In June 2007, The Center For American Progress had a conference on America in the World. One of the speakers was Zbigniew Brzezinski [watch video here], former National Security Adviser to Jimmy Carter and currently foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama. Brzezinski addressed the results of a poll done by the BBC asking people to identify those countries that are viewed most negatively in the world. The top 3 responses were: Israel, Iran, and the United States. Brzezinksi shared his opinion on what these three countries had in common:
I was led to the conclusion that perhaps the root problem was that in all three cases the respective definition of national security of each country was highly indifferent to the national security of affected others. Their own definition of national security was indifferent to the affected security of others.The key is that Israel lacks consideration for others in the region, especially Iran. Brzezinski treats us to the depth of his knowledge of Iran--something we saw on full display during the Carter years:
...I think we see in this picture a situation in which each of these countries in different ways is unyielding in seeking maximum security for itself, irrespective of the impact of that on this insecurity of others. And as a consequence, one has to wonder: what is likely to be the cumulative result – whether alternatives should not be considered.The issue, according to Brzezinski, is that Israel has a special obligation to take the initiative to be open to vulnerability and mutual insecurity as a "country with historically unprecedented military might"--quite a demand of a country that is surrounded by an unprecedented number of countries that want to see her destroyed. Not that he is totally blind to the danger Israel is in. Brzezinski admits that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is bad for the US and Israel--in that order.
The hope for peace--which of course the Palestinian Arabs want just as much as Israel--just needs someone from the outside to help the two sides see the light to creating just the right framework for peace:
And the key elements of that framework for peace, which in my view America should articulate, are four. There are four of them. First of all: a bitter pill for the Palestinians, but it has to get administered – no right of return. Right of return means swamping Israel and destroying its essence, and no one can ask a country to accept that. That would be wrong.With Brzezinski as adviser, would a President Obama, be the first American president to force a concession from the PA in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiation?
Second point: bitter pill for the Israelis – sharing of Jerusalem. East Jerusalem has to be the capital of the Palestinians, and the Muslim part of the old city has to be part of it. And anyone who’s been in the region knows that you can see the Golden Dome from almost any point in the West Bank. And if that is part of an Israel, there is no legitimate peace in the eyes of the Palestinians and the Arabs. Jerusalem has to be shared for practical reasons and ultimately for reasons of historical fairness.
Third: basic territorial accommodation on the ‘67 lines, but with mutual adjustments involving equitable land transfers, so that the most heavily urbanized Israeli settlements on the edge of the ‘67 lines can be incorporated in Israel, but with a Palestinian state compensated in Galilee and in the Negev so that there is no continued territorial irredenta. As it is, the ‘67 lines give the six million Israelis approximately 78 percent of the old British mandate of Palestine and the five million Palestinians only 22. So basically, that territorial division has to be maintained.
And the last point is: a demilitarized Palestinian state with international, perhaps American, military presence to ensure that Israel does not feel threatened.
That line about Israel getting 78% of the British mandate of Palestine is misleading--since it overlooks that of the original British mandate of Palestine, 75% went to create Jordan. Israel is getting a fraction of the fraction of what the British left over for the Israeli state.
The line about "territorial irredenta" is interesting. Irredenta refers to "a region that is culturally or historically related to one nation but is subject to a foreign government"--on what basis does Brzezinski distinguish between those areas that historically and culturally relate to Jews and those that relate to the Palestinian Arabs who arrived later?
In brief, if we are to be successful in the Middle East and, therefore, to be successful in the world – if we are to be successful in leading in living successfully with insecurity, we have to realize a very basic point: all accommodations to promote national security have to accept the reality of interdependence of insecurity in this day and age.If Brzezinski is right, it is due in no small part to what happened to the US during his watch.