PM Binyamin Netanyahu fisting_311.
(photo credit: GPO)
It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times around the world.
Dickens’ famous line aptly describes a wide swath of the Arab world in
2011. It was a good year for the Arab street as popular uprisings, fueled
by the social media, swept across the Middle East toppling some despots and
It was a bad year for dictators – Tunisia’s Zine el-
Abidine Ben Ali is in exile, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak is in the court dock, Muammar
Gadaffi is in hell and Syria’s Bashar Assad is on his way – but was it really
that good for the pro-democracy movement? We can’t be sure whether Egypt had a
democratic revolution, a military coup or an unholy alliance of the military and
the Islamists, who have done disturbingly well in recent elections.
was a good year for Gilad Schalit, free after more than five years in captivity,
but it was also a good year for his Hamas captors, who won freedom for 1,072 of
their followers and a public relations coup in their rivalry with the secular
Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and many of their cohorts had a
very bad year, thanks to the Obama administration’s stepped-up targeting of
On the domestic political scene, the year was
characterized by polarizing partisan gridlock and acrimony in Washington and on
the campaign trail. The campaign for the Republican presidential nomination
looked like a stampede to the far Right as candidates vied for title of most
ultra-conservative. There was more flip-flopping than a carp out of
Some politicians started out the year being taken seriously and
are leaving it as punch lines of bad jokes: Donald “the birther” Trump, Anthony
“Tweets” Weiner, Herman “Libya brain-freeze” Cain, Arnold “the impregnator”
Schwarzenegger, Rick “Oops” Perry and Michele “shootzpah” Bachmann and Dominique
“grab a chambermaid” Strauss-Kahn.
It was a year in which former speaker
Newt Gingrich blamed his adultery on his patriotic zeal, and current Speaker
John Boehner was for the compromise on the payroll tax holiday, before he was
against it, before he was for it again.
The year had a tragic beginning
for Rep. Gaby Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who was severely wounded in an
assassination attempt that left six dead and 11 others wounded. Her courageous
struggle to recover has been inspirational.
Millionaires who think they
pay too much in taxes own a solid voting block in the US Congress – keep those
contributions coming – which is more than can be said for folks who rely on
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
President Barack Obama gave up on
making peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, at least for the rest of
this term, when their leaders showed scant interest in talking peace, especially
with each other.
Binyamin Netanyahu had a very good year. He may have
dissed the president of the United States with a rude lecture on live
television, but that didn’t stop Obama from leading the campaign to block the
Palestinian bid for UN membership, raising the level of security cooperation to
new highs and approving the transfer of weapons system denied by the Bush
As a bonus, Netanyahu got standing ovations at a joint
session of Congress that insulated him from pressure to be more flexible in the
peace process; he returned home stronger than ever – and less interested in
fulfilling his end of the US-Israeli partnership.
And it was a year when
Israel’s tolerance of the antics of West Bank and religious zealots came home to
roost in a Jewish state that sometimes seems to be imploding, politically and
Mahmoud Abbas didn’t fare so well. Not only was his
much-vaunted UN strategy derailed, but it also cost him valuable White House
support and threatens hundreds of millions in US aid. If his reconciliation with
Hamas goes through, he can kiss that aid, and the chances for peace,
Israeli settlers have much to celebrate. Netanyahu once again
demonstrated that he would rather build settlements than build peace with the
Palestinians. The Price Tag movement and other settler extremists
expanded their attacks with little more than a wrist slap, if that, from the
Israeli government, even when they burned mosques, attacked Israeli soldiers or
vandalized IDF bases.
It was supposed to be a very good year for the
Iraqis, getting their country back and the Americans out, but as the year ends
it looks like the country could be headed back to sectarian warfare.
continued its bombast and bluster but admitted the sanctions are hurting. The
UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency reported it believes Iran, despite
denials, is working on a nuclear weapon. There was a lot of talk about an
Israeli strike on Iran – not just in Israel but here as well, encouraged by
Republican presidential wannabes anxious to show they love Israel more than
Obama does since he lacks their enthusiasm for starting another war.
the election campaigns heat up, the Middle East peace process cools off and the
Arab awakening remains uncertain, the coming year does not hold great