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Of desperate situations and wishful thinking

Only possible change can come from Israelis themselves, the day they realise the bigger advantage of living at peace with neighbours

Gulf News

Looking at the US neo-conservative programme in foreign policy gives no room to wish anyone a Happy New Year.

An article of the autumn issue of the Politique Internationale magazine gives a hint at it through the following five issues.

The first one refers to Iran which, everybody knows (but them), wishes to have a nuclear bomb so that they can drop it on Israel and destroy it. The inanity of the concept was exposed on several occasions — including in the US, but as the Iraqi war has shown, it is difficult to ask a neo-con to reflect logically. Iran is thus on the verge of obtaining a nuclear bomb. It is of course unacceptable and a US intervention should stop it. Yet, considering the too high a price for the US and their allies in the region, why not let their Israeli friends do the job?

A second element of concern is the future of the Arab Spring — which one could better call “The Muslim Brotherhood Conquest”. What will the new rulers do, the neo-cons wonder, of the power they have just acquired in Tunisia or in Egypt? They will keep it, of course. Incidentally, it is not harmful to the neo-cons (they have a similar appetite for free market and consumerism) as long as, for instance in Egypt, the government does not put at stake the agreement signed with Israel in 1978. There is no fear either: Egypt is not going to give up the $2 billion (Dh7.35 billion) it receives every year from the US. The Muslim Brotherhood will thus go on reducing freedom for whoever does not think as it does, grasping as much money as it can, until a genuine revolution topples it. This is not expected to happen tomorrow.

A third issue is Syria, which in fact is not that much of a concern for the neo-cons. Either the regime of Bashar Al Assad succeeds in maintaining a virtual authority over the country — thanks to its Russian ally. In that case, it will be so weak that it will not represent any threat any more. Or, and more likely, a coalition of Salafists, fundamentalists and Muslim Brotherhood finally makes it (the secular opposition being still in Paris, sharing possible future positions). At worst, the country will explode; at best, the Muslim Brotherhood will bypass everybody and take full control — thanks to the support of regional would-be wizards. The only remaining issue will be to strike a deal with the Russians and give them compensation somewhere. It is surely reachable.

The fourth issue is regarding Turkey, but there is nothing really new in this field.

A fifth and last issue (and it is not the last by chance) concludes the article. It is “the forever Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio”, that is something not really serious and which has lasted for so many years. Considering that Benjamin Netanyahu will win the elections and nothing will change, why would then a US government try and do something to unblock the situation?

“Happy New Year?” Total despair is mortal poison to peace lovers. Where could we thus find some semblance of hope for 2013? If not hope, at least some wishes could make the situation more optimistic.

A first wish is that the neo-con policy is not entirely one of President Barack Obama’s. It is true to say that his Cairo speech led nowhere. But one could hope that his situation, once he has been re-elected, will be slightly different. He might feel freer to move over Middle East issues, even though what is happening with the difficult nomination of Chuck Hagel for Defence Secretary, opposed by America Israel Public Affairs Committee, is not a good sign.

A second most sincere wish is for the people of Syria. This is not for the Al Assad regime, or for the Muslim Brotherhood and its masked friends, or to those who supply more and more arms to the belligerents so that one can kill more and more people. It simply goes to those who suffer and cry, those who have not enough to eat in these days when abusing food looks like an act of faith, those who are cold because their house was destroyed and ultimately, to all those who could do something about it but so far, have prioritised their own personal views over those of the Syrian people.

A last wish goes to the population of occupied Palestine. In the past, some regional actors thought of it, but did little. Today, they do not even think of it. The recent creation of a Palestinian state at the UN will change nothing — who has been on the field cannot but admit it honestly. The new Israeli housing programme will not even make the situation worse. Americans will not exert any pressure as history shows and Nasser-style Arab wars have fortunately passed away. The only possible change can come from the Israelis themselves, the day they realise there is bigger advantage to live peacefully with neighbours than staying permanently at war with rampant terrorism at home. The political emergence of Yesha’s General Secretary, Naftali Bennett, is not good news in that respect.

But what would the use of wishes be, if not for desperate situations?

Luc Debieuvre is a French essayist and a lecturer at IRIS (Institut de Relations Internationales et Strategiques) and the FACO Law University of Paris.