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The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: Strategy of “Rapprochement”

Saudi Arabia and Israel are getting closer, and they have invested in the idea of military force as a solution to the problems normally resolved by diplomacy.

Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, Marwan Bishara, comments on a both unexpected and unnatural courtship that may be leading up to what he calls a “marriage of convenience” between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Deconstructing the strategy of these two Middle Eastern nations, he points out the risks involved in this strategy of rapprochement.

Here is today’s 3D definition:

Rapprochement:

From French, “getting closer.” In diplomacy, the art of compromising one’s principles without losing face by agreeing with a former enemy — most often covertly — to a joint effort aimed at punishing another nation, possibly a former ally, when it appears more profitable to have it as a common enemy.  

Linguistic note

Rapprochement, like détente, is a word that entered the English language through the culture of international diplomacy. For several centuries, French was the global language of diplomacy.

Historical note

Rapprochement in diplomacy is always about redefining loyalties and pursuing particular interests. The classic example is President Richard Nixon’s overture to China, which appeared unimaginable not only during the Cold War, but also while the conflict in Vietnam was still raging. Usually, rapprochement indicates a softening of previously existing tensions and a positive trend toward cooperation and collaboration.

Bishara uses “rapprochement” with a dose of tragic irony because the absurdity of Saudi Arabia engaging in any kind of “marriage” with Israel — even of convenience — goes beyond that of Nixon’s capitalist America engaging with Mao Zedong’s radically communist China.

Rapprochement usually has a feel good aura about it, but this triangular alliance involving Donald Trump’s America, Israel and Saudi Arabia has an air of promoting the tension that leads to war (with Iran) rather than any kind of détente (relaxation of tensions). Though President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are both, in their way, cynical opportunists, obsessed with control and not committed to a particular ideology, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has taken complete control of the Saudi power structure while claiming to promote moderate Islam, all three of them are at the head of regimes supported by their most extreme fundamentalist factions. And all three have invested in the idea of military force as a solution to the problems normally resolved by diplomacy.

Perhaps our best hope has been expressed by Ian McCredie this week at Fair Observer: that Prince Mohammed’s grand plan is rapidly unravelling before his very eyes.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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