Saturday, September 24, 2011

A New Middle East Reality

Oh my, my.  Mahmoud Abbas has called Barack Obama's bluff and applied to the United Nations for Palestinian statehood.   It will fall to the United States to veto the motion, spilling international political capital the US no longer has in much abundance.   With that, America loses its last shred of credibility in the Muslim world, especially with Israel's neighbours.   Obama has but two choices - either he wrestles a triumphant Benjamin Netanyahu to a genuine settlement or he posits America as Israel's discredited stooge, paving the way for a geopolitical realignment in the Middle East.   China stands ready and willing to supplant US hegemony in the Middle East, further cementing its ascendancy globally.

Middle East expert Robert Fisk, says there's no going back:

"The Palestinians won't get a state this week. But they will prove – if they get enough votes in the General Assembly and if Mahmoud Abbas does not succumb to his characteristic grovelling in the face of US-Israeli power – that they are worthy of statehood. And they will establish for the Arabs what Israel likes to call – when it is enlarging its colonies on stolen land – "facts on the ground": never again can the United States and Israel snap their fingers and expect the Arabs to click their heels. The US has lost its purchase on the Middle East. It's over: the "peace process", the "road map", the "Oslo agreement"; the whole fandango is history.

"Personally, I think "Palestine" is a fantasy state, impossible to create now that the Israelis have stolen so much of the Arabs' land for their colonial projects. Go take a look at the West Bank, if you don't believe me. Israel's massive Jewish colonies, its pernicious building restrictions on Palestinian homes of more than one storey and its closure even of sewage systems as punishment, the "cordons sanitaires" beside the Jordanian frontier, the Israeli-only settlers' roads have turned the map of the West Bank into the smashed windscreen of a crashed car. Sometimes, I suspect that the only thing that prevents the existence of "Greater Israel" is the obstinacy of those pesky Palestinians.

"But we are now talking of much greater matters. This vote at the UN – General Assembly or Security Council, in one sense it hardly matters – is going to divide the West – Americans from Europeans and scores of other nations – and it is going to divide the Arabs from the Americans. It is going to crack open the divisions in the European Union; between eastern and western Europeans, between Germany and France (the former supporting Israel for all the usual historical reasons, the latter sickened by the suffering of the Palestinians) and, of course, between Israel and the EU.

"A great anger has been created in the world by decades of Israeli power and military brutality and colonisation; millions of Europeans, while conscious of their own historical responsibility for the Jewish Holocaust and well aware of the violence of Muslim nations, are no longer cowed in their criticism for fear of being abused as anti-Semites. There is racism in the West – and always will be, I fear – against Muslims and Africans, as well as Jews. But what are the Israeli settlements on the West Bank, in which no Arab Muslim Palestinian can live, but an expression of racism?

"...So goodbye to  [Israel's] only regional allies, Turkey and Egypt, in the space of scarcely 12 months. Israel's cabinet is composed both of intelligent, potentially balanced people such as Ehud Barak, and fools such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the Ahmadinejad of Israeli politics. Sarcasm aside, Israelis deserve better than this."

If Obama runs true to form, he'll do what previous American administrations have done when confounded by Israeli intransigence - he'll put the matter on the shelf and wait.   Only this time Washington's waiting game may be hexed.  A collapse of American hegemony over the Middle East could be a milestone in America's global decline and a Great Leap Forward for Beijing.

Update:  For another take on how Obama's bungling is playing straight into the hands of China, follow this link to Asia Times.   Meanwhile, al Jazeera, is calling it "The Humiliation of Barack Obama. 
As he prepares to singularly veto Palestine's statehood bid, he must be thinking to himself: 'This isn't right'."

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