While the United States and the world were rightfully focused on ISIL and their brutality, an event occurred which was largely overlooked by many in the mainstream media- the Palestinian-Israeli situation. With the negotiated cease fire apparently holding between Hamas forces in Gaza and Israel, all eyes have turned towards Iraq/Syria on the international scene. But, let’s start at the beginning because the outcome of this story illustrates the naivete of the Obama administration and their foreign policy in the Middle East.
As everyone recalls, there was a popular uprising in Egypt against the regime of Hosni Mubarek. At the time, anger by the people was focused solely on Mubarek. After eventually losing the support of his military, he was forced out of power in a role where the United States and Obama “let nature take its course.” The military, although forcing Mubarek out, had no stomach for ruling Egypt. Here is the first misstep by Obama- turning his back on a trusted friend. Maybe Mubarek was a dictator, but he was one who kept the peace between his country and Israel and who was a vital ally in the war against terrorism. Even Jimmy Carter had the commonsense to accept the Shah on humanitarian grounds after he fell from power in Iran. What should Obama have done? Use some influence to force Mubarek to step down before the military intervened and granted him asylum in the United States.
The second error by Obama here was acceptance of the new government controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. This was, at one time, a terrorist organization that allegedly morphed into a political party. However, besides the possibility of a fraudulent election, they began a campaign of harassment against religious minorities in Egypt- mainly Coptic Christians- and other actions that upset the masses. Again, the people rose up and demanded a change and there was a lot of anger on the streets of Egypt. Now, however, the anger was not solely directed at the current Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government, but also at the United States. Eventually the military stepped in and deposed, outlawed, and totally repressed the Muslim Brotherhood. Although they insist that there will be a transition to a civilian government, the military is still in control in Egypt.
This underscores a major point regarding Middle East governance that both the Bush and the Obama administrations do not or did not seem to get. Most of the Middle East has no concept of Western style democracy. Most have lived under either tribal or national dictatorships. It is naive to believe that a Western style democracy can be established in the Middle East. The only country that is democratic- Israel- was founded by people educated in or who immigrated from Western nations. Russian immigrants brought some communist elements (the kibbutz) while others brought constitutional, democratic government.
Unfortunately, there remains a major problem in the Middle East which remains a thorn in the side of all concerned and a convenient excuse for Islamic terrorism and that is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This problem has been vexing for practically every administration since Eisenhower. Ironically, it is Egypt which is proving to be the most important voice in a possible settlement of the problem, not the United States.
The main problem is providing a homeland for the estimated 8 million Palestinians. Obviously, a small stretch of land like Gaza cannot sustain such a population. Instead, there is the Palestinian insistence that the West Bank be turned over as a new homeland. This land was captured in 1967 after Israel was attacked by her Arab neighbors. Everyone needs to understand that for Israel to surrender this territory to create a Palestinian homeland would be suicidal to their security. It is not going to happen, nor should it happen. Ironically, at one time Gaza was under Egyptian control and the West Bank under Jordanian control. As now, there was a large Palestinian population in these areas. And although we cannot reverse history and undo decisions made 100 years ago, at no time when “Palestine” was controlled by either Egypt or Jordan did Palestinians insist on their own homeland in these areas.
However, Egypt recently presented a plan to create a Palestinian homeland that apparently had the backing of the Israeli government in principle. Under the proposal, Egypt would basically cede the Sinai peninsula to the Palestinian Authority to create a Palestinian homeland which would be linked geographically to Gaza. Palestinian towns in the occupied West Bank would remain under control of the Palestinian Authority and be governed autonomously by Palestinian politicians. Other issues like economic development, water rights and, most importantly the security of Israel, would be addressed later. Of course, Egypt would keep control of the Suez Canal.
This was potentially a major breakthrough- an offer that the Palestinian Authority rejected. In short, they (the Palestinians) are insisting on something they never insisted upon when Jordan or Egypt controlled the West Bank and Gaza. It is a little ironic that despite the financial or “humanitarian” aid offered to the Palestinians by Arab countries, very few of them (except Jordan) have opened their doors to Palestinians. This clearly illustrates that the major impediment to peace in the Middle East lays on the shoulders of an intransigent Palestinian Authority. Their rejection of the Egyptian proposal and insistence on establishment of a homeland in the current Israeli occupied West Bank- something that is not going to happen- only reassures that we will revisit another episode of Israeli attacks upon Gaza after rockets are fired into Israel or tunnels are discovered.
And why not? By maintaining the status quo, the Palestinians can continue to claim the victim card- the poor and oppressed homeless people. Take away the word “occupied” from the West Bank and law-abiding, non-terrorist Palestinians probably have never had it so good than under Israeli rule.