With all the attention being accorded to Arab uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt,
Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, the real Mideast menace – Iran – seems all but
forgotten. Adding injury to imprudence, a mythology is developing which replaces
the Iranian threat with Israel as the true threat to regional stability! Two
insidious arguments make up this emerging mythology: that Israeli unwillingness
to speed toward peace with the Palestinians threatens to further destabilize the
Mideast, and that Israel is on the wrong side of history because it seeks to
chill Western enthusiasm for glorious Tahrir Square-style Muslim
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 adviser James Jones: The
Israeli-Palestinian conflict inflames all others. Israel’s failure to settle
with Abbas strengthens the appeal of the radicals. Palestine must be created now
to contain the Islamist threat and placate Arab public opinion.
Israel Left has a twist on this argument: Israel needs to sue rapidly for peace
with the Palestinians because we can’t hack so many confrontations. We need to
divert our military and diplomatic resources from the Palestinian arena to the
new frontlines emerging in Lebanon and Egypt. Settle with Mahmoud Abbas now, so
that we can better confront Hassan Nasrallah and the next ayatollah of
Of course, both groups ignore the fact that nobody is
demonstrating in Cairo or Sana 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 Tahrir Square
squalls are likely to blow also in Ramallah’s Manara Square. The latter fact
only reinforces Israel’s insistence on secure borders – something that Abbas’s
shaky, temporary regime is unlikely 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 protesters in Cairo.
sinister contention is that advanced by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman
(and others). Israel is a cranky, narrow-minded party pooper, Friedman
insinuates, 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 nose. At worst, its leaders
are “propaganda- point-seeking” opportunists, says Friedman, who greedily want
to keep democracy all for themselves.
Those damn Jews, seeking to make a
buck off every situation for their own niggardly purposes! Naturally then,
unnamed Obama administration officials – people Friedman conveniently conjures
up – are said to be “thoroughly disgusted” with Israel.
remarks, sadly, have the scent of incitement to political violence.
charitable interpretation is that Friedman and his fellow travelers are plain
punch-drunk from partying with the twitterers in Cairo. They simplistically
encourage the Arab mobs, even though the chances for real democracy anywhere in
the Arab world are slim.
They forget the Carter administration’s support
for the “people’s revolution” in Tehran, which gave us the ayatollahs. They
forget the much-hailed Lebanese “cedar revolution” of just a few years ago,
which has quickly given way to Hezbollahstan. They forget US insistence on
Palestinian elections in 2006, which gave us Hamastan in Gaza. They forget their
sanguinity about the Islamic AKP, which has turned Turkey into an Iranian
Friedman’s road to hell is paved with good intentions.
course, Friedman and friends aren’t demanding democracy in the Palestinian
Authority. That would threaten Abbas’s rule and the Israeli withdrawal they so
AT LEAST part of the remedy to these malevolent indictments is
the redirecting of political attentions to where 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 undermine
the (somewhat more) pro-Western regimes in the region.
Iran is the
country funding Hezbollah 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
self-centered agenda, not Israel. Iran is the pernicious opportunist, not
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 Studies at Bar-Ilan
University. He blogs at www.davidmweinberg.com. This article was first
published by the Begin-Sadat Center, and is reprinted with permission.