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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The perfect storm

Second posting in collaboration with my brother, Yoram Bar On.

This week the collapse has finally begun. All the security and intelligence organizations in Israel have warned us about it (Ha’aretz 9/12). Everyone knows what to expect. Israelis today are sailing toward a hurricane, but they cannot do a thing about it. The bridge is manned by a captain and a team of officers committed to follow their predetermined course. These officers tell us that choosing another course would be more dangerous than staying the course, because man cannot fight nature (that of the Muslims). So, prepare your life boats, put on your life vests, and….

The downward spiral began with Turkey whose leader took advantage of the current vacuum in the Middle East and redrawn the regional agenda. But it could have started elsewhere. Egypt, who now follows the Turkish lead, will pull into the circle other neighbors from North Africa, and this new block of nations will attract more Muslim nations from East Asia; and the circle of nations who severe their diplomatic relations with Israel will only keep growing. This winter the Palestinians will be the hopeful newcomers to the Middle East, and the Israelis will be the all too familiar hateful gangsters. The spectators have already decided who they are going to support. And this support will cost Israel very dearly: it will jeopardize its economy and its security. The Israeli stock market has already lost 30% of its value in the last two months, twice as much as the average losses in other markets, and this trend will only continue in the future. It is becoming very clear that international isolation and a limited ability to react to provocations will have incredibly serious effect on Israel.

Those who are worried about another war, you can rest assured that we will not witness a major war between Israel and its neighbors at the moment. This is not in the interest of any Arab nation, and certainly not in the interest of the Palestinian Authority. A more realistic scenario includes civil disobedience in the territories, violent protests in the Arab world, severance of diplomatic relations, bombings of Israeli targets, and new limits on trade with Israel. As stated earlier, the short-term effect will be mostly economic.

No one who understands the dynamics of the Israeli right wing government was surprised by the latest developments in Cairo and now in Jordan. The question was not “will it happen?” but “when will it happen and what will be the consequences?” The only difference today is that this time the Arabs are the “good guys” in the movie – they are not violent, and they demonstrate for freedom and democracy, while Israel is being perceived as a barrier to peace and justice; a nation caught in the darkness of oppression. Yet, in spite of all this, the right-wing government of Israel will still object to negotiations with the Palestinians and to recognition of a Palestinian state.

This is not the first time it has happened; this is a very familiar pattern, which has been repeating itself since Israel has seen its first right-wing-religious coalition.

To be continued... Putting things in perspective.

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