Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A Model for the Middle East

Thomas Friedman writes,
The opponents want to destroy the idea of a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, so Israel will be stuck with an apartheid-like, democracy-sapping, permanent occupation of the West Bank. And they want to destroy the idea of a one-state solution for Iraqis and keep Iraq fractured, so it never coheres into a multisectarian democracy that could be an example for other states in the region.
Let me see if I understand. It would be horrible if the leading democracy and freest, best educated state in the Middle East had to transform itself from a theocratic to a multisectarian democracy. But it would be an enormous victory and model for the region if a fractious state, scarred by totalitarian rule, a decade of war and crippling sanctions became a multisectarian democracy that could serve as a model for the non-democratic states in the region? What nations are in Friedman's mind, when he contemplates Iraq as eventually becoming an inspiration for democratic, multisectarian democracy?

As a proponent of a two state solution, I understand the consequences to Israel of formally annexing the occupied territories and assimilating the Palestinian population (or creating an apartheid state). A successful multisectarian state in Iraq won't change that, nor will it convince Iran that it should stop being a Persian state and share power with its various ethnic minorities, nor Jordan that it should abandon monarchy in favor of what would very likely be a Palestinian-led democracy. The U.S. insistence that Iraq remain unified is not born of a love for multisectarian government. It results from the fact that there is no easy way to carve up the country between Shiite and Sunny and, to the extent that it might be feasible to create an independent Kurdistan, that would antagonize all of the new nation's neighbors including and perhaps especially our NATO ally, Turkey. And seriously, what lesson would be more powerful? That of ethnic separation to preserve the ethnic nature of the statue, or that of a fractious coalition that, for decades and perhaps generations, will remain at risk of fracturing into civil war?

Friedman invokes Yitzhak Rabin, to try to bring out the best of the leaders involved in the formation of Iraq's future government and the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,
The late Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin used to say he would pursue peace with the Palestinians as if there were no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there were no peace process. That dual approach is one that Iraqi, Arab, Palestinian and Israeli moderates are all going to have to adopt.
But let's not forget, Yitzhak Rabin was killed by one of his own countrymen because of his desire to end the occupation and to protect Israel's Jewish identity. (Although obviously Rabin's assassin didn't see it that way, I expect Friedman does.) Anwar Sadat's assassination is frequently attributed to his participation in the Camp David Accords which created a lasting peace between Egypt and Israel and worked very much to the advantage of Egypt. I don't sense that any of the region's current leaders have even a tenth of their courage.

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