Welcome to the neighborhood

3 02 2011

I came to Israel with eyes wide open. I am very familiar with the history of this region, the years of conflict and strife.   For nearly three decades I worked in the American Jewish community, first with the Anti-Defamation League, and then the last twenty-one years with the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Relations Council.  The Bay Area is home to over 100 active anti-Israel groups.  Being smarter than the average bear, I decided to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Moving here at this time took some talent, I must admit. Since we arrived, there have been revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the virtual takeover of Lebanon by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, unrest in Jordan, Syria and Yemen, and the release of the “Palestine Papers” which has rocked Palestinian politics.


"Nittany, the medic who conquers!" (Sounds better in Hebrew)

Here in Israel politics is personal.  Intellectually I’ve always been aware of this, but now it is me who has “skin in the game.”  My daughter Nittany is now serving in the Israeli army.  As a newly minted IDF medic she will serve on a base that trains paratroopers and combat dog handlers where she will be called upon to mend broken bones and dress dog-bite wounds.  As luck would have it, however, her first patient was not a paratrooper landing poorly, but rather King Klutz (that would be me) who sprained his ankle tripping over a rock in his front yard.  (No worry, my ankle is will be fine.  It is my pride that is suffering.)

What this has to do with our new neighborhood is that she lives on Kibbutz Shamir, just meters from the pre-1967 border with Syria.  Located at the bottom of the Golan Heights, the kibbutz has a gorgeous view of the Hula Valley opposite the town of Kiryat Shmona, which sits upon the foothills of a mountain across the valley.  Going further east, to the other side of that mountain, Israel ends and Lebanon begins.  Lebanon’s master is now Hezbollah.


Ahmadinejad's dream: a world without Israel

Iran’s President Ahmadinejad — who denies the reality of the Holocaust, declares that his country’s top foreign policy objective is to destroy Israel and is developing nuclear weapons — just last October came to this border as a “guest” of his Lebanese vassals.  His message to Israel was clear: this is now your border with me.

Meanwhile, our southern neighbor Egypt is roiling in revolution.  The most populous and most pivotal Arab country, Egypt has been in a state of peace with Israel for 32 years.  It has been a cold peace, to be sure, with full normalization having long evaded the Israel-Egyptian relationship.  But, the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty is the cornerstone of all peacemaking efforts in the region.


Logo of the Muslim Brotherhood's Hamas, Gaza's rulers.

I actually lost sleep last week thinking about the Muslim Brotherhood taking power in Cairo.  The Brotherhood is the parent body of the Hamas terror organization now ruling Gaza.  Like Hamas, it is a purveyor of radical Islamist ideology, is fundamentally anti-democratic, and is deeply antisemitic to boot.  The Muslim Brotherhood wants nothing more than to annul the peace treaty with Israel, and ultimately destroy Israel.  Jordan also has a strong Muslim Brotherhood that seeks to overthrow the government of King Abdullah II.  And, Jordan is the only other Arab state to have a peace treaty with Israel.

Without question this situation in Egypt is a game changer, but it is still too early to tell what the new game is in Cairo. Judging by past experience in the Arab world (where there is to date no history of democracy and open civil society) it is unlikely a western style democracy will emerge, and highly likely the Muslim Brotherhood will play an important role in the new government.  Having said that, however, probability is not inevitability; there seems to be a true desire for democracy in the streets of Cairo, and it is just too early to predict anything with certainty.

Welcome to the neighborhood!




One response

3 02 2011

I trust you saw:

Makes me wonder if this whole “movement” will peter out leaving a more radicalized Egyptian population with even more hatred of the regime but fundamentally little change from status quo ante? A lot depends on what happens in the next few days so time will tell.

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