Summer doldrums, or something else

Recent news hereabouts has been boring. Not perhaps to those directly involved, but compared to what is more typical of this contested land in a chaotic region.
Among the top stories
  • Traffic accidents
  • Olympic results, and stories of athletes picked up by the Brazilian police for actions off the field of competition
  • The deaths of old Israelis who have made a name for themselves in one field or another
  • A customer claiming to have been overcharged for concert tickets purchased for an event in Europe through a local travel agent
  • Updates on the procedures involved in prominent criminal actions, or the missteps of Israeli business executives
  • Actions of European governments with respect to the Islamic State and migrants
  • Squabbles at the height of Israeli politics
  • Fires in California, floods in Louisiana
  • The latest body counts from conflicts that do not involve us, i.e., Russian bombing Syrian neighborhoods, suicide bombings in Syria, Iraq, and Turkey
  • Russian-Iranian cooperation against the Islamic State
  • Violence in Africa
  • Speculations on what the police are finding in their "inquiries" (something short of "investigation") about gifts provided to the Netanyahu family
  • A daily summary of what Donald and Hillary are saying, and what other Americans are saying about them
  • Weather forecast
Such topics may not be all that different in their level of intensity from what is on the air in Indianapolis or Kansas City.
Something has to fill the time allotted to news broadcasts.
What is not apparent in our recent news is anything that threatens Israel's existence, or even the possibility of serious damage to its people or the economy.
Iran's nuclear program, along with curses directed at Israel and the US, are somewhere in the background, but haven't been prominent lately.
One of Ha'aretz's headlines provides its insight into what is missing from Israeli news.

"Against the background of (Israel) coming closer to Cairo, Arab countries are avoiding advancing a decision against Israel's nuclear activities."
There is also been a round of bluster involving Palestinian and Egyptian diplomats about the convening of an international conference to settle the dispute between Israel and Palestinians.
What we are hearing are Palestinian ponderings about who should be invited to the talks, and what should be its agenda. In the background is the problem that less than half of Palestinians recognize the legitimacy of what is calling itself the Palestinian leadership, as well as competition for status in such matters involving French, American, Saudi, Russian, UN, and Egyptian officials, all of whom want credit for running whatever is on offer.
Israelis and Palestinians who should know express strong doubts that anything will come from these talks about international talks.
In light of all the above, and what is not in the news, we can ask if Israel becoming a normal country, no longer obsessed with national security and seeing enemies in all corners?

Not quite, but there is something afoot other than the summer vacations of politicians to explain the low level of daily news.
The article that follows the Ha'aretz headline about a lack of Arab pressure against Israeli nuclear activities notes that Israelis feel that the hiatus in Arab antagonism may only be tactical and temporary, and that a last minute change in plans may lead the Arab governments to present their routine demands against Israel's nuclear program in international forums.
Also, recent emails included condemnations of Black Lives Matter for citing Israel as a "genocidal nation."
Wow. Another discovery of Black anti-Semitism.
Suggestive in a difference sense are recent items about upcoming Palestinian elections.
These are to be elections for local councils in the West Bank. They are scheduled, but as occasionally happens in Palestine, the elections may not occur. 
There's nothing here that will touch President Mahmoud Abbas, who continues to hang on beyond a term of office that ended in January, 2009. The chief action is competition between Fatah and Hamas. Guesses from opinion polls are that Hamas is the overall favorite, and neither Fatah nor Israel are taking chances. Security forces of both have arrested Hamas activists, including likely candidates. It's not a problem to find justifications for the arrests in the individuals' actions or preparations for violence. Hamas spokesmen in Gaza accuse both Fatah and Israelis of meddling in Palestinian democracy.
Such a charge may carry weight with American and other western believers in the absolute value of democracy, or the value of unhindered elections above everything else.
Those of us closer to realities, with feet on the ground in the Middle East, recognize that no value can claim absolute status. 
Even human life, which is often said to be the highest of values, may have to be sacrificed, if the human is coming at you with an upraised knife or some other weapon. 
Likewise, democracy should take a place below a concern with who is running for office, if the who would be using the office to end freedom of expression and wantonly destroy opponents.
Apparently the lessons of history learned by Barack Obama and John Kerry skipped over the ascent of Nazis in Germany.
An Egyptian commentator has written a strong denunciation of democracy. He deals not only with its flawed importation to the Middle East, but sees it as destructive in the west. He cites democracy's role in bringing to office leaders who were obsessively inclined to war and bloodshed, like Hitler, Miussolini, and George W. Bush.
If they had learned those lessons, or had them refreshed by advisers, Obama and Kerry might not have thrown Hosni Mubarak under the bus and welcomed the Islamic government of Mohamed Morsi.
We shouldn't be too casual about meddling in someone else's politics. 
However, a pro-active posture with respect to politics in areas prone to violence reflect better sense than elevating election results to the highest of values no matter who wins or is likely to win.
No one should think that anything close to an orderly western democracy is on offer anywhere in the Palestine Authority, or that it would be likely in what many aspire to be a State of Palestine. We're talking about defending Israel, which for those who are not anti-Semites, or close cousins in the corner of BDS, should score as one of the higher values.
Freedom of expression is an essential part of a good society, and in that spirit, comments are welcome
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem