Wednesday, March 18

Israel is not "increasingly isolated from the rest of the world"

All right, that does it. I was trying to catch up on the latest weather report at WTOP All News Radio (it's supposed to snow tomorrow night in Washington) when I heard an analysis of how the Obama Administration is viewing Benjamin Netanyahu's political victory. It troubled me.

The analysis was delivered to WTOP by Dan Raviv, an American national correspondent for CBS News. Never heard of him before or if I did it was in one ear and out the other.  From the Wikipedia article about him, he specializes in writing about Israel-U.S. relations and Israel's intelligence-gathering.

Contrary to Ravi's analysis for WTOP, Israel is not increasingly isolated from the rest of the world. Its government has formed increasingly good relations in the part of the world that counts in this era. That being several middle-eastern governments, to include Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and just about every other Arab country that's greatly alarmed about Iranian military-backed expansion of influence in the region and North Africa -- and alarmed about the fact that the Obama Administration is outright encouraging the expansion and its militarism.

The improved relations between Israel and these governments can't be considered an alliance but they count in the areas that today most count in the region -- militarily and with intelligence sharing. They all know now that either they hang together or they hang separately, to quote Benjamin Franklin in a somewhat different context.  

So another of Dan Raviv's remarks, that Israel needs the United States, has to be viewed in context to the present situation.  President Obama's policies in MENA have been perceived as so dangerous by many Arab governments that he unwittingly drove those governments and Israel into better relations.

Once seeing the world from that very different perspective, Israel probably won't be so intent on cementing good relations with the next American administration. Yet it would be best for all concerned if there was a healthy distance between the two governments.

Remember that Jews are Semites, as are Arabs. It is time for leaders in both ethnic groups to ponder they have a much longer history with each other than any of them do with the United States, and that constantly putting the USA between them as a shield and battering ram creates nothing but vicious cycles.

To put this another way:  The Jewish people who made Israel independent were very European in their thinking and actions -- and very strange, from an Arab perspective.  At least Arabs understood the British and French, no  matter what they thought of them.  But these newcomer Jews prancing around in shorts, trying to make the desert bloom and spouting Hegel and Marx were seen as crazy. So of course they were treated by sensible Arabs as extremely dangerous interlopers.  But now they've been back on the olde sod long enough to think and act more like natives of the region.

So while there are many historical reasons why neither side was willing to consider a new way forward, conditions for change are improving.  They can't change, however, if American and European policies won't let them.

Which returns me to Dan Raviv's remark about Israel's increasing isolation from the world.  The only increasing isolation for Israel is from 'Western-style' democracies. Those are notably West European ones, which for decades have invested heavily in promoting the cause for a Palestinian state.

Of course, Washington is in accord with the West European view, which has always been backed by Muslim-majority countries.  But this view is now backed by tactics aimed at forcing Israel to accept a Palestinian state on terms the western governments deem fair to the Palestinians.

The view completely ignores how much things have changed for Arab governments in the Middle East-North Africa during the past five years -- and in particular since the ill-fated Arab Spring uprisings, which were overtly supported by the Obama Administration.

The view also ignores the fact that things have changed in the Palestinian territories since the days of Yasser Arafat.  Today, every Palestinian with a whit of self-preservation is sick to death of Hamas, and knows that the only thing the Palestinian Authority does well is collect buckets of aid money from Western governments and ngos that Palestinians who aren't in the elite circle never see.

Here I'm not talking about Palestinian expats, who don't have to actually live with the PA and Hamas. They're still operating under the kind of delusions that tend to keep all expat communities supporting initiatives back home long after the initiatives have proved to be counterproductive, or events on the ground have greatly changed.

Yet none of my observations were even hinted at in Dan Raviv's analysis, even though it's open knowledge in American intelligence circles and throughout the Middle East that Israel has better relations with the countries I named.  I don't know or care whether he was simply repeating the Obama Administration's talking points or getting his information from back issues of TIME magazine.  My concern is that the Obama Administration, to include the State Department, is getting its information about the entire Middle East and North Africa from intelligence assessments that are five years old.  

Whether they're informed or not, the administration's policies in MENA have wreaked so much havoc I would plead with President Obama to stick with his original determination to lead the world from behind. Much farther behind.


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