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From the Right: The Big “Plonter”

When the US supported free elections in Gaza strip the terrorist group Hamas won, and quickly moved to consolidate power by arming themselves and forcing the losing Palestinian Authority out of the strip.  Pushing the Palestinians to embark on the democratic path proved in retrospect to be a total failure.  The elections in Israel of course were not forced on Israel by the US, but ironically, its recent outcome is partially related to a lacking sense of security for which Hamas is partially responsible for.  While no single party won enough votes to form a stable government the undeniable trend is one of a major shift to the right while dealing a decisive blow to the left.  That’s where the “plonter”, which means entangled knot (Yiddish), comes in.  The Israeli election seems to have produced the worse knot in modern Israel’s short history.  Lengthy coalition negotiations and wrangling is about to begin in earnest.  The end of the process will most likely bring little guarantee of long term stability, of what is shaping to be a government of the right. 

All this is leading to a possibility of a major showdown sooner than later with the new US administration.  The first disagreement is most likely to develop over settlements, either the so called illegal posts, or the expansion of existing and government supported ones.  One tool at Obama’s disposal for employing pressure is monetary in nature. The last serious and unsuccessful effort in trying to force Israel on the issue of settlements was during the senior Bush presidency, through the use of loan guarantees as leverage.  Ironically, the current economical crisis may actually increase the effectiveness of such leverage at the risk of toppling the Israeli government.

Obama’s eagerness to dive head first into the Middle East swamp seems courageous but the manner by which he decides to do it will determine its success. There is little doubt that the “small radius” conflict which lies between Israel and the Palestinians with all its complexities needs attention.  However, this radius is overshadowed and influenced by a larger one. The large radius conflict in the Middle East involves Iran and its ideological and military branches, ie. Hamas and Hizbulla.  Any effort to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without first dealing with Iran, and confronting its destructive role and nuclear ambitions, is doomed.  Suicide bombers or other violent acts by groups supported by Iran and Syria showed time and again their ability to bring any peace process to a screeching halt.  Needless to say that throwing “nuclear Iran” into the mix does not help.

Parallel to dealing with rugged countries like Iran, Obama will be well advised to push another campaign pledge, developing an alternative to oil.  This promised to be the best and the most realistic hope for peace in the Middle East.   Lack of oil funds would lower the propensity for war and acts of terrorism by depriving the needed sources to initiate them. 

One thing is clear, whatever the disagreements, the US and Israel should make an extra effort of keeping the special relationship between the two countries plonter free.

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