Iraq has plunged the Middle East into utter chaos and that Bush is simply getting ready for Iran (variant: wants to go in, but can't, b/c Iraq is a quagmire) so as to keep on keeping on performing Arik's bidding. The reality, of course, is quite a bit more, er, nuanced. For one, Arafat's death has opened up many new avenues for resucitating the peace process and Bush, it appears, is asking Mubarak to take an early lead (importantly, on an ambitious region-wide basis) to generate some positive momentum for the peace process. Higher level American involvement, doubtless, will ramp up as real, tangible progress looks achievable on varied fronts.

Smart. One of Clinton's errors was not to get enough backstopping from Fahd and Mubarak on how far Arafat could go on Jerusalem concessions--helping ensure that the Palestinians (who, in any case, "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity" per Abba Eban's quip) would be too fearful to make decisions impacting the entire Arab world and, indeed, 1 billion Muslims. We aren't talking Jerusalem and other such final status issues right now, of course. But it's still good to see Mubarak hitting the hustings (doubtless King Abdullah too) taking the post-Arafat pulse of the region. Also smart? A regional approach aimed at a general Arab-Israeli peace settlement. Thus the Israeli-Syrian track (and so the Lebanese track too) don't get lost in micro-managing and obsessing solely about the latest roadmap intrigues on the Israeli-Palestinian front. And also good to see a move to have some of the Gulf States like Kuwait at least think seriously about establishing diplomatic relations with Israel. After all, much of this is quite inter-connected--so best to undertake such peace processing initiatives in concerted, 'macro' fashion. As I said; lots going on. I predict good tidings in '05 from the Holy Land (fingers crossed!)

P.S. The day job is pretty much going around the clock this week. I'm sorry I haven't gotten to the Middle East democratization and Roger Cohen pieces like I said I would a couple nights back. There is simply no time given marathon work days/nights. I'll do my best to get some more material up later this week, however. Oh, B.D. is truly neck in neck with an excellent, widely read blog in the 2004 Weblog Awards for "Best UK Blog." Go give me a boost in the polls if you like what I try to churn out here, usually at least five days a week, on matters foreign policy and such. Yeah, the whole thing is a bit silly, as Sully has said. But, what the hell. A little cyber-trophy wouldn't hurt. Back soon. In the meantime, go vote. Who knows? Maybe a win would make me feel better about why I take the time to eke out post-work posts when I'm already help a guy rationalize the too bleary eyes!

P.P.S. If I haven't responded to E-mail, please accept my apologies. I'm a couple weeks behind on most of it...but will (at least) read each note. Thanks.

Posted by Gregory at December 8, 2004 04:07 AM

I'm pessimistic on any prospects for anything on the Palestinian or general Arab-Israeli peace front. While Arafat certainly comes in for legit criticism in not taking yes for an answer, the problem is that the Palestinian people themselves and the "hard men" of Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah, not to mention the Iranians, Syrians, and Egyptian military are simply not willing to concede Israel's existence and no peace progress is possible in any significant way until that fact changes.

Arafat refused to act on Barak's offers for the simple reason that he was determined not to be Michael Collins. In that he was successful.

As of the moment, Hamas, Fatah, and much of the hardline PLA leadership are convinced that merely "more" intifada/jihad in the form of suicide bombings both in Israel and in other places (including America) will "force" the Israelis to simply leave or submit. In this they resemble WWI Allied Generals "Once more over the top boys!" hoping one more big offensive will "break" the Hun. Both Hamas and Fatah leaders have issued statements that they a) will never recognize Israel and indeed seek to destroy it; and b) that the struggle goes on and is winning (threatening action abroad including America).

The Iranians can and will act as spoilers with Hezbollah, which is enormously popular in both Gaza and the West Bank, and has the means to kill anyone who recognizes Israel's existence, even if Hamas and Fatah were magically changed into more amenable people.

The best that can be hoped for is something akin to Cyprus; with a wall drawn as equitably as possible and the Palestinians and Israelis separated in a cold cease fire backed by Israeli military advantage. It's likely that yet another Arab-Israeli war will happen too, as the Syrians, Egyptians, and possibly Saudis seek a foreign distraction from domestic problems. Followed doubtless by a major Arab defeat, and a matching cold truce between Arabs and Israelis.

Cyprus may not be Utopia, but at least Turks and Greeks are not killing each other, and each side is secure in it's own zone.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at December 8, 2004 09:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Are you aware that some bloggers in the UK blog list have pulled out in protest at the extraordinarily biased representation of blogs on that list?

It is distinctly unfair (and very silly) to call an Award the "2004 Weblog Awards" and include in it only political blogs (something that should have been apparent to 10 year olds, if not Mr. Aylward) and then, to add insult, put up virtually all right wing blogs for "Best UK blog".

It's that sort of blind, hypocritical partisanship that makes people abhor the people who do this sort of thing.

If I was on such a list, I know what I'd do. Whether the bias was on the right or the left.


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