Start the year off right. Easy ways to stay in shape.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 5 Jan 2008 15:16:41 EST
Subject: Fwd: Articles that might interest you
These essays are by Daniel Levy, our fellow "alumnus" of last summer's Liechtenstein conference on Iran. In my opinion Daniel is, with remarkable consistency, one of the most balanced and insightful of all analysts focused on the Middle East. The views he expresses here are perfect examples of those exceptional qualities.
Start the year off right. Easy ways to stay in shape.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Daniel Levy" <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, 4 Jan 2008 14:21:04 -0500
Subject: Articles that might interest you
I wanted to share with you these articles that I have had published recently. The first is from the International Herald Tribune and looks at the role of Secretary Rice and three lessons to be learned from the Lebanon war in the summer of '06. It can be read here on the IHT site or here on the blog and is pasted below.
The second article appears in today's Haaretz and looks forward to President Bush's visit to Israel next week. It can be read here on Haaretz or here on the blog and is also pasted below.
Finally, here is a piece on Iran policy that was put out by the JTA and appeared in the Jerusalem Post and other places. It can be read here on the blog and is again pasted below.
Let me take this opportunity to wish you a healthy, happy and peaceful New Year.
Director, Prospects for Peace Initiative
Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation; Senior Fellow, New America Foundation
Visit my blog at: www.prospectsforpeace.com
International Herald Tribune
Rice's history lessons
By Daniel Levy
December 25, 2007
With the Annapolis conference and the Paris fund-raising effort to aid the Palestinians behind us, the Middle East peace process is now in need of constant vigilance. President George W. Bush will visit the region in January, but it is Condoleezza Rice who will be looked upon to provide a guiding hand.
The new peace effort is very much her baby. A look at the war in Lebanon last summer, and Rice's management of it, provides some clues to the challenges ahead.
Kessler describes a sweltering mid-summer Roman conference hall, the image of a "bedraggled Rice . . . wiping beads of sweat from her forehead," is splashed across the world media.
According to Kessler, "Rice did not look strong or in control; she looked in over her head."
That image was banished at Annapolis. Rice looked the very embodiment of poise, stature and accomplishment.
To be effective in peace however, the secretary of state will need to learn three lessons from her handling of the Lebanon War: that fragile Arab polities are best stabilized by reconciliation, not confrontation, that American diplomatic leadership should be timely and persistent, not sluggish and sporadic, and that the special relationship between Jerusalem and Washington should be used to help Israel climb down from precarious ladders, not scramble further up them.
The war in Lebanon was supposed to be about handing Hezbollah a crushing defeat and reshaping that country's politics. Things didn't work out that way. Lebanon is deeply divided, and exacerbating that division was counterproductive. Political progress will necessitate difficult domestic compromises.
The reality for the Palestinians is somewhat similar. A sustainable Israeli-Palestinian peace cannot be constructed on the edifice of Palestinian division. Hamas should be offered incentives to join the process.
Hamas and the Gaza Strip it controls are important not only because they pose the threat of violence, but also because they are potentially capable of bestowing greater legitimacy on a fragile peace effort, making possible the implementation of any deal that is reached.
Rice must remember Lebanon, pursue a Gaza-Israel cease-fire, and encourage reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas - something that can be done indirectly via third parties.
The most conspicuous aspect of American diplomacy in that summer of war was that it went AWOL for a critical month. Only on day 34 of the fighting did the United States facilitate UN passage of Security Council Resolution 1701, ending the war.
Rice's diplomacy (or lack thereof) prevented the push for an immediate cease-fire.
Post-Annapolis success requires something different - early and frequent American intervention. Bush and Rice have talked about supporting a bilateral process between Israelis and Palestinians. They will have to do more than that. It is already evident that the United States needs to baby-sit the parties. This applies to commitments undertaken to improve daily life - freezing settlements, improving security, and easing closures. Beyond that, the United States should be ready to submit bridging proposals to seal a detailed framework agreement on the core issues - territory, Jerusalem, refugees and security.
U.S. diplomatic leadership does not mean American solo-ism, the United States should better integrate the Quartet and Arab states into the process, including Syria. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel recently told the Haaretz newspaper that if Israel did not achieve a two-state solution, it was "finished."
It is hard not to see this message as being addressed to both an Israeli and American audience. A translation for the nuance-challenged: Help me to do what I know to be necessary for Israel's survival. It is easier for an Israeli prime minister to say yes on a tough issue to an American president than to the Chairman of the PLO.
So, the third lesson is this - the United States does neither itself, nor its friends in Jerusalem any favors when it out-koshers the Israelis. The special relationship is more constructively deployed when it helps Israel get beyond debilitating addictions to occupied territories and settlements, for instance.
By opposing an early diplomatic exit strategy to the Lebanon war, Rice displayed a simplistic reading of the special relationship and ultimately harmed both Israel's security and America's standing.
Senior Israeli ministers are on record testifying to an investigating committee that when they voted in the cabinet to authorize the initial military strike they did not consider this to be the start of a prolonged war. Their working assumption was that diplomatic pressure would end the military conflict after 48 to 96 hours.
That did not happen - America prevented it, thereby making Israel a prisoner to accomplishing a mission that was never realistic. The delay in diplomacy did not change the substance of the deal eventually reached, it did, however, cause more death, destruction and loss of American prestige.
Rice knows both the parameters of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement and that delay in reaching that deal has similar but far more devastating consequences. The challenge now is for her to learn the lessons of that sticky day in Rome.
Haaretz israel news English
When Ehud meets George
By Daniel Levy
January 4, 2008
The finishing touches are being applied to preparations for next week's presidential visit. After more than 2,500 days in the White House, George W. Bush will grace the Holy Land with his presence, and Ehud Olmert can notch up an achievement denied to his predecessor, Ariel Sharon - of hosting an American president. The script for such an occasion almost writes itself. The president will visit all the usual Israeli and Jewish sites of history, heartbreak and heroism, identifying with our suffering and marveling at our achievements. In pledging allegiance to the peace process, Olmert and Bush will leave no vow of sincerity unspoken. Each country's media will speculate on motivations - Olmert may be hoping for a protective, pre-Winograd-report presidential blanket; Bush may want to leave behind a peace legacy. Everybody goes home happy, but that's it. Except, presidents don't visit every day, and today the dilemmas facing both nations as they look around the region seem more basic, weighty and troubling.
The story of Olmert's political journey and his frequent statements about Israel's future suggest that he is not in office to tread water; he has a purpose. The one part of the visit that is probably not finalized - what Olmert intends to tell Bush in private - provides Israel's leader with an opportunity to develop the kind of substantive agenda with which he has previously flirted.
It would require a little hubris, but next week Olmert could help shape Middle East policy for Bush's last year. And let's face it, for an Israeli leader to display some chutzpah would hardly be breaking new ground.
Here's how Olmert's talking points for such a conversation might read:
1. Israel is ready to help restabilize the Middle East over the next 12 months.
2. On Iran, Israel's concern is not with the findings of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, but with the prospect of a resulting policy drift, whereby both coercion and diplomacy are mutually neutralizing rather than strengthening. U.S. policy seems to be moving inexorably toward dialogue with Iran - from the 2006 conditional offer of negotiations to the ongoing limited exchange regarding Iraq, including reports by the U.S. military of a drop in Iranian arming of the insurgency there. The recent U.S.-North Korea talks have not escaped Israel's attention. If the core outstanding issues with Iran can be resolved diplomatically, Israel would not be opposed; behavior change, not regime change, is the shared goal. Better not to waste time. The limited existing dialogue could be broadened and upgraded. Israel has confidence in the most qualified candidate to lead these talks, Under- Secretary Nicholas Burns.
3. Early on in this broadened dialogue, the U.S. might prod Iran to influence Palestinian groups (Islamic Jihad and Hamas) to adhere to a new cease-fire. Several senior ministers, especially the ex-generals among them, are advocating a cease-fire with Hamas and a prisoner exchange to obtain the release of Gilad Shalit. The alternatives - militarily unattractive - may produce more chaos in Gaza, a more radicalized Hamas, and new openings for Al-Qaida-style outfits. The Annapolis process would benefit from an effective cease-fire and improved security environment.
4. If this leads to Fatah and Hamas exploring new understandings for Palestinian power-sharing, especially if brokered by the Egyptians or Saudis, then the best U.S.-Israeli response might be to test the results on the ground. In retrospect, actively undermining the previous Palestinian unity government was not smart.
5. Israel's talks with the Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian team will be turbulent, certainly when it comes to the daily issues and roadmap commitments, on which 100 percent delivery by either side is unrealistic. As discussed at Annapolis, an Israeli-Palestinian framework agreement on permanent status issues is possible during the term of this U.S. administration. Privately, American involvement toward this end would be welcome.
6. A regional stabilization effort cannot ignore Syria. While the Israeli political math probably precludes a parallel agreement with Syria, serious negotiations are possible and desirable. This option is supported by almost all of Israel's top military brass. Current American policy reflects Syria's mixed scorecard - attendance at Annapolis and stepped-up efforts to secure the Iraqi-Syrian border (acknowledged by the Pentagon), while simultaneously contributing to the political impasse in Lebanon. But launching a sustainable Israeli-Syrian process requires U.S. engagement and could even pave the way to fresh thinking about a comprehensive regional security architecture. This could be developed by new security envoy General James Jones and build on the Arab Peace Initiative and the regional participation at Annapolis.
The Bush administration seems to be thinking hard about what to do in the Middle East in its last year. Israel's prime minister can always switch to autopilot and a safe, predictable and forgettable script. Alternately, Olmert can adopt bold talking points that will echo in Washington long after wheels-up on Air Force One, that offer Israel the best prospect for securing its future in the region, and that could just keep him in office well beyond the date when a certain visitor retires to his Texan ranch.
JTA - The Global News Service of the Jewish People
Israel's supporters should push for talks with Iran
By Daniel Levy
December 20, 2007
At this week's Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert politely asked his colleagues to shut their mouths about the recently released U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.
Olmert's gag order followed two weeks of unhelpful, knee-jerk reaction by some Israeli politicians caught off guard by the reports' conclusions, which found that Iran suspended its covert nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that it acts as an essentially rational player pursuing traditional national interests of "security, prestige and regional goals."
The release of the NIE report should prompt more than silence from Jerusalem, however. It should prompt a re-thinking of Israel's -- and the pro-Israel community in America's -- approach toward Iran.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's vile statements about the Holocaust and Israel should not be ignored or taken lightly. But the pre-NIE strategy of using coercive diplomacy and military threats was deeply flawed, dangerous and failed to deliver concrete results. It has not stopped Tehran's pursuit of uranium enrichment, enhanced regional security or tempered Ahmadinejad's rhetoric.
Now it's time for Israel and its friends to take the initiative and promote direct, unconditional and comprehensive U.S.-led engagement with Iran.
Three considerations drive this approach: practical, political, and strategic.
On the practical level, the double-pronged tactic of international sanctions and the threat of military action has become even less viable.
The military option, never popular outside neoconservative circles and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's office, now seems even more remote. Aside from the international outcry an attack would bring, the huge potential downside of an attack on Iran -- further destabilization of the entire region, a ratcheting up of anti-U.S. hostility, increased violence in Iraq and possibly on Israel's doorstep -- remains unchanged.
This, to say nothing of the fact that there are serious questions about the efficacy of a military strike in destroying Iran's nuclear program.
Notably, American Jews oppose military action against Iran, by a margin of 57 percent to 35 percent, according to the recently released annual American Jewish Committee survey of Jewish attitudes.
The NIE report has made the other stick used against Iran, international sanctions, more difficult to sustain, much less intensify. The international debate now is where it always should have been: how to change Iran's behavior, not how to change its regime.
On a political level, support for engaging with Iran is growing. Leading Democratic U.S. presidential contenders have embraced the diplomatic option. Even the new Republican front-runner, Mike Huckabee, suggested in a recent article in Foreign Affairs that diplomacy should be "put on the table," bemoaning 30 years without "talking" to Iran.
Sensing the shifting political winds in the United States, Israel's former Mossad chief, Ephraim Halevy, argues that Israel must ensure that its interests are represented in any dialogue.
There are other political reasons to talk to Iran. The Islamic Republic will hold parliamentary elections in 2008 and presidential elections in 2009, and bellicose rhetoric by the United States merely strengthens Ahmadinejad and Iran's hard-liners.
Iranian reformers and more pragmatic conservative opponents of Ahmadinejad have called on America to replace its saber-rattling with an offer of unconditional engagement.
The most compelling of all reasons for changing the approach to Iran is that the current strategy simply does not work.
While isolation has not advanced U.S. or Israeli interests, engagement could yield the desired security guarantees for Israel and the United States.
Iran cooperated with U.S. objectives in Afghanistan after 9/11. In 2003, Iran asked the Swiss to send U.S. officials an outline proposal for a deal that addressed key Israeli and U.S. concerns, including verifiable and transparent oversight to guarantee no Iranian nuclear weapons program; cessation of material support for non-state actors engaged in violence against Israel, including Hezbollah and Hamas, and encouraging them to pursue exclusively political activities; support for the Arab League's peace initiative with Israel, and cooperation in stabilizing Iraq.
In return, Iran demanded recognition of its own security interests, ending hostile U.S. behavior against the country and ending international sanctions.
That offer was ignored, and over time Iran's position vis-à-vis the United States has grown ever stronger.
America's consistent exclusion of Iran has not been beneficial. Middle East peace conferences in Madrid in 1991 and at Annapolis, Md., last month both intentionally excluded the Islamic Republic. Yet when the peace process is framed as an exercise in isolating Iran, its sponsors should expect nothing less than for Iran to try to play the spoiler.
It wasn't always this way. Trita Parsi, in his unique book, "Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States," describes how Israel reluctantly shifted away from a strategy of building alliances with the Middle East periphery -- Iran, Turkey, Ethiopia -- against the Arab center, to one of cautious flirtation with the Arab center against the Iranian periphery, as witnessed in Annapolis. Neither approach delivered.
It's now time to pursue an inclusive strategy that attempts to bring both the Arab center and Iranian periphery into a comprehensive peace arrangement and a framework for regional security.
Rather than resigning ourselves to the unnecessary conclusion that Israel's fate is one of perpetual conflict, we ought to be more ambitious in our diplomatic reach.
Israel and the pro-Israel community should be encouraging comprehensive U.S.-led engagement with Iran, not the opposite, and should help shape that dialogue, not lag behind it.