Monday, February 14, 2011

The (No)Peace Conundrum

Dr. Ayman Nur, a secular, liberal Egyptian who apparently sees himself as a potential leader of the country if it becomes a democracy, says the peace treaty with Israel is over. This from the liberal and secular wing of Egyptian society.

I'm not of the camp that suggests we need to assume Israel will be at war with Egypt anytime soon. Rather on the contrary. I think Israel won't be at war with Egypt anytime soon, though I'm less sanguine about the stability we've enjoyed these past 35 years. An Egyptian government could easily stir up trouble with measures that are far less severe than outright war. The significance lies elsewhere. Back in 1978 Israel reached an agreement that largely addressed all of Egypt's demands. Evey inch of territory taken in 1967 was returned. Some 20 Israeli settlements were dismantled. True, Egypt had to accept the demilitarization of the Sinai, but the only reason they ever had to have an army there was to face Israel; other than that there's no reason for having military forces there. And of course, 35 years of peace haven't done any harm to Egypt, either, what with significant American aid, and even the simple lack of war and everything that goes with it. Peace remains an Egyptian strategic need, too, not only an Israeli one.

Yet in spite of all this it's quite clear to everyone that a new Egyptian government might renege on the treaty, and almost certainly would be less friendly to Israel than the very icy friendship we've had since 1978. Some people - the Economist can plausibly represent the world media on this topic - are convinced the popular Egyptian enmity is because Israel hasn't yet made peace with the Palestinians. This causes so much aggravation, we're expected to understand, that it could easily explain why Egyptians might be willing to sustain strategic setbacks of its own, if the Israelis don't rectify it. As if it's the natural way of the world that societies willingly inflict suffering on themselves out of mere solidarity.

The other explanation, that Egyptian enmity is not about Ariel and Maale Adumim, but rather is the result of Jewish sovereignty in the middle of the Arab world, is not mentioned. If any reader can demonstrate otherwise, I encourage them to do so: please show me links to mainstream Western media reports which tell about how broad masses of Arabs hate Israel for it's being there, not to mention that they hate Jews with intensity. The thing with reality is that it doesn't need to be reported on to be true. The New York times can studiously look away from it for as long as it chooses, and still it will be there. (The Guardian, of course, actively disseminates antisemitism). If the reality is that tens of millions of Arabs hate Israel for being a Jewish state, the rise of democracy will only make things worse. I'm a great fan of democracy, and wish it on the Arabs too, but don't see any advantage in pretending things aren't as they are.

The conundrum, therefore, is this: If large numbers of Arabs hate Jews and cannot accept a Jewish state in their midst, Israel cannot make peace with them. It may be able to make peace with autocratic Arab governments, but the moment they get washed away in this or a future wave of democratization, the peace will be worthless. If, on the other hand, Israel insists on making peace only with democratic Arab regimes, there aren't many around at the moment, and refusing to deal with the autocrats will be castigated as refusing to make peace.


Silke said...

nothing amazing about that guy - there is this at least in Germany widely acclaimed reality fiction author Aswany who as best I know is very secular - if you have a chance hearing him ranting on Israel make sure you have your anti-depressants within reach.

Danny Ayalon had an interview on BBC today which in the podcast version was followed by a comment from Jeremy Bowen who started with "that was a very partial Israel first view" - now what kind of view should an Israeli deputy minister hold, I at least expect it to be a very partial Israel first view.

RK said...

I realize the first link isn't precisely responsive to your request, so I'll replace it with this one:

"And, at a time when the Israeli government has accepted the right of Palestinians to statehood, most Muslim populations surveyed believe by wide margins that the needs of Palestinians cannot be met so long as the state of Israel exists." (

I realize it's talking about Muslims and not Arabs, but five out of the seven countries whose poll results are mentioned are Arab.

RK said...

Gah! My first comment didn't post. Here's the gist:

If any reader can demonstrate otherwise, I encourage them to do so: please show me links to mainstream Western media reports which tell about how broad masses of Arabs hate Israel for it's being there, not to mention that they hate Jews with intensity.

Okay, I'll bite. I Googled the New York Times website for five minutes. (Look ma, no Nexis!)

From a review of the new Julius book: "Nazi ideology bears many resemblances to that of contemporary Islamic extremism, some the consequence of careful teaching. That teaching is still present in the Arab world, amplified by political leaders and imams, often annexed to denigrations of Jews taken from Islamic sources" (

"Such anti-Semitic imagery is now embedded in the mainstream discourse concerning Jews in much of the Islamic world, in the popular press and in academic journals. . . . Yet in many Muslim countries the hatred of Jews as Jews, and not only as citizens of Israel, has been nurtured through popular culture for generations." (


Silke said...

1997, 2002, 2010

thanks for proving Yaacov's point

Avigdor said...

RK, compare the three links you found over 14 years, one in a book review, one in the arts section and one being a relating of Arab perceptions from before the 2nd Intifada, to the daily and weekly negation of Arab rejection and eliminationism in more visible, flagship news and opinion sections of the paper.

Avigdor said...

And this is in the NYT, which we all know is a Zionist-controlled rag. *Eyeroll

Sérgio said...

And there´s this interview today in the main brazilian newspaper with a certain dr. Filliu saying that the "democratic uprising in egypt is a disaster to Al Qaida". Yeah, right, another well informed french expert on the ME.

RK said...

Victor, I chose the NYT (1) because Yaacov mentioned it by name and (2) because I've read it for years, so I know first-hand that Yaacov's accusation isn't true. I provided only four examples because, as I said, I only looked for five minutes; I don't have time to do a more extensive search at work, though the examples could be multiplied if necessary. (In point of fact, by the way, one of the links was from the news desk.)

Since I don't have time, let's do the next best thing: why don't you provide links to the news stories that negate Arab eliminationism? I tried to carefully follow the parameters of Yaacov's challenge, and I'm likewise interested only in stories that actually do negate the existence of eliminationist views among Arabs, not ones that suggest that some policy or peace plan could succeed in gaining Arab support (even if you think that policy is inconsistent with the existence of Arab eliminationism).

Joshik said...

Egypt's peace treaty with Israel is over? Great - then Israel should re-occupy the Sinai.

Yaacov said...

Rk -

I appreciate the effort. Yet the opposite of reporting isn't - as you imply - reports that negate eliminationist sentiments among the Arabs. The opposite are the reports, such as the one I linked to in The Economist, which say "If only Israel would give the Palestinians what the Palestinians need to have, there would be peace with the Arab world; so long as the Israelis don't do that, they bear responsibility for the hatred against them."

In spite of your findings, I stand by my position. There is almost no reporting on the fact that the Arab hatred of Israel is because the Jews insist on having their own state in the geographical center of the Arab world, and this hatred will in no way be diminished if Israel dismantles Ariel etc. Why, even President Obama says that settlements are the reason for the conflict, just as all American presidents before him, since Johnson, have been saying. (See my review from yesterday). And they've all been wrong, all along. I saw this, as you know, as someone who wold dismantle most of the settlements even without peace.

NormanF said...

The Arabs hate the Jews and Israel. In our lifetime, it will probably be a cold truce punctuated by sporadic bouts of terrorism. I don't see the danger of a regional war any time soon as the Arabs will be too preoccupied with their own domestic problems to pose a real threat to Israel. That does not mean Israel can let down its guard; to the contrary, Israel must remain vigilant. The situation in the Arab World is very fluid and one cannot exclude the possibility of radical Islamic regimes emerging there in the foreseeable future.

The bottom line is this: the fluidity hitherto described ensures the peace process is effectively dead and now is not the time for Israel to be taking great risks for a peace that in all likelihood will never happen. Israeli policymakers therefore have to deal with the Middle East as it is and not how they wish it could be.

NormanF said...

Ya'acov, your position on the settlements is immoral. If the Arabs really wanted peace with Israel, they would have no problems with a Jewish minority living among them just as an Arab minority can live in Israel today. What is the problem with two peoples living on the same land? Nothing but you think Jews need to accommodate Arab racism and anti-Semitism for there to be peace. Sorry, I don't buy it.

If you really wanted peace, my friend, you would call for the elimination of Arab racism and anti-Semitism towards the Jews. Without this, there will never be real peace in the Middle East.

Silke said...


this writer is consistently presented the way this headline suggests and now he was presented in one piece as the model of the Egypt we all hope for.

Here he is in an interview very "reasonably" explaining his no problem whatsoever with Jews only with Israel

I remember having heard him in other interviews as being a lot more explicit, accusing Israelis of all kinds of heinous stuff.

BTW why exactly did Jews leave Egypt, if they were such a beloved and cherished part of the society?

and another BTW:
how come if Egypt under Nasser was very secular that the Koran was read on radio on the day of his death apparently for hours. as per BBC Witness 01.10.11

Yaacov said...


I never said we need to dismantle the settlements to have peace. (Well, I did used to say that, before 2000. But that was a while back, and I then wrote an entire book explaining how I'd been wrong).

I insist we need to dismantle the settlements because they're bad for us.

Barry Meislin said...

Yes, the situation is fabulously absurd.

1. Israel must return to the May 1967 borders.

2. Israel must agree to let all Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their homes within pre-May 1967 Israel.

3. Israel must agree to a "viable," "contiguous" Palestinian State. (Yes, that's right!)

4. Israel should not and cannot expect to be recognized as a Jewish State by the Palestinian Authority (see #2, above). Such an expectation/demand is unreasonable and provocative. (Obviously.)

5. Israel has not thus far given the Palestinians enough of an incentive, has not provided a good enough "deal," to induce/persuade/convince/enable the PA to agree to a peace agreement (see #1, above). Israel has not even come close to providing such a deal. (No, not even close.)

6. Can it be any surprise that the Arab world (e.g., Egypt, Jordan, et al.) are absolutely incensed that the Israelis have failed to make peace with the Palestinians; that the Arab world is outraged that Israel still oppresses the Palestinians; that the Arab world is apoplectic that Israel still occupies Palestine?

7. Oh, and the window is fast closing for any peace agreement to be made (re-inforcing Israel's responsibility, of course, for the absence of peace---and, as a bonus, the collapse of America's prestige in the region and around the world!).

8. Israel has declared war on the "Egyptian people" (cf. Thomas Friedman) by not supporting their surge for freedom from the monstrous tyrant. Ergo, it would be only natural for the "Egyptian people" to hate/despise/demonize/detest Israel; and it would be justifiable were any future Egyptian government to tear up the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, which only---obviously---served to keep the "Egyptian people" enslaved by the Zionists (and their American puppets) for 30 years, etc.

File under: "The fun is about to start!!"(?)

AKUS said...

The immediate risk to Israel is that Egypt reneges on its agreement to supply natural gas to Israel. The development of the offshore gas fields should now be a national priority.

Silke said...

special for Barry:

that you-know-who Baroness from Brussels in today's FT: whether Egypt succeeds or not hinges on Israel ;-((((((

Some people fear that our strategy is risky: that if Tunisia and Egypt become democracies, their people might choose governments that turn against the west and – in Egypt’s case – undermine any prospect of bringing lasting peace to the Middle East. Productive talks between Israel and Palestine are now more vital than ever, if a democratic Egypt is to remain an ally in the quest for peace.
she also has this example of a successful popular uprising:

from the boulevards of Paris in August 1944

sure it was the Parisians who kicked the Nazis out, never mind that this will make Churchill rotating in his grave with fury - as if her British countrymen hadn't bled themselves white ... and that is without mentioning the Russians and last but by no means least the US.

this is what she has to say about that tiny problem of the refugees popping up:
Our entire neighbourhood policy needs a fundamental review and we are beginning this process now.

my bet is we will be building the equivalent of a wall

She promises money galore, promises to lead (I thought America was to lead which I, Obama or not, prefer over unelected Brusselians)
Europe’s downpayment on democracy

Barry Meislin said...

To be fair, she's only echoing Hague who's only echoing Obama, who's only echoing Powers, who's only echoing Walt, who's only echoing Carter.


Yes, one magnificently resonant echo chamber.

And she (they) happens to believe it. The logic of it is extraordinarily seductive. There is a reason for failure that makes sense.

Never mind that the edifice is built on a fantasy. The foot is in the door and that door will not close. Until....

(Or if you will, the horse is inside the gate.)

File under: Arafat was a genius. (Good head for finances, too!!)

Anonymous said...

This post, as with so many of yours, was very poignant. I agree with your comments that we shouldn’t rush to conclude that war between the states is on the horizon, Gd forbid. Yet, one point that keeps coming to mind during the Egyptian upheaval is the nature of the cold peace. It’s served the strategic interests of Israel (ensuring non-belligerence between the states and the demilitarisation of the Sinai Desert) and of Egypt (ensuring the inflow of enormous US aid that has been used to develop a very modern armed forces). Yet, the peace hasn’t created the warmth between the peoples that may have been hoped. (Ehud Yaari surveyed some of these issues in a 1987 report: Many reports on Egypt, in Israel and outside, neglect to emphasise that Egypt has been building a modern, highly-skilled and sophisticated armed forces that, according to some assessments, is nearing or has reached parity with the IDF.

Antisemitism has been rife within Egyptian society and its press. Many of the most horrendous antisemitic cartoons have appeared Egyptian papers; and the 41-part (!!) Egyptian tv series Horseman Without A Horse, which updated the Protocols for a contemporary Middle Eastern (and beyond) audience, cannot be disregarded. Mubarak’s regime has provided regional stability, and he maintained the durability of the peace treaty despite Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, throughout the two intifadas and subsequent conflicts. At the same time, though, in a 1996 interview with Der Spiegel, Mubarak called Israel "a dagger in the heart of the nations” of the Middle East. And, even earlier than this, he made a little-known remark that has always left me astounded; perhaps a real lesson in the world of realpolitik:

“Against us stood the most intelligent people on earth – a people that controls the international press, the world economy, and world finances. We succeeded in compelling the Jews to do what we wanted; we received all our land back, up to the last grain of sand! We have outwitted them, and what have we given them in return? A piece of paper!… We were shrewder than the shrewdest people on earth! We managed to hamper their steps in every direction. We have established sophisticated machinery to control and limit to the minimum contacts with the Jews. We have proven that making peace with Israel does not entail Jewish domination and that there is no obligation to develop relations with Israel beyond those we desire.” (Efraim Karsh,

As for your comments regarding Ayman Nur, it is indeed a reminder that it is not only the Muslim Brotherhood that poses a threat to the architecture of ME relations; rather, anti-Western secular Egyptian groups have been at the forefront of making radical and/or violent statements against the West and Israel.

Barry Meislin said...

And if we were a more sophisticated bunch, we might even be able to blame ourselves for this state of affairs....

File under: "If you will it, it is no dream"?