Published in September 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
Prospect readers have their say
Peace in the Middle East
I am a former foreign office colleague of Tom Phillips (“Failure is the most likely outcome,” August) from the late 1990s, when we dealt with Balkan issues. I recall President Izetbegovic telling me that the Bosniac Muslim community in Bosnia was so small it could not afford “ethnic disarmament” until it was quite sure that its neighbours (the Serbs and Croats) were not bent on scattering it.
The underlying dynamic in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is as simple. Neither side sees any advantage in “ethnic disarmament.” The emerging Arab mainstream is content to erode Israel’s resistance by creating endless and unpleasant—if not violent—existential uncertainty. The Israeli leadership responds by digging in hard. The Palestinians are collateral damage. Phillips’s article acknowledges this.
The best way to create a context in which Israel is compelled to look for strategic compromises is to democratise the Middle East and give its citizens some direct stake in a reasonable peace process and shared prosperity. Unfortunately, the world for 50 years has accepted the worst and most extreme forms of non-democratic Arab government, not least in Saudi Arabia. In short, a policy of “the worse the better” suits too many capitals.
Charles Crawford Bampton
“The Americans can never be a genuinely impartial broker—the whole weight of their system and their perceptions tilt them towards the Israelis,” writes Tom Phillips. American views toward Israel are shifting. Most commentators here see a chasm opening up between American Jews and Israelis. Frankly, the idea of a rabidly pro-Israel American culture is a distortion. The United States is far more willing to evaluate its alliances with countries based on our national interests.
David Pritchard, Wisconsin