by Barry Rubin
Every day dreadful things happen in the
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing," warned Edmund Burke. But even when those who should be the defenders of liberty spend their time coddling and apologizing to evil, that still doesn’t mean it’s home free.
Let’s examine two aspects of the situation: Israel-Palestinian (and Arab-Israeli) along with the effort of Islamists to seize power in Muslim majority countries. By the way, it is the second—not the first—of those two topics is by far the most important in the
Despite all the sound and fury—note this well—absolutely nothing has changed on this issue since the end of the
A potential crisis in U.S.-Israel relations has been brilliantly defused by the Israeli government. The Obama Administration has still not taken—despite a lot of questionable verbiage—any material step against
Therefore, all this talk of freezing construction, final status negotiations, Western pressure, Palestinian threats, and so on has amounted to absolutely nothing in practice.
What is the long-term prospect? On one hand, there will be decades more—an entire generation at least—without formal peace. Yet that doesn’t mean war either but rather a status quo punctuated by sporadic low- to medium-level violence. The biggest danger, a Hamas takeover of the
Again, please note that there is possibly no issue in the world which generates as much media coverage, academic publication and debate, peace plans and conferences, and Western officials’ speeches as the Israel-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflict. And yet nothing really changes. Keep that in mind every day.
Islamists Seizing Power
Islamist governments now rule in
Will they succeed and if so where? Are they really the wave of the future?
While the Islamists have a lot going for them, they also face many problems. First, don’t underestimate the incumbent regimes. Arab nationalism still appeals to a majority of Arabic-speakers. The rulers have lots of resources at their command, including money and repressive power. The Islamists are not poised to take power in any country, while basically they have not—despite the spilling of so much blood--taken over any state since the Iranian revolution 30 years ago.
The Islamists are often divided. While they have definitely picked up ground, they are still saying and doing many things which most Muslims deem to contradict their normative, traditional Islam.
And the Islamists also make a lot of mistakes.
Within their own countries, confessional differences among Muslims often matter a great deal. In
At home and internationally, the intransigence of radical regimes (
Nor can the Middle Eastern dictatorships, whether Islamist or nationalist, defeat the West or
“Commerce,” wrote Winston Churchill of the
Then, too, there is the endless bickering and conflicts that sap their strength. Where Westerners see such unified categories as “Arab” or “Muslim” there are really many different communities, sects, ideologies, and factions competing for power. These include such deep-seated conflicts as Persian versus Arab, Sunni versus Shia, and the rival ambitions of the various dictators and states.
Something very big--but totally predictable--is starting to happen: the Palestinians and no doubt soon a lot of the Arab world is turning against Obama. He will find shortly that unless he gives everything and asks nothing they will soon be calling him another Bush.
Their grievances are: He hasn't (or hasn't gone far enough) in dumping Israel; he didn't threaten or punish Israel for not doing a complete freeze of construction on settlements, he forced Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to appear with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN photo opportunity he set up, he pressed the Palestinian Authority not to take the lead on pushing Goldstone.
The fact that Obama is perceived as weak doesn't help him any.
This is how the
When this proves wrong, as it does periodically (1990-1991, Iraqi invasion of
All the silly articles in Western newspapers, wrong-headed speeches by Western leaders, threats of mass murder by Islamist clerics, and all the other things that could be added to this list changes the material realities of the
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.