Commentary Magazine


Bibi Says No To Linkage

Broadly speaking, there are two schools of thought on the Israeli-Arab conflict. The traditional State Department/Arabist/Leftist approach holds that the ongoing statelessness of the Palestinians is a profound burden on the consciences of Arabs everywhere and the inspiration for radicalism in the region. Thus, the first step in tempering the restiveness of the Middle East is to address the Palestinian problem. Solve this, says everyone from Zbigniew Brzezinski to European diplomats to Arab autocrats, and the solutions to most other conundrums in the Middle East will come into view.

The competing school holds that, to the extent Arab radicalism is shaped by current events — this is a big qualifier — it is intentionally fomented by regional factions for whom unrest, violence, and dissatisfaction serve strategic purposes. There are good reasons, in other words, why Iran and Syria support Hezbollah and Hamas, one of which is the capacity of these groups to keep America and Israel mired in diplomatic failure. (Martin Kramer has written at length on this “myth of linkage.”)

Uzi Arad is expected to be Netanyahu’s national security adviser, and in an interview with Reuters he said the following:

“No one in his right mind would do a deal with Syria, let alone do the concessions that Mr. Olmert alluded to, if it remained aligned with Iran. It would just bring Iran closer to us,” Arad told Reuters…. “The more Iran becomes strong, the closer it gets to nuclear weapons, the more terrified the moderates in the Arab world and the Palestinian people become, and the more emboldened the radicals and the extremists are,” Arad said. “So whichever way you look at it the order of priority is: blunt Iran first, move vigorously on peace after, and based on that. Should you act in the wrong order…you will have a sterile, perhaps failed process with the Palestinians and at the same time you will end up with a nuclear Iran.”

Translation: radicalism makes addressing the Palestinian problem impossible, not the other way around. The first obligation of strategists, before considerations of ideology or interests, is to accurately perceive reality, and then allow priorities to derive from that assessment.