In Today’s Middle East, Arabs Are No Longer Dominant

Feb. 24 2017

While Arabs maintain their longstanding ethnic majority in the Middle East, it is the non-Arab states—Turkey and Iran—that are the region’s most powerful Muslim forces. Asher Susser explains:

The last two generations have witnessed the steady decline of the Arab states, to the extent that some no longer even exist as the unitary entities they once were, like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya. Generally speaking, the Arabs have not modernized successfully. Most Arab states (excluding the oil-rich and less populous Gulf states) suffer in one way or another from a critical imbalance between population and resources resulting in consistently poor economic performance. . . . The erstwhile movers and shakers like Egypt, Syria, and Iraq are but shadows of their former selves. . . .

The void left by Arab weakness has been filled by the non-Arab states of the region. . . . Iran and Turkey, as opposed to most of the Arab states, are not recently established entities and unlike many Arab states are not artificial creations, but large countries of some 80-million people each. They have long histories as sovereign nations, with unique linguistic and cultural identities of their own. . . . Turkish and Iranian nationalism has consequently proved to be considerably more cohesive and politically successful than Arab nationalism.

Arab nationalism, especially in its revolutionary Nasserist formulation, was the panacea that promised the Arabs renewed power, prestige, and prosperity. But it did nothing of the kind and turned out to be a false messiah. . . . [And while] Arab nationalism sought to supersede religious sectarianism in the Arab world and to unite all the speakers of the Arabic language as one nation, Islamism had the opposite effect of exacerbating sectarian differences.

For the Islamists, religion was obviously the key marker of collective identity. In the Islamist worldview there were very clear and meaningful divisions and distinctions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and between Muslims and non-Muslims. As radicalizing Sunnis and Shiites highlighted their [disparate] identities, various non-Muslim minorities were left with little choice but to withdraw into the protective sanctuary of their respective communities. Arab societies broke down into their sectarian components, eroding the integrity and cohesion of multi-sectarian Arab states.

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Read more at Dayan Center

More about: Arab World, Iran, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Turkey

The Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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Read more at Jager File

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics