Dear Friend of FLAME:
Arab and Muslim countries across the Middle East and North Africa have experienced extreme tumult in recent weeks, capped by the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and the violent uprising against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. In the face of this uncertainty, Israel has to assess its military and diplomatic strategies, and above all must ask whether she can trust regional peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, let alone the treaty she's been trying for decades to negotiate with the Palestinians and the treaty she has contemplated for almost as long with Syria.
In this week's FLAME Hotline, Yoaz Hendel concisely examines the potential for peace with Syria. Hendel, an Israeli military historian and lecturer at Bar Ilan University, provides us a resounding answer: Absolutely not. In fact, in the context of current events, he views the "pursuit of another agreement with a dictator as blindness."
Though Israel has managed to forge a cool peace with Jordan and a chillier one with Egypt, she negotiated those treaties with their respective dictators and not with their respective peoples. But what happens when one of those dictators is overthrown and replaced by another, perhaps unfriendlier regime?
Further, what have these peace treaties done to improve relations on the ground between Israelis, and Egyptians and Jordanians? Unfortunately, Israelis are certainly not welcomed with open arms in either country, and rampant anti-Semitism remains widespread there and throughout the Arab world. Leaders in both Egypt and Jordan don't hesitate to blame Israel for all of their countries' problems, as well as the problems of the wider region and, for that matter, of the world.
Based on these equivocal experiences in attaining peace with her neighbors, it's clear that Israel's energy would at this time best be served elsewhere---and no more importantly than on ensuring the security of her territory and citizens. While the United Nations likes to ignore this existential fact of survival, any Israeli government's first duty must be to provide for the safety of Israelis. If Israel can confidently secure a peace agreement that contributes to this goal, then, yes, Israel should absolutely explore her options. Otherwise, it's security first.
It would be the gravest naivete, though, to believe that a peace deal signed with Syria's Bashar al-Assad, or the Palestinian's Mahmoud Abbas is possible in the current political climate, let alone that such a peace would have lasting potential.
The future of the Middle East is gravely uncertain. In addition to threats from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel may soon be faced with an unfriendly, even aggressive regime in Egypt. It certainly faces a dramatically more hostile one in Lebanon. In fact, in anticipation of greater security threats in the future, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is considering a request to the United States for an additional $20 billion in security aid over the coming years.
We at FLAME cannot stress this enough: Israel is under attack from all corners and it has never been more crucial for us to stand by her side. I would urge you, using the Forward to a Friend button below, to pass this powerful and pointed article to your friends, family, and colleagues. Israel needs your energy and your support now.
FLAME Hotline Contributor
One of the greatest imposters in the Arab world is the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamist group headquartered in Egypt that has convinced many Western media that it is weak, harmless and democratic. In a February 9 op-ed in The New York Times, one of the Brotherhood's spokespeople claims that "we have persistently demanded liberation and democracy" and that the group's principles "affirm an unequivocal position against violence." To disprove such treacherous lies by this blatantly anti-Western, anti-Semitic group, FLAME has produced a new position paper that's about to be published in media that reach more than 5 million Americans. Please read this outspoken piece, "The Truth About the Muslim Brotherhood: Is it a moderate Egyptian party committed to democracy . . . or a jihadist group seeking to create an Islamist empire?" If you agree that this kind of public relations effort on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME's powerful ability to influence public opinion comes from individuals like you, one by one. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to http://www.factsandlogic.org/make_a_donation.html. Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American people.
Say no to Syria talks
by Yoaz Hendel, Ynet News, March 1, 2011
For three decades now, Israel and Syria have been engaging in indirect discussions from afar regarding a peace deal. It started during the rule of Hafez Assad (who sought to declare the outcome even before negotiations started) and continued with secret, pointless feelers from his son, Bashar Assad, Syria's president since 2000.
Peace never arrived, but we did see plenty of emissaries and fantasies. The truth is that despite the selective memory of various peace worshippers, we were never close to securing a deal with Syria. We can seek various types of explanations for it and blame ourselves again, yet the only reason for it is that the term "peace" (even though it exists both in Hebrew and in Arabic) is interpreted in a wholly different way by both sides.
In Israel, we dream about a peace that will prompt Syria to disengage from Iran, that will produce quiet in Lebanon, that will allow the dreamers to eat hummus in Damascus. The Syrians, on the other hand, talk about a process that will allow them to regain the Golan Heights and improve their strategic balance vis-à-vis Israel. That's it, nothing more and nothing less.
And this is where the problem lies. Ever since the peace treaty with Egypt was signed, for lack of other choices, Israel adopted the paradigm whereby peace is made with leaders rather than with peoples. We are not relaxing with hummus in Cairo or attending cultural performances in Amman, Jordan. What we do have are interests and relationships between leaders.
The peace treaties did not curb the Arab tradition to blame Israel for all the troubles in the world. Yet we, in order to make reality look nicer, justified these gaps by referring to the strength of the leaders.
Even though it is still too early to conclude, we can draw at least one important lesson from the uprisings in the Middle East: The limits of dictatorship. The escape of Tunisia's president, Mubarak's fall, the siege on Gadhafi and the panicked voices emerging from the luxurious palaces of other Arab leaders show that things change and tyrants don't last forever. Today's understandings of Arab leaders may turn into a big question mark tomorrow.
I am one of those who believe that Syria must engage in some self-examination for years to come before genuine willingness emerges there to advance toward a deal with its Jewish neighbors. As opposed to the common doctrine, in my view the Golan Heights land is not the key for improving the situation between the states, but rather, only an artificial excuse. Today, with Arab leaders collapsing, I view the pursuit of another agreement with a dictator as blindness.
Yoaz Hendel is a military historian and lecturer at Bar Ilan University on the subject of military intelligence and small wars. He is a columnist on strategic and military affairs for Ynetnews.com.