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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Damned if we do... and damned if we don't

In an Op-Ed piece yesterday, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times lambasted Israel... both for having been too supportive of now-ex-Egyptian- President Mubarak, and for not being supportive enough of the protesters who ultimately got him to resign.

And today, Iran is just the latest voice in the Muslim world to blame Israel for having supported the protesters and engineering the overthrow of Mubarak.

What Israel actually did was exactly nothing. 

PM Netanyahu ordered his government to remain publicly silent on the growing unrest in Egypt because he knew that, not only could we have no affect on the outcome... but we would inevitably be blamed for the outcome no matter what we said or did.

In Friedman's Op Ed, he starts off making sense when he says "Israel was not part of this story at all. This was about Egypt and about the longing of Egyptians for the most basic human rights...".  But then he kicks off the rest of his anti-Israel screed with, "The children of Egypt were having their liberation moment and the children of Israel decided to side with Pharaoh".

WTF? 

Friedman contends that despite Israel's public silence, our government was lobbying behind the scenes in the US to try to get Obama to continue supporting Mubarak.  I have no idea whether that is true or not.  What is clear is that Obama didn't have a coherent policy during the crisis, and the last country he was likely to listen to on foreign policy issues is Israel.

But even Friedman acknowledged why Israel might choose the devil it knows over the one it doesn't"

"... everyone can or should understand Israel’s strategic concerns. They are totally valid. The peace treaty with Egypt has been the cornerstone of Israeli strategy and economic growth for 30 years. Israel has scrupulously abided by the treaty. Of course Israelis are worried about convulsion here. How could they not? But the way they are handling themselves, is not helping them." [emphasis mine]

Again, WTF?  Either we have a right to be concerned about regime change by a mob made up of G-d knows who, or we do not.  Which is it Tom?

And yet from Turkey to Tehran Israel has been lambasted for egging on and supporting the protesters.  We simply can't win.

Personally, I think Everyone should just shut the hell up and leave us alone.  Despite friedman's assertion that Israel was supporting Mubarak and "using the opportunity to score propaganda points: “Look at us! Look at us! We told you so! We are the only stable country in the region, because we are the only democracy.’"’

I don't know what Thomas Friedman has been smoking, but Israel would love nothing more than to have a few other stable democracies in the region.  But we are not in the business of effecting regime change in order to improve the neighborhood.   That's not our job... and all of his wishful thinking isn't going to make it so.

We sign treaties with the few leaders who are willing to sit down with us, and where possible, we try to be a good and peaceful neighbor.  If we had gotten involved on either side of the events in Cairo we would have gotten seriously burned.  

It's like when your best friend comes to you for consolation after his girlfriend walks out on him.  You can't make your buddy feel better by badmouthing the girlfriend and call her a low rent, two-timing whore (no matter how much you'd like to), because what happens when / if they make up?  And get married?  Where are you then?!

The point being, that lacking a crystal ball, Israel isn't going to get involved in any internal politics of a country with which we are at peace.  Full stop.  What if we had supported the protesters and the protests had fizzled.  How does Netanyahu face Mubarak the morning after?

But based on what I'm reading in the press, it doesn't really matter that we Israelis sat on our hands during the crisis.  We are still catching the blame from both sides for not doing enough.

Memo to everyone who is ignoring the events unfolding around region and (as usual)focusing only on us:  Kindly Bite Me! 

Posted by David Bogner on February 15, 2011 | Permalink

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Thank you so much for this posting! It perfectly captures my frustration with the constant criticism we endure in Israel no matter what we do (or do not do). I wish Friedman would shut the hell up.

Posted by: Michael | Feb 15, 2011 2:27:43 PM

Thank you so much for this posting! It perfectly captures my frustration with the constant criticism we endure in Israel no matter what we do (or do not do). I wish Friedman would shut the hell up.

Posted by: Michael | Feb 15, 2011 2:27:43 PM

Thank you so much for this posting! It perfectly captures my frustration with the constant criticism we endure in Israel no matter what we do (or do not do). I wish Friedman would shut the hell up.

Posted by: Michael | Feb 15, 2011 2:27:43 PM

Friedmann has an unhealthy obsession with Israel which seems to be augmented by the fact that the leftist media in Israel likes to republish all his columns. I don't see any reason why we shouldn't ignore him. In general I find it humorous that journalists feel that they have the right to tell foreign nations how to behave.

Posted by: alex | Feb 15, 2011 4:25:20 PM

WOW. It really is amazing to me how freaking pervasive anti-Israel sentiment is. It's always something, isn't it?

Posted by: Leah Caruso | Feb 15, 2011 6:10:33 PM

WOW. It really is amazing to me how freaking pervasive anti-Israel sentiment is. It's always something, isn't it?

Posted by: Leah Caruso | Feb 15, 2011 6:10:33 PM

Thank you for your comments. They are obviously echoed by many.

Posted by: nanaloshen | Feb 15, 2011 7:07:31 PM

LMAO at nanaloshen.

Posted by: Jack | Feb 15, 2011 7:33:35 PM

No matter what happens, blame the Jews,and since 1948,blame Israel. It`s so simple when you don`t need to think,just come up with soundbites and slogans. If future events turn nasty in Egypt,guess who`ll get some of the blame.

Posted by: ED | Feb 15, 2011 7:47:11 PM

I think we were supposed to have gone in and assassinated old Mubarak...
An Egyptian killed Sadat. An Israeli killed Rabin. So whose turn was it?

Or maybe it was that we were supposed to invade and install democracy. But in a non-interventionist way, of course.

Oh wait, that wouldn't work. But it's our fault, for sure.

Posted by: Freddy | Feb 15, 2011 10:43:23 PM

Very well said Trep. Thomas Friedman is not a self-hating Jew but rather a self-loving but condescending to other Jews type of guy.

I fisked his article myself on my own (new) blog just yesterday:

The chutzpah of Thomas Friedman

GMTA!

(I'm the commenter formerly known as "annie")

Posted by: anneinpt | Feb 16, 2011 1:45:16 AM

Poor Thomas. He believes that the Arab world is as rational as he is. If only Israel didn't build a security wall, the Palestinian Authority would love them. If only Israel withdrew from Lebanon, Hezb'allah would lay down its arms. If only Israel withdrew from Gaza, Hamas would make peace. If only Israel didn't economically overpower its neighbors, it would be accepted. If only Israel let Syria determine how much water Israel is allowed to have, Assad would reconcile itself to the Jewish state. If only Israel didn't destroy the Iraqi and Syrian nuclear reactors, the Mideast would be relying on clean energy.

What a load of, well, you know.

Wrong, Thomas. Many in the Mideast have a perverse, pathological and illogical fear and loathing of Israel. Sorry, if Israel spoke up during Egypt's uprising, the new regime (yet to be determined, by the way -- it could eventually be the Brotherhood) would NOT be warmer to Israel. The Egyptian street HATES the state. Mubarak understood that tolerating, and even tacitly supporting, Israel, was in Egypt's best interest. The rabble does not understand this and, for the foreseeable future, never will. End of discussion.

Posted by: Ari | Feb 16, 2011 8:58:21 AM

Poor Thomas. He believes that the Arab world is as rational as he is. If only Israel didn't build a security wall, the Palestinian Authority would love them. If only Israel withdrew from Lebanon, Hezb'allah would lay down its arms. If only Israel withdrew from Gaza, Hamas would make peace. If only Israel didn't economically overpower its neighbors, it would be accepted. If only Israel let Syria determine how much water Israel is allowed to have, Assad would reconcile itself to the Jewish state. If only Israel didn't destroy the Iraqi and Syrian nuclear reactors, the Mideast would be relying on clean energy.

What a load of, well, you know.

Wrong, Thomas. Many in the Mideast have a perverse, pathological and illogical fear and loathing of Israel. Sorry, if Israel spoke up during Egypt's uprising, the new regime (yet to be determined, by the way -- it could eventually be the Brotherhood) would NOT be warmer to Israel. The Egyptian street HATES the state. Mubarak understood that tolerating, and even tacitly supporting, Israel, was in Egypt's best interest. The rabble does not understand this and, for the foreseeable future, never will. End of discussion.

Posted by: Ari | Feb 16, 2011 8:58:21 AM

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