Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Why Israel May Abandon Zionism
"We will not be silenced! Whether you're a Christian, whether you're a Muslim, whether you're an atheist, you will demand your goddamn rights, and we will have our rights, one way or the other! We will never be silenced!"
Cairo Protester, January 25th, 2011
Last Wednesday Lord Wife and I went to meet an Israeli dissident for an evening. His name is Hassaf and we know him from our kids' co-op school. The school's annual auction was our reason for being there, having bid on and won "Understanding the Palestine-Israel Conflict." Because a couple of other co-op school parents were there, both of whom had traveled across the region in their youth, in addition to two local peace-active scholars, the main focus of dialogue was the region's history of conflict following Israel's formation.

Hassaf is a deeply thoughtful, fair-minded, and forthcoming man who decided to leave his country rather than run afoul of the Shin Bet (the secret police), so I did my best to shut up and learn something while the others questioned and commented. I failed the first objective and said far more than I intended, but it was hard not to succeed on the second, since Hassaf is the perfect perch on which to have one's thoughts provoked.
The elephant in the room, the current tsunami of pan-Arabic civil and economic unrest, waited patiently in the wings, its trunk peeking out occasionally.

Obviously what's going on in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and soon to be Syria and Saudi Arabia is huge from Israel's perspective, because it spells d-o-o-m. (Note: a handy Barometer of Badness for the tsunami's strength is the price of oil, which has already crested $100/bbl.) To me, of course, what's happening is expected. The equation is child's play. You take Western client states with decades of stability achieved through brutal repression, a strong and largely homogeneous religion, a young unemployed demographic, then you add rampant inflation in food commodities and top it off with a wheat crop failure in Russia. Take away bread and sugar and this is what you get. Really, what else could you expect?

What's not child's play is the immediate and long-term effects on Israel, aka "US interests in the region." That's what I was brooding on last Wednesday night. It's had time to percolate and its coming out right now despite it being in the middle of my workday, perhaps because we'll be meeting with Hassaf again this Wednesday night. A lot of commentary or causation could be laid out here. But there's no time so here's the deal. Every single day that Mubarak, Egypt's military dictator for the past 30 years, stays on is bad for everybody. Every day he stays, support for the Muslim Brotherhood swells.

Mubarak must be convinced to step down at once, with safe haven assured for his family and the metric tons of gold they got out last week. The longer he attempts to stay, the higher anti-Israel sentiment of succeeding governments will be, as well as its cohesion and duration across them as a group. It's already too late, but fast action in Egypt and ginger diplomacy with the replacement(s) would ameliorate the effects of a possible, and probably a likely, near-term oil shock. Two words nobody in our media is mentioning: Oil Shock. The Happy Chatter I've heard most out of the twittering heads is about democracy breaking out in the Mid-East. Democracy in the Mid-East? Give me a fucking break! Democracy in the Mid-East is about as useful as a refrigerator of ping-pong balls. Nitroglycerin-filled ping-pong balls.

[ed. note: Some very smart analysts see voting democracies as a positive way forward. Whereas I see them as quick paths to majority rule by Islamists. My opinion is formed by having seen my own government taken over by religious radicals, ones who still effectively set its policies, and by having been a young eyewitness to the formation of their plans.]

The Obama Administration is, unfortunately, too locked into its own foreign policy ass and damage control processes to accomplish anything like fast, effective action. Therefore, Israel will find itself in a truly interesting position: having aggressively settled the hell out of Palestine and boxed its bothersome inhabitants into a tiny fraction of the available land mass, generating pan-Arabic enmity, it can now turn around and make concessions, very soothing concessions. Such as would provide the next Western client state successors, such as probably El Baradei in Egypt and the bin Laden family in Saudi Arabia with quick victories and credibility. This means stabbing its own Zionists from the front, and from the back or the side will do just as well. If it can stab them down, Israel can reestablish a semblance of stability.

I see that opening, at least, and will allow myself a wallow or two in my own optimism, even for at least one more sentence. Implementing concessions may not deflect all the existential problems coming for Israel, not least its own neuroses and habits, but giving up its Zionist political strategy (adopted in order to generate immigration) buys more time. More time is a good thing, right? (Wow. That wallow felt really nice.) One must admittedly recognize the solution verges on the politically insufferable, and if so that's too damned bad. Again, the equation is pretty easy here. Over time, a reunified pan-Arabia defeats Israel via mere copulation, and there are already just too many Arabs to kill. The biogenetic weapons Israel has tried to come up with, ones which could selectively attack only Arab populations and spare Jews, haven't materialized. Trouble is, Arabs are every bit as Semitic as ancestral Jews, much moreso than European Jews, having all come from father Abraham.

Pacifying the anger is now a far more fruitful course, since the opposite tack manifestly failed as of Sunday, January 30th, 2011. Now, as a gloomer and doomer, it would be remiss of me to not repeat that it's probably too late. Many things have changed, human nature isn't among them. Peoples do change when they've exhausted other options. Well they're exhausted, baby, and leadership's inattention to and denial of bad fundamentals on the ground went on far too long. It's out of control now and no known countervailing force exists which can contain the Mid-East's grievances. Except maybe, just maybe making a half million or so hostile, entitled, crazy-ass-racist religious radicals move out of settlements built with US foreign aid. Oh and until that happens, as an aside, anyone reading this would be well advised to go buy at least 50 gallons of gasoline...and browse Craigslist for a moped.


Phil said...

Thankfully, I fell asleep before I read this.

MarcLord said...

Good move, Phil! You're catching on. A natural gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel blew up today.

Maybe the first round of a possible oil shock, at least for Israel, that few are talking about. Even without a true shock, the expectation of one is causing prices to go up, and it's hard to see the region suddenly stabilizing this year.

Jim Rogers believes oil will go over $150/bbl this year, and the Saudis have abandoned any pretense of responding to calls to control prices by upping their production. Which they apparently can no longer do.

In re-reading the post, though, it comes across like I'm personally against Islamist democracies in the region, and I'm really not. There are upsides for US policy, tricky as they may be, my focus was temporarily on it from Israel's perspective.

Naj said...

Ahmadinejad just set his next year budget based on 80$/bl oil rev. Not unlike his other economic plans, this bewildered the economists in and out of Iran.

Aggressions against Iran have intensified, behind the door and lost in egyptian news; but did you hear that Iran has threatened to close the Hormuz straight should military threats against it materialize?

Iranians are not very much loved in Egypt, and Khamenei trying to appropriate them into his Islamist books didn't sit too well. Israel may gain a few friends if it attacks Iran!!

Anonymous said...

Too little; much too late!!