Mideast Peace Rests with Arabs, Not U.S., Europe

[Bloomberg] Bernard Lewis - The current fighting in Gaza raises again the agonizing question: What kind of accommodation is possible, if ever, between Israel and the Arabs? In several Arab countries at the present time, and in wider Arab circles, there is a growing perception that they face a danger more deadly and menacing than Israel: the threat of militant, radical Shiite Islam, directed from Iran. Iran, a non-Arab state with a long imperial tradition, seeks to extend its rule across the Arab lands toward the Mediterranean. Iranian tentacles are spreading westward into Iraq and beyond into Syria, Lebanon and the Palestine territories, notably Gaza. This double threat of Iranian empire and Shiite revolution is seen by many Arab leaders as constituting a greater threat than Israel could ever pose. During the war in Lebanon in 2006 between Israel and the Iranian-supported Shiite Hizbullah, the usual Arab support for the Arab side was strikingly absent. Some Arab governments and Arab peoples were hoping for an Israeli victory, and their disappointment was palpable. We see similar ambiguities over the situation in Gaza. Many see Gaza as a mortal threat to the Sunni Arab establishment. In this situation, it is not impossible that some consensus will emerge, along the lines of Sadat's accommodation with Israel, for the maintenance of the status quo. Such a peace, like that between Egypt and Israel, would be at best cool, and always threatened by radical forces, but it would certainly be better than a state of war, and it could last a long time. The writer is professor emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University.

2009-01-07 06:00:00

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