Israel caught between hostile neighbors and Western delusion.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Obama administration is “deeply concerned” by the Egyptian military regime’s having seized powers so as to prevent a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the country.
Pentagon press secretary George Little said that “We…urge the [military] to relinquish power to civilian-elected authorities….” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that “We are particularly concerned by decisions that appear to prolong the military’s hold on power.”
As the report notes, the military regime’s move is aimed at preventing the Brotherhood’s presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi—if he has indeed been elected—from “declaring war without the agreement of the ruling generals.”
In other words, it’s a move aimed at preventing an Egyptian attack on Israel, the total collapse of Israeli-Egyptian peace, and a drastic regional destabilization.
The generals are not acting against the Islamists because they’re wonderful people who love Israel and the West. They are, however, sane pragmatists who do not want Egypt, with its severe economic problems, to be dragged into a ruinous conflict.
And for their efforts, the generals have the Obama administration up in arms and crying foul.
How differently the situation is viewed in Israel is revealed by, for instance, veteran military analyst Alex Fishman, who wrote: “This is no longer the same Egypt. It is no longer the same border, the peace treaty is dying, and we better start to change our way of thinking.”
Fishman was referring to how much the situation has already deteriorated since the fall of Hosni Mubarak—hailed at the time by the likes of Obama and Thomas Friedman—in February last year. He was also referring to a military flare-up over the past few days that has seen scores of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza.
The flare-up began, however, south of Gaza on Monday when terrorists—Gaza-based but of Al Qaeda provenance—tried to breach the fence Israel has been building along its southern, Sinai border with Egypt to keep out terrorists, smugglers, and illegal labor migrants.
And it is since Mubarak’s fall that the situation in Sinai has gone to seed as this tract of land—which figured in the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty as a peacekeeping buffer zone—has been taken over by both Bedouin and international-terror gangs, sometimes working in tandem, as the central regime in Cairo has its hands full trying to quell anarchy closer to home.
The current round of hostilities has also seen Hamas—the Islamist rulers of Gaza—openly taking credit for the rocket fire for the first time in years. That lack of inhibition is widely viewed in Israel as reflecting a surge of confidence over the developments in Egypt, particularly the prospect of Hamas’s parent movement—the Brotherhood—and other Sunni extremists taking over or at least steadily gaining ground there.
Indeed, a year and a half after the start of what some may still be calling the Arab Spring, the view from Israel is not among the more uplifting in the country’s short history.
To the west and south, the direct security threat steadily worsens as arms from Libya—a country where the Western powers succeeded to sow anarchy and a possible Islamist takeover—flow unhindered into Sinai and Gaza.
To the east and north, the ongoing Syrian crisis poses grave risks of the Assad regime’s huge chemical-weapons stockpiles falling into dangerous hands through—again—either anarchy or a Sunni-jihadist takeover.
And in the background Iran—which hopes to capitalize on the Islamist energies of the Arab Spring, which it more accurately calls the “Islamic Awakening”—is succeeding along with the world powers to sustain a transparent sham of “nuclear talks” with, incredibly, yet another “round” having been scheduled for Istanbul in July 3 after this week’s “round” in Moscow yielded absolutely nothing by all accounts.
Israel’s worsening security environment along with stubborn Western failure to understand the region's dynamics—a failure that is the flipside of sheer tiredness and cynicism—does not, then, add up to an encouraging picture.
The situation has, though, fostered an enhanced unity that has seen the rise of an almost wall-to-wall, apparently stable governing coalition, and a decline of Israel’s own delusions that not long ago produced such bitter internal dissensus.
With Washington backing the belligerent fanatics in Egypt against the moderates, and still, with its allies, playing ineffectual games with Iran, Israel will need all the unity and realism it can muster.
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