Never has the saying “politics makes strange bedfellows” been more relevant than the present moment in the Middle East. Israel especially is seeing the truth of this adage in real time as the collapse of Arab regimes all around us, the rise of ISIS, and the ineptness (to say the least!) of the US under the Obama administration, has led to the forming of new alliances and the abandonment of old friendships.
Despite the cold peace that still prevails between Egypt and Israel, even under the relatively benign leadership of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, it is gratifying to note a call (via MEMRI) by Maged Farag, an Egyptian historian for normalizing relations with Israel. It is both refreshing to hear Farag’s realism in recognizing Egyptian interests in normalization, and yet horrifying to see how the interviewer believes in slanderous fictions like the Protocols of the Elder of Zion (not to be confused with the pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon linked here). Below is part of the transcript. There is also a subtitled video of the interview at the above link:
In a recent TV interview, Egyptian historian Maged Farag called for normalized relations with Israel, saying that Egypt would benefit from cultural and economic exchange, from tourism, and from Israel’s advanced agricultural and industrial technology. “For 70 years, the Palestinian cause has brought Egypt and the Egyptians nothing but harm, destruction, and expense,” said Farag. “We should think with a scientific and open mind, with our eyes set on the future,” said the historian, who recently visited Israel to attend a conference on Egyptian Jewry.Following are excerpts from the interview, which aired on the Egyptian Mehwar TV channel on May 26, 2015.***Interviewer: You were quoted as saying that we should drop the Palestinian cause, and focus on normalizing our relations with Israel, and thus becoming its friends and buddies. Are you serious?!Majed Farag: What I’m saying is that we should pay attention to the interests of our country. There are no such things as eternal enmity or eternal love.There are only eternal interests. We should identify our country’s interest. Churchill once said that he was ready to cooperate with the Devil in the interest of his country. As a man who knows a little bit about history and about international relations, I believe that it is in our interest to maintain normal relations with Israel. Of course, we have the right to maintain caution in these relations…
…Majed Farag: … It is in the best interest of my country to have good relations… I won’t say “friendly” relations, because friendliness is not the issue. It’s about interests. I can benefit from that neighbor in many ways. You prefer to remain enemies with it? Fine. Let’s be enemies. But until when? Until the Palestinian issue is resolved? It won’t, and you know that better than me. The Palestinian issue will not be resolved because (the Palestinians) do not want it to be resolved. I just want to say one more thing. Some people said to me: “How can you go to an occupying country?” Occupying?! Do you have any doubt that Israel is, and will continue to be, a reality? Do you still hope and believe in the old idea of throwing them into the sea? Is that logical?![…]
Majed Farag: I’m sure that you have heard that there is a sign in the Knesset, saying: “From the Nile to the Euphrates.”
Interviewer: Okay, I thought it was the other way around.
Majed Farag: This is not true. There is no such thing.
Interviewer: And it does not appear in The Protocols either?
Majed Farag: What protocols?
Interviewer: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. That old group.
Majed Farag: Look, sir, let’s stick to the Knesset.
Interviewer: Is there a sign saying: “From the Nile to the Euphrates?”
Majed Farag: Of course not.
Interviewer: Is that “for sure”?
Majed Farag: Sure, it’s for sure. We all know that this is not true, but people keep saying this to heat up the hostility.
From this slightly lukewarm support, not to mention the mind-boggling ignorance of the interviewer, we move to some robust words of advice to the Palestinians from Mehdi Majid ‘Abdallah, a Kurdish-Iraqi writer, who calls on the Palestinians to extend a friendly hand towards Israel (h/t British-Israel Group):
“Ever since its founding in the late 1940s, the young state of Israel has been facing constant terror labeled as ‘resistance.’ I do not mean to say that all Palestinians are terrorists, for some of them love life and prefer the culture of peace and to live in peace and security alongside Israel. I do not know if Hamas, when it fires its rockets randomly into Israeli cities, thinks of the fact that they will hit women and children who have done nothing wrong other than choose to live in the land that was stolen from them thousands of years ago and has now been restored to them. [Today] they wish to build this land, but Palestinian terrorism constantly sabotages their livelihood, their development [efforts] and their prosperity. Whether we like it or not, the land on which the Palestinians live belongs to the Jews, and there is historic and religious evidence of this, both Islamic and non-Islamic. I shall not present it here, but the reader is welcome to search the Internet and find plenty of proof for what I say.
“Hamas leader Isma’il Haniya is always calling to boycott Israel, eliminate it and destroy it, and is always urging the Palestinians not to maintain any ties with it, in any domain. He has even sent thousands of young Palestinians to die [for this cause]. But when his sister, his daughter and some other members of his family fell ill, one after the other, we immediately saw him send them to the best hospitals in Tel Aviv, where they received treatment before being sent back to Gaza unharmed. Why [were they sent back unharmed]? If Israel was [really] a murderer of Palestinian women and children, as the Arab media falsely maintains, it would have regarded Haniya’s relatives as choice prey. If Israel [really] wanted to exterminate the Palestinians, as the Arabs and Muslims falsely maintain, why didn’t it have Haniya’s sister and daughter killed or raped?
“It is time that the Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians, who are deceived and drugged by false and baseless slogans, wake up and extend a friendly hand to Israel, so that peace and security can prevail and everyone can live in peace. Every decent Palestine should oppose Hamas and its terrorism against Israel. If the Palestinians want to avoid being harmed by Israeli fire, they should prevent Hamas from using their homes, mosques and schools [as bases from which] to launch its terrorist rockets at Israel.”
Israel has always had fairly cordial relations with the Kurds, so while the words of support for Israel are not so unexpected, the fact that they were delivered as a rebuke to the Palestinians is an enormously refreshing change in the light of the intense BDS movement against Israel.
From the sublime to the ridiculous we now turn to our newest and biggest enemy, Turkey. Some of the stuff that has been emerging from that country borders on the comical. Here are a few items for your delectation.
A Turkish paper has accused the “Jewish-run New York Times” of a 100 year bias against Turkey. Considering the well-documented built-in anti-Israel bias in the NYT, this is enough to bring on tears of laughter if not of despair.
The Sabah newspaper tweeted a link to its article on the subject, with the teaser translating to, “Here’s the story of the Jewish family-managed New York Times’s 100-year hatred of Turkey.”
Sabah called the New York Times “scandalous” and accused the newspaper of incessantly bashing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shortly before the latest Turkish elections, including calling the Turkish president a “tyrant.”
The indefatigable Turkish journalist Burak Bedkil has documented the obsession of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and PM Ahmet Davutoglu with Jerusalem in a series of articles in the Gatestone Institute. Their absurdities have reached new heights as their parliamentary elections approached, taking place today.
In Turkish fairy tales from Uncle Tayyip he writes:
It is truly fascinating that Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a professor of political science, believes that Jerusalem, built a millennium before the birth of Islam, is originally a Muslim city. And, according to the Turkish president, — Saudis should please not get offended — Jerusalem is the Muslims’ “most important Mecca.” Jerusalem has always had a spectacular place in a Turkish Islamist’s heart and mind. But pre-election fervour in Turkey has lifted “Jerusalem-fetish” to new heights.
In Turkey’s obsessive fantasy he demonstrates how these leaders object to Egypt and Saudi Arabia not opposing Israel when it comes to fighting terrorism:
The Middle East has never been short of conspiracy theories. But the idea that there are crypto-Jews or secret friends of Israel is increasingly popular with Muslims who are waging political, ideological and sectarian wars among themselves.
Recently, a top Iranian military commander accused Saudi Arabia of following the footsteps of Israel. “Saudi rulers follow Israel as a role model,” said Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards.
Davutoglu illustrated a stereotypical Islamist’s judgment: When I have ideological, political or sectarian cold wars with my co-religionists and they refuse to convert to my worldview, it must be because they are the secret allies of Israel.
In a saner part of the world, Davutoglu (and therefore, Turkey) could be accused of openly sponsoring terrorism.
In his article “Turkey – home of the bad joke” Bekdil says:
- The Turks physically “conquered” Istanbul back in 1453, but pious Turks apparently think that if “conquest” is to be complete, all traces of “Christian heritage” must be wiped out.
- It is the same mindset that convinces Turks that Jerusalem, first built about 10 centuries before the birth of Islam, is a sacred Islamic city.
- With the possible reopening of the Hagia Sophia (originally a church) as a mosque, they will gather to pray for the liberation of the “holy Muslim city” of Jerusalem.
On a similar theme relating to the realignment of relations between former enemies in the Middle East, Brian Goldfarb, a frequent contributor to this site, has sent in the following reports:
There is interesting news from countries to the south of Israel, as reported in The Algemeiner in Iran Threat Behind Israel, AIPAC Silence Amid Arms Sales to Arab States. What is being reported is that:
Israel has remained uncharacteristically silent amid several reports over the past few days signalling increased arms purchases by Egypt and Gulf countries. According to a Foreign Policy report published on Wednesday, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is not attempting to lobby Washington over what will likely be a huge arms transfer from the U.S. to Gulf countries, over fears of an expanding Iran…In addition, the Egyptian purchase of the advanced s-300 Russian missile defense system was of little concern to Israel because it doesn’t see hostility from its southern neighbor. “We don’t see Egypt as the enemy,” an Israeli official told Reuters on Thursday, and an official in Cairo said Israel has nothing to fear.
Given the behaviour of the El-Sisi regime since it came to power, this is hardly surprising. Slightly, but only slightly. more surprising is the reaction (or, rather, lack of reaction) of the Israelis to the news of arms supplies to The Gulf states and Saudi Arabia. However, the Saudis and the Gulf States (or at least most of them) are far more worried about the rise of the Moslem Brotherhood, ISIS and the Iranians (even if the latter are opposed to ISIS, as a threat to their client Assad of Syria). It’s amazing what fear of a third party can do to Saudi and other sensibilities when the alternative friend is the stable state of Israel, the only non-mad-dog regime (more or less) to their north!
That said, John Landis, associate professor and director for the Center of Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, did note that
“Israel is engaged in a very realpolitik world,” Landis told the Algemeiner. “Most of the people that it’s working with don’t like it, don’t believe that Jews should be in the Middle East.”…“Saudi Arabia is a threat to Israel … the ideology it espouses … is equally antithetical to recognizing a Jewish state in Palestine.”
Despite this, it is clear that the Saudis and Israel have more in common than not: the Saudis can live with Israel while continuing to refusing to recognise it, if only because whatever else Israel is, it is not a threat to Saudi Arabia and Saudi interests. as this Times of Israel article notes in its report: Israeli and Saudi officials meet, name Iran as common foe:
An extremely unusual public meeting of high-ranking Israeli and Saudi officials took place in Washington on Thursday, when the incoming director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry shared a stage — and shook hands — with a retired Saudi general who is a former top adviser to the Saudi government.
In their back-to-back addresses to the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations think tank, Dore Gold and Anwar Eshki both espoused Israeli-Saudi peace and identified Iran as the chief threat to regional stability.
While still on the subject of bad news for Israel’s opponents and enemies, Middle East Forum has a very interesting article suggesting that Hezbollah is being drawn ever deeper into the mess that is Syria. I recall posting an earlier reference to this situation back last November, based in part on this Times of Israel article. According to that article, Hezbollah had lost a 1000 men then in Syria, although it hinted at higher losses, as I suggested at the time. As this latest article notes:
When Assad was in trouble in late 2012, an increased Hizballah mobilization into Syria, and the creation by Iran of new, paramilitary formations for the regime recruited from minority communities, was enough to turn the tide of war back against the rebels by mid-2013.
Now, however, the numerical advantage of the Sunnis in Syria is once more reversing the direction of the war. With the minority communities that formed the core of Assad’s support no longer willing or able to supply him with the required manpower, the burden looks set to fall yet further on the shoulders of Assad’s Lebanese friends.
What this is likely to mean for Hizballah is that it will be called on to deploy further and deeper into Syria than has previously been the case.
So, a lesser probability of a deliberate creation of actual threats and trouble for Israel. Alongside this, more problems for other terrorist groups, this time further south and not from the Israelis, although, no doubt, Hamas and Islamic Jihad will find ways of blaming Israel for what Egypt is doing, for example the Egyptians keeping very tight control on the Rafah crossing, opening it for short periods only, together with their cracking down and destroying terror tunnels.
[Anne adds: we’ve been seeing this enemy vs. enemy situation in the last few days with the latest rocket fire onto southern Israel emanating from ISIS in Gaza hoping to get Israel to do their dirty work and bomb Hamas].
One last item regarding the topsy-turvy nature of the Middle East, the Algemeiner reports that Israel is Secretly Protecting Druze Community in Syria, Hints Leading Lawmaker.
(Is it that secret? Of course Israel would want to protect the relatives of very supportive citizens of the state who happen to live just across an international border, if they can). However, the “hinting” minister continues:
Israel has been engaged in secret efforts to protect the Druze community in war-torn Syria, Israeli Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation Ayoob Kara said on Friday.
“The State of Israel is acting on behalf of the Syrian Druze. These matters are being carried out quietly, and without publicity,” said Kara, according to Israeli NRG news.
The residents of Jabal Al-Druze, in southern Syria, are in the most imminent danger because of advances made by Islamic State militants towards their region. They have accused the Syrian regime of deserting and moving troops and weapons out the area.
“We do not plan to sit idly by while our brothers are being slaughtered in Syria,” Kara told NRG. “We are doing everything, and we will do what we need to do in order to save them,” he said.
Kara added that he was on his way to the Golan Heights to speak to the leaders of the Israeli Druze community, but refused to say more about the request for military assistance to Syria’s Druze. “It is forbidden for us to talk about these matters, we are doing everything to help.”
The report about the Syrian Druze request for Israeli assistance was published by Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida, and quoted sources from the community saying that Israeli Druze leaders had reached out to the Israeli government on behalf of their Syrian brethren.
The Druze have proved themselves, as group, extremely loyal citizens of Israel, and I have seen articles which indicate that those Druze on the Golan in what used to be Syria but is now, de facto, Israel, are increasingly turning towards Israel. Because of the civil war over the Truce Line, they are going to Israeli colleges and universities, they are cut off from their families “over there” and, given what is happening “over there”, they would be delighted to be able to be reunited with their relatives, preferably in Israel. And they have applied for, and been given, Israeli ID cards.
Legally equal treatment is a small price to pay for being separate from the dictatorship and bloodshed just a few miles away.
Anne adds: May all our enemies be thus confounded!