Popular Arab Hatred of Iran May Be Eclipsing Hatred of Israel

Feb. 26 2018

During the recent clash in Syria between Israel and Iran, Al Jazeera asked its Arabic-language Twitter followers where their sympathies lay. Some 12,800 people—56 percent of the respondents—voiced their support for Israel. While this survey is hardly scientific, writes Evelyn Gordon, it points to something important:

As one Syrian wrote [in response to Al Jazeera’s query], “no Syrian in his right mind” would support Israel in most situations, “but you will find millions of Syrians queuing up with the blue devils”—his charming term for Israel—“against the fascist sectarian regime that has surpassed all the monsters on earth in killing Syrians.” . . .

That most Arab governments now consider Iran a greater enemy than Israel isn’t news; their behind-the-scenes cooperation with Israel against Tehran has become an open secret. . . . What Al Jazeera’s informal poll shows is that . . . it’s not just in Arab capitals that Iran is now more widely loathed and feared than Israel, but also on the Arab street. . . . If Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians were still their top concern, they would instead be rooting for Iran against Israel—just as most of the Arab world did back in 2006 when Israel fought a month-long war with Iran’s wholly-owned Lebanese subsidiary, Hizballah.

This sea change in Arab attitudes has serious foreign-policy implications for anyone who calls himself a realist. . . . [F]or any realist who holds that America should align itself with Arab concerns because [there are more Arabs than Israelis in the Middle East, and Arab states have most of the region’s oil], the top priority now shouldn’t be another fruitless Israeli-Palestinian peace process but reining in Iran’s malignant behavior. . . .

As for all the self-proclaimed realists who remain fixated on Israel despite the change in Arab attitudes that has destroyed their main argument, perhaps it’s time to drop the “realist” label. The more accurate term for people who see Jews as the root of all evil under any and all circumstances is “anti-Semite.”

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More about: Arab World, Israel & Zionism, Israel-Arab relations, Syrian civil war

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