If you look into the different “shop” windows across the Middle East, it is increasingly apparent that the Arab uprisings are bringing to a close the era of “Middle East Wholesale” and ushering in the era of “Middle East Retail.” Everyone is going to have to pay more for their stability.Friedman has got to seriously stop thinking that he is God's gift to journalism and wake up from his self-congratulatory coma. Only then can we start to hope that he will clear his brain from years of accumulated flotsam and jetsam and start to see what's really going on.
Let’s start with Israel. For the last 30 years, Israel enjoyed peace with Egypt wholesale — by having peace with just one man, Hosni Mubarak. That sale is over. Today, post-Mubarak, to sustain the peace treaty with Egypt in any kind of stable manner, Israel is going to have to pay retail. It is going to have to make peace with 85 million Egyptians. The days in which one phone call by Israel to Mubarak could shut down any crisis in relations are over.
Mubarak did not do Israel's bidding as Egyptian leader, and neither did Sadat. They did America's bidding. They wanted to continue the scam of being considered "moderate" Arab allies of the US and they wanted to continue to receive billions in aid. But they did nothing that Israel wanted them to do.
The proof, as Friedman well knows but purposefully ignores, is the nature of the peace treaty. For three decades, Israel always tried to normalize relations with Egypt, and Egypt always did everything it could to maintain the coldest peace possible. Israeli tourists went to Egypt, Israel tried to do cultural exchanges, Israel pushed for closer economic and scientific ties. Only when the US pressured Egypt did the Egyptian leadership agree, and that didn't happen often.
Now Friedman says that it is Israel that has to try harder?
It gets worse:
Amr Moussa, the outgoing head of the Arab League and the front-runner in polls to succeed Mubarak as president when Egypt holds elections in November, just made that clear in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Regarding Israel, Moussa said: “Mubarak had a certain policy. It was his own policy, and I don’t think we have to follow this. We want to be a friend of Israel, but it has to have two parties. It is not on Egypt to be a friend. Israel has to be a friend, too.”After Friedman points out that Amr Moussa is an anti-Israel deologue, Friedman again says that this means that Israel has to try harder! Even though, he himself acknowledges, that Moussa built his career on demonizing Israel.
Moussa owes a great deal of his popularity in Egypt to his tough approach to Israel. I hope he has a broader vision. It is noteworthy that in the decade he led the Arab League, he spent a great deal of time jousting with Israel and did virtually nothing to either highlight or deal with the conclusions of the 2002 U.N. Arab Human Development Report — produced by a group of Arab scholars led by an Egyptian — that said the Arab people are suffering from three huge deficits: a deficit of freedom, a deficit of knowledge and deficit of women’s empowerment.
The current Israeli government, however, shows little sign of being prepared for peace retail.
Friedman later writes:
Alas, though, the main strategy of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas will be to drag Israel into the Arab story — as a way of deflecting attention away from how these anti-democratic regimes are repressing their own people and to further delegitimize Israel...Yet only two paragraphs earlier, Friedman admitted that Amr Moussa does the exact same thing!
So the likely new Egyptian leadership is no more likely to avoid using Israel as a scapegoat to deflect its own problems than the old one, and it is already showing signs of acting the way that Friedman notes that Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran act.
All these facts are in this very column, yet Friedman cannot connect the dots which add up to:
"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."
To Friedman, this doesn't mean that the US must redouble its efforts to turn the so-called Arab Spring into a real chance for true freedom and democracy, of governments that are mature enough to face their real problems transparently and tackle them. Not at all. To him, Arab governments acting like teenage bullies must be met with more Israeli concessions, more pandering to the dictators, more effort to please those who cannot ever be pleased.
Three days in a row of inane, idiotic New York Times articles - and I don't even read the paper.
Thanks, David G, for sending me this trash, knowing I cannot resist responding :)