The Egyptian Threat and the Prospects for War in the Middle East
In September 1999, Brigadier-General Amos Gilad, head
of the research division of military intelligence, reported that Egypt,
despite its massive military build-up, was not seen as a threat to Israel.
Unfortunately, Gilad's remarks were not an isolated utterance. Indeed, it
appears that Israeli strategic planners have taken an exceedingly myopic
view vis-ŕ-vis Egypt. For the past two decades, while Israeli
intelligence and strategic planners have been asleep, Egypt has
systematically reinvented its military in order to position itself to
achieve its strategic objectives. Indeed, history may note that the
failure of Israeli intelligence and strategic planners to anticipate,
preempt, and formulate a viable response to the two-decade long Egyptian
military build-up was its greatest blunder, rivaling in its failure to
anticipate and respond to Egyptian intentions prior to the outbreak of the
1973 Arab-Israeli war .
This article analyzes the congruence between Egyptian
intentions (regional strategic objectives), and its capabilities (military
force). Egypt has three medium and long-term strategic objectives. First,
Egypt desires to create a credible deterrent to counter regional military
threats. Second, it desires to supplant Israel and become the primary
strategic partner of the United States in the region. Finally, it hopes to
reassert its historic leadership role and become the regional hegemon.
Egypt is entering a period in which it has a window of opportunity to
achieve its medium and long-term strategic goals. The external destruction
of Iraq in the Persian Gulf War, the internal turmoil of Iran following
the death of the Ayatollah Khoumeni, and the deaths of Hafez Assad of
Syria and King Hussein of Jordan, have opened a window of opportunity for
Egypt to reassert its leadership role of the Arab world and emerge as the
Ironically, the only threat to Egypt's regional
supremacy is Israel. Only Israel possesses the requisite technological
expertise, economic might, and military superiority to challenge Egypt.
For this reason Egypt has a vested interest to insure that Israel is not
assimilated into the region. In this respect, Israel and Egypt are engaged
in a zero-sum game, in which Israel's assimilation into the region weakens
Egypt's ability to achieve its strategic objectives. This accounts for
Egypt's incessant anti-Israeli rhetoric and its vociferous opposition to
Israel in virtually every area.
Compounding the challenge to Israel is the massive
regional influx of state-of-the-art Western military hardware, in
unprecedented quantities. This unfettered, massive proliferation of modern
Western weaponry is shifting the regional balance of power in favor of the
Arab states. This is especially true in the case of Egypt. Today, Egypt
can field a military that rivals Israel in both quantity and quality. Only
recently have Israeli strategic planners realized the growing confluence
between Egyptian strategic objectives and its ability to project the
requisite force to achieve those objectives. However, Israeli concerns are
muted by the conflicting messages it is sending to the United States and
other Western allies.
Unless current trends are reversed, the prospects of
a future Arab-Israeli war will increase exponentially as more and more
weapons find their way to the Middle East. This will occur regardless of
the outcome of the current peace process. Indeed, it appears that the
Israeli policy of withdrawing from territories captured in the 1967
Arab-Israeli war, without achieving real peace, will only exacerbate the
likelihood of future conflict.
Belfast and Jerusalem
The metaphor "Belfast and Jerusalem" presents a
paradigmatic argument that reality, in all its manifestations, most
discernible in its social-historical realm is inherently conflictual, and
that accordingly optimistic prognostication of a peaceful international
system is doomed to refutation.
The end of the cold war, followed by the Middle East
process, the achievement of the Northern Ireland Storement agreement – all
staged against the backdrop of globalization – have allured writers and
politicians like Shimon Peres into false conviction that a new era of
universal disarmament has been ushered in.
With reference to Belfast and Jerusalem, both
historically and figuratively, as cities haunted by chronic disputes, this
article takes an opposite view. On the factual level it first quotes some
recently published data indicating that while the superpowers have reduced
the arms race, disarmament is far from becoming a universal trend.
It then explains why globalization, although
apparently introducing an era of universal co-operation, will not, ipso
facto, eliminate the fundamental causes of social and international
strifes but may even aggravate them.
Spells of international cooperation and uniformity
are but indications that certain structures of conflict have exhausted
themselves and that the international arena is resetting itself for the
continuation of the normal flow of history.
Bosnia to Kosovo - Re-Islamization of the Balkans - (I)
The Bosnia and then the Kosovo Wars, which
were conceived in much of the world only in terms of Serbian nationalism
under Milosevic, have yet another dark side to them that is not widely
discussed, and that is the rise of Islam in the Balkans.
During the Ottoman domination of the
Balkans, many of the region's inhabitants: Bulgars, Serbs, Albanians,
Montenegrins and Croats embraced Islam as a way to elevate their status in
the eyes of the occupying Muslim Power. But when those peoples attained
independence through bitter wars of liberation, Muslim populations
remained in their localities, for the most part as minorities in the
countries where they belonged.
Yugoslavia, which was constituted of a
federation of six states and two autonomous territories (both belonging to
Serbia), elevated Bosnia-Herzegovina to the status of an "ethnic" state,
like all others, by making Islam as an identity, parallel to the
identities of the the Serbs, Croatians, etc. So, when Yugoslavia
disintegrated, Bosnia had to assert its Muslim identity because it had
none other, in spite of the fact that the majority of its population was
either Serb or Croat.
In Bosnia it was the revivalist Islamic
ideology of Ilia Izetbegovic which was the engine of this new Bosnian
Nationalism, which was aided by Iran and other Muslim countries, happy to
see Islamic politics back in Central Europe. Then came the Albanian
uprising in Kosovo, which duplicated the same situation, and driving the
re-Islamization of that land under the support of the West.
The result is that while the Muslims have
established a continuity which drives a wedge within Christian Central
Europe, the West is looking with indifference to that evolving situation
which they hope would create a docile Turkish-like Islam. But in view of
the trouble Turkey itself is suffering from Muslim fundamentalists, it is
doubtful whether these hopes would be fulfilled.
The Lost Jewish
Property in Iraq
The Jews of Iraq, who numbered 120,000 in 1948, have
been persecuted since the establishment of the State of Israel. However,
in March 1950, the Iraqi government gave them permission to emigrate to
Israel on the condition that they give up their citizenship. Tens of
thousands of Jews left Iraq in the course of the following year after
being forced to sell their property at a very low value. They were
forbidden to take most of the proceeds with them.
In March 1951, the Iraqi government froze - with no
warning - all of the assets of the remaining Jews who were no longer
permitted to sell their property at all. Thus, tens of thousands left the
country penniless and many were robbed by Iraqi customs officials and
police officers of whatever jewelry, money or possessions they had left.
The estimated current value of the seized Jewish property in Iraq is $3-4
Following the Six Day War, the remnants of the Jewish
community came under a rule of terror, which included arrests, torture and
executions. The Jews lost all of their sources of income and savings due
to an official policy of discrimination. Almost all of the Jews fled Iraq
in the early 1970s leaving all of their belongings behind.
Would the Knesset Ratify the Proclamation of Independence Today?
Israeli Arab leaders and the Israeli Left are making
a concerted effort to annul the Jewish-Zionist character of the State of
Israel and to establish a "State of all its Citizens" in its place. They
demand that the national anthem, the flag, the Menorah and other
Jewish-Zionist symbols, be abolished, to be replaced by universal symbols.
The justification for this demand is that a
Jewish-Zionist state is not democratic, is discriminatory and undermines
the Arab minority’s right to self-determination.
At the same time, Israeli Arabs are undergoing an
accelerated process of Palestinization that is characterized by an
all-embracing identification with the Palestinian component of their
identity, solidarity with the Palestinians and unequivocal support for the
Palestinian Authority’s positions in its negotiations with Israel.
The Israeli Left, in their unqualified support,
ignore the fact that these demands are being made by an estranged
population that seeks autonomy and that by acceding to them, they will be
depriving the Jewish population of their right for self-determination.
Mount is Falling Down... Falling Down...
The Temple Mount has been, until now, a "hidden
agenda topic" throughout the history of the Arab-Israel conflict. The
Jewish-Zionist position has always sought to downplay the clash of history
and religion for the past eight decades, ever since early Mandate days.
Undoubtedly, the Temple Mount possesses the potential of spinning out of
the control of political and security restraints but that proposition,
daunting as it is, has never been tested or experienced. It is due to
either ignorance or purposeful shunning that the State of Israel is at
present facing a quite "unexpected moment". Thus, with very little
preparation and even less true internal public dialogue, a need for a
major decision regarding the status of the Temple Mount, stretching into
the unforeseeable future, has taken over center stage.
Israel has acted these past 33 years, and continues
to act today, illogically in ignoring the "Jewishness value-quotient" of
the site as well as the ramifications of yielding up sovereignty over it
as well as either the supervision or the administration of the Temple
Mount. Since 1967, Israel’s policies regarding the Temple Mount have been
self-denying and consequentially, self-defeating. At present, Israel is
initiating a break with the historical status quo it itself sought to
establish and maintain, a status quo that worked to Israel’s own
of Jerusalem contains too many factors, too many cross-currents and too
much meta-historical weight to allow for a pragmatic solution or
resolution of the conflicting interests. It very well may be unsolvable.
Constitution Seen from a Non-Legalistic Perspective
Three major errors/misdeeds were committed by Ben-Gurion
and the other founding fathers of the State of Israel, upon its emergence
The adoption of the British inherited system
of government whose legal framework is not a constitution, but judicial
precedents, tradition and the acceptance of non-written norms. Israel’s
immigrant population, arising from a multitude of mainly non-democratic
countries and cultures is the antithesis of the stolid Briton who has
been born into the system. It is like a right shoe on the left foot.
The adoption of the "pure" proportional electoral
system for parliamentary elections in a society torn by strong
centrifugal forces, which created a situation not unlike that of the
Third and Fourth ill-fated French Republics that collapsed for want of a
The unwarranted abstention from drawing up a
constitution, which is an illegal departure from the writ of Israel’s
Declaration of Independence, that led to a steadily weakened political
"establishment" and a steadily strengthened formation of, mainly but not
only, ultra-religious "opposition" parties which, unconcerned with
Zionist objectives, "rent" their Knesset votes to the highest
establishment party bidder. Thus enriched, these parties usurp the power
of the Zionist parties.
Following is the statement made by the Declaration of
Independence, which has been sidetracked for ephemeral political
We hereby declare that as from the termination of the
Mandate at midnight, this night of the 14th and 15th May, 1948, and until
the setting up of the duly elected bodies of the State in accordance
with a Constitution, to be drawn up by a Constituent Assembly not later
than the first day of October 1948… (Emphasis by this writer.)
The result of the Constituent Assembly’s "hijacking"
of the Parliament by declaring itself "The First Knesset" and foregoing
the drawing up of the Constitution, was a steadily increasing malfunction
of the Knesset, hence of government, as proven by the diagrams in this
The Law commonly known as the "Law for Direct
Election of the Prime Minister" first proposed in the Knesset by this
writer, is not the cause for the Knesset’s malfunction. It is, rather, the
effect, since it was proposed a decade after the collapse of the
"establishment" parties began in earnest.
The remedy: The formation of a "Government for
Constitutional Unity" whose base should be both the establishment parties
(Labor and Likud) allied with the Zionist parties.
Anti-Semitism: The Specter of Intensifying Hatred
Anti-Semitism, that is,
anti-Jewishness and anti-Judaism, is intensifying throughout the Muslim World. The significance
of this virulent anti-Jewishness and anti-Judaism lies in that this type
of anti-Semitism goes beyond the hatred it espouses. In the contemporary
Muslim world, anti-Jewishness and anti-Judaism constitute a major
political instrument in the hands of both state governments and Islamist
terrorist organizations to mobilize the entire region for the destruction
of Israel – irrespective of diplomatic treaties, including the current
peace process. Both governments and terrorist leaders are using
anti-Semitic incitement as a most effective instrument of populist
agitation in order to reach the grassroots – the Arab street – and get
results. This instrument is most effective particularly when state
governments need to ignore and reverse declared policies (imposed by
international conditions). Therefore, with the spread and expansion of
militant radical Islam, anti-Jewishness and anti-Judaism will continue to
intensify in the Muslim world. Anti-Jewishness and anti-Judaism will thus
continue to be a most potent instrument of governments throughout the