With regard to Iran, Efraim Karsh’s Sunday op-ed in the New York Times is an important example of what analyst Tony Karon called “recycl[ed] really tired Israeli PR lines.” Indeed, in his conclusion, Karsh, with gaps in his logic bigger than the Grand Canyon, suddenly busts out with one of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s favorite talking points in his early days of locking horns with the Obama administration: the idea of “linkage.”
Early on in his term, Obama and his team adopted the idea that ending the Israeli-Palestinian and broader Israeli-Arab conflicts would go a long way toward helping the United States address its interests in the region — including combating extremism and terrorism, and dealing with the question of Iran’s nuclear program. The plight of the Palestinians is a consistent recruiting tool for extremists and a propaganda tool for the ethnically-Iranian Islamic Republic to make inroads in the Arab world, thereby increasing their regional clout.
Netanyahu, with all the organs of the right-wing U.S. Israel lobby behind him, publicly and vociferously battled this notion. While the Obama administration didn’t challenge Netanyahu’s rhetoric, it didn’t exactly give in either: Linkage has never been repudiated stateside and its pervasiveness in the military suggests it’s still very much the conventional wisdom in Washington’s strategic establishment.
Nonetheless, the Times gives space to Karsh to continue asserting that linkage is a bogus concept. Karsh writes, “[T]he best, indeed only, hope of peace between Arabs and Israelis lies in rejecting the spurious link between this particular issue and other regional and global problems.”
Yes, that would probably quite please Bibi. But, as Karon put it, by making that assertion, Karsh “reveals his ideological underwear,” because as Karon goes on to note, “even the U.S. military acknowledges that American support for Israel in the context of its treatment of the Palestinians is perhaps the most important determinant of Muslim attitudes towards the United States.”
Even Karsh, two paragraphs above his talk of the “spurious link,” acknowledges that there exists a never-ending “history of Arab leaders manipulating the Palestinian cause for their own ends while ignoring the fate of the Palestinians.” The important point here is that these “Arab leaders,” for whom Karsh seems to have nothing but contempt, clearly benefit from exploiting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One of them — not Arab, but I won’t bother Karsh with the distinction now — is the Iranian president.
Can anyone doubt the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Iran’s support of what is now being termed the “Axis of Resistance” — namely Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria? If Hezbollah, whose dangerous ceasefire-without-peace with Israel is on the verge of collapsing, was at peace with Israel, would there be posters of Iranian political figures up in Lebanon? Even the right-wing group The Israel Project never tires of mentioning that Iran supports Hamas and Hezbollah (any and all mentions of these groups seem to be prefaced with the phrase ‘Iranian-supported/supplied/funded/backed’) — but do they insist that the only connection to be had between the parties is alleged anti-Semitism?
Getting rid of “linkage” is merely a way for Israel and its right-wing U.S. backers to solidify Israeli intransigence on the moribund peace process and absolve themselves of any blame when the time comes that Bibi finally decides, as he just may, that he needs to bomb Iran.