Recent events suggest the hypothesis that Israel is no longer at the top of Muslims'' agenda for revenge or liquidation.

 
It has been replaced by other Muslims.
 
The thought is tentative, and not appropriate to guide Israeli policy with respect to its own security agenda, or to justify overseas Jewish communities relaxing their own concern for security. Recent events also indicate that there are individual Muslims with their own agendas wanting  to harm the Jews.
 
Nonetheless, the prominent events are Muslims trying to kill Muslims. 
 
Leading the list for the number of dead are Syria and Iraq, with first place dependent on the time frame employed. If we begin with 2003, Iraq is far in the lead. Looking only at the last couple of years, however, Syria is far ahead.
 
Libya is also unsettled, and the newest addition to the list is Egypt. It is also potentially the most important, given the size of its population, its prominence, and history of relative stability. 
 
The good news from Egypt is that the army appears serious in dealing with anti-regime (and anti-Israel) Islamic Bedouin in the Sinai.
 
Even Palestine, presumably with the greatest reason for combating Israel, has been quiet. There has only been one Israeli death from West Bank terrorists in the past year. Last weekend, the first Friday prayers of Ramadan saw 100,000 people coming and then leaving the Temple Mount without a major incident. 
 
The evening after the 9th of Av a Jew was stabbed and moderately injured on his way home from the Western Wall. The incident occurred as he passed alongside a crowd of Arabs that has so far complicated the task of the police to identify or catch the bad people. Incidents like that happen. The coincidence of 9th of Av and Ramadan may make it more likely. However, those are the individual problems resembling what people everywhere endure in multi-cultural cities. They threaten the Jews of Jerusalem like they threaten anyone living in New York, Paris, or London. All must be careful where they walk, especially at night.
 
If there is enough in the larger hypothesis about Muslims killing Muslims, it may lead to the following issues.
 
Where does it leave the United States, and other western powers that generally follow the American lead?
 
The platitude heard often from George W. Bush through Barack Obama that the problem is not Islam sounds ever more hollow. It is either a sign of pure ignorance, or a clever ploy to keep most of a billion Muslims quiet while armed forces are doing what they can to deal with the most active of the Muslims.
 
Fumbling and bumbling are the best ways to describe American actions when George W. Bush sent his army into Iraq in order to bring democracy to the Middle East, Barack Obama talked about democracy and equality in Cairo, and escalated the American effort in Afghanistan. 
 
The image continues with the report that an American official told CNN that it was Israel that attacked Syrian munitions recently at the Mediterranean port of Latakia. The worst case analysis is that it will add to Bashar Assad''s intentions to attack Israel or a vulnerable target of overseas Jews. The best case analysis is that Assad is too busy fighting Muslims in order to worry about Israel or the Jews.
 
Israelis officials are angry at the American establishment. Currently Assad is not threatening Israel, but claiming that the attack was the work of Syrian rebels.
 
There remains the question of why would an American official make such a report. 
 
Perhaps it was a rogue bureaucrat, either trying to cause trouble for Israel, bragging about Israel''s capacity, or trying to cause trouble for who he or she perceived as a bumbling President way over his head in international politics. Equally unidentified Americans also were the first officials to confirm that it was Israel that attacked a munition depot near Damascus. If this is a pattern of revelations likely to cause trouble for Israel and/or President Obama, it suggests that initiatives or approvals come from somewhere on high in one of Washington''s bureaucracies. 
 
Also among the possibilities is that it will provoke an Israeli official to say something to a journalist that will cause trouble for the the United States. Tit for tat appears in international politics as well as on the playground.
 
Americans are concerned about what they should do in Syria or Egypt. 
 
Being a great power with most of its people unfamiliar with distant cultures combine to incline American journalists and politicians to speak out with  facile ideas. They haven''t the luxury of tiny, nearby, and relatively well informed Israel to let the neighbors fight among themselves. Lebanon 1982-2000 was lesson enough to quiet the Israelis. Perhaps Iraq and Afghanistan will be enough to keep the Americans away from either Syria or Egypt. 
 
They should also desist from the dream of bringing the Palestinians and Israelis together, but that may be too much to expect from John Kerry and Barack Obama. 
 
The realities that Israel and Palestine are as close to peace as they are likely to get is too subtle for Americans to grasp. Formalizing the arrangements would force Israeli and Palestinian politicians to make clear what they can only tolerate if the realities remain ambiguous, and may lead to more bloodshed.
 
The future is anybody''s guess. The Economist concludes that Arab Spring has brought something much different from democracy, but is hoping that sooner or later it will come. Not only does the newspaper avoid a firm prediction. It also concludes that the process may take decades.
 
The European Community is unlikely to advance the peace process, democracy, or anything else by weighing in on the Palestinian side of a difficult dispute, by declaring that no Community money will go to Israeli businesses or institutions beyond the 1967 boundaries. It has provoked a media frenzy with Israeli leftists claiming, "We told you so. The settlers are the problem;" rightists and some others insisting that negotiations are the answer, but they aren''t going anywhere.
 
Syria is likely to suffer for years from the dislocation of people, physical destruction, and cycles of revenge. An optimistic analysis is that the country will hive off a separate country controlled by an Alawite majority. A pessimistic analysis is that sectarian and political warfare will continue indefinitely, with Islamic extremists gaining control of chemical weapons they will use against Muslim rivals and others.  
 
European countries and the United States with sizable and growing Muslim minorities may experience more unpleasantness. It would be naive to think that the various religious and political sects of Islam will confine their attacks and revenge to the Middle East, or that European and American Muslims--individuals, charismatic preachers or activists--will pass over the temptations to direct their fury to Jews or other non-Muslims.
 
Israel may do better than other places with respect to the behavior of Muslims. Israeli Muslims may realize that they have it better than anywhere else in the region. And Israel invests more heavily than other countries in intelligence and other kinds of security with respect to its Muslim population. If profiling is "unAmerican," it is also an efficient aid to national security.
 
Iran remains a major unknown, both with respect to its nuclear program and how its present government views Israel and the implications for itself in the bloody chaos of other Muslim countries. American double-speak with respect to intervening in Syria and describing events in Egypt as something other than a military putsch does not auger well for the President keeping to his promise that Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. It is looking more and more like Mutual Assured Destruction will remain for Israel and Iran, as well as India and Pakistan, the United States and North Korea.
 
Best to admit that we don''t know what''s going to happen in Syria, Egypt, Iran, or among the Palestinians. For the time being, however, we can enjoy a breather from any obvious strategic threat, and hope that things don''t get worse for us.
 
-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tel: +972-2-532-2725

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