Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Walt on "The Treason of Hawks"

What is Benjamin Netanyahu Thinking? | Stephen M. Walt

I am substantially more sympathetic to international relations realists than I used to be, especially of the defensive variety. Contrary to the psychotic image of them encouraged by the likes of Henry Kissinger, nearly all of the them came out against the Iraq invasion, before it was politically expedient.

Walt has an interesting take on the pitfalls of single-minded hawkishness in the context of Netanhayu and the two-state solution:
After pointing out that "treason" is a word that carries especially harsh moral connotations, Ikle noted:
[T]he English language is without a word of equally strong opprobrium to designate acts that can lead to the destruction of one’s government and one’s country, not by giving aid and comfort to the enemy, but by making enemies, not by fighting too little, but by fighting too much and too long. 'Adventurism' -- much too weak a word -- is perhaps the best term to describe this 'treason of the hawks.' ... Treason can help our enemies destroy our country by making them stronger; adventurism can destroy our country by making our enemies more numerous."
I was reminded of IklĂ©’s insights when I read about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ideas for resuming the peace process with the Palestinians. Netanyahu clearly wants to avoid an open rift with the Obama administration, which has forcefully reiterated its commitment to negotiating a two-state solution. To do that, he has to pay lip service to the peace process. But because Netanyahu has long opposed the creation of a viable Palestinian state and instead wants to extend Israel's control of the West Bank, he has to lay out a set of demands that will endlessly delay the process and make it hard for Obama to put meaningful pressure on him.
According to Ha'aretz, Netanyahu will insist that the Palestinians go beyond their prior recognition of Israel's right to exist (as expressed in the 1993 Oslo Accord) and explicitly recognize Israel as a "Jewish state." Furthermore, he wants the United States to agree that a future Palestinian state be barred from possessing its own army and forbidden from making alliances with other countries, while Israel is permitted to monitor its borders, its airspace, and its use of the electromagnetic spectrum, presumably in perpetuity. In the meantime, the expansion of Israeli settlements will surely continue, and in ways that will soon preclude any possibility of a territorially contiguous state on the West Bank. Lastly, Netanyahu wants to link progress toward a two-state solution with an end to Iran's nuclear program. As I've noted before, this condition would allow Tehran -- purposely or inadvertently -- to derail a two-state solution by stonewalling on the nuclear issue. Ironically, this outcome might suit Iran and Netanyahu alike: Israel could keep expanding settlements and the Islamic Republic could continue to play the Palestine card against its Arab rivals.

My question is this: What is Netanyahu thinking? Doesn't he realize that time has nearly run out for the two-state solution, and that failure to achieve it is by far the most serious threat facing Israel? The prime minister and his allies keep harping about an "existential" threat from Iran, but this bogeyman is mostly nonsense. Iran has zero -- repeat, zero -- nuclear weapons today, and even if it were to acquire a few at some point in the future, it could not use them against nuclear-armed Israel without committing national suicide. Let me say that again: national suicide.
It is just refreshing to read someone who treat Iranians and Palestinians like actual people.

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