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September 22, 2011 - Image 28

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-09-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

lEn>> news analysis

Forces of change surround Israel
and create new regional realities.

David Sachs
Senior Copy Editor


ensions continue to rise in the
Middle East as the shocking
events of today overtake those of
yesterday, and turmoil and uncertainty
have become the norm.
The so-called "Arab Spring" that chal-
lenged entrenched authoritarian regimes in
Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and
Syria has, in fact, opened the door for a pos-
sible takeover by factions loyal to the viru-
lently anti-Israel Moslem Brotherhood or
other radical Islamist elements. The develop-
ment of liberal democracies in some of these
countries seems less likely than a slippage
into anti-Western despotic rule.
Israel has seen its security threatened on
several fronts. The Hosni Mubarak govern-
ment in Egypt is gone, along with it Israel's
peaceful border with Sinai — as evidenced
by last month's deadly terrorist attacks near
Eilat. In Cairo, radical Islamist rioters set
fire to the Israel Embassy, forcing its diplo-
mats to flee the country.
Turkey, a NATO country once a military
ally of Israel, has grown rapidly hostile as
its Islamic Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan seeks to curry favor with the
Hamas rulers of Gaza and possibly return
Turkey to the dominant influence it had dur-
ing the Ottoman Empire of centuries past.
Iran continues to call for Israel's destruc-
tion while supplying Hezbolah in Lebanon
with sophisticated missiles and Hamas in
Gaza with increased firepower. Its quest for
a nuclear arsenal moves forward, unabated
by United States or United Nations hand-
Peace talks with the Palestinian Authority
seem to be a pipedream as the P.A. asks
the U.N. for unilateral recognition of state-
hood — in contradiction of the Road Map
agreed upon as the basis for a settlement.
Supportive street demonstrations may
take place in the Palestinian territories and
spread to Jordan.
In Israel, a "tent city" and massive dem-
onstrations have shone light on the hous-
ing pinch many middle class Israelis find
themselves in — making it appear Israel
is besieged from the outside and unsettled
To help gain a perspective on fast mov-
ing events in the Mideast, we've posed
questions to Yael S. Aronoff, the Michael
and Elaine Serling and Friends Chair of
Israel Studies at James Madison College at
Michigan State University.


September 22 0 2011

How would you an
velopments o
position in light of th
ddle East?
recent weeks across
m, the situa-
Aronoff: "In the sh
. Now, for the
tion has clearly deterio
first time in Israel's history, it doesn't have a
strong ally who's a regional leader. The rela-
tionships with Egypt and furkey are dete-
riorating. And earlier in Israel's history, it
actually had a good relationship with Iran.
"Obviously, Israel faces the greatest threat
from Iran. It clearly is, a challenging situa-
"But, the Egyptian situation is also quite
problematic. Just last week, the Egyptian
ambassador was called to the Israeli foreign
ministry because of the Egyptian prime
minister's comments that the peace treaty
should be revisited — something the rul-
ing military council said would not happen.
"Things are certainly in flux, and there
are real concerns in terms of the new
Egyptian government's much greater sym-
pathy to Hamas. Deposed President Hosni
Mubarak clearly favored Fatah over Hamas
and really pushed for peace negotiations
between Fatah and Israel over the past 18
years. That is no longer there. Egypt has
opened the border with Gaza, so more
weapons are going through to Hamas.
And clearly, the situation
in Sinai is deteriorating
as Egypt is exerting less
control over security and
we've had a terrorist attack
across the border. That's
something to be concerned

could be put on the to
could calm down part of the tensio
Egypt and Turkelan i700tOye relations
with the Palestiril
and the U.S.
that it4Otildsolve
But again, I don't
ey and
the problems
scussion within
"Likewise, thetiis
Israel's government as to howto respond
to Turkey's demand for an apology based
on the flotilla incident a yeaf ago, and
there was discussion within the govern-
ment whereby Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman was saying, no way — we
can't apologize to Turkey. If anything, they
should be apologizing to us because the
United Nations' Palmer Report said that
the Israeli blockade of Gaza is legal, that
Turkey should have prevented the flotilla
from going to Israel, that Israel has a right
to act in self-defense when its soldiers were
attacked, but they also say that perhaps
Israel used excessive force on the ship.
"Israel essentially accepted the Palmer
report. Turkey has rejected it. But this sum-
mer, there were these negotiations that tried
to find a way for both Israel and Turkey to
respond in a compromising manner to the
report that might alleviate tensions. Foreign
Minister Lieberman was
saying forget an apology.
"Ehud Barak, the defense
minister, as well as the
army were saying actu-
ally, the relationship with
Turkey is so important and
we don't want individual
soldiers being indicted nor
brought to the international
Do you think that
criminal court by Turkey,
Netanyahu government
therefore we should come
has responded proac-
out with a kind of an apol-
tively to the changing
ogy — not an apology for
Professor Yael S. Aronoff
using excessive force since
Aronoff: "I think that
they believe Israel was acting in self-
much of the deterioration in the relation-
defense on the boat, but rather, apologize
ships with Egypt and Turkey were beyond
for certain operational mistakes that Israel
Netanyahu's control. The Turkish-Israeli
relationship started deteriorating when
"Netanyahu leaned toward Lieberman's
the AKP party in Turkey won in 2002 and
position as opposed to Barak's — which
started having a different foreign policy
arguably, if he had gone with Barak, may
orientation that was not motivated by
have alleviated some of the tensions with
Israeli policy — but rather by its per-
ceived rejection by the European Union
"That being said, one could argue that
and its opening up ties with Iran.
"The deterioration in the Egyptian Israeli at the end of the day, it wasn't Netanyahu's
fault for going along with Lieberman, but
relationship is due to the change in regime.
rather Turkey's fault because apparently, as
Largely speaking, the deterioration in the
they were coming close to reaching a com-
relationship is not rooted in Netanyahu's
promise this summer, Turkey kept upping
"Unlike Ariel Sharon, however, Netanyahu the ante, so that it wasn't only demand-

ing an apology but starting to add other
demands like that Israel end the blockade.
when Netanyahu and the ministers
ook if we apologize, it's not going to
really patch uphe relationship because
they just keep upping the."-demands and
there's clearly not a benefit intlie relation-
ship that's going to result in the end7

How would you categorize the current
U.S. Israeli relationship in light of recent
Aronoffi "Essentially, it remains a very
close, tight alliance and a. special relation-
ship. Certainly, the Obama administration
is supporting and backing Israel in its
stance of opposing the Palestinian bid at
the United Nations, and ifs been actively
lobbying both the Palestinian Authority and
different European countries to not go to
the U.N. at all and especially not go to the
Security Council.
"In that sense, it's very clearly backing
Israel in this difficult situation it faces at the
U.N. this month.
"Also, the Obama administration has
been lobbying both Israel and Turkey to
reconcile and to patch up the relationship.
And it did extend a hand in the prelude to
the embassy attack in Cairo a few days ago,
when Israel was unsuccessful in reaching
the Egyptian government to ensure the
safety of the security personnel facing the
building mob. The Obama administration's
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta did make
calls to pressure Egypt that these embassy
personnel would be taken out safely. So,
in that sense, I think the bedrock of the
relationship continues, and it's a very close
"That being said, there's also tension, as
we all know, in the relationship as some
Israeli leaders seem to think that the U.S.
should put even more pressure on Turkey
than it has. If you just look at Turkey's
rhetoric in the past week, it's escalated
enormously with all kinds of threats that
it's making against Israel.
"Some in Israel feel that the U.S. could
do even more to put pressure on Turkey not
to keep upping the ante in terms of public
"Some in Israel feel the U.S. should not
have asked Israel to apologize for the flotilla
incident. So, there are certainly areas of
dissatisfaction as well as tension in the rela-
tionship. But as a whole, it's pretty solid in
terms of the main issue of the U.N. bid."

Managing Editor Jackie Headapohl
contributed to this story.

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