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The Arab Street – Quo Vadis?

The assumption that the rising tide of the Islamist forces, on the Arab Street, is led by politically-pragmatic and moderate Islam, is divorced from reality.

The supposition that the surging Islamic forces, on the Arab Street, aim to eschew violence, moderate the Arab Street, focus on economic growth rather than the spread of Islam and engage the US strategically, sacrifices realism on the altar of wishful-thinking.

The presumption that the Arab Street is experiencing an “Arab Spring,” whereby democracy-seeking youth, independents and moderate Islamists collaborate in the effort to topple despotic regimes, has crashed against the rocks of Middle East chaotic reality.

In Iraq, in the aftermath of the US withdrawal, and irrespective of the US campaign of democratization, the al-Maliki regime is increasingly dominated by Iran, the fiercest enemy of the US. Baghdad has become the most critical channel of Iranian military supply to the Assad regime, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is gaining control over Iraq’s domestic affairs.

In Egypt, contrary to Western delusions, President Morsi is significantly influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, Mohammed Badie, and the Brotherhood’s first choice for President, Khairat el-Shater, the former Deputy Supreme Guide. Thus, Morsi’s proposed constitution would transform Egypt into an increasingly Sharia’ state. It would upgrade the authority of Muslim clerics over civil rights, provide for a Saudi-style “morality police,” impose 7th century punishments for adultery and theft, etc. Muslim Brotherhood thugs incite violence purposely, in order to bring the opposition to submission.

In Libya, Western hopes for an Arab Spring have been shattered by the murder of the US Ambassador and three State Department officials and by an unprecedented civil war. Following 42 years of Qaddafi’s dictatorship, Libyans are afflicted by tribal, ethnic, ideological and religious fragmentation, violence and terrorism. For instance, the Arabs of the town of Misrata slaughtered the black African residents of the neighboring town of Tawargha. The country has become an arena for daily battles among armed militias, terrorists and Islamists.

In Yemen, Al Qaeda suicide bombing has increased since the toppling of the 33 year regime of President Saleh, targeting military and government officials as well as tribal leaders and US-bound airliners. Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula has leveraged Yemen’s intensified tribal warfare, benefiting from Yemen’s inherent instability and weak central government.

In Bahrain – home to the US 5th Fleet – the 22 month old uprising by Bahrain’s 70% Shiite majority, seeking to weaken the powers of the kingdom’s Sunni monarchy, is supported by Iran.

In Lebanon – which is severely impacted by Hezbollah terrorism and the Syrian civil war – “a former prime minister, a former deputy prime minister, the current deputy speaker of Parliament and the mufti of Tripoli are all out of the country for “security” reasons. The same goes for several Members of Parliament and a handful of former Cabinet ministers. Other prominent politicians are confined to their homes until further notice, also due to concerns for their physical safety.”

In Syria, more than 40,000 fatalities have been recorded in the war between the Iranian, Iraqi and Russian-supported Assad regime and the Saudi Arabia and Qatar-supported ethnic, religious and political opposition. Unprecedented destruction of entire towns and suburbs, aerial bombing of civilians, summary executions and deadly sniper fire have plagued the country since March, 2011.

The growing unrest in Algeria, Jordan and Kuwait, the simmering environment in the Persian Gulf, and the actual fragmentation and fragmentation-in-process in Sudan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Libya, suggest that more lava is expected to erupt from the seismic Arab Street.

The dramatic alteration of the Middle East reality – independent of the Palestinian issue and Israel’s policy – requires an equally dramatic reassessment of US Middle East policy.

The dramatic intensification of violence, unpredictability, instability, treachery and unreliability on the Arab Street – which highlight the tenuous nature of Middle East partners and agreements – requires a dramatic reassessment of Israel’s security requirements.

The exacerbated anti-US sentiments on the Arab Street, the US withdrawal from Iraq and the expected cuts in the US defense budget warrant enhancement of the mutually-beneficial US-Israel strategic cooperation.




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Open letter to Prime Minister Bennett ahead of visit to USA

(Hebrew edition in “Israel Hayom,” Israel’s largest circulation daily)

During your first official visit to Washington, DC, you’ll have to choose between two options:

*Blurring your deeply-rooted, assertive Israeli positions on the future of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), which would be welcome by the Biden Administration, yielding to short-term political convenience and popularity inside the beltway;

or

*Tenaciously advocating your deeply-rooted, principle-driven positions, which would underscore a profound disagreement with the Biden Administration and the “elite” US media, while granting you and Israel long-term strategic respect, as demonstrated by some of your predecessors.

For example, the late Prime Minister Shamir honed the second option, bluntly introduced his assertive Israeli positions on Judea and Samaria, rebuffed heavy US pressure – including a mudslinging campaign by President Bush and Secretary of State Baker – suffered a popularity setback, but produced unprecedented expansion of US-Israel strategic cooperation. When it comes to facing the intensified threats of rogue regimes and Islamic terrorism, the US prefers principle-driven, reliable, patriotic, pressure-defying partners, irrespective of disagreements on the Palestinian issue.

Assuming that you shall not budge on the historical and national security centrality of Judea and Samaria, it behooves you to highlight the following matters during your meetings with President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, National Security Advisor Sullivan, Secretary of Defense Austin and Congressional leaders (especially the members of the Appropriations Committees):

  1. The 1,400-year-old track record of the stormy, unpredictable, violent and anti-“infidel” Middle East, which has yet to experience intra-Arab peaceful-coexistence, along with the 100-year-old Palestinian track record (including the systematic collaboration with anti-US entities, hate-education and anti-Arab and anti-Jewish terrorism) demonstrates that the proposed Palestinian state would be a Mini-Afghanistan or a Mega-Gaza on the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria.

It would dominate 80% of Israel’s population and infrastructures in the 9-15-mile sliver between Judea and Samaria and the Mediterranean, which is shorter than the distance between RFK Stadium and the Kennedy Center.

Thus, a Palestinian state would pose a clear and present existential threat to Israel; and therefore, Israel’s control of the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria is a prerequisite for its survival.

  1. The proposed Palestinian state would undermine US interests, as concluded from the Palestinian intra-Arab track record, which has transformed the Palestinians into a role-model of intra-Arab subversion, terrorism and ingratitude. Arabs are aware that a Palestinian state would add fuel to the Middle East fire, teaming up with their enemies (e.g., Iran’s Ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey’s Erdogan) and providing a strategic foothold to Russia and China. Consequently, Arabs shower Palestinians with favorable talk, but with cold and negative walk.

Hence, during the October, 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty ceremony, Jordan’s military leaders asserted to their Israeli colleagues that a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River would doom the pro-US Hashemite regime east of the River, and lead, subsequently, to the toppling of all pro-US Arab Peninsula regimes.

  1. There is no foundation for the contention that Israel’s retreat from the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria – which are the cradle of Jewish history, religion and culture – is required in order to sustain Israel’s Jewish majority. In reality, there is unprecedented Jewish demographic momentum, while Arab demography – throughout the Middle East – has Westernized dramatically. The Jewish majority in the combined area of Judea, Samaria and pre-1967 Israel benefits from a robust tailwind of fertility and migration.
  2. Israel’s control of the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights, bolsters its posture of deterrence, which has daunted rogue regimes, reduced regional instability, enhanced the national security of all pro-US Arab regimes, and has advanced Israel’s role as a unique force-multiplier for the US. An Israeli retreat from Judea and Samaria would transform Israel from a strategic asset – to a strategic liability – for the US.
  3. As the US reduces its military presence in the Middle East – which is a global epicenter of oil production, global trade (Asia-Africa), international Islamic terrorism and proliferation of non-conventional military technologies – Israel’s posture of deterrence becomes increasingly critical for the pro-US Arab countries (e.g., Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan), who consider Israel to be the most reliable “life insurance agent” in the region.

Contrary to NATO, South Korea and Japan, Israel’s defense does not require the presence of US troops on its soil.

  1. Sustaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge is a mutual interest for the US and Israel, which serves as the most cost-effective battle-tested laboratory for the US defense industries and armed forces. Thus, Israel’s use of hundreds of US military systems has yielded thousands of lessons (operation, maintenance and repairs), which have been integrated, by the US manufacturers, into the next generation of the military systems, saving the US many years of research and development, increasing US exports and expanding the US employment base – a mega billion dollar bonanza for the US. At the same time, the US armed forces have benefitted from Israel’s military intelligence and battle experience, as well as joint training maneuvers with Israel’s defense forces, which has improved the US formulation of battle tactics.

Prime Minister Bennett, your visit to Washington, is an opportunity to demonstrate your adherence to your deeply-rooted strong Israeli positions, rejecting the ill-advised appeals and temptations to sacrifice Israel’s national security on the altar of convenience and popularity.

Yours truly,

Yoram Ettinger, expert on US-Israel relations and Middle East affairs

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