A Realist’s Middle East Strategy

In quite the tour-de-force, Stephen Walt gives his rundown on Middle East strategy from a realist point of view (after debunking the myths relayed by Friedman on the regular).  He gets the history right and refreshes the shit outta anyone reasonable with his nakedly realist approach.  I don’t have much time to sweeten up the post right now, but this is definitely worth your reading:

To begin with, Friedman would have you believe that settlement expansion is just the work of some isolated religious extremists, and the only problem is that no Israeli government has “mustered the will” to face them down. In fact, settlement expansion has been the conscious policy of every Israeli government since 1967 — Labor, Likud, and Kadima alike.


From a realist’s standpoint, therefore, the obvious strategy is one of “divide-and-rule” (except that we aren’t seeking to rule the region; we’re just trying to protect certain key strategic interests). Achieving a two-state solution would remove one of the issues that Iran is using to bolster its regional position. Encouraging Israel and Syria to finalize their peace treaty — an agreement whose main elements have been in place for nearly a decade — would end Syria’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas and drive a wedge between Syria and Iran. Serious diplomatic engagement with Iran and a genuine willingness to satisfy Tehran’s security concerns (especially its fear of U.S.-sponsored regime change) would reduce its incentive to play the spoiler’s role over Palestine and make it easier for Israel to make the concessions that are necessary for peace. Lastly, the prospect of diminishing Iranian and Syrian backing would force Hamas to confront some hard choices — i.e., on recognizing Israel’s right to exist — especially if a two-state solution begins to take shape and they are seen as the principal impediment to it.


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