Friday, July 31, 2009

Egypt's argument against normalization

Firas Press quotes an Egyptian official who mentions that the White House is trying to get the Arab world to normalize relations with Israel as part of a peace agreement. Disingenuously, he provides a new reason why the Arab world can never truly be at peace with Israel:

Because it would destabilize the Arab regimes!
The official said that in the view of Egyptian and Arabs said that this pressure has reached the stage of an unacceptable and threatens the security Arab regimes and their stability.The sources mentioned "the beginning of tensions" in the relations between the administration of President Obama with many Arab capitals, including Cairo and Riyadh, on the background of Obama's attempts to convince the Arab world to normalize relations with Israel immediately.

The sources hinted that the "unofficial messages exchanged between Riyadh and Cairo, concluded that the American efforts ...would threaten the stability of the ruling regimes in the Arab region."

An Egyptian official told the newspaper, that "Americans want immediate normalization, which could put many of the Arab rulers in the line of fire in a direct confrontation with their people, and will lead to destabilization. If pressure is put in this direction it will only benefit the Islamic extremists in the region."

In this context, the Secretary-General of the ruling party in Egypt, Safwat al-Sharif, said that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, refused to establish any (US) military bases on Egyptian soil, whatever the reasons, saying that "Egypt has a strong army capable of defending its territory against attacks."
Actually, this is not a new excuse. It is one of the oldest Arab excuses ever made, normally referred to as "the Arab street." The rulers, whenever they are feeling pressured to do something they dislike, say that their people would have a popular revolution and overthrow them if they follow Western advice.

This argument is one of the oldest and most effective in the Arab lexicon, one that never fails to sway the West. The West has a huge fear of large numbers of strange, irrational, kaffieyeh-wearing men whose actions cannot be predicted (by Westerners.) Just as the British acquiesced to Arab demands in the wake of Arab leaders clandestinely fomenting riots in the 1930s, so does the rest of the West want to avoid any appearance of instability - and to reward the threat of it.

Of course, the argument is a joke. These are the same rulers who have no compunction against suppressing these same people violently and ruthlessly whenever they feel like it. Their entire leadership is maintained by force and by the armies under their command, not by popular will. They own their media and they play their people to act in ways they want them to. There are no mass riots against them because the despots don't allow them.

In other words, the people are not independent players in this drama, but pawns.

If the leaders would decide that they want to normalize relations with Israel, they could get their people on board in a matter of months. They could simply say, "The Palestinians have been homeless for sixty years; it is time to allow them to have their own state and to stop the senseless hate." The vast majority of the people only care about Palestinian Arabs because of the endless incitement in the Arab media; if the incitement ended so would the issue. Most Arabs care more about how to feed their own families than about a group of Palestinian Arabs who have said "no" to peace and compromise for over seventy years.

Sure, there would be some who are unhappy, there would be a brief uptick in terror recruiting, but the regimes could ensure that nothing happens - if that is what they want.

A very big "if."