[lit-ideas] [lit-id] fyi, David Brooks, NYT select

  • From: Carol Kirschenbaum <carolkir@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 15 Jul 2006 19:51:21 -0700

Op-Ed Columnist By DAVID BROOKS
Published: July 16, 2006
Why is this Middle East crisis different from all other Middle East crises? 
Because in all other Middle East crises, Israel's main rivals were the 
P.L.O., Egypt, Iraq and Syria, but in this crisis the main rivals are the 
jihadists in Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and, most important, Iran. In all other 
crises the nutjobs were on the fringes, but now the nutjobs in Hamas and 
Hezbollah are in governments and lead factions of major parties.

In all other crises, the Palestinians, thanks to Yasir Arafat's strenuous 
efforts, owned their own cause, but now the clerics in Iran are taking 
control of the Palestinian cause and turning it into a weapon in a much 
larger struggle.

In all other crises there was a negotiation process, a set of plans and some 
hope of reconciliation. But this crisis is different. Iran doesn't do road 
maps. The jihadists who are driving this crisis don't do reconciliation.

In other words, this crisis is a return to the elemental conflict between 
Israel and those who seek to destroy it. And you can kiss goodbye, at least 
for the time being, to some of the features of the recent crises.

You can kiss goodbye to the fascinating chess match known as the Middle East 
peace process. That chess match was dependent on a series of smart and 
reasonable Arab players with whom Israel could negotiate. Those smart and 
reasonable interlocutors still exist. They still invite visiting Westerners 
to dinner and may still represent the majority of their countrymen. But they 
are not running the show now.

Iran has conducted a semi-hostile takeover of what used to be known as the 
Arab-Israeli dispute. Iran has deepened and widened its support for its 
terrorist partners. Iran and the Islamists are fueled by the sense that the 
winds of history are blowing at their back. They pushed the Soviets out of 
Afghanistan, the U.S. out of Lebanon, Israel out of Lebanon and Gaza and 
they seem on the verge of pushing the U.S. out of Iraq. After centuries of 
Muslim humiliation, these people know how to win.

So Hamas and Hezbollah audaciously set the pace of confrontation. Maybe the 
moderates will eventually crack down on the radicals (there's a first time 
for everything), but in the meantime there will be no peace process. There 
will be no shuttle diplomacy. Instead, the main mode of communication will 
be death: the minuet of missile launches and retaliations, escalations and 
de-escalations that irreconcilable enemies use to talk with one another.

You can also kiss goodbye to the land-for-peace mentality. In all other 
crises there was the hope that if Israel ceded land and gave the 
Palestinians a chance to lead normal lives, then tensions would ease. But 
this crisis follows withdrawals in Lebanon and Gaza, and interrupts the 
withdrawals from the West Bank that were at the core of Ehud Olmert's 
victory platform.

Israel's main enemies in this crisis are not normal parties and governments 
that act on behalf of their people. They are jihadist organizations that 
happen to have gained control of territory for bases of operations. Hamas 
and Hezbollah knew their kidnappings and missile launches would set off 
retaliation that would hurt Gazans and Lebanese, but they attacked anyway - 
for the sake of jihad. They answer to a higher authority and dream of 
genocide in his name.

What's happened over the past few years, in short, is that public opinion in 
Israel has moved to the center at the same time that decision-making power 
on the other side has moved to the extreme.

Now there is a debate over how Israel should respond to this situation. Some 
say Israel should temper its response so Arab moderates can corral the 
extremists, which would be great advice if the moderates had any record of 
ever doing that or any capacity to do so in the near future. Others say 
Israel simply must degrade the capabilities of its fanatical opponents.

But this is a secondary issue. The core issue is that just as Israel has 
been trying to pull back to more sensible borders, its enemies have gone 
completely berserk. Through some combination of fecklessness and passivity, 
the Arab world has ceded control of this vital flashpoint to Mahmoud 
Ahmadinejad and Bashar al-Assad. It has ceded its own destiny to people who 
do not believe in freedom, democracy, tolerance or any of the values 
civilized people hold dear.

And what's the world's response? Israel is overreacting.

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