Saturday, March 17, 2007

Those Israel-Syria Peace Talks

Thrice-Told Tales


"Gabriel Kolko's work as a historian casts a giant shadow, but his recent account of "Israel, Iran and the Bush Administration" (CounterPunch, February 10/11) is open to challenge. The Israeli peace talks with Syria, which Kolko finds of "enormous significance," are a thrice-told tale which has not yet come true, least of all because of intervention by the United States.......

Syria's fate is obviously bound up with the Iraq war and the buildup against Iran. Kolko deprecates Israel's animus against Iran as a political ploy to distract the public from scandal and corruption. Yet Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, and Iran is a national phobia. "If the annual Herzliya Conference [north of Tel Aviv] is any indication, the Israeli establishment, though reeling from one political scandal to another, has only one thing on its mind: Iran. Panel after panel declaimed, ad nauseam, the 'existential threat' emanating from the 'messianic totalitarian government' in Teheran." Speakers included prime minister Olmert, Israeli politicians and security personnel, and European and North American officials. Bernard Lewis, doyen of academic orientalism, who invented the "clash of civilizations" which Samuel Huntington popularized, was like Sam Cooke returned to reprise his greatest hits for an audience which knew only the bubblegum versions. The "general consensus," after duly weighing the alternatives and risks, was that if Iran's "race to acquire a nuclear weapon" outpaces "regime change or reform," "an overwhelming military strike by the USwill become inevitable." Or by Israel, which has negotiated US permission to overfly Iraq to strike Iran on its own. In an Israeli poll on November 9, 49 per cent answered yes, and 46% no, to the question, "If it turns out that all the international diplomatic efforts fail, should Israel attack the Iranian nuclear facilities even alone and without international support?"

Kolko is obviously right about the lethality of modern armaments and the suicidal course Israel and the US are pursuing, but because it is logical, a benign resolution is hardly inevitable. The disrepute of the Israeli establishment is matched by the Bush Administration's. Yet the loss of Congress in the mid-term elections, and the rebuke of the Baker-Hamilton report, were met with "troop surge" by the neoconservatives and radical nationalists who planned the Iraq war and the Iran buildup. These forces have found minimal diplomacy with Syria and Iran over Iraq hard to avoid, but they are gripped by reactionary dread, like Hitler in the late 1930s, obsessed with "encirclement" by Germany's "enemies," and with a dwindling opportunity for war. Nothing is determined, further catastrophe may yet be avoided, and Israel-Syria talks may even take place. In any case, Israel is not a victim of the United States, but of its own striving for power, in concert with the US organized Jewish community, and with the US government."

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