Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Is Al-Queda Good for Israel?

Today I'm wondering about this argument: Islamic militancy is a gift to Israel, because Israel is put in the position of a bulwark against an apocalyptic, nihilistic menace. With increasing civil conflict around Muslim assimilation in Europe, and signs of an anti-militant backlash developing in the Arab world, Israel may come to have a new diplomatic pass from quarters that have spurned it for decades. Like the by-the-numbers diplomacy of the Cold War era, Middle East diplomacy is becoming formulaic. It turns out that not all suicide bombers are the same: if the cause is global religious totalitarianism, sympathy will be in short supply. This week we're hearing that Al-Queda is now making a push to establish operations in Palestine, while the jihadis are out-gunning the Lebanese Army in that country.
All of this appears to play into a well-established strategy of the Israelis. They have always sought to undermine the development of effective Palestinian government and security. Since the days of Begin, and epitomized by Sharon, Likud strategy has been to forestall and prevent the emergence of a credible Palestinian state. Now the policy is paying off as the vacuum is filled with an enemy that justifies the most aggressive militancy, including perpetual occupation.
Israel must face up to its own responsibility for the radicalization of Arab politics. It may be that the path of aggression will pay off, the Arab masses will turn against Islamic fundamentalism and militancy, and peace with acceptance of Israel will be secured. But I'm skeptical. Sectarian conflict is all about individual choice. Amazingly enough, we humans often choose to live in a state of perpetual war. That is the path that Israel has taken. To leave that path will require fairly radical changes, and those changes get harder and harder to make as the Arab world becomes more and more alienated, more and more reactionary. Today, Israelis can go one of two ways: they can say, "Look at these radical Islamists, and don't blame us for living by the sword," ignoring their own role in the evolution of the situation, or they can stop digging the hole.

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