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Sunday, February 20, 2011
David M. Weinberg: Its Iran, not Israel, Stupid

Israel cannot allow ill-advised Western leaders or ill-willed pundits to
propagate new myths that make Israel the fall guy for Western fears of a
crumbling Middle East. Back to Iran.

It’s Iran, not Israel, Stupid
by David M. Weinberg
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 130, February 20, 2011

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: An insidious new mythology is being advanced that
replaces the Iranian threat with the “Israeli threat” to Middle East
stability. This has the scent of incitement against, and demonization of,
Israel. Political attention must be redirected where it most urgently
belongs: to the Iranian contagion that is inflaming the region.

With all the attention being accorded to Arab uprisings of the past month in
Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, the real Middle East menace, Iran,
seems all but forgotten. Adding injury to imprudence, a mythology is
developing which replaces the Iranian threat with Israel – the new, true
threat to regional stability.

Two insidious arguments make up this emerging mythology: that Israeli
unwillingness to speed towards peace with the Palestinians threatens to
further destabilize the Middle East at a sensitive time; and that Israel is
on the wrong side of history because it seeks to chill Western enthusiasm
for glorious Tahrir Square-style Muslim revolutions.

The first contention is being advanced both by Western leaders and the
Israeli Left. We’ve heard it from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former
US National Security Advisor James Jones: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict
is the core dispute that inflames all others. Israel’s failure to reach a
settlement with Abbas strengthens and amplifies the appeal of the radicals.
Palestine must be created now to contain the Islamist threat and placate
Arab public opinion.

The Israeli Left has a twist on this argument: Israel needs to settle
rapidly with the Palestinians because we can’t hack so many confrontations
simultaneously. We need to divert our military and diplomatic resources from
the Palestinian arena to the new frontlines emerging in Lebanon and Egypt.
Settle with Abbas now, so that we can better confront Nasrallah and the next
Ayatollah of Egypt.

Of course, both groups ignore the fact that nobody is demonstrating in Cairo
or Sana'a because of Palestine; they ignore the fact that Israel has nobody
with whom to negotiate reasonable concessions (Abbas prefers a UN battering
ram to negotiations); and they ignore the fact that the Tahrir Square
squalls are likely to blow into Ramallah’s Manara Square. The latter fact
only reinforces Israel’s insistence on secure borders, something that Abbas’
shaky, temporary regime is unlikely to be able to provide.

So don’t lay the blame on Israel, please, for instability across the Middle
East or expect Jerusalem to take wild leaps in order to calm the protestors
in Cairo.

The second sinister contention, advanced by New York Times columnist Tom
Friedman, among others, is that Israel is a cranky, narrow-minded party
pooper because it doesn’t feel the joy of freedom being rung-in across the
Arab Middle East.

At best, Israel is unnecessarily traumatized by fear and unable to see
opportunities beyond the tip of its own nose. At worst, Israeli leaders are
“propaganda point seeking” opportunists, says Friedman, who greedily want to
keep democracy all for themselves. Those damn Jews, he seems to be saying,
always trying to make a buck off the situation for their own niggardly
purposes. Naturally then, unnamed Obama administration officials – people
that Friedman conveniently conjures up – are said to be “thoroughly
disgusted” with Israel.

Friedman’s remarks, sadly, have the scent of incitement against, and
demonization of, Israel.

The charitable interpretation is that Friedman and his fellow travelers are
just punch-drunk from partying with the twitterers in Cairo. They
simplistically encourage the Arab mobs, even though the chances for real
democratization anywhere in the Arab world are slim.

They forget Carter administration support for the “people’s revolution” in
Tehran – which gave us the ayatollahs. They forget the much-hailed Lebanese
“cedar revolution” of 2005 – which gave way within six years to
Hizballahstan. They forget US insistence on Palestinian elections in 2006 –
which gave us Hamastan in Gaza. They forget their sanguinity about Turkey's
Islamic AKP – which has turned Ankara into an Iranian ally. Friedman’s road
to hell is paved with good intentions.

Of course, Friedman and friends aren’t demanding democracy in the
Palestinian Authority. That would threaten Abbas’ rule and the Israeli
withdrawal they so insist on.

At least part of the remedy to these malevolent indictments of Israel is the
re-directing of political attentions to the place they most urgently belong:

Iran is the contagion infecting and inflaming the region, not Israel. Iran
is the country actively seeking to export its radical blend of Islam to
Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, Somalia, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq, Kuwait and
Saudi Arabia. Iran is the country seeking to foment instability and to
undermine the (somewhat more) pro-Western regimes in the region.

Iran is the country funding Hizballah and Hamas and weakening Mahmoud Abbas,
not Israel. Iran is seeking nuclear weapons with which to dominate the
entire region, not Israel. Iran is exploiting the festivities in Tahrir
Square to advance its ambitious and self-centered agenda, not Israel. Iran
is the pernicious opportunist, not Israel.

Israel cannot allow ill-advised Western leaders or ill-willed pundits to
propagate new myths that make Israel the fall guy for Western fears of a
crumbling Middle East. Back to Iran.
The writer is director of public affairs at the Begin-Sadat Center for
Strategic Affairs at Bar-Ilan University. He blogs at www.davidmweinberg.com

BESA Perspectives is published through the generosity of the Greg
Rosshandler Family

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