The Mid­dle East’s siren call

Trump’s en­thrall­ment with peace will founder on the rocks of re­al­ity

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Cal Thomas Cal Thomas is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist. His lat­est book is “What Works: Com­mon Sense So­lu­tions for a Stronger Amer­ica” (Zon­der­van, 2014).

In Greek mythol­ogy, sirens were beau­ti­ful crea­tures that lured sailors to their doom with their hyp­notic voices. In Homer’s epic “The Odyssey,” ships came to ruin on jagged reefs, fol­low­ing siren song, the pull of the beau­ti­ful voices so strong that the hero Odysseus, in or­der not to suc­cumb, com­manded that his crew lash him to the mast of his ship, and not un­tie him, un­til they were in safe waters.

That’s a les­son Amer­i­can pres­i­dents might have learned.

Af­ter re­peat­edly crit­i­ciz­ing Pres­i­dent Obama for his Mid­dle East pol­icy from which can­di­date Don­ald Trump said Amer­ica got noth­ing in re­turn, Pres­i­dent Trump or­dered a mis­sile strike on a Syr­ian air­base re­port­edly used to launch chem­i­cal weapons at­tacks. Some on the right are beat­ing their chests claim­ing this is a demon­stra­tion of lead­er­ship. To what end? Does any­one be­lieve that Bashar As­sad will not con­tinue killing Syr­i­ans by other means?

Last week dur­ing meetings with King Ab­dul­lah of Jordan, the New York Post writes, “A re­port re­vealed that the ad­min­is­tra­tion wants to host a Mideast sum­mit between Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans as soon as this sum­mer.” Mr. Trump said he and King Ab­dul­lah would “ad­vance the cause of peace in the Mid­dle East, in­clud­ing peace between the Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans.”

Since Pales­tinian lead­ers dat­ing back to Yasser Arafat, along with ter­ror­ist groups like Hezbol­lah (and ISIS), have vowed never to make peace with Is­rael, that can only mean one thing: pres­sure on Is­rael to “do more” by re­lin­quish­ing ad­di­tional ter­ri­tory to her en­e­mies and watch­ing as those en­e­mies use that ter­ri­tory to ad­vance their timetable for the erad­i­ca­tion of the Jewish state.

When I asked Sarah Stern, pres­i­dent of the En­dow­ment for Mid­dle East Truth, a pro-Is­rael think tank and pol­icy cen­ter based in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., about this, she re­sponded in an email: “Af­ter all of th­ese years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the Mid­dle East, it is about time that we re­al­ize that the Is­rael-Pales­tinian dis­pute does not lay at the root of the prob­lem . ... It is rather the growth of rad­i­cal Is­lam and a 14-cen­tury-old Sunni ver­sus Shi­ite di­vide, cou­pled with the break­down of the ar­bi­trary lines drawn by the Sykes-Pi­cot agree­ment, which amal­ga­mated var­i­ous tribal, feud­ing fac­tions into na­tion states, where there was no com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor.”

The Sykes-Pi­cot Agree­ment, com­monly known as the Asia Mi­nor Agree­ment, was a secret 1916 deal between Bri­tain and France, with the as­sent of the Rus­sian Em­pire; to ar­bi­trar­ily carve up the re­gion into spheres of in­flu­ence should the Triple En­tente suc­ceed in de­feat­ing the Ot­toman Em­pire. In 1921, Win­ston Churchill, Herbert Sa­muel, the head of Bri­tain’s Lib­eral Party, and Ab­dul­lah I of Jordan, met in Jerusalem and re­drew the lines of the Le­vant, en­sur­ing the con­flicts that have raged even be­fore the 1948 re-es­tab­lish­ment of Is­rael in its an­cient home­land where Jews have al­ways lived, de­spite Pales­tinian and Arab ef­forts to re­write his­tory.

Ev­ery Amer­i­can pres­i­dent since Dwight Eisen­hower has tried to re­duce con­flict and bring peace to the re­gion. But peace can only be achieved when peo­ple de­cide not to fight and kill each other any­more. That’s what hap­pened in North­ern Ire­land, but it’s a long way from hap­pen­ing in the Mid­dle East, es­pe­cially when those com­mit­ted to Is­rael’s de­struc­tion find hope in “sum­mits” and meetings they use to pres­sure Is­rael into, in ef­fect, com­mit­ting sui­cide by mak­ing agree­ments her en­e­mies, who be­lieve they have a re­li­gious man­date, have not and will not live up to.

Only a pres­i­dent with the power God gave Moses to part the Red Sea could do some­thing as mirac­u­lous as bring peace to the Mid­dle East. Even a brief re­view of his­tory proves the con­flict between Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans is not the cause of in­sta­bil­ity. Arabs were fight­ing Arabs be­fore 1948 and con­flicts between Sunni and Shia Mus­lims have noth­ing to do with Is­rael.

If Mr. Trump thinks he can be the ul­ti­mate peace­maker, he’s lis­ten­ing to siren song and head­ing for the reef.


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