|Special Report from Israel|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 29 April 2011|
Shalom from Israel.
I have received some e-mails asking for a report about what happens in the region from an Israeli perspective. The following is of course an opinion that may give you some idea about the unfolding events in our region. I chose to focus on Egypt and Syria as these countries are in the closer circle to Israel geographically.
What happens in the Middle East over the last several months and from Israel’s perspective, how will the events effect us?
Brief background -
The Middle East is experiencing unrest and turmoil like never before. The last wave of unrest in the Arab world, had taken place during the fifty’s and sixty’s of the last century. That was a wave of revolutions that were initiated usually by army personal, when frustrated officers had got together to overthrow the regime. The focus during those revolutions was not freedom or financial crisis, the focus was on the national aspect. The new regimes in Egypt, and Syria half a century ago, were clearly anti – religious. In both cases, the corruption of the regime was part of the reasons for the coup. Hoping to have as much support as possible from among the people, the new leaders had spoken about restoring the Arab national pride that was humiliated by Israel in the war of 1948. Since the focus was national, the anti Israeli sentiments played a major role in the new regimes’ agenda. The hatred to Israel was the common interest to unite the people around one cause...Today, however, things are different. The reasons for the uprisings may be different from one country to another. The calls for freedom and democracy had caught the world’s attention. What the world easily ignores are the calls that sound as loud as the other ones – Death to Israel, and Allah is the greatest. Some view what happens as a geniouin struggle of the Arab peoples for their human rights and liberation. Others had pointed out that chaos in these countries will serve anti-democratic elements.
Nevertheless, each country has its own problems and it seems that Egypt may be an easier case to understand than Syria. It seems like the common issue that launched the masses to the streets was the political system – the corruption, the devastated economy, the feelings of despair and humiliation among the masses. Whatever may be the reason for the unrest, the one issue that was brought up in every country either by the authorities or by the demonstrators is the common hatred to Israel and accusations that Israel is somehow involved in the events through financing and encouraging the opposition in the Arab countries.
So far, one has to honestly say, it is too early to come to clear conclusions. We can view the unfolding events however, to make observations about the future of the Middle East is simply impossible. Even in Egypt, where the revolution is seemingly over, it is just beginning as the masses that gather every evening at the “Freedom Square” in Cairo, keep demanding more changes. Due to the mob’s pressure, the former Egyptian government officials were arrested, voices call to execute the former president etc. It will take time to fully understand the outcomes of the events. The main reason for the uncertainty is the fact that there is no clear alternative to any of the dictators in the region that may loose their position and even their heads. The media keeps talking about the “Demonstrators”, “protestors” “freedom fighters” etc. We haven’t seen so far, in Libya or Syria and not even in Egypt, faces of leaders or movements or political parties that will fill up the political gap.
One of the basic principles that stands behind a dictatorship is to crush any potential opposition. It is not a coincidence that in the Arab countries the authorities only permit one party to exist, that is of course the party of the dictator. So, in case of moving from unrest to revolution, also means moving from some form of law and order to chaos, as nobody is trained or prepared to fill the political vacuum with the fall of the regime.
From a strictly Israeli stand point we are watching carefully the dynamic in our two closest geographical neighbors, Egypt and Syria.
In Egypt, the military had ceased the power, seemingly only for a while until a new constitution will be formed. Than, it was promised, the army will declare free elections and will pass the power peacefully to an elected government. In Egypt, the military is highly respected by the people and the fact that the Egyptian army refused to open fire at the demonstrators worked in their favor. The tone from the Egyptian street as stated by spokes people from among the masses is very anti Israeli. Every potential candidate for presidency tries to score points by bashing Israel in every opportunity. The logic behind those tones is simple – since the former ruler was a dictator, he did not represent the will of the people. Therefore, the peace with Israel contradicts the will of the Egyptian people and should be cancelled. The Israeli - Egyptian peace treaty is indeed in danger. The recent situation reflects immediately on the Israeli Palestinian conflict as well. With the unrest in Egypt the authorities have no will or energy to patrol and watch what happens in their back yard, the Sinai. Through Sinai, weapons are smuggled into the Gaza Strip and without Egyptian presence in the area, the access to Gaza is much easier. The joint effort that Israel and Egypt had invested in stopping the arms smuggle was barring fruits. Now it had come to an end. The pipe line that carries gas from Egypt to Israel was sabotaged several times over the last months and demonstrators out side the Israeli embassy in Cairo are calling “Death to Israel”.
The most disturbing issue however is the growing involvement of the “Muslim Brotherhood” in the events. At first the Brotherhood had kept a very low profile. They didn’t want to take the front line knowing that unrest based on Muslim radical demands will not be supported by the other demonstrators. The revolution had its popularity because it was representing the Egyptian nation as a whole and was not serving only one agenda. However now, with increased confusion and unrest, the Muslim Brotherhood is gaining more power.
Without an organized opposition to form an alternative administration, the winner from such a situation is not necessarily somebody who represents the majority of the people, but the one that is better organized and ready to take over. The Muslim Brotherhood is well organized and well prepared and motivated for the task. They may not represent the majority of the Egyptian people but as for now they are the only group ready to govern the country. The voices in Egypt speak about the bond between Egypt and Hamas in Gaza and about Egypt’s commitment to side with Hamas in its war against Israel. It is possible, although it is an opinion, that when the military will be ready to deliver their promise and call for free elections, they will hesitate to do so understanding that the better chances are in favor of the Muslim brotherhood to prevail.
From an Israeli stand point, the Muslim Brotherhood in power is the worse case scenario. However, among Egyptian liberals and intellectuals, the hatred to Israel is also growing. As poor are the living conditions in Egypt as they are, many circles of the Egyptian society are united around their hatred to Israel more then around any other cause. Although it seems strange, if indeed the approach to Israel is the one thing that unites the Muslim radicals and the Egyptian intellectuals, a coalition of these two groups will be the worse for Israel.
In an odd way, the military domination in Egypt, as long as it is controlled by the present military hierarchy, will guarantee, at least for the short term, the Israeli Egyptian peace. It doesn’t have to be a warm peace, it never was. Israel will be satisfied with knowing that Egypt in committed to the peace treaty and willing to cooperate with Israel in stopping the flow of weapons into Gaza, not only for Israel’s sake but for the Egyptian sake as well.
Egypt and Iran are going to resume their political relations that were cut off by the former regime. From an Israeli perspective, when adding the pieces together, it doesn’t look very promising what so ever.
The situation in Syria is different. The Syrian administration is based on a small group in the Syrian society - the Alawites. This group rules Syria with an iron fist over the vast majority of Sunni Syrians. The Asad family who are Alawaites, came to power through a revolution in the 60’. The Alawaites only make about 12 percent of the population although they hold all the important positions in the country. The Asad regime, first Haphez and now Bashar, being a small minority can only rule with brutal force. Therefore, the unrest in Syria has in it elements that in the case of Egypt are missing. Several ethnicities –Curds, Druze, opposing fragments of the Muslim fate, (Sunni and Alawaites) only add to the confusion. The above groups are divided to clans and tribes that are also in constant conflict with each other. Egypt is a more homogeneous society. It is one nation and ethnicity. In Syria, it is also an ethnic and a tribal matter and not just social and political. In 1982, in the Syrian city of Hamah, the Syrian army had butchered some 20 thousand locals that dared to demonstrate against the regime. That event is still vivid in the minds of Syrians. Going out to the streets having past experience took much courage. Chaos in Syria also means deeper involvement of Iran. Iran has a lot to loose from a regime change, any change in Syria. Chaos in Syria also means, more weapons flowing into Lebanon for Hezbollah. If the regime falls, the same scenario as in Egypt is possible in Syria – the Muslim Brotherhood over taking control. Iran, however, will do what ever is in their power to foil such a possibility. So, from an Israeli stand point once again, stability in Syria under the present regime seams to be the preferred situation.
What ever happens in the Middle East there is one thing we have to keep in mind; the assumption that people want freedom and rights as the west understand it, is totally wrong.
As a reminder, there were elections in the Palestinian Autonomy in January 2006. The Palestinian people have voted for a party, knowing it is going to cost them their “freedom” and “human rights”. They knew while voting for Hamas that Sharia law will deprive them from what the west regards as sacred – the basic principles of democracy. Yet they voted for it. They are willing, as they had stated so often, to sacrifice the little they have just to ensure that Israel will be destroyed. Can’t we assume than, that those may be the sentiments in Egypt and Syria?
The voices that are coming from Egypt, carry the same massage – the hatred to Israel over powers everything else. The west refuses to understand how deep is this hatred to Israel but not just to Israel. In this case Israel represents the western civilization. Changes in the Arab world may lead to regime changes and may even change political systems. They are not going to decrease the deep hatred of Islam towards the west. It looks like the era of Arab nationalism is over. The main question is therefore, are we witnessing the dawn of radical Muslim regimes, or maybe, the will for better life and dignity as we understand it, will overpower Muslim religious sentiments? It will require first of all and above all a radical change in the Muslim patterns of government, social structure and way of thinking. Are they capable to deliver such a change? Only time will tell what is the future holding for the Middle East.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 29 April 2011 )|
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