Nation building for Palestine
If Netanyahu and Mubarak agree at Sharm el-Sheikh that they intend to stop Iran and build Palestine, we can reasonably assume they will find a partner in Obama.
Not everything is bad. True: The situation in Pakistan is deteriorating from day to day. True: Iran is continuing to gallop toward nuclearization. True: The new U.S. administration has yet to find its strategic path. True: Benjamin Netanyahu is still holed up in a bunker, outside of which bizarre coalition partners wait in ambush. But there is good news in the diplomatic world surrounding Israel.
The first piece of good news is Egypt. The strategic alliance between Egypt and Israel has never been as strong. Egypt is not Hadash and it is not Gush Shalom. It is not a hostage to self-righteous concepts of political correctness.
The Egyptians see the Middle Eastern jungle as it is and understand that, in this jungle, Israel is a sister. If Israel is harmed, Egypt will be hit. If Israel is hit, President Hosni Mubarak's Egypt will be lost. That's why Israel and Egypt worked in coordination during Operation Cast Lead. That's why Israel and Egypt will also work together in the diplomatic campaign to stop Iran.
The second piece of good news is Jordan, Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf emirates. Many royal families that were established under the inspiration of Lawrence of Arabia know they are on the brink. Kings, princes and emirs know they are living on the slopes of a volcano. They have absolutely no interest in the settlements. They are no more disturbed by the occupation than is Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov of Yisrael Beiteinu.
Therefore, if the right rope bridge is tossed at them they will be happy to cross the river. There is no limit to the possible cooperation between the modernization of Dubai and Abu Dhabi and the modernity of Tel Aviv. Between the Gulf's blue waters and the Israeli coast's blue waters, the sky's the limit.
The third piece of good news is Quartet envoy Tony Blair. The man who brought peace to Northern Ireland does not draw his concept of reality from the post-Zionism of Sheikh Munis. Because he is British, he is practical. Because he is practical, he knows that peace is not a theological issue. Blair understands that the way to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is from the bottom up. Not to force a Geneva-style piece of paper on both sides, but to build a down-to-earth process that will shape a different economic, diplomatic and security reality.
The fourth piece of good news is Benjamin Netanyahu. Yes, Netanyahu is afraid of Iran. He sees a similarity between the weakness of the democracies in 1939 and the weakness of the democracies in 2009. But the prime minister understands that an opportunity exists on the other side of the threat. He understands that the way to fight the risk is to create a chance for something better.
On the prime minister's desk sit fascinating plans designed to change the face of the Middle East. Netanyahu is determined to progress where President Shimon Peres was stopped.
Missing now is a new diplomatic concept that weaves all the good news together with one scarlet thread. Missing is a new strategic idea that will provide a common horizon for moderate Arabs and moderate Israelis. This idea could be Blair's: nation building - an ambitious international project of Americans, Europeans, Japanese, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis, residents of the Gulf emirates, Palestinians and Israelis that will build the Palestinian nation from the foundations.
The idea of nation building is not a substitute for the two-state concept; it complements it. It is designed to turn an impractical dream of peace into a serious work plan, which in the end will make the dream come true. The idea is meant to build the Palestinian state properly, over time, from the bottom up. It is capable of consolidating the coalition of the Middle East's sane nations around one mission and one vision.
The chances are good that the United States will be attentive to Blair's vision. U.S. President Barack Obama's strategy in Iraq is nation building. Obama's strategy in Afghanistan is nation building. There is no reason why his strategy in Palestine should not be nation building.
If Netanyahu and Mubarak agree at Sharm el-Sheikh that they intend to stop Iran and build Palestine, we can reasonably assume they will find a partner in Obama. If that happens, the three leaders will provide the Middle East with a new, correct and realistic agenda.