Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Paradise of Binationalism in the Middle East

From The New York Times:
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) -- After yet another assassination, Lebanon's anti-Syrian politicians accuse the government in Damascus of trying to end their rule by killing members of the parliamentary majority one by one.

This week's slaying of anti-Syrian lawmaker Walid Eido in a massive Beirut car bombing has sparked a new political battle here, fueling rifts that are putting Lebanon's democracy at the risk of a total breakdown.

With Eido's death, U.S.-backed Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's majority in parliament has been whittled down to only four seats. If he loses those -- either by deaths or defections -- his government could fall, a goal of the pro-Syrian opposition led by the Hezbollah militant group....

Lahoud's signature will be needed to ask parliament to approve the by-election, but he refused to provide it after Gemayel's slaying in November.

At Eido's funeral Thursday, legislator Mohammed Kabbani, speaking for the Future Movement, the main bloc of the parliament majority, supported an election to avert the ''plan to reduce the parliamentary majority through murder.''

If Lahoud refuses to sign an election decree, it ''would make him a participant in that plot and consequently a participant in the murders,'' Kabbani warned. ''Elections must take place even if Emile Lahoud rejects it.''

Even if Lahoud approved such an election, the 128-seat parliament would then need to pass it, and pro-Syrian parliament speaker Nabih Berri has refused to allow the legislature to convene for months....

There are already calls from the majority to go ahead with the by-election anyway irrespective of what the president and parliament speaker do.

Another political crisis is also looming over the presidency.

The legislature must vote on a replacement when Lahoud's term ends in November, but it is unlikely that Lebanon's divided leaders can agree on a candidate or even meet -- threatening a power vacuum, or even the creation of two rival governments.

There are, to be sure, problems and challenges in moving toward a two-state (now perhaps a three-state) solution in Israel/Palestine/Gaza.

Many left-wing intellectuals who are dubious of national claims (especially those of Jews), seem to prefer a binational state in "all of historic Palestine". Practical problems of differing religions, historic memories, cultures, and languages, not to speak of the acute animosities of the past century, dissolve before their eyes.

The closest Middle Eastern analogue to the bi- or multi-national state they seem to envision is Lebanon. (We are not speaking of a binational state of Swedes and Danes here...).

This rather pathos-filled report on contemporary Lebanese politics is exemplary of how well that is likely to work in today's Middle East of actual flesh and (all too much) blood.

Israeli democracy has its problems, for sure, including but not limited to the treatment of Israel's non-Jewish citizens (who, however, have not shown notable enthusiasm for attaching their fates to a new Palestinian state). The treatment of Palestinians in occupied territories under Israel's jurisdiction is execrable, although that is responsive, in not inconsiderable part, to the ongoing threat of terrorism emanating from those parts (and not without a degree of Palestinian responsibility, including failures of both leadership and followership).

But there is little empirical basis (in the reality-based world, as opposed to the imaginary Eden of academic theorists) for the claim that a binational state of Jews and Arabs would do better. Unfortunately.

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