The American InterestrnSharon’s Victory andrnU.S. Policy in the Middle EastrnWith the landshde victory of Ariel Sharonrnin the Israeh general election onrnFebruary 6, it is obvious that Americarnneeds to reevaluate its policy in the MiddlernEast. A revised policy should bernbased on three key premises.rnFirst, Israel is a small foreign country.rnIt is a friendly and democratic country,rnbut by no means “special” to America orrn”central” to its interests.rnSecond, resurgent Islam is a majorrnthreat to America’s global security and, inrnthe longer term, to the survival of our civilization.rnU.S. foreign policy shouldrnavoid creating condihons which wouldrnfurther its rise, including the perceptionrnof a permanent bias in Middle Eastern affairsrnthat breeds anti-Americanism.rnThird, American national interests inrnthe Middle East are primarily economic.rnIt is vitally important to the United Statesrnto have permanent access to secure andrnaffordable sources of energ}-. It is not vitallyrnimportant whose flag flies over thernDome of the Rock, any more than whosernflag flies over Pristina. American interestsrndemand a lasting, stable peace thatrnshould be based on scrupulously evenhandedrntreatment of the various parties’rnclaims and aspirations.rnThis approach would also serve Americanrninterests by enhancing Israeli security.rnForcing Israel to diversify and enhancernits external relations and to reducernits excessive dependence on the UnitedrnStates would make it better equipped tornsurvive in an inherently unfriendly environment.rn”The people of Israel havernlived for 3700 years without a strategicrnmemorandum with America and willrncontinue to live without it for anotherrn3700 years,” said the late Prime MinisterrnMenachem Begin almost two decadesrnago. The present U.S.-Israeli symbiosis isrnnot inherent to Israel’s existence. ThernJewish state came into being againstrnmany odds, and it fought three wars quiternsuccessfully before the present “specialrnrelationship” finally ripened after the SixrnDay War of 1967. Foreign policy is arnform of adaptive behavior aimed at preservingrnand enhancing the security of arnstate. Being perceived as a permanentrnby Srdja TrifkovicrnAmerican client state, and—worse still —rnperceiving itself as such, is bad for Israelrnbecause it distorts the adaptive pattern.rnOverreliance on the United States limitsrnIsrael’s room to maneuver diplomaticallyrnand militarily, and this may become apparentrnduring Prime Minister Sharon’srntenure if American and Israeli strategiesrndiverge.rnSharon is a 19th-centurv’-style nationalistrnand, as such, seems culturally odiousrnto the postnationalist elites who run “thernWest.” He belongs to the tradition of Beginrnand Itzhak Shamir, two former primernministers who insisted on the unit)- of thernland of Israel, including “Judea andrnSamaria,” i.e., the West Bank. This conceptrnis at odds with the “land for peace”rnapproach, the cornerstone of Americanrnpolicy. Begin and Shamir were preparedrnto offer territorial concessions, specificallyrnreturning occupied territories in thernSinai Peninsula and the Golan Heightsrnto Egypt and Syria. The true objective ofrnthose concessions was always the same,rnhowever: to gain time to build settlementsrnin the West Bank, the territoriesrnthat really mattered to them and whichrntheir present heir has no real intention ofrnrelinquishing.rnGeorge W. Bush seems to share his father’srndoubts about Israel’s usefulness as arn”stiategic asset.” Israel’s media image, afterrnmonths of bloodshed, is at a lowerrnpoint than at any time in living memory.rnSharon will need to reach out to otherrnpartners and allies. A reappraisal of U.S.rnforeign policy may turn out to be the bestrnfavor America has ever done for Israel. Ifrnit were forced to diversify the sourcesrnof its political, economic, and militaryrnsupport, Israel would be safer than it is today.rnIt should not wait for Americanrnhegemony in the region to be challengedrn—say, by Iran’s acquisition of nuclearrnweapons—because then the limitsrnof symbiosis may become rapidly (and,rnfor the Israelis, painfully) obvious.rnAmerican policymakers must realizernthat the conflict in the Middle East is neitherrnunique nor incomprehensible outsidernof its own terms of reference. It isrnstructurally comparable to that betweenrnSerbs and Albanians in Kosovo, or betweenrnOrangemen and Nationalists inrnUlster. It is a zero-sum dispute, with onernside’s gain rightly seen as another’s loss.rnDemystifying the relationship betweenrnAmerica and Israel and redefiningrnit in terms of mutual interests will help Israelrnmature into a “normal” nation-state.rnIts real security concerns after 1948, andrnespecially after 1967, were aggravated byrnsubjugation to a traditional Weltanschauungrnpredicated upon the premise that thernworld is inherentiy hostile. Overdependencernon the United States in the pastrnthree decades has postponed the squaringrnof this complex circle. The UnitedrnStates must understand the causes of thatrninsecurity from without—by scrutinizingrnthe underlying structure of the MiddlernEastern conflict—rather than pander tornits symptoms from within by an undissentingrnacceptance of a “moral” burden.rnOne consequence would be the terminationrnof our unhealthy, costly, open-ended,rnand practically imconditional financialrnsupport for Israel.rnThe new U.S. national-security teamrnneeds to quit thinking about the MiddlernEast in terms of the “peace process” andrnstart viewing it through the lens of conflictrnanalysis. They should be aware thatrnthere are problems that may not have arnsolution, that long-term management isrnperhaps the best we can hope for, andrnthat the desirability of any possible solutionrndepends on how well it serves clearlyrndefined American geopolitical, economic,rnand diplomatic interests.rnThis long overdue reexamination ofrnstrategy demands not only new substancernbut also new style and personnel.rnOur pretense of neutrality must be discardedrnin favor of cool evenhandedness,rnin the Middle East and everywhere else.rnEmotional commitment to one of thernparties in the dispute, and difficulty distinguishingrnbehveen one’s personal andrnprofessional involvement, is unhealthyrnin American diplomats. It would berndeemed poor form, and even poorer politics,rnto send Serbian-Americans to negotiaternfor the United States on Kosovo andrnBosnia, or Greek-Americans to negotiaternon Cyprus. Upholding the Golden Rulernmeans that America should come first tornAmericans, Israel to Israelis, and Palestinernto Palestinians. Beyond that, thererncan be no inherent “special relationships,”rnonly special-interest groups andrnspecial agendas.rn44/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn