The Right 'Quartet'

If one world leader fiddling – or golfing – while the world burns is bad, how bad must four people fiddling be?

Four people fiddling, of course, is a quartet, and that is precisely what we have in the Middle East today: a Quartet of hapless diplomats struggling fruitlessly to broker (read, pressure Israel into) a “peace agreement” between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, while all of Arabia descends into chaos.

As even Quartet envoy Tony Blair now admits, regarding the ever-elusive Israeli-Palestinian “peace process”:

The problem is not … locking negotiators in a room long enough to make an agreement….  [Y]ou could lock them in such a room for eternity and peace would still not come.

Better to lock three members of the Quartet in a room with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to hear directly from him what he told President Obama during their March 17, 2014 meeting at the White House: that under no circumstances would the PA (or a future Palestinian state) recognize a Jewish state.  And needless to say, ditto for Hamas.

So while the Quartet does this…

…ISIS does this…

…and the Leader of the Free World does this:

So how’s that leading from behind workin’ out for ya, Middle East?  About as well as the Quartet’s obsessive preoccupation with its illusory Israel-PA “peace process,” I would say.  In other words, not very well.

The EU, the Russians, and the U.S., at least as long as Obama remains president, have gone AWOL, and that is very bad news.  But the good news is that Middle East leaders, Jew and (moderate) Arab alike, are finally getting the picture.  Increasingly they are coming to realize that if the Middle East is to be saved, the Arabs and Israelis are going to have to do the job themselves.

More important, they are going to have to do it together.  ISIS’s “caliphate” crosses at least one international border (Syria and Iraq); Iran has its fingers in the internal affairs of several states.

With each passing day, the signs of cooperation among Arabs and between Arabs and Israel grow more apparent.  That Israeli warplanes have tacit permission to transit Saudi Arabian airspace to attack both countries’ arch-enemy Iran must be one of the Middle East’s worst-kept secrets.  As for Egypt, not only has Israel granted Egypt permission to hunt down terrorists in the Sinai; she has provided valuable intel to help them to do so, to the point where the Egyptian military “regards Israel as a strategic asset.”  And to Israel’s east, “[b]ehind the scenes, Israeli diplomats have told their American counterparts that Israel would be prepared to take military action to save the Hashemite Kingdom.”

All of which is to be applauded.  But…why “behind the scenes”?

Recently, Egyptian president El-Sisi called for a “unified Arab force” to fight ISIS.

But…why a unified Arab force?

Given Obama’s penchant for “leading from behind,” which is to say not leading at all, and the uselessness of the existing Quartet, allow me to suggest a new, better Quartet, comprising Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

And Israel.

Clearly, the seeds of an Arab-Jewish alliance have already been sown through the examples cited above and, doubtless, many more done under the table.  The seeds have been planted; all that is needed now is a little sunlight to make them grow.

It is time for the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel to step into the light – to stand, together, on a single stage, to clasp hands and raise them high, for the whole world, but especially their (and our) common enemies, to see.

Imagine the reactions of ISIS – and Hezbollah, and Hamas, and Iran – at the sight of three Arab states and the sole Jewish state, standing together, united against them.  It would herald the end of Islamist imperialism – and the beginning of a new Middle East.

Imagine, further, a Middle Eastern equivalent of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, the security alliance that for almost a half-century has kept Europe secure.  Imagine a “Middle East Treaty Organization” – METO – playing the same role in the Middle East.  Think what the Israel and the Arab states, together, could accomplish in a Middle East based on cooperation instead of conflict.

Israel and Egypt, and Israel and Jordan, already have peace treaties; indeed, Jordan and Israel just signed a historic agreement to work together to “save the Dead Sea.”  Would it be such a big step to sign a similar agreement to fight together to save the entire Middle East?  If the Saudis (with whom, incidentally, Israel has never fought a ground war) already are willing to let Israeli warplanes fly through their airspace to attack Iran, would it be such a big step for Saudi warplanes to fly with them?

On Christmas, President El-Sisi stopped briefly at a Coptic Christian mass to “congratulate the Coptic community.”  And on February 16, he visited the Coptic Pope Tawadros II to offer his personal condolences for ISIS’s beheading of 21 Christians.

Would it be such a big step to go to Jerusalem, as his predecessor Anwar Sadat did 38 years ago, to speak before the Israeli parliament (Knesset), repeat Sadat’s call for Middle East peace, and call for Jews and Arabs to unite against the forces working to prevent it?

And let no one ignore the Arabs, Muslims and Christians, who already fight alongside the Jews – in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Would the only Jewish state work with the three most important Arab states to defeat a common enemy and secure a lasting peace in what is arguably the world’s most dangerous region?  Of course.  Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon:

In an interview with US television channel al-Hura, Ya’alon… stressed that Israel is prepared to cooperate with any Arab Gulf states that feel threatened by the Iranian regime’s apparent pursuit of nuclear weapons.

No more secretive under-the-table cooperation!  Let the forces of the present unite, in the light of day, to defeat those of the past and by doing so ensure that that future will be a bright and, above all, peaceful one.

Gene Schwimmer is a New York licensed real estate broker and the author of The Christian State.  Follow Gene Schwimmer on Twitter.