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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 6-Feb-2020
6-Feb-20 World View -- Israeli diplomat reveals Israel's startling new 'pragmatic' foreign policy

Web Log - February, 2020

6-Feb-20 World View -- Israeli diplomat reveals Israel's startling new 'pragmatic' foreign policy

Implications of Israel's new 'pragmatic' policy

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

Israeli diplomat reveals Israel's startling new 'pragmatic' foreign policy

President Obama glares furiously after Benjamin Netanyahu rejects Obama's peace plan and 'lectures' Obama on the reason - in this iconic photo taken at an Oval Office meeting on May 20, 2011 (Reuters)
President Obama glares furiously after Benjamin Netanyahu rejects Obama's peace plan and 'lectures' Obama on the reason - in this iconic photo taken at an Oval Office meeting on May 20, 2011 (Reuters)

There was a program on al-Jazeera today that a discussed possible close relationship between Israel and Sudan. One of the people interviewed is Alon Liel, a former Israeli diplomat to a number of different countries.

I found what he said about Israel's strategy to be quite startling. It described a major change in strategy by Israel's leadership that occurred 15 years ago:

"The founders of Israel aimed at political, social, cultural integration of Israel with the Middle East. The plan was that this would result in integration with the Arabs and the Palestinians, and peace.

About 15 years ago this was dropped. Nobody in Israel among the Jewish politicians is speaking about peace with the Palestinians today.

The basic assumption is that since we will not have peace with the Palestinians, the Muslim-Arab world will never accept Israel politically.

The change is that we are aiming at economic, technological, maybe some intelligence relations, and supply the Arab countries, Muslim African countries, with basic economic needs, in order to improve relations bilaterally.

This does mean that Israel is aiming to be part of the Mideast. We forgot about it. We behave as a European country, the leadership of Israel today sees Israel as a Western country, part of Europe, if you want, part of the United States, but definitely not part of the Middle East.

Even with Egypt and Jordan, where we have really stable peace, it's based on security and some economic technological issues, not on political support. The public doesn't like us - not in Egypt, not in Jordan - definitely no cultural relations, no tourism. So there is a different approach in Israel. We are rich.

If you want, Sudan, if you want, any other poor country on the globe, we can give you what you need, if you normalize relations with us economically, because more we cannot give."

This could be described as a "very pragmatic" foreign policy. Israelis and Arabs will always hate each other, but Israel is willing to spend money to keep the peace.

Implications of Israel's new 'pragmatic' policy

This major change of policy took place about 15 years ago, or about 2004. I can't recall ever reading anything about this change of policy. I guess I've been fooled as much as anyone else.

It was just a week ago that President Trump announced his "Peace to Prosperity" Mideast peace plan. In my article, I said that there's no way that this Rube Goldberg peace proposal is going to survive. ( "29-Jan-20 World View -- Trump announces fantasy 'Peace to Prosperity' Mideast peace plan")

So what the hell was all that? Was it just a big show that had to be put on for international leaders who are always demanding that the US take a "leadership role" in the Mideast peace process, so that they can shoot it down. Is that why Trump put forth this farcical peace plan?

There is one strange thing that I would like to mention. When Benjamin Netanyahu was at the White House with Trump last week to announce the "peace plan," I noticed something that was off -- Netanyahu was always had a broad grin on his face, and gave me the impression that he was laughing at the whole thing. And now, in retrospect, I would say that he probably was laughing at the whole thing, because he knew it was just a show. Did Trump know it was just a show? I don't know.

Bush, Obama and Trump -- Mideast peace plans

This policy change took place 15 years ago, soon after president George Bush published his "Mideast Roadmap to Peace on May 1, 2003. I predicted at that time that Bush's peace plan would never succeed, because Israel and the Palestinians would be re-fighting the bloody 1948 war between Jews and Arabs that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. ("Mideast Roadmap - Will it bring peace? (1-May-2003)")

A major policy change like this often is part of a major generational change, and that seems to be the case here. From the point of view of generational theory, Israel transited from a generational Unraveling era, when the public mood strong favors compromise, into a generational Crisis era, when the public mood becomes more xenophobic and nationalistic. This occurred in 2006, 58 years after the end of the bloody 1948-49 Jewish-Arab war, when enough of the survivors of that war all disappeared (retired or died), all at once, leaving behind younger, much more belligerent generations.

And recall that 2006 was the time of Israel's disastrous 2006 invasion of Lebanon to attack Hezbollah. Israel panicked when two Israeli soldiers were abducted near Lebanon's border, and conducted a highly emotional, organic and uncontrolled invasion of Lebanon. The war was a disaster for all involved. After a few months, the war had run its course, with nothing accomplished except to destroy a lot of Lebanon's infrastructure in airstrikes, and displace a lot of Lebanese from their homes.

One more memory -- 2005 was the year when Israel withdrew from Gaza and turned it over to the Palestinians as a gesture of peace, something it now regrets. The was perhaps the last major decision of Israel's Unraveling era, prior to the beginning of the Crisis era, and the disastrous 2006 invasion of Lebanon.

The next event of note occurred in May 2011, when President Obama offered his own Mideast "peace plan." ( "20-May-11 News -- Obama and Netanyahu in sharp disagreement after speech")

You may recall the picture at the beginning of this article, which was taken on May 20, 2011, just after Obama presented his peace plan to Netanyahu and the public. It became famous because Obama was angrily glaring at Netanyahu as the latter was rejecting Obama's plan, and was lecturing Obama why it wouldn't work.

What's interesting about this today is that, just as I wasn't aware that Israel had had a major change of policy five years earlier, apparently Obama hadn't gotten that memo either. Hadn't Netanyahu bothered to inform the Obama administration of Israel's new policy?

Which brings us back to Trump's "Peace to Prosperity" peace plan, presented by Trump to Netanyahu in the White House last week. Netanyahu didn't lecture Trump the way he had lectured Obama. Instead, he was grinning broadly the whole time, and seemed to be enjoying the joke. Did Trump get the joke? Had Trump gotten the memo?

One way of looking at it is that Trump did get the memo, and the plan was consistent with Israel's new "pragmatic" regional policy. In particular, Trump promised $60 billion to Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt to spend on Palestinians to implement the rest of the policy. That certainly is consistent with the pragmatic approach.

Unfortunately, we get back to the other problems that I raised in my January 29 article. The average age in the Palestinian territories is around 20, which means that most of the Palestinians are literally children. And those children will not accept the "pragmatic" proposals, even if their geezer leaders do.


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