Egyptian troops in Sinai for the first time in 30 years
Israel gave Egypt permission to send troops to Sinai for the first time in 30 years. Under the Camp David treaty between Israel and Egypt, the Egyptians are forbidden from stationing troops in Sinai. The troops were allowed to deploy in Sinai for riot control.
For the first time since the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, Israel responded favorable to an Egyptian request to bring the army into the Sinai peninsula in order to control the unrest that has gripped Egypt for a week.
Israeli sources told the Associated Press that two battalions were deployed in the Sharm El-Sheikh area at the southern tip of the peninsula, on Sunday.
According to Israel Radio, Knesset speaker Ruby Rivlin (Likud) has asked the Knesset's legal counsel to check whether the government has a right to allow the Egyptians to send troops into Sinai, or whether it's a violation of the treaty, even with Israeli approval.
Working group on Egypt calls for suspension of US aid
In an earlier post, I took note of a bipartisan working group on Egypt that is meeting with President Obama on Monday. That group issued a statement on Saturday (sorry - there is so much material out there that it's difficult to keep up) that merits consideration. Among other things, it calls for suspending US aid.
The prestigious and, since its formation less than a year ago, consistently ahead-of-the-curve Working Group on Egypt, co-chaired by Michele Dunne of Carnegie and Robert Kagan of Brookings, has just issued a new statement late Saturday. The Group includes Middle East and foreign policy experts ranging from Elliott Abrams of the Council of Foreign Relations and Ellen Bork of the Foreign Policy Initiative to Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch and Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress. Its members have been warning for months that the situation in Egypt is unstable, and they’ve been urging the U.S. government to take a more active role in planning for a post-Mubarak Egypt. They’re now calling for a suspension of aid to Egypt until the Egyptian government commits to free and fair elections and the transfer of power to a legitimate government.
Here’s the statement:
Statement of the Working Group on Egypt, Saturday January 29, 2011
Amidst the turmoil in Egypt, it is important for the U.S. to remain focused on the interests of the Egyptian people as well as the legitimacy and stability of the Egyptian government.
Only free and fair elections provide the prospect for a peaceful transfer of power to a government recognized as legitimate by the Egyptian people. We urge the Obama administration to pursue these fundamental objectives in the coming days and press the Egyptian government to:
-- call for free and fair elections for president and for parliament to be held as soon as possible.
-- amend the Egyptian Constitution to allow opposition candidates to register to run for the presidency.
-- immediately lift the state of emergency, release political prisoners, and allow for freedom of media and assembly
-- allow domestic election monitors to operate throughout the country, without fear of arrest or violence.
-- immediately invite international monitors to enter the country and monitor the process leading to elections, reporting on the government's compliance with these measures to the international community
-- publicly declare that Mr. Mubarak will agree not to run for re-election.
We further recommend that the Obama administration suspend all economic and military assistance to Egypt until the government accepts and implements these measures.
It's difficult to disagree with any of that, although as much of this as possible should be done privately but not publicly unless there is no other way than going public to get Mubarak to yield his position.
Here's CNN's Fareed Zakaria with a special on the events that have taken place in Egypt. It includes an interview with opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei (from 4:15 until 14:05). But it's worth watching the whole thing.
I think we should make a betting pool on how long 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud AbbasAbu Mazen will last, especially in light of recent events in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Yemen (sorry, but I can't go in depth on that many countries at once). The 'Western backed' Abu Mazen believes that he will not be swept up in the same 'democracy wave' that is sweeping up his authoritarian counterparts.
“They [Al-Jazeera] thought that Palestine was like Tunisia,” Abbas said, referring to the uprising that removed president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power this month. “They tried to spread lies because they thought that what happened in Tunisia could happen in Palestine.”
“Al-Jazeera thought that they could finish us off, but the Palestinian people have responded to their lies and distortions,” he said.
Abbas’s attack on Al-Jazeera came as Egypt closed down the station’s bureau in Cairo and withdrew credentials of all its staff.
Fatah representatives have urged Abbas to follow suit and ban Al-Jazeera from operating in the West Bank, under the pretext that the station incites against the PA leadership.
PA officials expressed deep concern over the current events in Egypt and warned that the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime would be a severe blow to moderate Arabs in the region.
“We are following the events in Egypt with deep concern,” a PA official said. “We are worried that the collapse of his regime would strengthen Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Azzam al-Ahmed, a top Fatah official and adviser to Abbas, said the Palestinians had no right to interfere in the internal affairs of others. “We respect the will of the political forces and the people in Egypt,” he said. “We hope stability and security will return to Egypt.”
He said that contrary to reports, the PA was not afraid that the events in Egypt would have an impact on the situation in the Palestinian territories.
As the government evacuated the families of envoys from Egypt over the weekend, public affairs broadcasts and newspapers in Israel focused heavily on the unfolding events there. Most of the predictions were dire. Two of three newspapers with the largest circulations, Yediot Aharonot and Maariv, had identical front page headlines: “A New Middle East.”
It was an ironic reference to the phrase used frequently in the 1990s by President Shimon Peres and other advocates of coexistence who argued that if Israel made peace with its neighbors, a more prosperous and enlightened region would bloom. Events of the past five years — the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, the rise of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran’s influence in Iraq and the shift by Turkey toward Iran and Syria — have turned many Israelis rightward, fearing that the more time passes the more the region is against them.
Israelis worry that Jordan is in a precarious state and a successful overthrow in Egypt could spread there. And if the Muslim Brotherhood were to gain power in Egypt that would likely mean not only a stronger Islamist force in Gaza but also in the West Bank, currently run by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, as well as in Jordan, meaning Israel would feel surrounded in a way it has not in decades.
If Egypt also turned unfriendly that would likely stop in its tracks any further Israeli talk of peace negotiations with the Palestinians, officials and analysts said. A peace treaty with the West Bank would involve yielding territory and military control to a relatively weak Palestinian Authority. Trading land for peace with autocrats like Mr. Mubarak, some analysts say, is not a sound basis for enduring treaties.
There has long been concern that popular sentiment in Egypt is anti-Israel. Eli Shaked, a former Israeli ambassador to Cairo wrote in Yediot Aharonot newspaper, “The only people in Egypt who are committed to peace are the people in Mubarak’s inner circle and if the next president is not one of them, we are going to be in trouble.”
Bronner is only hinting at a much wider problem. What's true of Egypt is also true of Jordan and of the 'Palestinian Authority.' To the extent that we have peace with any of them, that peace is with the elites, with the leadership, and not with the people. Worse, the elites have never been willing to go to bat to tell their people the truth - that Israel is here to stay. Instead, they - especially the 'Palestinian Authority' - continue to encourage with a wink and a nudge the notion that the Jewish presence in this region is temporary and will eventually be vitiated.
It was a mistake not to insist on re-education of the Egyptian population as part of the Camp David accords. And when negotiators woke up to that fact with the 'road map' in 2003, the 'Palestinians' ignored the responsibility, and continued to allow and encourage their media to incite against the Jews.
Unless and until there is a fundamental change in the way in which Muslim Arabs (and Persians) think, there is no place for 'peace negotiations' here. Israel should announce that kowtowing to the West at the expense of risking our lives is over. If that means withdrawing from the UN, so be it.
Dore Gold worries about the message that President Obama - or more specifically, his press secretary, Robert Gibbs - sent to Egyptian President Mubarak on Sunday.
But it was White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs who went beyond Obama by issuing what sounded like an implicit threat to Egypt. At a press briefing, Gibbs stated that the Egyptian government had to address the “legitimate grievances” of the Egyptian people “immediately.” A journalist in the press briefing room then popped the question to Gibbs: “You say that these legitimate grievances have to be addressed. I’m wondering. Or what?” Gibbs came back: “We will be reviewing our assistance posture based on events that take place in the coming days.” In other words, precisely when the Egyptian government had its back to the wall with the worst protests in recent Egyptian history, the White House press secretary threatened the embattled Mubarak with a cut in U.S. foreign aid. Israel’s largest newspaper, Yisrael Hayom, reported these events with a headline: “Obama Against Mubarak.”
Presumably, the U.S. government had its reasons for holding Mubarak at arms length. If they embraced their old ally, at this time, they could undermine him. Moreover, Washington was displeased with the Egyptian government for not adhering to U.S. political advice. Mubarak had been reluctant to take U.S. advice on political reform. In 2005, when he listened to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s demands to open up the Egyptian parliamentary elections, the numbers of elected members of the Muslim Brotherhood vastly increased from 15 seats to 88 out of the 454-member Egyptian Parliament. The Obama administration was not alone in expressing its frustration with Mubarak. Indeed, leading editorials took a hard line against him, as well. Aluf Benn thus concluded that there was a sense in the last few days that “the U.S. foreign policy establishment was shaking off its long-term protege in Cairo.”
Whatever the motivation was in Washington, the rough handling of Mubarak will have long-term implications. Egypt is a critical country. The Suez Canal, that connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean, runs through its territory. With Egypt in hostile hands, how will the U.S. reinforce the Persian Gulf from Europe? Intercontinental air routes fly over Egyptian territory, as well. But the real problem will be the reaction of other American allies in the Middle East. What kind of signal did Gibbs’ threat about cutting aid send to King Abdullah of Jordan or to President Saleh of Yemen, as well as to other allies in the Persian Gulf? Did it mean that as soon as an Arab leader gets into trouble, he starts to get disowned? Egypt had its problems, but the approach taken towards this old U.S. ally will have implications across the Arab world in the months ahead.
It's actually even worse than Dore's portraying it, and I highlighted what I believe is the key sentence here. Mubarak's downfall is a failure of the Obama administration. Where Mubarak needed gentle pressure from the US two years ago to keep going with the democratization program, that pressure was missing. Instead, Obama used all of his capital pressuring Israel - and no one else - in the Middle East. My guess is that every country in the Middle East is going to experience the kind of upheaval that Egypt is now experiencing, with the exceptions of Syria (which would gas its population to stop it), Iran (which would beat them to death), Iraq (which has already been through it) and Hamastan (which would react like Iran). Jordan, Lebanon, the 'Palestinian Authority' and maybe even Saudi Arabia, along with most of the Gulf states, are likely to go through what Egypt is going through now. And all because Obama gave a bunch of despots a free ride and only pressured Israel.
The Facebook page "We Are All Khaled Sa'id," which has played a key role in organizing the mass protests in Egypt since they began several days ago, has posted new instructions for the demonstrators: to focus on the demand for Mubarak's resignation; to march towards the presidential palaces, wearing uniform dress, chanting uniform slogans, and beating drums; not to fear the military and to call for its deployment throughout Egypt; not to trust reports on Egyptian TV, and to storm its headquarters; to provide the media with footage of government terrorism; to call for intervention by human rights organizations and the Arab League; to demonstrate unity between Muslims and Copts; not to show loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood, and to beware the police which are deployed everywhere, including in plainclothes.
Interesting that they're being told not to show loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood. I've heard that from a few sources. But the concern here is that the Brotherhood hijacks the protests anyway, as happened in 1978-79 in Iran.
One thing should be clear: They are not going to leave Mubarak in power. The question is who will replace him.
Is the heir of the Butcher of Damascus panicking over what's going on in Egypt? In a Wall Street Journal interview, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad promises 'reform' in his dictatorship. And he blames Israel for all that is going wrong. Here's some of it.
From the outside, what is the role of the West? It's now been twenty years since we started the peace process in 1991. What have we achieved? The simple way to answer this question is to say is it better or worse? We can for example say that it is five percent better than before we started the peace process. I can tell you frankly that it is much worse. That is why you have more desperation. This is the end result. If you talk about the approach, I always talk about taking the issue into a vicious cycle of desperation especially when you talk about peace. I am talking now about peace. You have other factors: you have negotiations, and then exaggerated hopes followed by failure; and then comes another hope and another failure. So, with time the diagram will be going down, and that is what has been happening: a little bit up and more down. This is one example about peace. [So thirty years plus after Egypt got back every last inch of land they lost in a war of aggression that they started, their people are 'desperate' and rebelling against the Mubarak government because of the 'peace process'? That really makes no sense. CiJ].
Internally, it is about the administration and the people's feeling and dignity, about the people participating in the decisions of their country. It is about another important issue. I am not talking here on behalf of the Tunisians or the Egyptians. I am talking on behalf of the Syrians. It is something we always adopt. We have more difficult circumstances than most of the Arab countries but in spite of that Syria is stable. Why? Because you have to be very closely linked to the beliefs of the people. This is the core issue. When there is divergence between your policy and the people's beliefs and interests, you will have this vacuum that creates disturbance. So people do not only live on interests; they also live on beliefs, especially in very ideological areas. Unless you understand the ideological aspect of the region, you cannot understand what is happening.[Syria has it tougher because they have yet to be the beneficiary of a foolish Israeli gift, and they are unlikely to be anytime soon. CiJ]
[I skipped the part where Assad said that reform in Syria would have to wait for the next generation. I'm sure Syrian democrats will just jump for joy upon hearing that. CiJ] WSJ: From what we have seen in Tunisia and Egypt in the recent weeks, does it make you think there are some reforms you should be accelerating? And is there any concern that what is happening in Egypt could infect Syria?
President Assad: If you did not see the need for reform before what happened in Egypt and in Tunisia, it is too late to do any reform. This is first. Second, if you do it just because of what happened in Tunisia and Egypt, then it is going to be a reaction, not an action; and as long as what you are doing is a reaction you are going to fail. So, it is better to have it as a conviction because you are convinced of it, and this is something we talk about in every interview and every meeting. We always say that we need reform but what kind of reform. This is first. Second, if you want to make a comparison between what is happening in Egypt and Syria, you have to look from a different point: why is Syria stable, although we have more difficult conditions? Egypt has been supported financially by the United States, while we are under embargo by most countries of the world. We have growth although we do not have many of the basic needs for the people. Despite all that, the people do not go into an uprising. So it is not only about the needs and not only about the reform. It is about the ideology, the beliefs and the cause that you have. There is a difference between having a cause and having a vacuum. So, as I said, we have many things in common but at the same time we have some different things.
WSJ: So somehow they should be able to move faster, wouldn't they?
President Assad: Exactly and what is happening is the opposite. They tell you move faster and at the same time they impose an embargo! Part of moving faster is technical. Part of the problem is how to upgrade your administration because at the end everything in society will be related to the administration such as the laws, the judicial system and other technical issues. Unless you do this for a better economy and better performance, people will not be satisfied, and the most important point in any reform is the institutions. You cannot have democracy without the institutions. You cannot have a democracy that is built on the moods of self-interested people. So, the beginning is dialogue and the institutions. [But most Syrians don't feel as Assad does. They may not love Israel, but they definitely want democratic reform. But Assad is willing to gas his people just like his father did, so he doesn't care what they think. Say what you will about Mubarak, at least he hasn't called out the chemical weapons. CiJ]
The interview is quite long, and honestly I did not read all of it. You can find the rest here.
The picture at the top comes from one of the ant-Assad websites calling for demonstrations on Saturday.
Messiah's times: Obama seeking advice on Egypt from bipartisan panel, including (gulp!) former Bush NSC official
I think this is a first. President Obama has invited a bipartisan panel of experts, which was among the few groups to warn of the coming crisis in Egypt, to advise him on how to handle what's going on in Egypt. The panel includes (gulp!) former Bush administration National Security Council official Elliott Abrams.
Several foreign policy scholars and former officials have been urging the U.S. administration for months to prepare for the end of the Hosni Mubarak era and the instability that would accompany it.
Now that the administration has found itself scrambling the past few days to, first, try to avert a bloodbath in Egypt and more broadly, figure out what to do amid a hugely complicated power transition there with much at stake for the U.S., it's worth noting the people who have been pleading for policy attention on this issue long in advance. Chief among them, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Michele Dunne, a former NSC and State Department Policy Planning official, and the Brookings Institution's Robert Kagan, who co-chair a bipartisan working group on Egypt.
To their credit, the National Security Council's top Middle East hands Dennis Ross and Dan Shapiro met with Dunne and Kagan in November to discuss the issue (at a stuck moment of the peace process which has remained stuck), and other democracy and human rights specialists in the administration, including the NSC's Samantha Power and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East democracy issues Tamara Wittes, have frequently met with them. But the regional advisors' priorities mattered most, advocates believed, and to a great extent, much of their focus (as for that of the principals above them, and indeed, the wider policy community and media) has been on the peace process, and looking at Egypt through the prism of its role in supporting the peace process.
Just got late word that Dunne, Kagan and others from their group including former Bush NSC Middle East hand Elliott Abrams, as well as George Washington University Middle East expert Marc Lynch, have been invited to the White House Monday.
After an entire weekend where we're told that Israel is keeping a low profile and not taking sides, Haaretz comes out with this in the Monday morning paper.
Israeli officials are keeping a low profile on the events in Egypt, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even ordering cabinet members to avoid commenting publicly on the issue.
Senior Israeli officials, however, said that on Saturday night the Foreign Ministry issued a directive to around a dozen key embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries. The ambassadors were told to stress to their host countries the importance of Egypt's stability. In a special cable, they were told to get this word out as soon as possible.
EU foreign ministers are to discuss the situation in Egypt at a special session today in Brussels, after which they are expected to issue a statement echoing those issued in recent days by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Obama called on Mubarak to take "concrete steps" toward democratic reforms and to refrain from violence against peaceful protesters, sentiments echoed in a statement Saturday night by the leaders of Britain, France and Germany.
"The Americans and the Europeans are being pulled along by public opinion and aren't considering their genuine interests," one senior Israeli official said. "Even if they are critical of Mubarak they have to make their friends feel that they're not alone. Jordan and Saudi Arabia see the reactions in the West, how everyone is abandoning Mubarak, and this will have very serious implications."
Sorry, but no. Our interest is not Mubarak's survival - we should be neutral on that question.
Our interest should that if Mubarak is replaced, he should be replaced by a pro-Western government that will continue to abide by the Camp David treaty. The more we open our mouths to save Mubarak, the more likely we go down with Mubarak and the treaty goes down with him. That leaves us with an enemy on our southern flank who is much stronger than in 1967 or 1973, and we'd be starting from the 1949 armistice lines. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
At a Davos panel on Iran's nuclear program, Council of Foreign Relations representative Richard Haas took a relatively hard line.
In the debate at the World Economic Forum, former top U.S. diplomat Richard Haass said there were no good options should diplomacy fail, but stood apart from the others in advocating force as a viable option. He sparred repeatedly with Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki al-Faisal, who urged the United States to instead pressure Israel to quit its own reported nuclear weapons as a way of coaxing Iran to drop its suspected weapons program as well.
Haass replied that there was no time for this because of the speed of Iran's program — and rejected the assertion by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan that the program might be civilian, as Tehran has repeatedly claimed.
The Davos panel thus reflected the basic disagreement that divides world powers and bedevils diplomatic efforts: All seem to oppose Iran producing a nuclear weapon, but there are disagreements over whether to believe its protestations. And down the road lies the open question of whether war is worse than acquiesence.
Iran "is not interested in any serious way to produce electricity," said Haass, who is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, an influential U.S. think tank. "Let's not kid ourselves: This is about a sustained Iranian commitment to either develop nuclear weapons or get 90 percent of the way there" — perhaps sufficing with a status as "a 'threshold nuclear weapons state' in the belief that they could derive most of the benefits (without) incurring most of the costs."
Most of the other panelists at the debate hosted by the Al-Arabiya satellite TV channel stressed that diplomacy should be the focus of current efforts.
"We should use every single opportunity to reach our goal on the diplomatic path," said German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.
Babacan argued that "there is a huge misunderstanding between the Western world and some in the (Middle East) and Iran. ... Marginalizing Iran more and more, or cornering them more and more ... is not going to give any kind of (solution)."
"The Iranians see diplomacy as a tactic to buy time," Haass countered. "I don't think it's going to work." Although he advocates tougher sanctions as a tactic, Haass said he feared an ultimate choice between two bad options: accepting a nuclear-armed Iran — or using military force to set back the Iranian program however possible, despite the risk of only partial success.
"I do believe that force is a serious option," he said, arguing that a nuclear Iran would place this region on a knife's edge. It would take the most dangerous, unstable part of the world and place it on steroids. This has tremendous consequences which we should not underestimate."
Internationally, it more is a matter of neglect and disregard, rather than a causal connection.
Having prostrated the United States before the world in the first months of his administration, and then having largely abandoned that world while focusing on Obamacare, we have watched a de facto Iranian takeover of Lebanon via Hezbollah, and a spread of Iranian and Islamist influence. It remains to be seen in which direction the Egyptian crisis moves, but all signs point to creater instability in the region and greater influence of Islamists.
The administration's complete obsession with Obamacare has had intended and unintended consequences, only some of which presently are known.
Update: Yes, I know, not all of the foreign policy has been neglectful. The Obama administration was quite active in supporting the Hugo Chavez-wannabee who tried to make himself president-for-life over the objections of the Honduran people, and in publicly scolding the Israelis for the lack of progress in peace talks.
Meanwhile, Jim Hoft reports that while Egypt burned on Saturday, Obama spent the day watching basketball and partying.
Egyptians understand that the world is waiting to see if President Hosni Mubarak falls to popular pressure before major leaders decide which side to support. But this is infuriating the demonstrators, who realize that six days of unrest have not accomplished their goal and that they need united international pressure in order to topple the almost-30-year incumbent.
The protests have lacked a clear leader to unite them and provide an alternative to Mubarak, and demonstrators are beginning to focus their wrath not just on Mubarak and the country’s widespread corruption, but also on the United States and, to a lesser extent, Israel. They blame Israel and the US for supporting a government because it is convenient for them, not because it is good for the Egyptian people.
“The USA does not support democracy; they’re supporting Israel, which is like their baby,” said Ahmed, a 26-year-old Cairo resident. “They think Egypt is functional because it’s in favor of their considerations.”
“I don’t care if we have peace [with Israel] or not,” Ahmed continued, echoing the indifference of many demonstrators who don’t have a clear agenda for what they want a future Egypt to look like, as long as it does not include Mubarak. “But will Israel allow us to have a real president? For example, Turkey elected an Islamic government, but it was their choice. Will Israel give us the freedom to make the same choice?” he asked.
Demonstrators are relying on the foreign press to get their message to Obama.
“Isn’t this democracy?” they asked me over and over when I said I was a journalist from America, incredulous that the country held as the pinnacle of world democracy could ignore such widespread popular sentiment.
“Obama has to be on our side. Where is your democracy?” asked Osam L, who works at a foreign bank in Cairo.
“You say Arabs are just donkeys, but the USA is supporting the system, not the people.”
The Jewish community in Cairo and Alexandria both declined to speak with the media, but told The Jerusalem Post that all of its members were safe and going about their daily routine as normally as possible.
I think that's what's called realpolitik, and no, it doesn't always lead to the most moral outcome. But if they're going to make war with us, I won't support them either.
Is Syria the next Arab domino to go? Syrian activists have been using Facebook to call for a 'day of rage' against the Assad regime on Saturday, February 5.
In the past week, Syrian activists have been using Facebook to call for mass protests in Syria on Saturday, February 5, 2011, dubbing it the "Day of Rage." In Facebook pages created specifically for this purpose, members have called on the Syrian public to take to the streets on that date and stage peaceful demonstrations and rallies in all parts of the country, as well as in front of Syrian embassies in Arab and European capitals, in protest of the oppressive Syrian regime. These Facebook pages also feature images and videos slamming Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and supporting protest against his rule.
The organizers of the Syrian protests have expressed support for the demonstrators in Tunisia and Egypt, and have adopted their methods: opening special Facebook pages on which information is posted regarding the place and time of the planned protests, and creating a special profile picture, associated with the protests, to be used by all Facebook members sympathizing with the cause. However, it seems that the scope of their activity is limited compared to that of the Tunisian and Egyptian activists. So far, the number of people who have registered as members on these Facebook pages is relatively small, and some of the members reside outside the country.
Among those promoting the "Day of Rage" protests is the Independent Islamic Bloc – part of the "Damascus Declaration" opposition movement – which has called upon Syrians to attend a "sweeping protest and mass rally" in front of the Parliament house in Damascus on February 5. In its announcement, the organization praised the protests in Tunisia and Egypt and warned the Syrian regime against continuing its oppression, corruption and political arrests. Websites have also published a message by "the Popular Committees in Aleppo Province" announcing a February 5 protest rally in the center of Aleppo, the second largest city in Syria.
The organizers of the planned demonstrations in Damascus and Aleppo have listed their demands: an improvement in living standards, respect for human rights, freedom of speech for all Syrian citizens, and greater influence for Syrian youth. They requested that the protesters come equipped with nothing more than Syrian flags and signs expressing their demands.
Syria is on the alert for the possible spread of protests to its territory. On January 29, 2011, the Syrian authorities prevented the holding of a demonstration in solidarity with the Egyptian protesters in front of the Egyptian embassy in Damascus, fearing a conflagration. It was also reported that Syrian security chief 'Ali Mamlouk has met with province governors and police commanders in order to prepare for possible protests in the country.
There are conflicting reports regarding the accessibility of Facebook, which has played a crucial role in mobilizing the public for the current wave of protests in the Arab world. According to a January 25, 2011 report on Alarabiya.net, the Syrian authorities have restricted access to Facebook in a bid to keep the protests from spreading to Syria, but some users are managing to access the site through proxies.  The Syrian news agency SANA has denied this, saying that access to the Internet is unrestricted throughout the country.
I'm sure that you'll all be shocked to hear that as a result of what's happening in Egypt, 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud AbbasAbu Mazen is considering holding elections in the 'Palestinian Authority.' Those elections are two years overdue.
Senior Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad said Sunday that President Mahmoud Abbas was looking into holding presidential and legislative elections despite the national division.
Speaking at a press conference in Ramallah, Al-Ahmad said a meeting would be held Monday to discuss holding elections.
Fatah would support a government decision to hold elections, he said.
I wonder what will happen if someone other than Abu Bluff is elected the Grand Pubah of 'Palestine.' Heh.
Prominent 'Israeli-Arab' sentenced for spying for Hezbullah
A prominent 'Israeli Arab,' who admitted to spying for Hezbullah, has been sentenced to nine years in jail.
He admitted to the charges against him, and speaking outside the court continued to accuse the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) of singling out Arab-Israeli public figures. Makhoul vowed to continue his public activism after he completes his sentence.
During his interrogation with the Shin Bet, Makhoul confessed to having met a Hizbullah operative during a trip to Denmark in 2008. During the meeting, Makhoul agreed to become an agent for Hizbullah in Israel and to begin collecting what was described as "strategic intelligence" on Israeli security services.
He later received an encryption system so he could transfer the information by computer to Hizbullah.
Per request of his Hizbullah handlers, Makhoul, the Shin Bet said, transferred names and details of additional men and women throughout Israel who he believed could also serve as spies for Hizbullah.
Yeah, they must be singling out 'Israeli Arabs.' After all, there are so many Jews who do things like this.
In the possible scenarios that Israeli intelligence envisioned, they admittedly posited 2011 as a year of possible regime change – with a lot question marks – in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but a popular uprising like this was completely unexpected.
More than this, in his first appearance at a meeting last Wednesday of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee the new head of military intelligence Major General Aviv Kochavi said to member of Knesset, "There are currently no doubts about the stability of the regime in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is not organized enough to take over, they haven't managed to consolidate their efforts in a significant direction."
If the Mubarak regime is toppled, the quiet coordination of security between Israel and Egypt will quickly be negatively affected. It will affect relations between Cairo's relationship with the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, it will harm the international forces stationed in Sinai.
It will mean the refusal of Egypt to continue to allow the movement of Israeli ships carrying missiles through the Suez canal, which was permitted for the last two years, according to reports in the foreign press, in order to combat weapons smuggling from Sudan to Gaza. In the long run, Egypt's already-cold peace treaty with Israel will get even colder.
From the perspective of the IDF, the events are going to demand a complete reorganization. For the last 20 years, the IDF has not included a serious threat from Egypt in its operational plan.
Read it all and you will understand why there is so much concern in Israel about what's going on in Egypt today.
Here are a couple of interesting tweets from Sultan al-Qassemi, who is a writer for the Emirati newspaper, the National. They are here and here.
I wonder whether the Mubarak government sought Israeli approval before sending troops to the Suez Peninsula as is required under the Camp David treaty. Either they did, or Israel has chosen not to object. Either way, I have heard nothing about a request for Israeli approval here in Israel.
By the way, the same is true regarding Sharm el-Sheikh, where the Egyptian military has also entered.
According to the poll, conducted just after the series, 99 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem heard about the leaked documents, dubbed the Palestine Papers, but 68 percent did not believe them.
There was little variation across the territories, with 71 percent in the West Bank doubting the documents, compared to 64 percent in Gaza.
However, the majority of Hamas supporters polled believed the leaked papers were real, while most Fatah supporters said they were fabricated.
Both factions agreed the leak of the documents would serve Israeli interests, with 88 percent saying Israel would benefit most from their publication.
Only five percent said the Palestinian Authority would benefit from the leak.
The survey was conducted by Near East Consulting. A random sample of 897 Palestinians aged above 18 were polled. There was a margin of error of 3.4 percent.
I don't believe they're 100% accurate, but on the whole I now believe that they are accurate. There were enough gaps in them between the Israeli and 'Palestinian' positions to more than account for why no deal was struck. And apparently the 'Palestinians' are having trouble believing that their leadership could make any concessions at all.
In an editorial London's Jewish Chronicle rips the daily al-Guardian for the shameless way in which it used the Palileaks documents to cross the line between journalism and political activism, thereby endangering lives (Hat Tip: CiF Watch).
What is very wrong is the way the paper chose to present its story: the distortions, the bias, the agenda, the spin and the breathtaking arrogance of its handing down instructions to the Palestinians of how they should behave. Make no mistake: the Guardian's presentation was, as David Landau puts it, "intended to poison the Palestinians against their leaders". And to poison the world against Israel. Take the quote from Saeb Erekat, in which he was reported to have made an offer to Israel of "the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history". This was used to attack the Israelis for their intransigence.
"Israel spurned Palestinian offer of biggest Yerushalayim in history'' ran the headline. Nowhere was the preceding sentence from Erekat to be seen: "Israelis want the two-state solution but they don't trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians."
Erekat himself was acknowledging the Israelis' desire for a solution. But because such a view does not fit with the Guardian's agenda, his words were brazenly distorted. The paper's editorial then attacked the Palestinian negotiators for being "craven", arguing that their apparent willingness to make concessions was a betrayal of the Palestinian people.
So it was hardly surprising, although still shameful, that on Wednesday it gave its main comment space to Hamas to threaten "practical measures" to "regain the initiative".
Al-Guardian's behavior was no better than al-Jazeera's. But al-Jazeera has the excuse that it is an Arab network spouting the line of the Emir of Qatar. Oh wait - al-Guardian has a largely Muslim readership and is spouting the line of David Cameron. How could I forget?
Part of the problem with what's going on in Egypt today, says Leslie Gelb, is that no one really knows where it's heading. No one knows who is behind the protests, and no one knows who would replace Mubarak if he is deposed.
But the very assertion of “not taking sides” is itself a tilt away from the all-out support traditionally given by Washington to this Egyptian strongman in recent decades.
The administration’s move is a slide toward the unknown. Senior officials have no idea of exactly who these street protesters are, whether the protesters are simply a mob force incapable of organized political action and rule, or if more sinister groups hover in the shadows, waiting to grab power and turn Egypt into an anti-Western, anti-Israeli bastion. The White House has called upon its intelligence agents and diplomats to provide answers, but only best guesses are forthcoming. No one, no matter how well informed about Egypt, can divine what will happen to power within Egypt if the protesters compel concessions from the Mubarak regime or, on the other hand, if Mubarak hangs onto power by using brutal force.
So, some administration officials are thinking that for all the risks of losing a good ally in Mubarak, it might well be better to get “on the right side of history.” Some U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers have long harbored the view that corrupt, inept, and inefficient Arab friends simply cannot retain power forever. They believe President Carter should have trusted his initial instincts and pushed the Shah of Iran toward reforms. In this way, the shah might have become viable, or failing that, Washington could have allied with moderates who might have succeeded him.
But those officials who think this way forget their history. When President George W. Bush made his push for democracy in Arab lands, he ended up with Hamas terrorists winning a democratic election and ruling the Gaza Strip. And this “democratic” thinking also overlooks that Bush’s pressing for democracy in Lebanon helped open the doors to power for the radical Hezbollah group. And yes, the anti-shah revolution in 1979 started out with moderates in power, only to be pushed aside by the clerical radicals who still rule today. In rotten regimes that fall to street mobs, the historical pattern has been moderates followed by new dictators. Just remember the model of the Bolsheviks, a tiny group of extremely well-organized communists, wresting control away from the great majority of discontented and disorganized Russians in 1917.
While Israel has been extremely cautious not to appear to be taking sides in the current goings-on in Egypt, 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud AbbasAbu Mazen is a different story. Abu Mazen has come out strongly in favor of Mubarak.
President Mahmoud Abbas contacted his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak on Saturday, state media said.
“President Abbas affirmed the Palestinian leadership's support for Egyptian security and stability,” Abbas was quoted as saying.
If Mubarak is ousted, Abu Mazen's support for him could come back to bite him. While the Dayton forces have been able to keep Hamas in check in Judea and Samaria, if a mass uprising against Abu Mazen's rule were to occur, they might find that more challenging to put down. And Abu Mazen has been ruling for more than two years since he was supposed to hold elections.
Martin Indyk, the director of the Foreign Policy Program at Brookings and a former US ambassador to both Israel and Egypt, says that it's time for Mubarak to go. Indyk will be appearing on a special edition of NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, January 30, 2011.
Put simply, all of our interests in the Middle East — from promoting stability, to resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, to ensuring the free-flow of oil at reasonable prices, to containing the influence of Iran and its radical Hamas and Hezbollah proxies — all of them will be much harder, if not impossible, to protect, if we lose Egypt.
But here's the horrible dilemma that President Obama now finds himself in. If he distances the United States from Mubarak, he risks toppling a critically important Arab ally which could generate a tsunami of instability that could shake the foundations of all of America's autocratic Arab allies across the region. Yet if he does not distance the U.S. from the Egyptian pharaoh, he risks alienating the Egyptian people, helping to open the way to a theocratic regime that would be fundamentally anti-American.
Fortunately, we know the consequences of being on the wrong side of history, because we have been living with them ever since the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1978 and his replacement by the anti-American ayatollahs. The Shah, like Mubarak, represented a strategic pillar, protecting U.S. interests in the critically important Persian Gulf. Jimmy Carter pressed the Shah to undertake political reforms and respect the human rights of his people, but then backed off for the sake of stability. Similarly, George W. Bush pressed Mubarak to open up political space for a moderate Egyptian opposition to emerge and then backed off after Hamas won the Palestinian elections.
At this point, facing by far the biggest foreign policy crisis of his presidency, Obama cannot afford to backtrack. Yesterday, he came out publicly on the side of the Egyptian people, insisting that Mubarak undertake significant reforms. But it is surely clear by now that the people will settle for nothing less than the removal of Mubarak. So Obama's options are narrowing. He will soon have to decide whether to tell Mubarak that the United States no longer supports him and that it's time for him to go.
Fortunately, Mubarak's appointment of Omar Suleiman, the head of Military Intelligence, as his vice president and successor, has made it more possible for Obama to pursue this option with less fear of the potential destabilizing consequences. The United States has a good deal of leverage on the Egyptian military because we have trained, equipped and paid for their armaments. They now hold the key to a positive resolution of this crisis. Mubarak may have appointed Suleiman to shore up military support for his presidency, but he is now dependent on the same military for his survival and they may be willing to abandon him to ensure their own.
That's the door on which Obama now needs to push. Suleiman needs to be encouraged to take over as Egypt's new president, order the military to prevent looting but not harm the demonstrators, and announce that he will only serve for six months until free and fair elections allow for a legitimate president to form a new government. If he can put this understanding in place, Obama then needs to call Mubarak and tell him gently but firmly that for the good of his country it's time for him to go.
I have my doubts that any of this will help. For example, who is going to guarantee to the Egyptians that Suleiman really will step down in six months? Mubarak also promised to step down many years ago, and look what happened? Suleiman represents the current regime even if his last name is not Mubarak.
The US has to do more. It has to seek out and back a non-Islamist alternate to Mubarak and then encourage Mubarak to resign and leave the country in the hands of the army until free and fair elections can be held. Then, it must back that non-Islamist alternative to the hilt. Otherwise, the US really will lose Egypt. And so will we.
The following is a report from a STRATFOR source in Hamas. Hamas, which formed in Gaza as an outgrowth of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB), has an interest in exaggerating its role and coordination with the MB in this crisis. The following information has not been confirmed. Nonetheless, there is a great deal of concern building in Israel and the United States in particular over the role of the MB in the demonstrations and whether a political opening will be made for the Islamist organization in Egypt.
The Egyptian police are no longer patrolling the Rafah border crossing into Gaza. Hamas armed men are entering into Egypt and are closely collaborating with the MB. The MB has fully engaged itself in the demonstrations, and they are unsatisfied with the dismissal of the Cabinet. They are insisting on a new Cabinet that does not include members of the ruling National Democratic Party.
Security forces in plainclothes are engaged in destroying public property in order to give the impression that many protesters represent a public menace. The MB is meanwhile forming people’s committees to protect public property and also to coordinate demonstrators’ activities, including supplying them with food, beverages and first aid.
Israel is deeply concerned with the prospect of the Muslim Brotherhood taking over in Egypt. It would surely be the end of the Camp David accords. Israel would be facing an Egyptian army that is far more powerful than the Egyptian army was in 1967, and it would be facing it from the 1967 armistice lines.
Why is Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on his way out? And why now? Fouad Ajami explains (Hat Tip: William Daroff via Twitter).
A deceased friend of mine, an army general of Mr. Mubarak's class and generation, spoke of the man with familiarity: He was a civil servant with the rank of president, he said of his fellow officer. Mr. Mubarak put the word out that he would serve two six-year terms and be gone. But the appetite grew with the eating. The humble officer would undergo a transformation. A presidency-for-life announced itself. And in an astounding change, where Nasser and Sadat feared the will and the changing moods of their countrymen, Mr. Mubarak grew imperious and dismissive.
Egypt bent to his will. A country with a vibrant parliamentary tradition in the 1920s and 1930s became a sterile tyranny. A land that had opened onto Europe in the course of the 19th century, that had given rise to professional syndicates and associations, to an independent judiciary, was brought low.
There has always been an Egyptian pride in their country—even as Egypt tried and failed to modernize, even as its Sisyphean struggle broke its heart and engendered a deep sense of disappointment—and Mr. Mubarak came to offend that sense of national pride.
In the annals of Muslim dynasties and kingdoms, wives and children have figured prominently in the undoing of rulers. An ambitious wife, Suzanne, with haughty manners, and a taste for wealth and power (a variation on the hairdresser Leila Trabelsi, the wife of the deposed Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali) and a favored son who, by all indications, was preparing to inherit his father's power, deepened the estrangement between Mr. Mubarak and his people.
Egypt had been the trendsetter in Arab politics, in its self-image the place where all things modern in Arab life—the cinema, radio, women's emancipation, parliamentary life, mass politics, forced industrialization—had begun. The sight of Tunisians, hitherto a marginal people in the Arab consciousness, taking to the streets and deposing their tyrant, both shamed and emboldened the Egyptians. They had wearied of the large prison that Mr. Mubarak had constructed for them. A man who places himself at the helm for three decades inevitably, and justly, becomes the target of all the discontents in the realm.
As a reminder of just unhelpful the Mubarak reimge has been in discouraging anti-Semitism, here's an Eli Lake column from the New York Sun that was written in 2005. You will note that the United States has not been very helpful in encouraging the Egyptians to do things differently.
Hisham Abd al-Rauf, the foreign editor of Egypt's largest-circulation afternoon paper, would like the readers of The New York Sun to know that he does not hate all Jewish people. But that nonetheless, he is entitled to his opinions that the Holocaust never happened, that the Romans did not destroy the Second Temple in Jerusalem because it was never built, and that Jews ordered President Bush to unseat Saddam Hussein.
But as for the Jews, Mr. al-Rauf grew up with many in his Cairo neighborhood before the Six-Day War. His father's jeweler was Jewish. In 1993, he met many more Jews, whom he claims to genuinely like, on an American government program to train foreign journalists in Boston. "I have even met some rabbis. I liked them," he said in an interview yesterday where he defended a recent column praising the Iranian president's recent remarks questioning the historical truth of the Holocaust.
Mr. al-Rauf's column, titled "Israel's Lies," argued that the gas chambers were actually rooms to disinfect clothing, and that Adolf Hitler was "not against the Jews," he even allowed 120,000 of them to immigrate to Israel. At the end of this screed, Mr. al-Rauf scolded the Europeans who have expressed outrage at the comments of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "If you feel sorry for the poor Jews, why don't you establish their country on your lands?" he wrote, according a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
The column appeared on December 12 in al-Masaa, a government funded paper that has 200,000 daily readers.
One might think these sorts of assertions would draw controversy. But not here in Egypt. Mr. al-Rauf and al-Masaa's editor in chief, Khaled Imam, say they have received no letters to the editor.
The journalist exchange program in which Mr. al-Rauf participated in 1993 was funded by American taxpayers.
"I saw Jackson, Miss.; New Orleans; Washington; New York, and of course Boston," the foreign editor said. "It's a very good country with very good people, but a very bad government." When asked his thoughts on President Bush, he said, "He is turning America into the Soviet Union," an odd comment for the foreign editor of a state-funded newspaper that nearly every day features an above-the-fold photo of President Mubarak.
I'm beginning to reconsider my comments about the abrogation of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty being inevitable. I'm old enough to remember that when Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981, everyone thought that the treaty would be abrogated. Hosni Mubarak has - nominally - adhered to the treaty for the last 30 years. But obviously, Mubarak is not a lover of Jews.
The reason Mubarak has adhered to the treaty is all that American aid money. Will the US support Mubarak's successor? Obviously, that depends who it is. But if Mubarak's successor is a garden variety anti-Semite and not something like the Muslim Brotherhood that is dead set on turning Egypt and the entire world into a Caliphate, then there is a chance that if US aid continues, the treaty will remain in effect.
Israel Radio reports on its 12:00 Noon news that the United States has urged its citizens to leave Egypt. The warning strengthens a previously issued warning to US citizens to postpone travel to Egypt.
Turkey is sending two planes to pick up its citizens in Cairo and Alexandria.
Israel Radio reported on its 11:00 am news on Sunday that the Egyptian information ministry has ordered al-Jazeera's Egyptian operation shut down. Apparently, they didn't like what al-Jazeera was broadcasting.
Israel Radio also reports that the Egyptian army has increased forces in Northern Sinai and along the Philadelphi Corridor border between Egypt and Gaza. The Rafah border crossing between the two is closed until further notice. I assume that the smuggling tunnels are still operating although if it's raining as much there as it is here, I wouldn't want to be in the tunnels today.
Great news: Bedouin smugglers control Egyptian towns closest to Gaza
Time Magazine reports that Bedouin smugglers opposed to the Mubarak regime now control the two Egyptian towns that are closest to the Gaza Strip. The towns are not named, but we have heard reports relating to both El Arish and Rafah over the past few days.
And a prominent Bedouin smuggler in the Sinai peninsula told TIME that Bedouin are now in control of the two towns closest to the Gaza Strip, and that they planned to press on to attack the Suez Canal if Mubarak does not step down. He also said that police stations in the south Sinai would be attacked if Bedouin prisoners were not released.
And in Israel, the IDF may not have a Chief of Staff in two weeks, because Defense Minister Barak's candidate for the position has been accused of perjury.
Here are some lessons that Israeli policymakers ought to take to heart in deciding how to move ahead in the Middle East.
It is far too early, of course, to tell whether what is happening in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and elsewhere will result in regime change, leadership change, true democracy, or something else. But what is clear is that certain old truths about the Middle East, truths that were the basis of our old policies toward that world, no longer stand.
First, that the region is stagnant, people apathetic and autocratic regimes too entrenched to be challenged. Rather, small social changes -- such as new technologies, an increasingly savvy and outspoken youth -- are able to rock the foundations of even the most seemingly durable regime.
Second, that Islamists represent the only genuine social force in Arab lands, that it would be those who hold aloft the banner of Islam that would lead any popular uprising and hijack any democratic opening. Instead, what we are seeing is that Islamists are but a part of the protests, participating as one part of a movement that spans class and ideology, unified only by a desire for democracy and freedom.
Third, supporting reform in Egypt will jeopardize Israeli security. Israel's security depends on security and peace agreements with states that represent the interests of their people (not with states that repress their people in the name of upholding peace agreements with Israel). Decades of support for Arab leaders most friendly to Israel have failed to bring peace. A durable peace process is no longer about bi-lateral agreements with illegitimate Arab dictators (supported by the U.S.), rather real peace needs to reflect the interests of citizens in Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Cairo.
Finally, that the West -- and especially the US -- can keep its friends in power. Ben Ali, after all, boarded a plane not because he had violated unwritten terms of alliance, but because his people had finally said enough.
It's that "third" that concerns me. A durable peace was never about bilateral agreements with illegitimate leaders, and that's why the the peace we've had with Egypt has been a cold peace all along. Will a new Egyptian government dump even that cold peace? I would say that the odds of that are pretty high. And what if Jordan goes the same way?
Keep this in mind: Even in the 'good days' of the Mubarak regime, all the war games scenarios involved attacking Israel.
But of course: Media Matters blames 'Israel Lobby' for Egyptian uprising
The insufferable MJ Rosenberg has written a piece for Media Matters blaming the 'Israel Lobby' for what's going on in Egypt (Hat Tip: Legal Insurrection, who has more comments).
If one needs additional proof that the "pro-Israel" lobby and the policies it dictates to US policymakers are bad for both the U.S. and Israel, look no further than what is happening in Egypt.
The regime that the Israeli government and its U.S. lobby have depended upon to enforce the status quo is going down. It is not clear when, but it's going to be soon, much sooner than anyone ever anticipated. And you can be sure that any democratic government that takes Mubarak's place is not going to play the role of America's (let alone Israel's) enforcer in the Middle East.
Hopefully, the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty will survive — thousands of lives on both sides have been saved by President Carter's Camp David Treaty — but there are no guarantees. Far from it.
Of course, no one would even be worried about the peace treaty if the Israelis had agreed to implement the critical second part of the Camp David Accords.
That was the part that would have ended the occupation. But the Israelis chose to ignore it and the lobby and the ever-faithful Congress blocked Carter's efforts to push it through.
The 'second part' Rosenberg is promoting is the part about 'Palestinian' autonomy (not a 'state' - it never said that), and that failed to be implemented because the 'Palestinians' had no interest in it. They're interested in destroying the Jewish state.
Hamas sources have reported that a few Palestinian detainees have escaped Egyptian prisons as result of the unrest, and are making their way to the Gaza Strip.
Egypt has arrested Hamas operatives that have infiltrated the Rafah border in the past. The most senior of the arrestees is the commander of the Izzedin al-Qassam brigade, who was arrested in 2008 and accused of planning a terrorist attack on Egypt.
By the way, is anyone watching the border at Rafah? Or is Hamas now smuggling unimpeded?
There are grounds for optimism over Tunisia (which I guess can now be called 'last week's revolution') in this fascinating article in Sunday's Washington Post by Robert Satloff.
In writing a book and narrating a film on what happened in Arab lands during the Holocaust, I have studied Tunisia closely over the past decade. Only 90 miles from the southern tip of Italy, this small North African country was the sole Arab state to suffer a full-fledged German occupation during World War II. I have visited the places where SS officers rounded up Jews and sent them to concentration camps.
Yet Tunisia was also where I found the most stories of Arabs protecting Jews during the war. As in Europe, these Muslim rescuers were ordinary people performing extraordinary acts - like the Tunis bathhouse owner who hid a Jewish man in his hammam or the Mahdia country squire who sheltered two dozen Jews on his farm. This moment in Tunisian history - which had a much happier ending for Jews than did events on the other side of the Mediterranean - gives hope that the current chaos will end reasonably positively.
Tunisia's largely homogenous population has blended a 1,400-year-old Sunni Arab identity with an organic, deeply embedded connection to Europe. Its capital once rivaled Beirut and Alexandria as the most cosmopolitan Arab city, with large communities of Italians, French, British and Maltese injecting a heady mix of energy and ideas into the local culture.
One result is that the Tunisian people have historically sought engagement with the world and rejected extreme ideologies, whether fascist, Nasserist or Islamist. This openness has enabled Tunisia to escape the self-induced savagery and backwardness, respectively, of neighboring Algeria and Libya. Tunisia has its share of radicals, many of whom have recently made their way to the infantry of al-Qaeda and other movements, and the threat of religious extremism is not fantasy, as some suggest. But the local Islamist movement, an-Nahda, is not poised to step in.
Barry Rubin points out the numbers in the latest Pew poll to show that what's likely to follow the current riots in Egypt is - unfortunately - not a liberal democracy. At least not if the Egyptian people are asked what they want.
In Egypt, 30 percent like Hizballah (66 percent don't). 49 percent are favorable toward Hamas (48 percent are negative); and 20 percent smile (72 percent frown) at al-Qaida. Roughly speaking, one-fifth of Egyptians applaud the most extreme Islamist terrorist group, while around one-third back revolutionary Islamists abroad. This doesn't tell us what proportion of Egyptians want an Islamist government at home, but it is an indicator.
In Egypt, 82 percent want stoning for those who commit adultery; 77 percent would like to see whippings and hands cut off for robbery; and 84 percent favor the death penalty for any Muslim who changes his religion.
Asked if they supported "modernizers" or "Islamists" only 27 percent said modernizers while 59 percent said Islamists:
Is this meaningless? Last December 20 I wrote that these "horrifying figures in Egypt...one day might be cited to explain an Islamist revolution there....What this analysis also shows is that a future Islamist revolution in Egypt and Jordan is quite possible.
And in Jordan, the numbers look even worse.... (Thanks to Michael Totten for the idea, but your like to Barry's post is wrong!).
Khaled Abu Toameh has got it right. Whether Abu Mazen and Saeb Erekat are 'peace partners' for Israel is irrelevant. What really matters is whether the 'Palestinian people' are 'peace partners.' The reactions to Palileaks clearly show that the answer to that question is "no."
It is no secret that most of the Arab governments do not represent their constituents, at least in regard to making peace with Israel. If Arab leaders seem to be more "moderate" in their views toward the Middle East peace process than their people, it is because these leaders have been telling Westerners what they like to hear.
Even if the Palestinian Authority may be a peace partner, what about the Palestinians?
Has anyone thought about asking Abbas and Erekat what the Palestinians living in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan think about their willingness to offer Israel major concessions?
The Al-Jazeera revelations have seriously embarrassed the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, mainly because they show that Abbas and his negotiators have been telling their people one thing and Israelis and Americans something completely different.
Abbas and his negotiators have been promising Palestinians that there would no concessions whatsoever on core issues such as Jerusalem and refugees. But, as The Palestine Papers have shown, their message to the Israelis, Americans and Europeans has been the exact opposite.
Now, in wake of the Al-Jazeera revelations, the Palestinian Authority leaders are trying to distance themselves from these statements. Now, Abbas and his negotiators have to prove to their people that they are not "traitors" who sold out to Israel.
The Palestinian Authority has understandably, and perhaps justifiably, convinced some Israelis and many of its Western supporters that it is a partner for peace. Statements attributed to Abbas, Erekat and Qurei show that they have been saying all what many in Israel and in the West like to hear.
If anything, Al-Jazeera's sensationalist revelations show that Arab regimes are still afraid of telling their people the truth.
It is nice to hear Erekat and Qurei talk to Israel about giving up most of east Jerusalem: with such positions they can be described as true peace partners. But the question that needs to be addressed is not whether Abbas and Erekat are peace partners, but whether the majority of Palestinians would be willing to accept far-reaching concessions like the ones offered by the Palestinian Authority.
I am an Orthodox Jew - some would even call me 'ultra-Orthodox.' Born in Boston, I was a corporate and securities attorney in New York City for seven years before making aliya to Israel in 1991 (I don't look it but I really am that old :-). I have been happily married to the same woman for thirty-five years, and we have eight children (bli ayin hara) ranging in age from 12 to 33 years and eight grandchildren. Three of our children are married and a fourth is engaged! Before I started blogging I was a heavy contributor on a number of email lists and ran an email list called the Matzav from 2000-2004. You can contact me at: IsraelMatzav at gmail dot com