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Biden Brightens Up By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, July 06, 2009

However resistant the U.S. administration may be to absorbing reality about Israel and the Middle East, there has been some movement in the right direction. Vice President Joseph Biden’s statement on Sunday that “Israel can determine for itself—it’s a sovereign nation—what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran” appears to mark a departure and may indicate that the administration, burned by the latest developments in Iran, is on a Middle Eastern learning curve. It contrasts directly with Biden’s statement just last April that Israel would be “ill-advised” to attack Iran. Reportedly, other Muslim nations have come to a similar consensus. However, Biden and the administration overlook the deep and profound anti-Israeli (not to mention anti-Jewish and anti-Christian) religious hatred the Muslim world continues to harbor, entrench, and teach.

London’s Sunday Times has none too plausibly reported that earlier this year Mossad chief Meir Dagan told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that “Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over the kingdom during any future raid on Iran’s nuclear sites.”

The article claims that Dagan and other Israeli officials, including former prime minister Ehud Olmert, have held meetings with the Saudis, and quotes a “defense source” as saying the Mossad has “working relations” with Riyadh. John Bolton is quoted saying it would be “entirely logical” for Israel to use Saudi airspace and that, while Arab states would publicly condemn an Israeli raid on Iran, they would privately be glad about it.

The article also quotes a “former head of research in Israeli intelligence” as saying “The Saudis are very concerned about an Iranian nuclear bomb, even more than the Israelis.” Meanwhile Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office has issued a statement that “the Sunday Times report is fundamentally false and completely baseless.”

Yet, however dubious the story may be, there is no doubt that an Arab-Israeli commonality of interests has emerged regarding Iran. It leads some to think the time is ripe for a “regional peace” in which Israel and, in particular, the Sunni Arab states that fear Iran would finally set aside their differences and emerge as friends.

Reports have been surfacing that the Obama administration, after about a month and a half of heavily pressuring Israel on the settlements issue, is now trying—behind the scenes, without the public hectoring it reserves for Israel—to get Sunni countries like Morocco and Saudi Arabia itself to start making gestures to “bridge the gaps” between the two sides.

Yet, at the same time Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak has been meeting with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell to work out the fine nuances of a settlement freeze, the word so far is that the reaction from the Arab side is “no go”—with the Saudis leading the way. Riyadh is described as “block[ing] [the] U.S. push for normalization” and as believing the Saudis have already “made their gesture toward Israel in the form of the 2002 Arab peace initiative.”  

The Obama administration’s belief that an Arab-Israeli rapprochement is a matter of reciprocal gestures and bridgeable gaps is based, as usual, on ignorance or denial of the religiously rooted depths of the Arab rejection of Israel—whatever the realpolitik needs of the moment. An article by Adel Guindy in the latest issue of the MERIA Journal sheds light—even if indirect—on why relentless Western peace processing keeps smashing on the Middle Eastern rocks.

The article, called “The Talibanization of Education in Egypt,” notes that Egypt’s compulsory Arabic language classes now inculcate Islamic values in a way that “embodies the ideology [of] the defeated Islamist insurgents who, ironically, had sought to overturn the existing order” and that makes the “new generations more intolerant and extremist than their parents and more willing to support militant Islamism.” All students—including those from Egypt’s sizable Coptic Christian minority—“are indoctrinated to uphold ‘obedience to God and His Prophet [Muhammad].’”


Students are taught that “one must not befriend those of a different religion.” A lesson on Al-Quds (Jerusalem) states that “Today, al-Quds bleeds, it moans loudly, and its calls for help…fill the horizon. History will never forgive Arabs and Muslims should they fail to save and liberate al-Quds.” Nothing there about the Jewish or Christian attachment to the city or its role as the capital of Israel—let alone peacefully dividing the city as an alleged central element of “resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.”


Egypt, to be sure, is a Western-aligned country that has a peace treaty with Israel and has even been reportedly—since uncovering a Hezbollah-spearheaded effort to topple the regime last April—trying harder to stop arms smuggling through Sinai to Hamas in Gaza. Again, the fallacy lies in thinking that because Egypt feels itself threatened by the same radical axis that threatens Israel—and is willing to act accordingly—it is ripe for a real, rather than formal and “cold,” peace with Israel.


Writ large, the fallacy also applies to other Sunni Arab countries, emphatically including Saudi Arabia, where the fear of Iran coexists with the same endemic, Islamically-driven anti-Israeli (and anti-Semitic) themes and indoctrination.

Grim as the situation is, as Tehran brutally suppresses the revolt and its centrifuges keep spinning, U.S. progress toward the Israeli understanding of the Middle East as an arena of survival rather than conciliation could be to Israel’s and the world’s benefit. 

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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