Update – 15 September 2011

Posted by Emily Gian on 15 September 2011 at 5:02pm:

Dear All,

Speaking to my usually optimistic family in Israel, I was concerned by the worry in the voices as they informed us, “We are headed for a war – everyone hates us”. It is a mentally that has been entrenched in our history. “They’ve always hated us, haven’t they?” I asked. The ‘they’ seems to be implied, like the literary ‘other’ we have always been afraid of in novels. 

They responded, “This time it feels different”. 

And indeed, things do seem different as Israel is facing a crisis on at least four different fronts with Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and the Palestinians all giving Israel reasons for concern. 

As you might recall, last Friday a serious incident at the Israeli Embassy in Cairo saw a large mob of rioters force their way into the building, making it all the way to the 18th floor of the building, until there was just one last room separating the rioters from six embassy staffers that had not yet been rescued from the building. Some 80 staffers and family members made it out earlier. With the intervention of the US and the help of Egyptian military commandos, the final six Embassy staffers were escorted out of the building and whisked to safety (see more from our local press here and here). 

The Egyptian Information Minister Osama Hassan Heikal issued a statement declaring, “one cannot call the perpetrators of this act brave or patriotic… Egypt affirms its full commitment to respect international conventions, including the protection of all foreign missions”. 

In a statement released after the incident, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed appreciation for Mr Heikal’s words and also sent a “special measure of gratitude” to the United States for their assistance. Please click here to read PM Netanyahu’s statement, which also provides further insight into the chain of events that night in Egypt. 

In the meantime, relations with one-time ally Turkey continue to deteriorate as Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan travels around the Middle East and North Africa attempting to expand Turkey’s influence in the region. 

I reported on the downgrading of diplomatic and military ties with Turkey in my last update. Using Israel’s refusal to apologise for the deaths of eight Turkish citizens aboard the Mavi Marmara as a starting point, Erdogan spoke at Cairo’s Opera House yesterday to roaring crowds who seemed to agree with his earlier statements that Israel “was going to lose in the end”. He also` urged the US to rethink their decision to oppose Palestinian statehood when the issue reaches the UN next week. He declared that their stance “does not fit the understanding of justice in US foreign policy”. 

The Australian covers the issue well in an article entitled ‘Erdogan gets Spring in his step’ and an Op-Ed entitled ‘When a man’s fancy turns to the East’, which covers Erdogan’s desire to take advantage of the Arab Spring expand Turkish control across the region. The Age, not surprisingly, covers the issue in their “Around the Globe” brief news section, and puts the focus on the Palestinian issue, that recognition of a Palestinian state was now “an obligation, and not an option”. 

Erdogan’s speech to an Egyptian audience was not received well by EU politicians. One member of the European Parliament Alexander Graf Lambsdorff drew a connection between Turkey’s waning aspirations to become a member of the European Union and their new aggressive stance towards Israel. He stated that Turkey can “in no way be allowed to link the reorientation of its foreign policy with anti-Western sentiment.” He continued, “with a strident anti-Israel course, it isn’t making any friends in Europe” (see more). 

On the other hand, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is concerned about Erdogan from the other side of the coin altogether, rejecting Turkey’s input because it is too “secular” for the Islamist movement! (see more

Earlier this week, Jordan’s King Abdullah was quoted as saying that “Israel’s situation today is more difficult than ever before” (see more). Indeed, relations with Jordan seem to be slowly deteriorating. King Abdullah also made statements about the future of a Palestinian State following a Wikileaks cable that suggested Jordan as an alternative home for Palestinians, stating “Jordan is Jordan and Palestine is Palestine. We support all Palestinian rights and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state – our policy hasn’t changed”. That being said, it has been reported a number of times, most recently just today, that Jordan does not support the Palestinian’s unilateral bid for recognition at the UN, but rather supports statehood through direct negotiations with Israel (see more). This seems to be in Jordan’s interest given then half of their population is Palestinian and they do not want to absorb more. 

Meanwhile, Israeli Embassy staff in Jordan, who regularly return to Israel each weekend, will return today instead following a Facebook call for a “million man march” toward the Embassy in Amman. Fearing a similar raid to that of the Embassy in Egypt, staff will not be present as the protest occurs (see more). All week demonstrators have been burning Israeli and American flags so it seems a wise decision to remove themselves from any possible danger. 

Finally, as we move closer to 20 September, the date when the Palestinians are expected to declare a Palestinian state at the UN General Assembly, we are starting to get a better idea of what this future Palestinian state might look like.

For example, the Palestinian Ambassador to the United States Maen Rashid Areiket was asked earlier this week whether a Jew could be elected major of Ramallah in an independent Palestinian state. He stated, “after the experience of 44 years of military occupation and all the conflict and friction, I think it will be in the best interests of the two peoples to be separated first (see more)”. Translation: no Jews would live in the future Palestinian state. 

Palestinian Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud al-Habash later dismissed these statements declaring that it is the media that is attempting to manipulate his statements to put an anti-Jewish spin on it. But this is not the first time a Palestinian leader has talked about a “Jew-free” Palestine – late last year PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas stated, “I will not allow even one Israeli to live amongst us on Palestinian soil” (see more).

Israel’s Minister of Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein responded to Areikat’s statements declaring, “after an unending delegitimization campaign and attempts to brand Israel an apartheid state, it appears it is the Palestinians who seek apartheid” (see more). 

Israel’s critics have an unrealistic expectation that Israel must absorb millions of Palestinian refugees for there to be peace, and yet not a single Jew will be allowed to live in a future Palestinian state. On the other hand, if the Palestinians have lost interest in negotiating with Israel, then what will their declaration of a state actually achieve on the ground? Even UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry has stated that without a peace negotiation, a Palestinian State would falter (see more). 

We also still do not know what will become of Hamas if/when the Palestinian State is declared. The unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas never really came to fruition, and since then, the two sides cannot even agree on what time it is in the Palestinian territories (after Ramadan the West Bank returned to Daylight Savings time while Gaza remained on the winter clock) let alone what a future state might look like! 

Perhaps our questions will be answered next Tuesday when all of this comes to a head in the UN. Most likely, more questions will arise. The ZCV as always is dedicated to bringing you the latest news so watch out for our special UN bulletin next week.

Best Wishes,

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