By George S. Hishmeh – Washington, D.C.
The Arab tsunami that has come in the wake of the Arab Spring that saw the celebrated downfall of two autocratic Arab regimes, in Tunisia and Egypt, is still blowing harder in other Arab countries, especially Libya where the days of its hallucinating ruler, Muammar al-Qaddafi, are believed numbered.
And this is not all. More Arab regimes may still find themselves to be in precarious, if not more serious, situations, as is the case at present in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain, where the leaders are fighting a life-and-death battle. The solution is not in staging once again another military coup, as first happened in Syria 62 years ago this week, since all the military uprisings in several Arab states have not fared well. Likewise the monarchies did not do much better considering their unbelievable oil wealth which has covered up some of their unimaginable failings.
What has been equally agonizing has been the failure, if not refusal, of leading western governments in helping to correct this tragic Arab course. But then it can be argued, as it is at present, that most of the western nations have benefited from this lackadaisical situation in various Arab capitals. One striking case has been oil-rich Libya where its besieged tyrant has been in office for more than 40 years and his country has hardly advanced an iota while, by and large, maintaining mutually beneficial relationship with western powers.
The surprising aspect of these Arab uprisings is that virtually no one, in the Middle East or the West, had anticipated these historic upheavals, similar to others in Europe a generation ago.
Although, the continuously brewing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, now in its 63rd year, has had a low profile in the past few weeks, it remains the key issue that will erupt periodically, threatening peace in the entire region. This will be the case regardless of the extent of the progressive steps that may be adopted by all the regional powers in the near future.
And, here, Israel (and her western supporters) will have to tread softly and realistically as its western allies can no longer depend on their lackeys in the Arab world as was the case with the deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
While international attention was focused on the turbulence in the Arab World, Israel has experienced two significant events which most likely will affect its image, if not its future. First, was the visit to Israel by leaders of a new Washington-based American-Jewish advocacy organization called J Street which describes itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace.” The purpose was to defend its controversial position in the halls of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, on Israel which contrasts sharply with that of AIPAC, the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, noted for its effective lobbying on behalf of Israel.
The left-leaning J Street, which had its recent annual conference in Washington and which was attended by many pro-Palestinians, opposes Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. It was also critical of President Barak Obama’s recent veto against anti-settlement resolution before the UN Security Council. The majority of American Jews had favored these positions.
However, the Chairman of J Street, David Gilo, told the meeting, according to the New York Times, “that the contract that had long existed between Israel and Jews abroad – one of unconditional support – was expiring and a new one was being drafted.” The chairman of a Likud Party parliamentary committee, Danny Danon, described as a hawkish legislator, is planning to put to a vote a resolution calling J Street as pro-Palestinian and asking that it “purge from its ranks” anti-Zionist elements and the Israeli government officials to refrain from contact with it.
In a followup move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who refuses to meet with J Street officials, has warned that any reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas could spell the end of the peace process, stalled since last September. But this Palestinian move is seen as essential before the Palestinian Authority can hope to win international recognition of the Palestinian state at the U.N. General Assembly meeting next September.
It is difficult to imagine how Israelis are willing to put up with Netanyahu at a time when the world around him is taking a big leap forward. Carlo Strenger, a professor at Tel Aviv University, had this to say in a recent column in Haaretz, the Israeli daily:
“The primal sin of the Netanyahu government is that it links Israel’s security concerns with settlement policy, with the expropriation of Palestinian property and the ‘Judaization’ of Jerusalem, a tactic that the world perceives as nothing less than ethnic cleansing”
He added: “…continuing the occupation dooms Israel’s long-term future, because it will drive Israel into ever deeper isolation. It will lose its friends in the free world, and will live in everlasting conflict with the Arab World, and this does endanger Israel’s long term survival.”
Probably without realizing it, Netanyahu may be digging his own grave.
– George S. Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. Contact him at: Hishmehg@aol.com.