Skip the false start

If the Arab states want a peace process, they have to contribute to making it meaningful.

saniora and Anan 298 AP (photo credit: AP)
saniora and Anan 298 AP
(photo credit: AP)
In yesterday's Washington Post, Henry Kissinger presents a diplomatic manifesto for the aftermath of the second Lebanese war. Though hardly known to be an alarmist or a revolutionary, Kissinger warns of "global catastrophe" unless the Atlantic alliance "faces the imperative of building a new world order." The question is whether the current crisis will be used to address the challenge he so powerfully describes, or whether the opportunity to act following a resounding wake-up call will be squandered. "Hizbullah," Kissinger writes, "is, in fact, a metastasization of the al-Qaida pattern. It acts openly as a state within a state... A non-state entity... with all the attributes of a state and backed by a regional power, is a new phenomenon in international relations. The driving force behind this challenge is the jihadist conviction that it is the existing order that is illegitimate, not the Hizbullah or al-Qaida method of fighting it." In this context, Kissinger argues, "Everything returns to the challenge of Iran. It trains, finances and equips Hizbullah... it finances and supports Moqtada al-Sadr's militia, the state within a state in Iraq. It works on a nuclear weapons program, which would drive nuclear proliferation out of control and provide a safety net for the systematic destruction of at least the regional order... "The debate sparked by the Iraq war over American rashness vs. European escapism is dwarfed by what the world now faces. Both sides of the Atlantic should put their best minds together on how to deal with the common danger of a wider war of civilizations against the background of a nuclear-armed Middle East." In his description of the crisis and the need for a revival of Atlanticism to address it, Kissinger is spot-on. Twice, however, he argues that this "common Atlantic policy" must be backed by "moderate Arab states." This notion, combined with his call for a "new road map," might be construed to point policy in an unproductive direction. Though it is not clear that Kissinger advocates such a course, we already hear European voices suggesting that the Quartet's three conditions for renewed support for the Palestinian Authority be watered down. There will clearly be similar pressures to junk the first stage of the road map, i.e. the requirement that the Palestinians end terrorism. It is already possible to discern a simple syllogism emerging in Western foreign ministries: We need the Arabs to help deal with Iran; the Arabs need us to deal with Israel; therefore, the conditions predicating a peace process on Israeli security must be compromised. We've seen this movie before. In the run-up to the Iraq war, the US came under tremendous pressure from Arab states and Europe to "deliver" Israel in return for support on Iraq. After Ariel Sharon's "Czechoslovakia" speech, accusing the US of sacrificing Israeli interests to help build its anti-terror coalition, President George W. Bush came full circle and effectively, in June 2002, called for Yasser Arafat's ouster. This, in turn, led to Europe distancing itself from Arafat and to the road map. Perhaps this time we could skip the false start and take a smarter course from the beginning. There is, indeed, an alternative to Western nodding in agreement when the Arab states say, "We would like to help, but first you have to pressure Israel." This time, the Western response should be: "Yes, we agree there should be a peace process, but we need it to be part of a joint policy to defeat the jihadis and Iran, rather than one that encourages these forces that threaten all of us. And we need you to deliver your part of the bargain." The Arab states should be told that if they want a peace process, they have to contribute to making it meaningful. They can do this by making UN Security Council Resolution 1701 work through pressure on Lebanon and Syria to further weaken Hizbullah instead of allowing it to rebuild; by stopping the flow of arms through Egypt to Hamas; and by acting against rampant incitement against Jews and Israel. The recent war saw Israel fighting the same Iranian-jihadi axis that threatens the Atlantic alliance and Arab states. Any policy that subverts Israel's interests in the name of fighting that axis will help inflame the jihadis, and therefore end up subverting itself.