When you look at a map of the Middle East, one of the smallest nations is Israel. With the exception of Jordan, it is surrounded by enemies with Lebanon and Syria to the north and Egypt to the south. The Gaza strip, controlled by Hamas, has been a staging ground for rockets and the disputed West Bank, known in ancient times as Judea and Samaria, has both Israeli settlements and is home to Fatah, the other Palestinian faction.
The Israelis are famous for their internal disputes about how to deal with the Palestinians and respond to the likes of Hezbollah to the north. Secretary of State John Kerry has been expending a lot of time and energy to getting the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table, but if he expects the former to return to their 1967 borders, he is smoking some serious dope. If he expects the Palestinians to accept Israel as a sovereign nation, he’s in for a long wait.
At present, while the Israelis enjoy prosperity the rest of their region of the world is engulfed in turmoil. The horrendous slaughter in Syria is characterized by its regime as a war with “terrorists”, primarily al Qaeda. It is likely that the Israelis are quietly hoping the regime wins its civil war, the result of the regime’s terrible agricultural policies that impoverished a large part of its population, arousing its anger.
Would you believe that Syria is among the nations seeking a seat on the United Nations’ Human Rights Council when elections are held on November 12? Among the others are China, Russia, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia. The Council reflects that UN’s empty and hypocritical definition of human rights. It is corruption personified.
Jordan has become a refuge to a half a million Syrians that fled the fighting. It is hopefully receiving a lot of international aid to respond to their needs. Meanwhile several Gulf nations are covertly shipping arms to the Syrian rebels and the U.S. has moved some military assets to Jordan. Israel has moved its defense forces to its border on the Golan Heights, captured in the 1967 war, and with Lebanon. A lot of jihadists have been flooding into Syria and could decide to head south at some point.
Across its border with Egypt, specifically the Sinai, a military coup has overthrown the Muslim Brotherhood president and the new leadership is getting ready to address the lawless Sinai Peninsula with an operation ironically called “Desert Storm.” A refuge for Islamic extremists, the clear loser thus far has been the Brotherhood. Six of their leaders have fled to Gaza to prepare for another uprising.
Despite the U.S. State Department’s squishy wish that the new government in Egypt include the Brotherhood, Middle East expert, Daniel Pipes, succinctly says that breaking the Brotherhood’s neck “is good for Egypt, the region, and not least ourselves.”
The turmoil in the Middle East suggests that many of its Muslims have grown tired of life under Islam and, in particular, life dictated by the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda, and the Taliban.
The other fact of life is the inability of Arabs to unite around any single goal. Left to their own devices, they return to killing one another as is the case in Iraq these days. The Sunni-Shiite divide is the most obvious cause, but one should never lose sight of the billions in oil revenue that is more likely at the heart of the bloodshed.
Egypt holds out the prospect for an evolving Middle East that is tired of its ancient traditions of corruption and oppression. Turkey, that was for decades a secular nation, voted in a president who has tried to move it back toward Islam’s sharia law, but he has run into a lot of opposition. Everywhere in the Middle East there is a desire for a decent, honest, functioning economy.
The most interesting element of all this has been the Obama policy of withdrawing U.S. military from Iraq and, next year, Afghanistan. There truly does not seem to be much justification to spend treasure and blood in the region and, at this point, America has few friends there.
All of which seems to be working to Israel’s advantage. This is not to say that there isn’t peril to address, but for all its internal debates about how to deal with the Palestinians and what to do about the fighting in Syria and Egypt, the Israelis seem to have figured out how to address these issues. I would not want them as an enemy.
© Alan Caruba, 2013