Let the Good Times, and the Generals, Rule the Middle East
Asaf Geffen’s biting satire from Ynet about Israel’s preference for military strongmen over democracy:
It was not surprising to discover that the new international star for Israelis is Egyptian General Tantawi. Indeed, in a country ruled by generals such as our own, what’s more natural for us than to put our faith in an elderly general? After all, the number of medals and decorations on this guy is greater than the number of wars in the entire world in the whole 20th Century.
Military rule in Egypt contributes to Israel’s sense of security and boosts the feeling that there is someone we can talk to on the other side. After all, what’s more logical than making peace with a regime led by the army?
Besides, rule by the generals will make it clear that we and our southern neighbors share areas of interest, thereby enabling us to take our relationship into a new era. With General Tantawi here and General Barakawi there, the sky is the limit; no longer a cold, annoying peace, but rather, equal ties premised on mutual fear and distrust.
Besides, amid all the nice talk, the time has come to admit that what we truly wish for in the Middle East is not democratization – which, just between us, is right for our regional climate to the same extent that a three-piece suit would fit here – but rather, “general-zation.” It will be a region where each nation is granted the right to manage its life under its own military regime.
It will be an intermediate regime, somewhere between democracy and dictatorship, where citizens freely choose to let the uniforms decide what’s right.
Such general-dominated Middle East will enable us to embark on a new road, and maintain relationships with our neighbors that are based on shared objectives, mutual understanding, and occasionally, a good war as well.
In all the words I’ve written about Israel’s affinity for Arab dictators, I’d never thought of Geffen’s analogy to the military dominated leadership of Israel and these countries. And of course, it makes perfect sense.
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From MJ Rosenberg, op-ed on Al Jazeera English:
Is the West Bank next?
If Israel refuses to accept a viable peace deal, the revolt sweeping the Arab world will arrive in Palestine.
If Binyamin Netanyahu’s govenment, and its lobby in Washington, were rational they would be rushing to plan Israel’s evacuation from the occupied territories, and encouraging the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
That is because they would understand that the Arab revolution will not stop at the gates of the West Bank, especially when it is the occupation that unites virtually all Arabs and Muslims in common fury.
As for the Palestinians themselves, they are watching the revolutions with a combination of joy and humiliation. Other Arabs are freeing themselves from local tyrants while they remain under a foreign occupation that grows more onerous every day -particularly in East Jerusalem. While other Arabs revel in what they have accomplished, the Palestinians remain, and are regarded as, victims.
It is not going to last. The Palestinians will revolt, just as the other Arabs have, and the occupation will end.
But it is up to the Israelis to help decide how it will end (just as it was up to the Mubarak government and Egyptian army to decide whether the regime would go down in blood and flames or accept the inevitable).
For Israel, that means accepting the terms of the Arab League Initiative (incorporating United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338) and trade the occupied lands for full peace and normalisation of relations with the entire Arab world. Or it can hang on to an unsustainable status quo.
They can wait for the eruption, thinking they can contain it and ignoring the fact that the weaponry they can use against any foreign invaders cannot be used against an occupied civilian population. That is especially true in the age of Al Jazeera and of Twitter, Facebook, and the rest.
Right-wing Israelis and their lobby in Washington invariably respond to this argument by saying that it is impossible to leave the West Bank, pointing to the experience in Gaza. They withdrew only to have their own land beyond the border shelled by militants who seized control as Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) troops left for home.
That is true and it might indeed happen again if the Israeli occupation is ended as a result of a popular uprising.
But Gaza is only an applicable precedent if Israel leaves without negotiating the terms of its departure. Israel left Gaza when Palestinians made the price of staying too high. But, rather than negotiating its way out, Israel just left.
Fill essay at:
I thought the Palestinians revolted already, twice, once in 1987 and once in 2000. it was known as the Intifada, and got them nowhere.
IlanP – I disagree,they did revolt twice as you say, but they achieved quite a lot in fact.
Before they revolted hardly an Israeli existed who thought that there would be a Palestinian State in the WB – now this is mainstream, and the argument is only about the details. (Exact borders, right of return, etc.). As Richard points out, even in Bibi-speak the concept of a Palestine state is mainstream.
Also the word “occupation” became official jargon (since Arik Sharon used the expression) – previously all Israelis used the terms “administered” or “liberated” territories.
Palestinians revolting let directly to the Oslo accords and partial withdrawels that Israel made only after the intense fatigue to the Israeli system following the two intifadas.
Various left wing NGOs became strengthened as a result of the intifadas.
In short, there was no overnight revolution like Egypt, but the seeds for change were slowly sown, and the reaping is also slowly progressing to the purpose.
1. Both Egypt and Libya had revolts that were put down.
2. Egyptians demonstrated the power of non-violent direct action.
3. Beit Sahour demonstrated that same power in the first intifada, but got no support from Fatah/PLO (source: Charles M. Sennott: “The Body and the Blood”, 2001. Sennott was Middle East correspondent for Boston Globe). Arafat was afraid that Beit Sahour would pull people from his horror/fantasy of “armed struggle”.
4. People learn. Try again and again.
Shmuel let me rephrase,
The Palestinians gained world recognition out of the first intifada, they Oslo accord was a result of that.
but since 1996 when Arafat decided to dance at both parties and the Palestinians resorted to an armed revolt (until the peak of the 2nd intifada) they gained nothing.
The PA, achieved much more under the current PA administration then ever. one of the reasons is they abounded the armed conflict (in the west bank)
The Oslo accords were a disaster for the Palestinians and led to more confiscated land and half a million new Israeli colonists. The PA have achieved nothing except Quisling status. The writing was on the wall in Oslo when the PA negotiated 15 pages on VIP rights, and half a page on the Palestinian Refugee issue. Edward Said resigned from the PA over Oslo and has been long vindicated by events.
Since there are NOW 500k Israeli settlers, Oslo couldn’t have led to “a half million new colonists.” I don’t think this is Oslo’s fault. It’s the fault of the Israelis & Americans who did nothing to honor or enforce it.