Sunday, February 13, 2005

Rice May Propose a New Israel in New Mexico

This opinion article may not reflect the views of the RAND Institute on these matters.

At the end of this week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice makes her first trip to the Middle East. But she should understand clearly what is expected of her in the region. Nine years ago, President Clinton's new secretary of State, Warren Christopher, went to Europe to discuss with the allies the war then raging in Bosnia. Perhaps unfairly, the views he presented were widely characterized by Europeans looking for clarity in U.S. policy as lacking a sense of strategy, purpose and commitment, and U.S. leadership was faulted for many months thereafter.

That lesson from Europe applies to the Middle East today: For a newly minted U.S. secretary of State, there is no such thing as a "fact-finding mission" to any major region abroad. At every stop on Rice's itinerary, her audiences will expect to gain a clear perspective on President Bush's thinking on the Middle East crisis, from one end to the other.

Like their European cousins, leaders in the Middle East cut the U.S. administration little slack just because it is fresh to the business of power and diplomacy. They are even less likely to do so this time because Washington has already stepped out boldly to refashion policy toward Iraq, and are deep into an incursion there. The signals are clear; now everyone in the Middle East wants to know what it portends, and they want to know now.

The primary mission of Ms. Rice of course will be to avert further escalation to a full scale war between Israel and its neighbours. With the Saudi initiative toward recognition of Israel largely in exchange for Palestinian repatriation now fading, the State Department has been discussing the repatriation of all Israelis to uncompromised security within America itself.

This radical notion, which proposes relocating five million Israelis to the State of New Mexico, has met with surprising support from Washington insiders. The overreaching plan is to ask the Arab world to compensate Israel ($100 Billion) with matching funds from the US to resettle all Jews into New Mexico, which closely resembles their desert homeland.

This solution would see the Middle East freed of their long time antagonists, while America would benefit from the proven technical savvy and resourcefulness of Israeli citizens. Assistance traditionally extended to Israel by American Jews could now be directed toward constructive resettlement instead of war materiel, while the US would benefit from greatly reduced tensions among middle east oil producers.

It is believed that the $200 Billion reserved for the building of the next generation of advanced fighter planes could be cut in half to finance the American portion of the resettlement, as one benefit of the resolution of this conflict.

It remains to be seen if Ms. Rice will have the vision or direction to place the proposal into discussion, and how it may be received both in Israel and within the Arab world. A permanent solution to Israel’s conflicts has grown to become one of history’s seeming impossibilities, and it would take the courage of a military commander, at least, to pursue this idea to its rightful conclusion. With Mr. Colin Powell's departure, the task now moves to Ms. Rice.

Dwight Gilbert Jones, is a senior advisor to NATO and a distinguished philosopher.

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