Two weeks after we left Paris, with its protestors blocking the streets, France is faced, with streets that are not flooded with demonstrators but water. The photographs are horrific and the damage must be catastrophic.
If you only listen with one ear, you only hear half the story. I wish I could write that it was my grandmother who said that. I live on the computer. I read two newspapers each day. I live from one news source to another and in between read some political blogs and then go back to the news and commentary.
Two very important events are now in process. With regard to the first, we can only say it’s about time. As to the second, my thought was: nothing new.
First, NATO –the Western Alliance is finally moving toward the creation of what it describes as a powerful new intelligence post. Its aim is to improve how Europe and the United States share sensitive intelligence information on terrorism among other dangers. At the moment NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) depends heavily upon the U.S. intelligence facilities for support, and it believes it could improve its reliance with a new, but superior and senior, intelligence administrative position. Strangely, NATO does not have an official role in fighting ISIS, notwithstanding the brutal attacks in both Paris and Brussels. The proposal is the creation of a Secretary General for Intelligence to improve not only how the intelligence is shared but to expand its view how of analysis and information is shared. The plan is to include, among other issues, Russia’s military capabilities and activities along with other Middle Eastern terrorist base incidents on the Continent. All this seems like a non-brainer for the Europeans but it is not because of the following:
First: NATO has two important players that are not members of the EU: The United States and Turkey. Any alliance with them would make intelligence sharing more meaningful. Second: Too many European countries have legally placed strict legislative barriers between their intelligence and police departments. Information is not shared. Third: There is Interpol (headquartered in Lyon, where I spent a week years ago working on a project) who is the EU’s police agency and has its own counterterrorism center. This is complicated by NATO – it has no law-enforcement role. All describing a situation where turfs are protected and agencies are fearful of treading on the toes of others, while others look to protect their own turf. To bring everyone to the table with one director is not easy, and was not easy in the U.S. fifteen years ago after 9/11. The United States did just that with the creation of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence. The Europeans can do the same, but can they in the wake of the UKs contentious vote this month to leave the EU; can they set aside their differences in light of the horrific migration problems that are showing divides in how that is managed; can they succeed dealing with the Greek financial crises?
The second important event has two distinct parts: The first is that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a U.N. nuclear watchdog issued it second report on Iran’s nuclear program and found that key information needed is lacking. Without that information we do not know if Iran is complying with its agreements. The report also makes clear that there is no reliable information of how many of Iran’s too many centrifuges are operating. And last, not in the report but in the national press, Iran’s leaders continue to spit their threats of annihilating the United States and Israel. Do we really think that they are complying with all aspects of their agreement? And why is the State Department not taking a more vigorous approach to enforcement procedures? Why are we so diplomatically docile with a country that hates us and would see us eradicated? Do we really think that by placating them they will move more toward the center of the diplomatic world? And the answer is: I think not.
We are losing precious time in stopping them in this dangerous nuclear world after depositing millions of dollars in their pockets. What can be the logic to our behavior knowing them to be the leading exporters of terrorism in the world? Last, and there is new marvelous demand by the Iranians that made me stop dead in my tracks: The Iranian Parliament now demands compensation from the United States for its involvement in the “spiritual and material damage” for the past 63 years. Please, close your checkbooks.
The second is there was a call for an international conference by the French to end the decades of Israeli “Occupation.” At the same moment the Palestinians have launched scores of deadly knife attack against Israelis since October. This is my “nothing new” in French behavior. At no point in the French PM’s call for a conference to end the “occupation” did he mention either the continued rocket attacks against Israel or the attacks by knife slashing of Israeli civilians. The idea in French thinking is that the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel is somehow the root cause of the difficulties in the Middle East. This of course is nonsense. The one day conference ended with nothing accomplished.
Diplomacy, as I understand, is the attempt to find a balanced solution to a problem, local or otherwise, that does not ignore the deep seeded desires of the parties in conflict. At the same moment, one cannot be unconditionally wed to ancient history as the veil thru which we examine the present desires of the conflicting parties.
An atrocity committed a hundred years ago, a town annexed one hundred and fifty years ago cannot form the basis of working toward a conclusion to a dispute today. If so, the world would be in constant flux of demands, threats and violence. Unconditional surrender, as demanded by the Allies at the end of WWII, is not an option or pre- condition to dispute settlement today. Unrealistic demands accompanying an invitation to come to the table will keep the parties apart –period. Those who want or to pretend to want to be intermediators need to be impartial, forcefully even-handed and imaginative. They must also be sensitive that history is a powerful source that is always present but must not rule the negotiations.
Thus, with France not having the best of historical track records in dealing with anti-Semitic problems, it cannot blithely ignore the issues facing one of the parties while calling for a peace conference to move Palestinian-Israeli conflict toward a peaceful process of reconciliation. There is no negotiation between parties when the agenda is one sided. There is no negotiation when one party is predetermined “the guilty” one, and now let’s settle thru negotiations how we will deal with them. An imposed solution is bound to fail if parties are treated differently at the table. Syria is obsessively embroiled in violence, Yemen is failing, Egypt is in constant turmoil, Iraq is splintering into parts since 2003 and none of these issues provide a reliable backdrop in dealing with Israel/Palestine peace.
There can be only one factual precondition to any Palestinian –Israeli conference: Stop the violence, Stop the rockets, Stop the stabbings. There can be No historical preconditions in place. The only workable formula: Two nations willing to talk to each other, one neutral facilitator and time.