5 Articles; Israel’s New Neighbor Egypt: Radical Nationalist President; Islamist-Dominated Parliament Syria: Who Needs a Propaganda Operation When You Have the New York Times? The Incredible Importance of Israel’s Natural Gas Discoveries Why The Palestinian Authority-Hamas Deal Is So Dangerous Charles Dickens Explains The Main Current Problem of the U.S. Economy and Government

From Rubin Reports.Blogspot.Com/Jerusalem Post.Com

Israel’s New Neighbor Egypt: Radical Nationalist President; Islamist-Dominated Parliament

Posted: 10 May 2011 09:48 AM PDT

This article appeared in the Jerusalem Post but I own the rights and the article is extensively updated here with additional information. So if forwarding or reprinting please link to this address.

By Barry Rubin

Amr Moussa, probably Egypt’s next president, has given a comprehensive picture of his views, a foretaste of the likely policies of someone about to become the Arab world’s most powerful person. One thing he said is particularly important and shocking. Read on.

Moussa, former Egyptian foreign minister (1991-2001) and head of the Arab League until his resignation takes effect on May 15, is a figure from the Egyptian establishment and the old regime. But which aspect of the old regime: that of the centrist Husni Mubarak, the moderate Anwar al-Sadat, or the radical Arab nationalist Gamal Abd al Nasser?

Moussa is the last Nasserist. He knows that the next president must also be a populist to survive. So he will bash Israel, the United States, and the Egyptian upper class. The hope is that he will be pragmatic enough to restrict his demagoguery to rhetoric.

It might seem ironic that a revolution against the old regime ends up electing as president a figure from the old regime. Yet Moussa perfectly combines experience and name recognition with radicalism. A recent Pew poll shows him with an 89 percent positive rating. Moussa’s prospects look so good because the Islamists aren’t running a presidential candidate. Moderate democrats, restricted to a small urban middle class constituency, can choose among four candidates running against each other, thus further splitting that vote.

Another reason Moussa’s election appears likely is his deft use of the anti-Israel card. So identified is Moussa with hostility to Israel that in 2001 a popular song entitled, “I Hate Israel (I love Amr Moussa)” zoomed to the top of the Egyptian hit parade. Indeed, Moussa is now emphasizing that much of the reason for his break with Mubarak was due to his desire to take a stronger policy against Israel.

Moussa’s basic argument in his Wall Street Journal interview is that Egypt has obtained nothing from peace with Israel and that Israel is completely at fault for the lack of an Israel-Palestinian peace agreement. Of course, Egypt received: the Sinai’s return; the reopening of its oilfields and the Suez Canal; and the opportunity for more trade, tourism, and a lower military budget. Failure to take advantage of the latter points was due to Egyptian decisions.

In addition, Egypt and Israel had what amounts to an alliance against revolutionary Islamism, particularly Hamas in the Gaza Strip. President Moussa will reverse this policy and see Hamas as an ally, albeit one that he won’t trust and might try to restrain.

Hamas is now starting to believe that by attacking Israel it will have the power to draw Egypt into a war with Israel. If that view is not countered decisively by the next Egyptian government, the result will be a return to the 1960s and a terrible major conflict. Unfortunately, the current U.S. government cannot be counted on to see and help eliminate that problem.

As the Wall Street Journal accurately notes: “U.S. and European officials said they don’t see the Egypt-Israel peace agreement in danger in the near term. They say Cairo won’t place in jeopardy billions of dollars in aid.”

We’ve seen this kind of economic determinism before and every time it is applied to Middle East states it fails. Examples:

–Yasir Arafat will make peace with Israel because he wants to get a state and huge compensation funding.

–Syria will moderate and turn toward the West and away from Iran in order to get trade and investment.

–Iran would much rather become wealthy than to pursue these silly ideas about spreading Islamist revolution.

Now, here’s what’s really shocking in the interview. To quote the Journal’s account, Moussa, “Described a political landscape in which the Muslim Brotherhood…is dominant. It is inevitable, he said, that parliamentary elections in September will usher in a legislature led by a bloc of Islamists, with the Brotherhood at the forefront.”

Think about that. Even Moussa, who is anti-Islamist, admits this, though Western governments and mass media haven’t figured it out yet. He’s running as an independent meaning with no political party behind him. Thus, Moussa must constantly compromise with the Islamist majority in parliament that will consist of the Muslim Brotherhood plus even more radical groups.

The alliance of the Muslim Brotherhood with even more radical “Salafi” groups–the kind of people who launched a terrorist war in Egypt during the 1990s and who support Usama bin Ladin–is another dangerous development. The Salafis are the ones attacking Christians; the Brotherhood-Salafi alliance has organized two demonstrations outside Israel’s embassy. In contrast, there are no riot police present and the demonstrators are allowed to approach closer to the embassy than before.  It’s only a matter of time before there’s a nasty incident.

Now, just for fun, check out this MEMRI video on the pro-bin Ladin, anti-American demonstration at the al-Nur mosque in Cairo. They chant, “Death to America” and the Islamist chant calling for the slaughter of all Jews. There’s also a new one we’ll be hearing a lot of in the months to come, “Obama is the enemy of Allah!” There are, what, 2000 people in that one mosque?

Note how young the crowd is. See how they use their state-of-the-art smartphones to taken snapshots of bin Ladin’s face in the mosque’s place of honor! At least one of them is wearing the jacket of the English national football (soccer) team! Why they might even use Facebook!

The Financial Times reports a speech by Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad Badie that when Egypt’s parliament meets the Brotherhood, which will have the largest bloc, will propose the following program:

“An end to normalization [with Israel] which has given our enemy stability; an end to [Egyptian] efforts to secure from infiltrators the borders of the Zionists; the abolition of all [joint] economic interests such as the Qualified Industrial Zones agreement and the export of Egyptian gas to Israel.”

Note the key point there: “an end to efforts to secure from infiltrators the borders of the Zionists.” In other words, to turn Egypt into what the Gaza Strip was in the 1950s, Jordan was in the late 1960s, and Lebanon was in the 1970s: a springboard and safe haven for terrorists attacking Israel across the border. Such a policy can only end in full-scale war.

Isn’t it great that now Egypt is a democratic state where people feel free to voice their opinions? Of course, the problem is the nature of those opinions.

Remember this: The Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t have to engage in terrorist violence within Egypt because it has allies ready to do so. This is just like Hamas’ use of smaller groups to attack Israel from the Gaza Strip and then disclaims responsibility, allowing its apologists to claim that now it’s really moderate.

While I doubt that the Islamists will have an outright majority they should come pretty close and thus have one by allying with various radical nationalists, leftists, and independents.  That also means they’ll take a leading role in writing Egypt’s new constitution.

Moussa makes another important point in the interview. First, after many years in which Egypt was oriented inward, he will reassert a leading Egyptian role in the Arab world. That probably means conciliation with Syria and the recreation of a radical Arab bloc that includes Egypt for the first time in more than 30 years. The best thing that can be said is that neither Iraq nor the Saudis would participate, while the Jordanians would be very wary.

Egypt will no longer be a U.S. ally. The question is the degree to which it will be an enemy of the United States.

Finally, he knows that he will have to deliver economic benefits to the masses. But that probably means higher subsidies and more government jobs, policies that will do nothing to improve Egypt’s economy in a real way. The worse the economy gets, the greater the anti-Israel, anti-American demagoguery will be.

. We are able to predict this crisis more than six months ahead of time, yet Western countries, media, and experts have not yet seen what is certainly coming down the road toward us.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/ His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is http://www.gloria-center.org. His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

Syria: Who Needs a Propaganda Operation When You Have the New York Times?

Posted: 09 May 2011 06:49 PM PDT

This article is published on PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

To be immoral is bad; to be immoral against your own interests is worse.

No reporter has seemed more in the pocket of Hizballah and the Syrians than the New York Times’ Anthony Shadid. His reporting on Lebanon often quotes mostly or exclusively their supporters, under a variety of labels, as if they are objective observers or represent a range of opinion.

While his latest article includes some material on how bad the situation is in Syria–350 people identified as killed so far by the regime–it reads like a press release from the dictatorship.

Not since the days of the Cold War–probably in the 1970s–has a U.S. government become such an apologist for a repressive dictatorship. What makes the situation truly amazing is that the Syrian government is no U.S. ally but an enemy repressive dictatorship.

Shadid quotes Bouthaina Shaaban, a notorious Assad regime crony as saying, “You can’t be very nice to people who are leading an armed rebellion….” Yet there is no evidence that the opposition has used weapons. Nevertheless, he reports without comment the regime’s claim that demonstrators have killed 100 soldiers and police even though not a single such case has been even minimally documented.

Shadid quotes U.S. officials as saying that Shaaban and Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa are the good guy reformers while President Bashar al-Assad’s brother, Maher, is the bad guy hardliner. Poor Bashar is supposedly caught in the middle. What’s a dictator to do?

Shabaan ridicules international “sanctions” against Syria and is right to do so. They amount to nothing, nothing except a license for the regime to murder its citizens without fear of repercussions.

Some day the Times coverage of Syria will be compared to its terrible reporting on the Stalinist Soviet Union and its largely ignoring the Holocaust.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/ His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is http://www.gloria-center.org/. His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/.

The Incredible Importance of Israel’s Natural Gas Discoveries

Posted: 09 May 2011 04:53 PM PDT

By Barry Rubin

The discovery of major natural gas deposits off Israel’s coast in the Mediterranean may turn Israel into an exporting country and provide immense wealth for an already long-successful economy.  This article in a trade journal argues the development of these fields could be a game-changer.

Why The Palestinian Authority-Hamas Deal Is So Dangerous

Posted: 09 May 2011 01:03 PM PDT

This is published in Bitter Lemons. Their title: “Hamas has real sponsors.” I have made some changes reflecting my preferences for transliteration and nomenclature.

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By Barry Rubin

The Fatah-Hamas decision to reconcile, form a joint Palestinian Authority (PA) government and hold elections seems to be a short-run maneuver that might have some very long-range consequences.

Fatah’s motive seems to be to have a united front when it goes to the UN in September to seek recognition of a unilateral declaration of independence. One of the arguments used to criticize its standing to make such a move has been the fact that the PA does not rule almost half the territory it is claiming.

For Fatah, it is also a popular move. A recent poll by Near East Consulting says that 89 percent of Palestinians want the dispute settled and believe it will help the Palestinian case at the UN.

But while September is the minimum time for this agreement to last, May 2012 is the maximum timeline. That is the approximate date set for new elections and the side that expects to lose would probably pull out of the pact. Hamas has no intention of yielding control over the Gaza Strip to a Fatah-dominated PA, while Fatah feels the same way about letting Hamas extend its control over the West Bank.

Which of the two groups is more popular? Ironically, it may be true that more Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, fed up with Hamas’ repressive rule and destructive policies, would vote for Fatah candidates than last time; while West Bank Palestinians, fed up with Fatah’s continuing corruption, might give more votes to Hamas.

On its side, Fatah’s election slogan could be that the PA has delivered relative prosperity; Hamas offers ideological and religious fervor.

There are, however, three big problems that the merger–if it is at all applied in practice–creates for Palestinian politics and for the peace process.

First, radicalization. Hamas has more advantages for radicalizing Palestinian public opinion, the PA, and Fatah than Fatah has for moderating Hamas. Hamas is a disciplined organization with a clear ideology. It has a strong social welfare component–albeit only to build its political base–and has not been caught in high-level corruption. Moreover, it can play the card of Islam and of militancy against Israel and the West.

There is also the question of whose cadre is better. Fatah might always be linked to the word “moderate” nowadays, conjuring up the image of responsible middle class gentry, while Hamas people seem like wild-eyed fanatics. Yet in practice, the average Fatah cadre often have a thuggish, opportunistic character while Hamas’ men are austerely puritanical. At least when they aren’t in power–as on the West Bank–they might seem more attractive on the street level.

True, Fatah has on its side West Bank prosperity and providing the people with greater stability. But it has not delivered a state. In the past, Hamas’ talking points have done better than those of Fatah.

Yet the issue is not mainly what the people think but what the activists think. Fatah people have defected to Hamas and Islamist ideas have developed within the Fatah militias. Groups that exist to fight admire the most energetic, effective fighters. The younger generation of Fatah people has worked alongside Hamas and doesn’t bear the hatred of its elders toward a rival group.

In addition, Hamas people can now demonstrate openly in the Fatah-ruled West Bank while Fatah rallies are banned in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip

Hamas’ sponsors have done better than Fatah’s sponsors. In fact, Fatah has no real sponsors in the Middle East. In contrast, Hamas is backed by Iran, Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood, and now the Egyptian government. These forces seem to Middle Easterners on both sides to be getting stronger at the expense of the United States and the West.

The second factor is the Western perception of the PA. The PA’s image is not enhanced by bringing into the government as an equal partner an organization rejecting peace with Israel and advocating genocide while extolling and committing terrorism. On top of this, Hamas is a client of Iran, Syria, and the Muslim Brotherhood–not great strategic friends of the West. Both Hamas and Fatah representatives met with the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader who told them that the winds of change blowing in Egypt placed the goal of liberating Palestine within reach.

Will Western governments be willing to give money to a regime that includes Hamas? One whose classrooms will teach that Israel should be destroyed and the Jews are subhuman? One very possibly containing a movement that continues to fire rockets and mortar shells into Israel?  Already many congressional Democrats are calling for an aid cut-off.

The Obama Administration will ignore them but might there come a point when it can no longer do so?

Finally, there is a factor that exacerbates the first two points: How will this alliance affect PA policies?

A PA that has absorbed Hamas as part of the government will not be able to negotiate seriously with Israel. Indeed, set on the unilateral independence strategy, it will not want to talk seriously with Israel. On no issues–borders, security guarantees, Jerusalem, refugees–will it be able to make the tiniest compromise. It will certainly not reduce incitement to violence or terrorist attacks.

There is also the question of structural changes within the PA. Many within Fatah already want to get rid of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the man mainly responsible for the West Bank’s economic progress. Joined by Hamas partners, they would almost certainly succeed in forcing Fayyad out. If there are Hamas ministers, they will use their positions to bring their cadres into the government and turn the PA in a more radical and Islamist direction.

It should be stressed that for the PA to be a real partner for peace, one of the most important tasks would be to reinstall its (or, perhaps one might better say, Fatah’s) hegemony over Hamas. This is not at all what is happening now. Either the partnership will break down or it will make Hamas stronger, the PA more radical and, hence, unsuccessful in producing peace, prosperity, or progress toward an actual Palestinian state.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/ His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is http://www.gloria-center.org/. His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/.

Charles Dickens Explains The Main Current Problem of the U.S. Economy and Government

Posted: 09 May 2011 11:20 AM PDT

Published on PajamasMedia

By Barry Rubin

“`My other piece of advice, Copperfield,’ said Mr. Micawber, ‘you know. Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 19.19, result happiness. Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 20.06, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered…and, in short, you are forever floored.'”

–Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

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