The Republic of North Macedonia and Palestine: Obama Loses Patience with Bush Allies
Sam Vaknin

I. "The Republic of North Macedonia" and Greece

On August 26, 2008, I published an article titled Greek-American Plan to Resolve Macedonia's Name Issue?. In it, I described an American plan to resolve the name dispute between Macedonia and Greece (see note at the bottom of the first section of this article).

The Plan included five elements: (1) Macedonia will change its constitutional name to Northern Macedonia ("The Republic of North Macedonia"); (2) Macedonia will be granted a transition period to amend its constitution and to alter its registered name with various international and multilateral institutions; (3) Macedonia will be issued an invitation to join NATO; (4) Both countries will be allowed to use the adjective "Macedonian" (both commercially and non-commercially); (5) The parties will renounce any and all claims to each other's territory.

Sure enough, weeks later, Matthew Nimetz, the UN mediator in the name issue published essentially the very same plan. It was promptly rejected by both parties.

Macedonia has hitherto been literally invisible on the Obama's Administration's list of priorities. But this is fast changing. Obama and Clinton still regard the Balkans as essentially a European problem. But, as they tackle the Middle-East head-on, the last thing they need is a "second front" with restive minorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, or Macedonia. Additionally, countries like Macedonia and Israel are now bound to pay the price for having been staunch supporters of Republican administrations in general, and George Bush in particular.

The Obama Administration will shortly appoint a Balkans Envoy, a person well-known and little-liked in Macedonia for his coarse interference in its internal affairs. His job will be twofold: to calm passions down in Bosnia, if necessary through well-timed and much-publicized arrests and to force both Macedonia and Greece to accept the above-mentioned five-points plan. The USA will not take "no" for an answer and will set a strict timetable for the resolution of the name issue and a NATO invitation by yearend.

Macedonia doesn't stand a chance of resisting such an onslaught. It will be forced into a humiliating retreat. Prime Minister Gruevski can use the country's new President, Gjorge Ivanov, as a scapegoat and "blame" him for any painful compromises Macedonia may be forced to make. But this gimmick won't work: Macedonians widely (and wrongly) perceive Ivanov to be Gruevski's puppet.

Gruevski will go to a referendum on any compromise struck with Greece. It would be an unwise move, though: If the citizenry rejects the suggested deal, Gruevski will be faced with two stark alternatives: (1) To be the Prime Minister of a disintegrating country (as the Albanians will surely seek to secede from Macedonia or to federalize it, one way or the other); or (2) To lose his job altogether (as the Americans will surely seek to change the regime and depose him, as it has done in 2001-2 when it actively and successfully sought to unseat Ljupco Georgievski).

Following the country's ill-advised early elections in June, 2008, the right-wing VMRO-DPMNE was coerced by the international community (read: the EU and the USA) into joining forces with DUI, the political incarnation of erstwhile Albanian insurgents in the northwest of Macedonia, hitherto an anathema as far as Gruevski was concerned.

Hopping to bed with DUI will likely restrain the government's freedom of action. Every concession to Greece will be portrayed by jingoistic nationalists in Macedonia as capitulation and the consequence of blackmail by the Albanian parties. To the great consternation of the Macedonians, Albania, Macedonia's neighbor, has been invited to join NATO and its economy is growing even in the face of the global crisis. The restive Albanians of Macedonia would like to accede to the Alliance as soon as practicable and at all costs. Understandably, they are less attached to the country's constitutional name than the non-Albanian (Macedonian) majority.

Note: The "Name Issue" between Greece and Macedonia

The "name issue" involves a protracted dispute over the last 17 years between the two Balkan polities over Macedonia's right to use its constitutional name, "The Republic of Macedonia". The Greeks claim that Macedonia is a region in Greece and that, therefore, the country Macedonia has no right to monopolize the name and its derivatives ("Macedonian").

The Greeks feel that Macedonians have designs on the part of Greece that borders the tiny, landlocked country and that the use of Macedonia's constitutional name internationally will only serve to enhance irredentist and secessionist tendencies, thus adversely affecting the entire region's stability.

Macedonia retorts that it has publicly renounced any claims to any territory of any of its neighbors. Greece is Macedonia's second largest foreign investor. The disparities in size, military power and geopolitical and economic prowess between the two countries make Greek "fears" appear to be ridiculous. Macedonians have a right to decide how they are to be called, say exasperated Macedonian officials.

The Greek demands are without precedent either in history or in international law. Many countries bear variants of the same name (Yemen, Korea, Germany until 1990, Russia and Byelorussia, Mongolia). Others share their name with a region in another country (Brittany in France and Great Britain across the channel, for instance).

In the alliance's Bucharest Summit, in April 2008, Macedonia was not invited to join NATO. Macedonia was rejected because it would not succumb to Greek intransigence: Greece insisted that Macedonia should change its constitutional name to cater to Greek domestic political sensitivities.

II. Palestine and Israel

Israel will face similar realities. Obama intends to promulgate the resuscitation of the Road Map, but with a twist. The USA will publish a set of demands to be met by Israel prior to the commencement of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians: (1) to immediately freeze all settlements (2) to establish free movement of people and goods between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; (3) To accept the "two states solution" (the formation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel).

The State Department is drawing up detailed lists of escalating sanctions against "intransigent parties": (1) Public chastising and criticism by high-level officials, including President Obama himself; (2) Suspension of intelligence sharing; (3) Suspension of weapons-related export licenses, permits, and research and development efforts; (4) Freezing of military aid; (5) Freezing of economic aid.

The United State is no longer reluctant to impose a settlement on the Israelis, even as the specter of sanctions against the Jewish state has re-emerged in the Old Continent's corridors of power. A committee of the European Parliament is said to be laboring away at various scenarios of escalating sanctions against Israel. The European Commission may be readying its own proposals.

The views of Conservative Americans are summed up by David Pryce-Jones, Senior Editor of National Review:

"Israelis and Palestinians face each other across the new ideological divide in a dilemma that bears comparison to Germany's in the Cold War ... Israel must share territory with Palestinians, a growing number of whom are proven Islamic terrorists, and who identify with bin Laden's cause, as he identifies with theirs ... The Oslo peace process is to the Middle East what Ostpolitik was to Germany and central Europe. Proposals to separate the two peoples physically on the ground spookily evoke the Berlin Wall."

Still, such sentiments aside, in the long-run, Muslims are the natural allies of the United States in its role as a budding Asian power, largely supplanting the former Soviet Union. Thus, the threat of militant Islam is unlikely to cement a long term American-Israeli confluence of interests.

Rather, it may yet create a new geopolitical formation of the USA and moderate Muslim countries, equally threatened by virulent religious fundamentalism. Later, Russia, China and India - all destabilized by growing and vociferous Muslim minorities - may join in. Israel will be sacrificed to this New World Order.

The writing is on the wall, though obscured by the fog of war and, as The Guardian revealed in April 2003, by American reliance during the conflict in Iraq on Israeli intelligence, advanced armaments and lessons in urban warfare. The "road map" announced by President George Bush as a sop to his politically besieged ally, Tony Blair, and much contested at the time by the extreme right-wing government of Ariel Sharon, called for the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005.

Sanctions and embargoes are nothing new to Israelis.

In a symbolic gesture, the British government decided to crack down on food products imported from Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and mislabeled "Made in Israel" or "Produce of Israel". The European Union pegs the total value of such goods at $22 million.

Partly to prevent further Israeli provocations of an extremely agitated and radicalized anti-Western Arab street, European leaders revived the idea of economic sanctions, floated - and flouted - in 2002. The EU accounts for one third of Israel's exports and two fifths of its imports. It accords Israeli goods preferential treatment.

In April 2002, in the thick of the bloody intifada, Germany and Belgium suspended military sales to Israel. Norway boycotted some Israeli agricultural commodities. The Danish Workers Union followed suit. The European Parliament called to suspend Israel's Association Agreement with the EU. Though Belgium supported this move, harsher steps were avoided so as to allow Colin Powell, then U.S. Secretary of State, to proceed with his peace mission to the Middle East.

Israel has been subjected to boycotts and embargoes before. In the first four decades of Israel's existence as well as in the last five years, the Arabs imposed strict market access penalties on investors and trade partners of the Jewish state. The United States threatened its would-be ally with economic and military sanctions after the Suez War in 1956, forcing it to return to Egypt its territorial gains in the desert campaign.

For well over a decade afterwards, Israel was barred from direct purchases of American weaponry, securing materiel through West German intermediaries and from France. After the Six Day War, French President Charles de Gaulle imposed an arms embargo on the country. Faced with Arab intransigence and virulent enmity towards Israel in the Khartoum Summit in 1967, the USA stepped in and has since become Israel's largest military supplier and staunchest geopolitical supporter.

Yet, even this loyal ally, the United States, has come close to imposing sanctions on Israel on a few occasions.

In 1991, Yitzhak Shamir, the Israeli Prime Minister at the time, was reluctantly dragged into the Madrid Arab-Israeli peace conference by a victorious post Gulf war administration. He proceeded to negotiate in bad faith and continued the aggressive settlement policies of his predecessors.

In consequence, a year later, President George H.W. Bush, the incumbent's father, withheld $10 billion in sorely needed loan guarantees, intended to bankroll the housing of 1 million Jewish immigrants from the imploding Soviet Bloc. Shamir's successor, Yitzhak Rabin, succumbed to American demands, froze all new settlements and regained the coveted collateral.

Only concerted action by the EU and the USA can render a sanctions regime effective. Israel is the recipient of $2.7 billion in American annual military aid and economic assistance. In the wake of this round of fighting in the Gulf, it will benefit from $10 billion in guaranteed soft loans. It has signed numerous bilateral tax, trade and investment treaties with the United States. American sanctions combined with European ones may prove onerous.

Israel is also finding itself increasingly on the wrong side of the "social investing" fence. Activist and non-governmental organizations are applying overt pressure to institutional investors, such as pension funds and universities, to divest or to refrain from ploughing their cash into Israeli enterprises due to the country's "apartheid" policies and rampant and repeated violations of human rights and international law.

They are joined by student bodies, academics, media people and conscientious Jews the world over.

According to The Australian, a petition launched in 2002 by John Docker, a Jewish-Australian author and Fellow of the Australian National University's Humanities Research Centre and Christian Lebanese Australian senior lecturer and author Ghassan Hage of Sydney University's Anthropology Department, "calls (for a) ban on joint research programs with Israeli universities, attending conferences in Israel and disclosing information to Israeli academics".

It is one of many such initiatives. In the long run such grassroots efforts may prove to be have the most devastating effects on Israel's fragile and recessionary economy. Multinationals are far more sensitive to global public opinion than they used to be only a decade ago. So are governments and privatized academic institutions.

Israel may find itself ostracized by consent rather than by decree. Already a pariah state in many quarters, it is being fingered by European left-leaning intellectuals as being in cahoots with the lunatic fringes of Christian and Jewish fundamentalism. Yet, if sanctions cause a recalcitrant Israeli right to trade occupied land for a hitherto elusive peace, history may yet judge them to be a blessing in disguise.


Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Global Politician, Central Europe Review, PopMatters, Bellaonline, and eBookWeb, a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com You can download 22 of his free ebooks in our bookstore