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Who is isolated in the Middle East?

Leon Panetta, the American Secretary of Defense has just stated on his way to the Middle East, that Israel has never been so isolated in the region and that the current changes in the area are not to its advantage and therefore, based on American unshakable support for its security and defense, it could afford to take more risks for peace. This is the kind of statement made by the English press, which decries Europe's isolation during storms in the Channel at Britain's temporary separation from the Continent.

The two countries that Panetta advises Israel to make up with are Turkey and Egypt, and he also means the negotiations with Palestinians when he counsels to "take risks for peace". He knows that it was the government of Turkey, which is headed by a thug who constantly incites his people against Israel with lies and venom, that has launched the break with its close ally when he, in Davos, assaulted the Israeli President, Shimon Peres, who could not have been more accommodating towards him and the Palestinians. The flotilla provocation of 2010, and the resulting rejection by Turkey of the Palmer Report which concluded that Israel did not violate international waters when it imposed its legitimate embargo against Gaza, show that no matter what Israel does, Erdogan would always find fault with her.

Similarly with Egypt - Israel has kept a low profile during these months of uncertainty which have characterized the Arab Spring, that is turning into a cold winter. It was the  Egyptian gas supply to Israel that was interrupted by sabotage on 5 occasions, the Israeli Embassy that was attacked as the security forces were watching by, the arms smuggling into Gaza that continued to run undisturbed by Egypt's security guards, the turning of the Sinai into an active base for al-Qa'ida and its Hamas ally against Israel, and it is the Egyptian presidential candidates and other politician running for office who all declare the need and intention to revise, alter or improve the terms of the peace treaty  with Israel. Israel did nothing to cause either the internal chaos in Cairo or to put in doubt its support for the 30-year old peace accord, which it considers a strategic asset.

The rest of the troubles in the Middle East were not caused by Israel either, and if partly attributable to any foreign meddling, it is the US which has to repent for her major mistakes in the area, which have influenced the unfolding events much more deeply and radically than what Israel could have done. The US indeed failed to react when its long and established military presence in Turkey, in the times of the civilian governments of Ozal and Ciller, was erased by the Erdogan majority parliament and government, exactly when the US needed to channel its troops via Turkey to allow a second front in the war against Saddam. It failed miserably in checking the nuclearization of Iran; it rescued Assad out of his isolation, just to see his troops pelting the US Ambassador with tomatoes, and it watched helplessly the pro-Hariri coalition ousted by the Hizbullah thugs of Lebanon, who receive their instructions from Teheran and Damascus. As a consequence, American stature is diminished in the Middle East and the world, and even among its western allies, and in the UN it finds itself less awed than even before. Who is then increasingly isolated?

The point is that instead of preaching to others about their isolation, blaming them for it, and prompting them to take risks to rescue themselves from it, Panetta ought to comprehend that Israel cannot afford to behave like America,  who took all the risks of "engaging" Iran, the Muslim Brothers and Syria, of abandoning a long-term ally like Mubarak, and of showering the Palestinians, the Afghanis, the Pakistanis with aid, and saw all those gestures of largess backfiring on her, translated on the ground into more effusive anti-Americanism, more vitriol and hatred and American flag-burning than ever. If instead, the US created a new alliance with its western and western-minded friends to set up a second line of staunch defense of Western and Judeo-Christian values, to counter the mounting Islamic wave, which the Arab Spring will only aggravate. with the committed backing of Iran, Turkey and Pakistan, then a new world order, better and more stable, might finally emerge out of the present chaos.

The author is a professor of Islam and the Middle East at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

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I"m afraid in today"s world, God"s will is nothing more than man"s manipulation and He expects us to use his gift of discernment in relation to faith and reason. There are men of goodwill abounding most probably on both sides. To boil it down I suppose it comes to trusting your instincts and your experience.

Posted by Lynne Newington on 2011-10-05 12:23:20 GMT

He may be right about the rising anti-Americanism and about the fact that America should have protected her alliance with Israel. However, I believe he is underplaying the anti-Israeli sentiment growing out there in the world simply because of the Israel/Palestinian conflict. While America is, and has turned on Israel to some extent, the hatred felt by many Muslims towards America is because they perceive America to be an uncritical supporter of Israel, which may or may not be based on an America of days gone by. I have a client who is a high level Muslim diplomat who believes himself to be a moderate but who hates America because he (and others) believe America uncritically supports Israel. And I think he speaks for a large chunk of Muslim culture there. At the end of the day, it"s not about how the Muslim world, Europe, or anyone perceives us, but whether or not we are doing the right thing. I sincerely doubt that there will be anyone ready to pat either America or Israel on the back, but God who blesses righteousness is the most important observer.

Posted by Dee Graf on 2011-10-05 11:30:35 GMT

Unfolding the true potential of the region requires courage, vision and trust building. Imagine it is the year 2050. The cube has been solved and the resident populations of the Middle East are enjoying peace and prosperity. The per capita GDP is $50,000 p.a. Looking back from that vantage point what were the correct moves that were made from early October 2011 ? The Quartet is acting as a facilitator and guide to the process. The Gilo construction plans should not prevent the PA from coming to the table, as the site is in Jerusalem proper. If it is the sticking point then the building plans can be put on hold until after the resumption of meetings in the next month. The timetable over the next two weeks can be negotiated. Yom Kippur is on the 7th and Sukkot is on the 11th of October. There is a gap of six weeks in the calender of Holy Days for all three monotheistic faiths after mid Oct. Saturday 26th November is Al-Hijira and is also a Shabbat. Hanukah is from Dec. 20th to the 28th. Christmas is on the 25th. So there is no real excuse from any of the parties for real progress not to be made in negotiations from mid Oct. onwards. Everyone must also realise that the divine timetable will trump all others. G-d"s plans for the region must be heeded. He will not be denied. The availability of time and space is not the problem. The universe is stable, ordered, benevolent and expansive. Scarcity is a mindset. The issue is about the will of the various parties to be sincere in their peacemaking efforts. Test G-d on this point and see what happens. P.S.I know what the correct format, flow, intention and outcome of the meetings should be.

Posted by Adam Neira on 2011-10-04 23:49:07 GMT

It"s just rhetoric. I"ve seen it many times in religious circles when attempting to impart polarity. Give it the flick.

Posted by Lynne Newington on 2011-10-04 18:59:29 GMT

A great article. I wanted to keep reading.

Posted by Ruth on 2011-10-04 13:47:24 GMT