The Mid­dle Eastern world or­der

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • By DORE GOLD

His­tor­i­cally, at the end of ma­jor wars, the great world pow­ers have drawn to­gether to con­sider two ques­tions. 1) What brought states to en­ter the last con­flict to begin with? and 2) How can the same kind of war be averted in the fu­ture? It is well known that at the end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648, the first time these ques­tions were con­sid­ered was in West­phalia, in what was to be­come Ger­many.

A sim­i­lar ef­fort was un­der­taken at the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815, when both the vic­tors and the van­quished ini­ti­ated the Con­cert of Europe, which brought the Euro­pean pow­ers into a sys­tem of reg­u­lar con­sul­ta­tions that lasted for 99 years – un­til 1914, with the out­break of World War I. States tended to seek an op­ti­mal so­lu­tion to in­ter­na­tional prob­lems that would ad­dress both the re­quire­ments of in­ter­na­tional jus­tice and the re­al­i­ties of the bal­ance of power. In the in­ter­war pe­riod, those stress­ing jus­tice came to be known as “ide­al­ists,” while those re­turn­ing to the bal­ance of power were dubbed as “real­ists.”

For­mer sec­re­tary of state Henry Kissinger grasped these pro­cesses in diplo­macy that were emerg­ing with defin­ing rules of in­ter­na­tional be­hav­ior af­ter the end of the Cold War and the be­gin­ning of the Arab Spring years later. In 2014, he penned a book boldly en­ti­tled World Or­der, which sought to en­cap­su­late the na­ture of the diplo­matic chal­lenge the world was now fac­ing.

Kissinger’s tim­ing was right on the mark. Clearly, there was a new global chaos that needed to be ad­dressed. It can be said that states don’t nor­mally get into this level of anal­y­sis when they set their for­eign pol­icy agenda. They con­vene in or­der to put out the fires of the last cri­sis; ask­ing how to sta­bi­lize the Balkans, or what to do about the South China Sea, or how to con­tend with piracy in the Horn of Africa. Yet ev­ery few decades a more ex­pan­sive kind of diplo­matic in­tro­spec­tion be­comes nec­es­sary when the past as­sump­tions of for­eign pol­icy no longer seem ap­pli­ca­ble.

No set of global un­der­stand­ings was more sig­nif­i­cant for the emer­gence of the mod­ern Mid­dle East than those that were con­cluded at the end of World War I, when the Ot­toman Em­pire – which once stretched from what is to­day Al­ge­ria in the west to Iraq in the east – col­lapsed. Nearly 100 years ago, in April 1920, the San Remo Con­fer­ence in Italy es­tab­lished a state sys­tem that was in­tended re­place the Ot­toman Em­pire, the bor­ders be­tween its con­stituent el­e­ments, and fi­nally how many of these states would emerge from the League of Na­tions man­dates that the great pow­ers in­sisted on us­ing as an in­terim mea­sure at the time.

The un­der­stand­ings reached at the end of World War I have been un­der an un­prece­dented as­sault in the last two decades. When ISIS came to power in re­mote parts of Syria and Iraq, the bor­der sep­a­rat­ing those two coun­tries seemed to have sud­denly evap­o­rated. But the de­feat of the ISIS self-de­clared caliphate has not de­ci­sively re­paired that sit­u­a­tion. With the grow­ing power of pro-Ira­nian mili­tias in Iraqi ter­ri­tory, the bor­der be­tween Iraq and Iran ap­pears to have be­come in­creas­ingly com­pro­mised.

The north­ern flank of the Mid­dle East faces sim­i­lar prob­lems. Turk­ish-backed mili­tias have taken over whole stretches of the Turk­ish-Syr­ian bor­der area. It is an­other Mid­dle Eastern bound­ary that has melted down sig­nif­i­cantly. A Turk­ish safety zone has be­gun to emerge that ex­tends roughly 32 kilo­me­ters into north­ern Syria. The dis­po­si­tion of ter­ri­tory from 1920 does not ap­pear to be en­dur­ing, look­ing back ret­ro­spec­tively from 2020.

Then there is the case of Israel. The League of Na­tions man­date that came out of the San Remo doc­u­ment from 1920 spoke about the “his­tor­i­cal con­nec­tion of the Jewish peo­ple with Pales­tine.” It called for “re­con­sti­tut­ing” the Jewish na­tional home. Yet to­day, with what is called the dele­git­imiza­tion of Israel, what was ax­iomatic 100 years ago is reg­u­larly be­ing ques­tioned in many in­ter­na­tional bod­ies from UNESCO to the UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil.

This his­tory is not ir­rel­e­vant or out­dated. It is crit­i­cal to spread if the war of ideas is to be de­ci­sively won. Iron­i­cally, this will hap­pen if Israel un­der­stands that ad­vanc­ing the jus­tice of its cause re­quires more than ex­per­tise in cur­rent af­fairs, but also a far deeper un­der­stand­ing of what the found­ing prin­ci­ples were which led to the even­tual ac­cep­tance of the idea of Jewish state­hood a cen­tury ago.

The un­der­stand­ings reached at the end of World War I have been un­der an un­prece­dented as­sault in the last two decades

The writer is the pres­i­dent of the Jerusalem Cen­ter for Public Af­fairs. He served as di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the For­eign Min­istry and as Israel’s am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions.

(Alaa al-Mar­jani/Reuters)

AN IRAQI wo­man walks past the Ira­nian con­sulate af­ter Iraqi demon­stra­tors stormed and set fire to the build­ing dur­ing on­go­ing anti-govern­ment protests in Na­jaf, Iraq, on De­cem­ber 3. The bor­der be­tween Iraq and Iran ap­pears to have be­come in­creas­ingly com­pro­mised.

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