Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 7/3/2012: Final Thoughts On Yitzchak Shamir

From DG:
1) More on Shamir

Seth Lipsky at the New York Sun concludes:
One of our favorite facts is that history doesn’t disclose her alternatives. The world will never know what would have happened had America and the other parties been held to the standards Shamir insisted on at Madrid. No doubt there are many who will scorn the very thought. But here we are a generation after Oslo, and the Iranians are building an a-bomb, the Arafat who was embraced at Oslo is gone without achievement, the Eyptians have just elected a president who will make it a priority to seek the release of the sheik who masterminded the first bombing of the World Trade Center, the Syrians are engulfed in a civil war, the Lebanese are victims of Iranian-based terror and tyranny, and the Europeans are more hostile to Israel than ever. So the world will miss this practical idealist who knew where he stood and wouldn’t budge.
Daniel Gordis offers similar thoughts at Tablet (h/t Yair Rosenberg):

For all the misgivings many now have about Shamir’s intransigence or his specific policies, part of his legacy is that Jews ought not to pretend not to know what, deep down, they know. 
Yitzhak Shamir knew what he had seen, both in Europe and then in the Arab world, and he knew what it meant. He was no less ambivalent about the Arabs than he was about the Poles and refused to vote for Begin’s peace treaty with Egypt. Presumably in deference to Begin, he abstained, but he made it clear that he thought Israel was paying far too high a price. Today, three and a half decades later, with the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Cairo and with Israel now missing the Sinai as a buffer, who was wiser? Was it the Nobel Prize-winning Begin who’d turned peacemaker, or Shamir, who had not? Will the sword devour forever? Yes, Shamir sadly believed, it will. Is it possible that he was right?
Emanuele Ottolenghi gives a unique perspective on Shamir:
Shamir did. He withdrew, like his predecessor Menachem Begin, and did not dispense wisdom or settle scores from the column of a magazine or the chairmanship of a foundation for the years he was out of office. And heaven knows he might still have had much to say. But he understood that a defeated statesman must acknowledge his loss and graciously withdraw from sight. His silence, for 20 years, is a testimony to the respect he had for the democratic process and his profoundly humbling recognition that his time as leader had passed.
 2)  A secular democratic Palestinian state

This is the sort of story that The Lede at the New York Times would never pick up on. Its counterpart at the Washington Post, BlogPost did. Ramallah protesters attacked by Palestinian Authority police (photos):
Palestinian Authority police employed brute force to break up a second day of protesting in Ramallah on Sunday, with activists and eyewitnesses claiming police assaulted both male and female protesters with batons and chains, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The protests were against President Abbas meeting with Israeli vice-premier Shaul Mofaz. This indicates that peace with Israel isn't all that popular among the Palestinians. By cracking down harshly on the protesters, the PA only serves to hurt the cause of peace.

Taken together with the recent reports of Palestinian Authority censorship, this doesn't speak well for the future of freedom of expression in Palestine.

The New York Times also reported, Hamas Suspends Voter Registration Process in Gaza.(When I saw the headline, I figured that the Times had confused Hamas with Republicans.)
The Hamas-run government in Gaza suspended the work of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission on Monday, a day before it was to start registering new voters, abruptly halting one of the few tangible steps toward reconciliation with the rival Fatah party, based in the West Bank. 
The move pushed off the prospect of presidential and parliamentary elections. Though considered long overdue, no date had been set for them. 
The latest delay added a new complication in a reconciliation process that began more than a year ago with an accord brokered by Egypt that was described as historic but has mainly resulted in new rounds of talks, more documents and broken deadlines.
The first paragraph casts reconciliation  as neutral if not a positive development, but what's interesting is in the second paragraph. The phrase "considered long overdue," is misleading. How do we know that the elections are overdue? Abbas and the legislature had defined terms in office that are long over. "Considered" is unnecessary.

Elections are important only if accountability is. Whether it is Fatah or Hamas, the priority of each is staying in power. That is why there have been no elections. That is why there will be no reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. That is why Abbas stifles dissent.

3) Energy and the Middle East

Daniel Pipes disputes an argument made by Paul Miller. Miller, in an article for the National Interest, argued that due to the declining importance of oil, the Middle East will fade from significance. Pipes, while calling Miller's article "provocative and well executed," still disagrees:
This argument is belied by several facts. First, the very cover of the July/August issue of the National Interest, with a tattered flag and a lead essay titled "Requiem for the Two-State Promise: Israel Tightens Its Grip on the Occupied Lands," negates Miller's point. Passions about the Arab-Israeli conflict have only remotely to do with oil. The anti-Zionist forces that rallied in Durban in 2001 and the pro-Israel forces that rally each spring at the AIPAC policy conference devote roughly zero percent of their thoughts to oil, gas, or any other hydrocarbons. 
Second, Islamism, as the only dynamic utopian and totalitarian ideology extant in the world today, and which largely originates in the Middle East, presents a civilizational danger only somewhat connected to oil (the appeal of Islamism will probably decline along with revenues). 
Third, the region, located at the center of the inhabited world, bristles with dangers, including tyranny, violence, WMD, and war. These affect everything from sea lane security to refugee immigrants to domestic security arrangements (take a walk around the White House for a vivid demonstration of the latter). Only in the Middle East are whole countries in danger of extinction. Several countries have descended into anarchy, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, and Libya.
Walter Russell Mead writes about Israel’s Emergence As Energy Superpower ...:
Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir famously lamented that Moses led the children of Israel for forty years of wandering in the desert until he found the only place in the Middle East where there wasn’t any oil. 
But could Moses have been smarter than believed? Apparently the Canadians and the Russians think so, as both countries are moving to step up energy relations with a tiny nation whose total energy reserves some experts now think could rival or even surpass the fabled oil wealth of Saudi Arabia. 
Actual production is still miniscule, but evidence is accumulating that the Promised Land, from a natural resource point of view, could be an El Dorado: inch for inch the most valuable and energy rich country anywhere in the world. If this turns out to be true, a lot of things are going to change, and some of those changes are already underway.
Maybe Miller has a point. It isn't necessarily that the Middle East will fade from significance but that oil's influence in international politics will decline.
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