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Supporting Israel in times of trouble

Published: September 23, 2011
Section: Opinions


The uprisings taking place in the Middle East during the last couple of months have upended the region and shaken a status quo that has been characterized by political inertia for decades. Uncertainty, unrest and instability have become the new norms, as sclerotic regimes are toppled and the voice of the proverbial Arab Street becomes more defiant. Perhaps the clearest result of these trends has been the dramatic changes that have occurred regarding Israel’s geostrategic position.

Since its creation in 1948, Israel has attempted to ingratiate itself with its neighbors in its quest for peace and acceptance. Historically, despite non-existent relations, numerous wars and armed conflicts, the Israelis never lost hope that they could at least come to a common understanding with their neighbors. In this sense, the Jewish state, while constantly prepared to defend itself, always held out an outstretched hand for peace.

Ultimately, Israel did find some success. In his attempt to release his country from Soviet domination, gain American aid and reacquire the Sinai Peninsula, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat signed the 1979 peace treaty with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. In 1994, King Hussein of Jordan, a relatively pro-Western leader, followed suit. During the 1990s, Israel initiated the Oslo peace process with the Palestinians. Additionally, Israel, forming what was termed the alliance of the periphery, sought to forge relations with countries and non-state actors that had not succumbed to Arab nationalism, including Turkey, Ethiopia and even Iran before the 1979 revolution.

Therefore, Israel did manage to resist complete isolation despite unremitting Arab hostility and rejectionism. This progress, however, has been reversed as of late and alliances with previously-friendly nations have deteriorated considerably.

The most obvious example of this is Turkey, under the rule of the Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A formerly moderate, secular country with membership in NATO, among other organizations, Turkey is now threatening to send warships to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which the recently-released U.N.-produced Palmer Commission Report ruled as a legal measure of self-defense. Additionally, Turkey has withdrawn its ambassador and cut off military ties with the Jewish state.

Egyptian-Israeli relations have also been dealt quite a blow. The military junta that has ruled Egypt since Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow has pandered to the Egyptian population’s virulent anti-Zionism by enhancing the country’s ties with Hamas and Iran and questioning the peace accords President Sadat signed three decades ago. This is not to mention the awful attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo by an Egyptian mob. Things will only get worse when elections inevitably produce a parliament composed of the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists and other anti-Israel ideologues.

Also, the Palestinian faction Fatah has shed its thin veneer of moderation by signing a unity agreement with Hamas, which rejects and actively seeks to negate Israel’s existence, and by violating the Oslo accords in abandoning bilateral negotiations in favor of a unilateral United Nations bid. Make no mistake: A future Palestinian state would only exist in order to implement a two-stage, as opposed to a two-state, solution. That is, it would serve as a base to continue the war to destroy Israel, either through terrorism or military, economic, legal and, in the form of the refugee return, demographic means.

Add these troubling developments to other woes for Israel, including Iran’s continual progress on developing weapons of mass destruction; instability in Jordan that threatens to topple the moderate Hashemite regime there; a Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon; a volatile Syria; a possible Islamist resurgence in Libya and Yemen; and incessant hostility and suspicion emanating from the Europeans and President Obama.

Some say that these problems are Israel’s fault. If only Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were less intransigent or if the country stopped building homes in territory east of the 1949 armistice lines, then all would be well.

I resolutely reject this view. Instead, Israel’s isolation is primarily driven by the increasing anti-Semitism, radicalization and Islamization of Middle Eastern populations and, in the case of countries like Turkey and Iran, regimes. In regards to the former, the Arabs in particular have, for reasons ranging from indoctrination by state-controlled media to increased Wahhabi influence, turned inward and backward instead of embracing peaceful coexistence with the Jews. Furthermore, the anti-Israel sentiments of these people are now influencing policy in places like Egypt as they have never done before.

All Israel should do now is stay strong, enhance its deterrence capability, reaffirm its right to exist in international forums, solidify and expand currently-existing alliances, present a positive image and try to reach out directly to the Arabs. Hopefully, it can endure in these tumultuous times.