Disengagement orange jewish star 370.
(photo credit: Goran Tomasevic / Reuters)
Israel’s regional standing is as precarious as at any time in its history, a
leading Mideast scholar said at a panel discussion Thursday, but the country can
cut its losses by waging a unilateral “disengagement” from the
Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies,
Asher Susser said that although Israel’s ability to influence regional events is
severely limited, its relations with the Palestinians is one arena in which it
still controls its own fate. Susser said a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian
peace agreement may never be signed, but a unilateral disengagement would help
Israel avoid becoming a binational Jewish-Arab state.
Susser – a fellow
and former director of Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center for Middle East and
African Studies – said the past year’s Arab upheavals represent the reemergence
of sectarianism, tribalism and above all political Islam.
this put Israel? In many ways we’re reverting to 1949 – a region not of peace,
but of armistice agreements with the Arab states. We’re in the midst of an Arab
world that is highly unstable, and one closer to boycott of Israel than
Susser disputed the view – one he described as the
prevailing conventional wisdom in Israel – that the country should bide its time
indefinitely in hope the region’s volatility eventually
subsides. Instead, he called for a unilateral initiative to secure Israel
as a Jewish, democratic state rather than risk letting it become a binational
state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.
“Israel has a real
interest in disengaging from this strategically unstable environment,” he said.
“I don’t think we can have a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians – I
don’t think it is in the cards. But I do think it is in Israel’s interest to
disengage from the Palestinians and create a two-state reality, even if it looks
only like an armistice.”
Susser said the term “Arab Spring” is inaccurate
to describe the region’s recent upheavals. The phrase, he said, “reflects the
unwillingness of many in the West to look at the Middle East and accept the
‘otherness’ of the other” – particularly regarding the role of religion in
“These are not secular societies,” he said. “If ever
there was a huge failure in history, it was that of Pan-Arabism, which was
supposed to secularize Arab society. It failed miserably.”
Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy,
agreed that terms like “Arab Spring” and “Arab awakening” are
“We’ve had a series of intifadas – uprisings, either violent
or nonviolent, whose outcomes are uncertain,” he said. “Except for Algeria one
could travel from Morocco to the Persian Gulf encountering only Islamist
leaders. This is what I call the ‘new Middle East.’” Still, Satloff warned,
prognoses of US irrelevance in the region may be premature.
conventional wisdom is that the US has lost influence and prestige in the Middle
East. My view is America still has a lot of assets in the region that we can
give ourselves credit for,” he said. “The day Arabs line up for Chinese or
Russian visas is when we hang it up in this part of the world. That day is still
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