Israel's Choice: Peace or Anarchy? the Jewish State Needs Arab Allies against New Tides of Statelessness

By Lind, William S. | The American Conservative, March-April 2015 | Go to article overview

Israel's Choice: Peace or Anarchy? the Jewish State Needs Arab Allies against New Tides of Statelessness


Lind, William S., The American Conservative


For all our follies elsewhere in the world, the fact remains that friction between Israel and the Arabs is our most dangerous foreign-policy problem. Domestic political realities guarantee that the American commitment to Israel will endure. Israel is to us what Serbia was to Tsarist Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Despite America's vast investment of diplomatic capital in negotiating a two-state peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, that route is blocked. Even if Netanyahu is replaced as prime minister in Israel's upcoming election, the blockage will remain because the Fatah government cannot renounce the "right of return" of Palestinians. If it did so, Hamas would quickly replace it as the legitimate voice of Palestinians in the West Bank as well as in Gaza. No Israeli leader can ever accept the right of return of millions of Palestinians to what is now Israel because it would mean the end of the Jewish character of the state.

But there is another way to peace between Israel and her neighbors, including both the Palestinians and surrounding Arab states. To see it, we must look at the situation--and lead the Israelis and the Arabs to look at it--through the lens of Fourth Generation war, which is waged by non-state elements against states or each other.

Fourth Generation groups foster and feed off the decline and eventual disappearance of the state. Examples include Hezbollah, which lives inside the shell of a weak Lebanese state; ISIS, which despite calling itself a state is not--a caliphate is a pre-state type of government--and the various militias that now dominate two areas where the state has vanished, Libya and Iraq.

Fourth Generation war is a threat to all states and to the state system itself. Nowhere is this threat greater than in the Middle East. Every state there is facing it, directly or indirectly, on its own soil or on the soil of its neighbors. When I say "all states," I include Israel and the Arab states alike. Seen from a Fourth Generation perspective, Israel and the Arab states now face a common threat more dangerous by far than any they pose to each other.

From this perspective, a new road to peace is visible. It begins with the Arab Peace Initiative, a proposal put forward initially in 2002, then more strongly in 2007, by the Arab states. (In 2007, all the members of the Arab League endorsed the proposal except the Palestinian Authority and Libya.) It offers genuine peace between the Arab states and Israel, peace with normal political, economic, and cultural relations in exchange for Israel's return to its 1967 borders and the creation of a state of Palestine in the West Bank occupying all the land therein, not just enclaves. …

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