ISLAMIST ELECTED PRESIDENT OF EGYPT – Islamist, of course, is the politically correct method of referring to radical Muslims, distinguishable from moderate Muslims in ways that are somewhat ambiguous. If one wants to posit that there are Muslims who oppose terror, suicide bombings and the beheading of innocents, then I not only accept that but I also celebrate that and wish those Muslims were more numerous and especially more outspoken than their extremist brethren. In fact, they do exist, but they are either intimidated into silence, or they are perceived as less committed than the radicals. Thus, the defining characteristic of Islam in today’s world is its radical nature, rendering the term “Islamist” somewhat redundant but politically necessary.
To date, every country that has seen a struggle between radical Islam and either secularism or moderate Islam has seen the radicals prevail. I assumed this would happen in Egypt as well (like in Turkey, Libya, Gaza, etc.) but I thought it would take several years, not several months. It is disheartening that across the Muslim world, people given the choice between liberty, the crown of democracy, and a narrow and harsh form of Islam, have always opted for radicalism. Churchill’s dictum leaps to mind: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” It is hard to conjure a situation in which the tide is reversed without bloodshed, as it is to conjure even having another free election in any of those places. The forms of democracy are abused in order to produce a government that is devoid of the substance of democracy.
All of this places Israel, which already has enough problems, in a serious pickle. Certainly the peace treaty with Egypt, linchpin of Israeli diplomacy for more than 30 years, hangs by a tenuous thread. Its fate rests not in the hands of the Israelis but in the need for Egypt to continue receiving its $3B annually from the United States (probably stopped if the treaty is summarily vitiated), or to find some method where they can renounce the treaty and still receive the money. The Egyptian military, of course, is the party most interested in maintaining the US financial pipeline, and Egypt is headed for serious strife in the months ahead as its two power structures negotiate some political arrangement. Nonetheless, whatever agreement signed by the Muslim Brotherhood will be breached as soon as it suits them, and eventually the military will come under their control with the general-holdouts killed, exiled, or imprisoned.
Thus is demonstrated again the folly of democracies negotiating long-term agreements with dictatorships. For sure, there was a value in 30 years of non-belligerence on Israel’s southern flank. Thirty years is nothing to scoff at. Several times the Book of Shoftim (Judges) notes that after the reign of certain judges, “the land was tranquil for forty years” (once even for eighty years!). It is only now (aside from scattered terrorist attacks over the decades) that the loss of Sinai to the Egyptian dictatorship will be keenly felt.
Both Egypt and Israel have to navigate treacherous waters ahead. Egypt, as noted above, has to temper its radical agenda in order to retain the American largesse that enables it to feed its population until such time as it can have both – both the money and the radical agenda. Such is not at all farfetched. There will come a time when Egypt has long forfeited its justification for American assistance which will nonetheless be forthcoming in order to allow the US to “retain its influence in the region.” (That is why the PA is still funded notwithstanding its open association with Hamas.)
Attempts are already being made to humanize the Muslim Brotherhood, and to project onto them Western values and political interests (“they must produce or they will be voted out.” See above.) That trope was applied to Bashar al-Assad when he took power – he’s Westernized, an ophthalmologist, not like his father, etc. – and that hasn’t quite worked out.
And the Assad failure will not stop the liberal sages from pontificating about the “newfound moderation” of the Islamists who rule Egypt. Barry Rubin of the Gloria Center has it right (http://www.gloria-center.org/2012/06/egypt-a-muslim-brotherhood-president-does-not-prove-that-we-are-all-chimps/). Check out the acrobatics of the persistently-wrong Thomas Friedman. A few months ago: “The popular trend is not with the Muslim Brotherhood.” Now: “That the Brotherhood and the Salafist Nour Party have garnered 65% of the votes in Egypt’s elections should hardly come as a surprise.” Give that man another Pulitzer, or at least make him a meteorologist. Only naïve Westerners assumed that the protests in Tahrir Square, and the Arab Spring itself, would bring greater liberty to the Muslim world.
Israel’s dilemma is profound. The treaty with Egypt bars the introduction of Egyptian military forces into Sinai beyond a small number that can carry only light arms. Ariel Sharon in his day already allowed Egypt to violate this treaty in order to prevent terrorists from south Gaza and Sinai from invading Israel after Sharon expelled thousands of Jews from Gush Katif, destroyed their homes, and abandoned Israeli control over the Philadelphi corridor in the south. But now, with the increase in Hamas-sponsored terror from Sinai, Netanyahu can ask the Egyptians to send in even more troops with heavier equipment to patrol the Israel-Egypt border in order – get this – for the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt to stop its ideological brothers in Gaza from attacking Israel. Once that is done, then the Sinai is no longer demilitarized, and Egyptian troops will again be massed on Israel’s southern border, as they were on the eve of the 1967 Six Day War.
In effect, Netanyahu can effectively waive a key clause of the treaty and allow the Egyptian army into Sinai, or…what? There is no other option, as Israel cannot itself encroach on Egyptian territory to preclude a terrorist assault. It is bad if the Egyptian Army comes and it is bad if the Egyptian Army does not come – quite a Hobson’s choice. In a normal democracy-democracy treaty, both sides could easily re-negotiate, as over the years relations between democratic parties to a treaty generally improve. But relations with Egypt have only grown colder over the three decades of the treaty, hence the trepidation on Israel’s part – a trepidation that might induce Israel again (as in Gaza) to accept a certain level of terror, death and mayhem, as long as it doesn’t exceed some mysterious level in either intensity or casualties.
For times like these, prayer on a Biblical level (Ramban’s opinion) was created and rational decisions focusing on Israel’s interests – not, for example, expending energy evicting settlers – are necessary. Egypt should be made aware that Israel will respond harshly to any provocations, and that Egypt in its own interest should coordinate with Israel.
ISRAEL DEDICATES MONUMENT TO WORLD WAR II RED ARMY – This sounds as bizarre as it reads. Tomorrow, off the main square in Netanya (where I have family roots for over 40 years), Israel will unveil a monument to the heroism of the Soviet Red Army that was triumphant in defending the motherland during World War II. Russia’s President (for-life) Putin will be present, along with President Shimon Peres and PM Netanyahu. One may ask, WHY?
The short answer is that Netanya has among its residents hundreds, if not several thousand, Russian-Jewish veterans of the World War II Red Army, and the monument is a tribute to their service. Of course, it is hard to imagine the Russians erecting a monument in Sochi to the outstanding contributions of Russian Jews to the IDF (to be unveiled in time for the Winter Olympics in 2014), and it is exceedingly rare for any country to pay any tribute to the military of another country that is not allied with it in wartime.
The longer answer might involve Israel’s need to curry favor with Putin, who can greatly influence the potential resolutions in two hot spots for Israel – Russian allies such as Iran and Syria – and especially when the US seems today like a less reliable ally, and certainly less influential across the globe. I do not doubt that occasionally one has to swallow one’s pride and pay tribute to the less-than worthy in order to achieve some noble end, nor do I doubt for a moment the valiant contributions of Jewish soldiers to the Red Army. But really? Honoring the Red Army?
Anyone with a faint sense of history can recall that the Red Army at the beginning of World War II was allied to Hitler and joined the Nazis in invading Poland. Thousands of Jews were killed in its territory – not systematically, as in Nazi-controlled areas – but killed nonetheless. The Red Army only found itself on the side of the angels when Hitler renounced his treaty with the USSR (see above about negotiating with dictators) and launched Operation Barbarossa on June 22, 1941 that saw a massive and brutal invasion of Russia. That same Red Army oversaw the deaths by starvation of millions of Ukrainians in the 1930’s, and together with the other elements of the Security Services of the USSR, administered the banishment and persecution of Jews before, during and after the War. Granted, this was all at Stalin’s behest, and granted as well, Jews were conscripted into the Red Army like all other citizens during the War. But to honor the Red Army? In Israel? In the presence of its most recent dictator?
It shouldn’t be that difficult to remember that most of the Israelis who were citizens of the former Soviet Union lived as prisoners, without basic human rights, and tormented by the KGB for whom Vladimir Putin was a faithful agent.
Not every bad idea is meant to be implemented.