The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Bibi is in trouble

Here is a round-up of various pieces from Haaretz — I know, there’s a lot more than that in the Israeli press, much of it more influential, and I don't read Hebrew — at various ends of the political spectrum, on the regional situation. The general point of them: with attacks from left, center and right, Bibi is in trouble.

First, the bring-it-on, all-guns-blazing type:

No Israeli campaign ever ends with the enemy’s surrender, which is one of the reasons why we are eternally at war. If we aren’t prepared to defeat our enemies, once and for all, with conventional weapons, what’s the point of making hollow threats of any other type of retaliation?

Gideon Levy, from the very opposite end of the political spectrum, on his government’s arrogant policy:

After summer comes autumn; that’s the norm. And autumn 2011 is teeming with disasters: Turkey, America, September at the United Nations - and our fate has been entrusted to a handful of cynical politicians, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, who think that national honor means losing our last ally in the region; that national honor means causing Israelis to fear traveling to their favorite country; that national honor means Israelis undergoing humiliating security checks in Istanbul, and perhaps also soldiers standing trial overseas; that national honor means losing a strategic ally, an important Muslim nation, virtually the only one that accepted us in the region where we have chosen to live.

Yoel Marcus on Bibi’s performance re: Turkey and the US, calls on him to go:

Israel’s power of deterrence has deteriorated, and “our friend” America is isolated and unpopular. Not only because of Obama’s dubious abilities at home and abroad, but because he is not being forceful with Israel, and because he is not coming out openly against Bibi’s interference in internal U.S. politics. Israel is marching to the UN General Assembly weak and hated, under very difficult negotiating conditions.

It is not hard to understand how a man who is so meek at home dares to play this way with the fate of the country. The welfare of the coalition is more important than the welfare of the country, and people of worth like Dan Meridor and Ehud Barak prefer their seats to concern for the fate of the country.

With clouds of disaster floating above us, all that’s left to say to Netanyahu is a historic sentence that was last said in 1940, to Neville Chamberlain: “Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

An editorial on the ill-treatment of Israelis in Turkish airports:

In recent years, Israeli Arabs have complained about the treatment they receive, which has far exceeded the limits that can be explained by security needs. This includes intrusive body searches, unbearable delays and questioning on matters that have nothing to do with the flight. Most of the airport’s passengers ignore the outrageous discrimination, or are not even aware of it. Perhaps now, having tasted the bitterness of this humiliation, they will no longer take it for granted.

And the only one of these pieces to be written after the Israeli embassy incident, by Aluf Benn:

The Tahrir protesters and Egyptian politicians, frustrated with the slow pace of regime change, have directed their anger toward the most hated target in Cairo – the Israeli Embassy. Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s public expression of regret, and the Israeli promises to cooperate with Egypt in investigating the incident did not interest the Egyptian public.

The protests continued, and a week after the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Ankara on similar grounds - anger stemming from the killing of Turkish citizens aboard last year’s Gaza flotilla – the Israeli ambassador was expelled from Cairo. The only difference is that in Turkey, the government initiated the downgrading of ties, while in Egypt the people did so against the will of their rulers.

Netanyahu and his government have prided themselves on their steadfast commitment to national ideals, and the prime minster is convinced that he was right in refusing to apologize to the Turks for killing their citizens. According to his perspective, the Arab world scrutinizes Israel’s actions, and an apology to Turkey would be interpreted as a sign of unforgivable weakness. But Netanyahu was not content with merely refusing to apologize. Instead of attempting to calm the conflict with Turkey, Israel was dragged into a dangerous battle with Ankara.


Netanyahu now hopes that Israel might be able to get close with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States, who also seek to block the possibility of an Arab Spring in the region. In the West, Netanyahu is hoping to circumvent Turkey by strengthening ties with Greece, Bulgaria and Romania. During his visit to the Balkans, he was shown photos and statues of national heros, sent to their deaths by the Ottoman Empire. A real basis for friendship.

These are but minor comforts. The political tsunami that Ehud Barak foresaw has come true prior to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state in the UN. Israel is left isolated facing Iran, Turkey and Egypt, which in the past were considered close allies. Netanyahu is convinced that the Arab Spring uprisings are a decree of fate, leaving Israel with little to do but to stand firmly in its place.

Israel cannot prevent the rise of Erdogan or the fall of Mubarak, the same way that it cannot halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The fall of the American superpower is not Netanyahu’s fault. But he has not done a thing to mitigate the fallout from the aforementioned developments. Israel’s political and strategic positions are far worse under his leadership.

And most of that coverage is before most writers and editorials get to factor in the Israeli embassy incident! So here is the silver lining: although I don’t think what happened last night was particularly good for Egypt, and its democracy movement in general, it may yet be the final drop that pushes the disastrous Bibi government out (not immediately, of course, but in the next and perhaps premature elections). Unless, of course, the event provokes a wave of nationalist indignation in Israel and they started attacking the Egyptian and Turkish embassies!