Israel And The Muslim Brotherhood: Facing The Bitter-Sweet Reality

Since the fall of the Mubarak regime, the conventional wisdom in Israel has suggested that the emergence of an Islamist government in Egypt would necessarily be hostile to the Jewish state. Egypt’s parliamentary elections, in which the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) won close to 50 percent of the vote, only reinforced this notion, which Prime Minister Netanyahu viewed with a suspicious “wait-and-see” attitude. On its part, the MB Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) seems equally unwilling to change their posture towards what they still call the “Zionist entity.” That both sides are loath to talk to one another not only ignores the hard-core realities on the ground but also deepens pre-existing misperceptions.

March 15, 2012 Read more

Egypt Can Rise To The Historical Ooccasion But It Must Choose Wisely

A few days after the Egyptian uprising, I argued that the Arab Spring could well turn into a long and cruel winter due to a host of prominent factors including: the lack of traditional liberalism, the elites’ control of business, a military that clings to power, and the religious divide and Islamic extremism. These factors are making the transformation into a more reformist governance (slow, filled with hurdles and punctuated with intense violence) much to the chagrin of Utopian-minded Western governments who thought that the transition to democracy would be attainable within months. If and when the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the ruling Military Council reach a power-sharing agreement, the situation will continue to unravel and be punctuated by chaos and accompanied by violence.

March 5, 2012 Read more

Iran: Obama’s Indecisiveness Makes Israeli Strike Likely

The failure of President Obama to impose crippling sanctions a few months after assuming office in 2009 makes the prospect of an Israeli strike on Iran nuclear facilities in the coming few months increasingly more likely. To prevent Israel from taking unilateral action against Iran, the Obama administration must insist that any resumption of negotiations is conditioned upon the immediate suspension of all uranium enrichment activities and acceptance of complete oversight from the International Atomic and Energy Agency (IAEA). Otherwise, the U.S. will have to deal with the serious repercussions of potentially a major conflagration in the Middle East with its unpredictably dire consequences.

February 28, 2012 Read more

End The Slaughter In Syria While Isolating Iran

Seldom has the dividing line between the forces of moderation and the forces of extremism been so clear in the Middle East. The extremist anti-West, Iran-led Shiite Crescent, consisting of Iraq (largely operating at Iran’s behest), Syria, and Lebanon, heavily subsidized by Tehran with political capital and financial resources for the past three decades, is now under serious threat of collapse thanks to the crack in its most critical link: Syria’s Assad regime. On the other hand, the human tragedy in Syria has created a rare common interest between the old and the new Arab regimes, Turkey, the US, and the EU for the potential emergence of a representative government in Damascus.

February 21, 2012 Read more

Israel’s Borders And National Security

Israel’s National Security: the Psychological Dimension

No one should fault the Israelis for their preoccupation with national security. Indeed, the Jewish historical experience speaks for itself: centuries of persecution, expulsion, anti-Semitism and segregation culminating with the Holocaust and followed by incessant, violent confrontations with Arab states and the Palestinians. Such things have created a major psychological barrier that places national security concerns at the front and center of Israel’s domestic and foreign policy.  For this reason, any agreement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must take into full account Israel’s legitimate national security concerns, which are deeply embedded in the mind and soul of every Israeli. Regardless of how exaggerated Israel’s sense of vulnerability may seem to its detractors, the Palestinians cannot afford to dismiss Israel’s concerns and hope to strike a peace agreement. Although the Israelis and the Palestinians differ about the kind of measures needed to alleviate Israel’s security concerns, only if the Palestinians appreciate the psychological underpinnings behind Israel’s national security and agree on the security measures needed will both sides reach an enduring peace.

February 16, 2012 Read more

Russia’s Self-Marginalization

Russia’s foreign policy doctrine appears to be based on rejecting every policy initiative that the United States and the European Union take and only then, beginning to negotiate from ground zero. This has been demonstrated in Russia’s Middle East approach where Moscow has chosen extremely shortsighted policy options, allowing the massacre to continue in Syria while remaining mute regarding Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. As a global power, Russia enjoys a unique position of tremendous influence on both Syria and Iran and has the ability to play an extraordinarily positive role in defusing the internal conflict in Syria and the Iranian-Western conflict in connection with Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.  Having failed to do so may risk turning these conflicts into major regional, if not global, crises while marginalizing Russia itself both regionally and internationally.

February 13, 2012 Read more

The Psychological Dimension Of The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

This is the first of 10 articles that will address how the psychological dimension of Israeli-Palestinian conflict has and continues to impact every conflicting issue between the two sides and what can be done to mitigate these psychological impediments to reach an agreement based on a two state solution.

On the surface, the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process seems illogical and unsettling. After all, each side accepts the inevitability of coexistence and presumably understands the general parameters of a negotiated peace agreement: a two-state solution based on the 1967 border with land swaps that keep the major settlement blocks under Israel’s sovereignty, Jerusalem would remain a united capital of two-states, and the vast majority of Palestinian refugees would be compensated and remain in their countries of residence or resettle in the newly-created Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These fundamental Imperatives, coupled with appropriate security guarantees for Israel, represent what has been on the table at the conclusion of numerous rounds of negotiations in the past decades, with each round coming closer to finalizing an agreement, yet ultimately failing to do so. The question is: why?

The answer lies far beyond the physical concessions on the ground and is deeply embedded in the psychological dimensions of the conflict, which impact every conflicting issue between the two parties. It is the mindset, nurtured over more than nine decades, that allows the individuals and the groups, Israelis and Palestinians alike, to perceive and interpret the nature of the discord between them in a biased and selective way. In turn, this stifles and inhibits any new information that could shed new light on the situation and help advance the peace process. In principle, such a mindset prevents either side from entertaining new ideas that might lead to compromises for a peaceful solution. Thus, to mitigate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we must first carefully look into the various elements that inform the psychological dimensions of the conflict and discuss how they may impact the relationship between the two sides and what it would take to alleviate these psychological impediments as prerequisites to finding a solution to the conflict.

February 9, 2012 Read more

How Syria’s Ruling Apparatus Became Its Albatross

It was strongly suggested by close top officials in the Syrian government that I spoke with more than a decade ago that when Syria’s President, Bashar Assad, first assumed power he was determined to introduce some significant political reforms. Why then has he failed to implement at least some of what he had intended to do and failed to meet the public’s expectations for change following his father’s 30 year reign? The reason is that Mr. Assad inherited from his father more than merely the office of the Presidency. He inherited a system of governing: an entrenched ruling apparatus consisting of the Baath party leadership, the high military brass, a massive Intelligence (Mukhabarat) community, internal security and top business elites; all dominated by Bashar’s own Alawite minority group which had heavily-vested interests in maintaining the system at all costs. Mr. Assad was able to assert his rule based only on the tacit condition that he would preserve the status-quo, which in the end turned out to be his albatross.

January 30, 2012 Read more

The Egyptian Revolution: A Year Later

Many observers and analysts of the Arab Spring have tended to draw quick conclusions about the successes or failures of the revolutionary upheavals that have swept the Middle East and North Africa based on what has thus far transpired on the ground. This is a common mistake. Every Arab country that has gone through the revolution remains immersed within the very early stages of the revolutionary process. To determine the real prospects for political and economic reforms in any of these countries, we have to look into the nature of the grass-root movement that precipitated the revolution, the core issues that the newly-emerging governments face and the choices they are likely to make. Looking at Egypt from this perspective reveals that, notwithstanding, the continuing political squabbles and the combined margins of victory of the Islamic parties in the new parliament, the country is on a path of real political recovery, however long this process may take.

January 23, 2012 Read more
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