February 14, 2011
"Holding Our Own"
I'm starting this posting with a call for assistance for a tzedakah project. If a sufficient number of you respond -- and I'm not asking for money -- it might make a difference.
A Bar Ilan student by the name of Dovid Levine, working with other students, wants to start a homeless shelter in Jerusalem, where people will be given assistance in changing their lives. Quite an undertaking.
Dovid has entered his organization, Matzav, in the Dell Social Innovation Competition, which is seeking university students "with innovative ideas to solve a social or environmental problem." Matzav is the only Israeli entry.
Entries are rated by votes (which is where you come in). Those in the top 10 by February 18 have a run-off; the winner receives $50,000 to kick-off the proposed project. Right now the Matzav project is within the top 10, but it must continue to receive votes for the next few days to hold its place.
You can read about the project here:
If you are inclined to help, go to the Dell page: http://www.dellsocialinnovationcompetition.com/ and click on "vote now." (You will have to register.) To find Matzav, click on "top ideas" and scroll down.
Then a housekeeping matter:
The URL I provided yesterday for the Raman analysis of the Egyptian situation does not work, which is strange, because the page exists.
To find it, go to http://ramanstrategicanalysis.blogspot.com and scroll down to the posting for February 11. It's called "Egypt: An Uncertain Transition."
Well, the military council has been in place in Egypt for three days now, and it's still in control -- as well we might expect it to be. Tahrir Square is being cleared of protestors by the military police; union gatherings and other group meetings that might foment unrest or promote strikes are being forbidden.
Repeatedly the message being reinforced via news reports is that Field Marshal Tantawi is committed to the status quo.
There is some criticism here of his refusal over the past few years to crack down on weapons smuggling into Gaza. However, as he is described as "change-resistant" and dedicated to stability in the nation, he is not going to sabotage the peace treaty with Israel or support sudden changes that open the door to radicals.
It is my understanding that he has a cordial relationship with Defense Minister Barak. Remember that Tantawi has been functioning as defense minister, and has had occasion to meet with Barak.
I think it's important here to clarify a point: Those in Egypt who do support the peace treaty with Israel do so because it serves Egyptian needs, not because of an innate reluctance to attack us, or an even middling affection for Israel. We all know that the peace is a cold peace.
Egypt is a miserably poor country, with the poverty having contributed to the recent uprising. A war is a costly, terribly disruptive business, and Egypt cannot afford it -- especially since the uprising. What is more, the considerable largesse bestowed on Egypt by the US -- totaling more than $1 billion per year -- depends on maintenance of the treaty.
Any Egyptian leader who seeks stability for his nation will be loathe to cancel the peace treaty.
That does not mean no one advocates for cancellation. Certainly radicals, and most notably Muslim Brotherhood, do.
And, it seems, so does Ayman Nour, chairman of Egypt's Ghad party. He's not a member of the Brotherhood, and his party is described as secular and liberal, but at very least he thinks the peace treaty is outmoded and needs to be renegotiated. "The Camp David Accords are finished."
And so we should not be too complacent. Nour may be a candidate for the presidency when (and if) elections are finally held; although there is little indication that he is likely to be a winner, we don't really know what will happen.
Yet another aside of interest: From those in Egypt protesting the status quo, I've picked up comments about the "unfairness" of the peace treaty because it requires a demilitarized Sinai. This was, and is, essential, as it provides us with a buffer against attack. Yet apparently some on the left are chafing at this, even referring to the terms of the treaty as "colonialism" (a radical buzz word).
There was some negative response here when the Israeli government recently gave permission for some hundreds of Egyptian troops to be stationed at the south of the Sinai. The main reason permission was granted was because of unrest among the Sinai Bedouins, who are not committed to Egypt and foster terrorism. This entire situation has become quite worrisome; Egyptian police have vacated some of their stations in the Sinai because of Bedouin attacks.
Particularly in light of the unstable situation, we would have to be totally crazy to allow more Egyptian troops into the Sinai -- and I do not believe we will. And certainly it is exceedingly dubious that we could, or would, enter the Sinai to take on some of these Bedouins -- for this would badly upset that Egyptian status quo and threaten the peace treaty. So what we're left with is a large area adjacent to the Negev that is not sufficiently policed and will become a nest for terrorism.
The fence being erected at the Negev-Sinai border to prevent infiltration will help somewhat. But it won't be completed for over a year, and won't stop smuggling of weapons or the shooting of rockets, in any event.
The main target from the Sinai is Eilat, a major tourist attraction with huge high-class hotels.
Majed El-Shafie was once an Egyptian Muslim, but converted to Christianity -- for which he was tortured and condemned to death. Now he lives in Toronto, and heads an Egyptian human rights organization, One Free World International. Rhonda Spivak, Canadian journalist, had a sizeable article about him today in the JPost.
Shafie's organization monitors human rights violations against Christians in Egypt and other Arab lands. In all, he has thousands of people inside of Egypt who report to him on the situation on the ground.
Shafie says that "the Muslim Brotherhood has used the demonstrations in Egypt to advance its agenda. They are going street to street to get people out...They want a hand in the new government. They are being more aggressive, more active are coming out in full power."
The Muslim Brotherhood is popular with the poor people of Egypt “because they provide the basic food and necessities to them... The Muslim Brotherhood is very wealthy. They own supermarkets in Egypt and they get funds from countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia."
Shafie believes that if elections are held soon, the Brotherhood would probably come to power.
“I am concerned that under the current circumstances, Mubarak’s abrupt departure will create a political vacuum, which will be filled by Islamic extremists. The West appears to be embracing Mohammed ElBaradei, a former head of the UN nuclear inspection agency, as a replacement for Mubarak. This is of serious concern as ElBaradei, in addition to betraying heavy anti-Israel sentiment through his actions at the UN agency, is communicating with the Muslim Brotherhood...in order to actively involve the Brotherhood in the future political landscape of Egypt.”
ElBaradei, Shafie notes, referred to the Muslim Brotherhood as “an integral part of Egyptian society”... and has called the Brotherhood “a conservative group that favors secular democracy and human rights.”
“This is a very serious matter and we cannot, under any circumstances, allow the Muslim Brotherhood to increase its influence in Egypt. To do so would be to condemn the Egyptian people, from Christians and other religious minorities to moderate and secular Muslims, to a regime of oppression and religious tyranny that will make Mubarak’s repressive regime seem like a beacon of freedom.”
"Democracy," he declares, "can’t occur tomorrow."
"The regime needs to be supported until Suleiman can reform the constitution and educate the people, and allow freedom of the media, freedom of speech and work toward a free election.”
He believes there should be an election in five years:
"Democracy in Egypt is an infant – it needs to learn to crawl before it can learn to walk.
“Thirty percent of the population is illiterate – they can’t read and write their own name – you can’t give them absolute democracy in the beginning, because it’s easy for them to turn to extremism. The United States and other countries should support Omar Suleiman. We need slow change.
“Democracy as we know it in the West cannot simply be transplanted into Egypt, a country that has never experienced any form of true democracy.
"Democracy cannot survive where people cannot read their own constitution. It must be taught, nurtured and brought to maturity so that it can flourish.”
He's right, he's right, he's right. We proceed at our own risk if we fail to heed this informed voice. Please share this broadly. I'm told that in the US there have been those who have picked up on Clapper's theme of the Muslim Brotherhood as secular and so there is much educational work to be done.
This is a time when contacting your elected representatives in Congress would be a good idea. Share the link to the entire article, and the summary I provide. Implore them to do their very best to keep the Obama administration on track with regard to the situation: The Muslim Brotherhood should have no role in transition, and elections should be delayed until the people can learn the rudiments of democracy.
For your Congresspersons:
For your Senators:
The entire region -- Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, etc. -- is in a state of flux and unrest. And so, as I've mentioned before, the PA is feeling the heat too:
Saeb Erekat, chief PLO negotiator, has announced his resignation. The reason is gave is the fact that material damaging to the PLO/PA that was publicized by Al-Jazeera had been stolen from his office. He thus felt responsible. It's difficult not to wonder if there isn't more behind this story.
Meanwhile, the PA Cabinet has resigned, at the request of President Salam Fayyad, who will be selecting new ministers as part of reform within the PA.
And the PA has announced upcoming elections for president, possibly as early as September. Abbas says he won't run again. Naturally, Hamas is saying, not in Gaza.
I feel a bit as I've been neglecting happenings within Israel of late. But the information I've been providing is of such import that it has to have priority. Perhaps things will quiet enough soon for me to be able to focus a bit more on Israel.
Here I wish to make just one announcement of significance:
Lt. General Benny Gantz was officially appointed as the 20th IDF Chief of the General Staff today, replacing a retiring Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi. The unrest in our part of the world makes this position one of particular importance now. The IDF must be strong, focused and prepared -- and all of this calls for the very best in leadership.
The General, among his several positions, has been a commander of the forces securing Operation Shlomo, bringing Ethiopian Jews to Israel; Commander of the Paratroopers Brigade; Commander of the Liaison Unit with Lebanon (and the last IDF commander to leave Lebanon); Commander of the Judea and Samaria Division (during the second intifada); and Commander of the IDF Northern Command.
He also served as an IDF military attache in the US. He is a graduate of the Command and Staff College and the National Security College and a US Military Special Forces course, and holds a Masters degree in political science.
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was here for two days and met with Gantz.
" G-d should watch over him," Mullen said. "He will be good for Israel and the region."
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
see my website www.ArlenefromIsrael.info
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