Should Arab Israelis Be Conscripted into the IDF?

Aug. 22 2018

During the past two weeks, Israel has seen two mass rallies against the nation-state law: one organized by Israeli Arab leaders, the other by the country’s Druze community. Moshe Arens, contrasting the anti-Israel mood at the former with the pro-Israel mood at the latter, explains the historical divergence between the two communities. (Free registration may be required.)

The Druze and the Circassians, [Middle Eastern Muslims whose ancestors hail from the northern Caucasus], cast their lot with Israel when it fought for its survival against a coalition of Arab armies that invaded the fledgling country in 1948. In 1956 David Ben-Gurion decided to enforce compulsory military service for Druze and Circassian youngsters, who have been serving in the Israel Defense Forces ever since, many having reached the highest command positions of the IDF. This has brought about a substantial degree of Israelization and Westernization in these communities and encouraged their integration into Israel’s society.

Would the same thing have happened to Israel’s Arab community had Ben-Gurion decided at the time to apply compulsory military service to them as well? The fact is that compulsory military service for Israel’s Arab Muslim and Christian youngsters has been left in abeyance over the years, even though it is an anomaly that so many of Israel’s citizens do not participate in the defense of their country.

Over the years there has been a substantial rate of volunteering for military service among Arab youngsters, especially from the Bedouin and Christian communities. . . . Increasing numbers of young Arab men and women are [also] volunteering for the civilian national service introduced some years ago. The strident opposition of Arab politicians to this trend seems to have had little effect. We may be moving in the right direction, but it will take a well-planned government and IDF program to normalize the participation of Israel’s Arab youth in the defense of their country.

The opposition of those Arab politicians to Arab participation in the defense of Israel is essentially based on a desire to see Israel destroyed, and therefore gives support to those forces intent on destroying Israel. Today, these are first and foremost, the ayatollahs in Tehran and terrorist groups. The Iranians are not Arabs and any damage they may inflict on Israel will affect its Jewish and Arab citizens. What logic can there be in Arab Israeli citizens lending them support, aside from a blind desire to see Israel perish? [In the long run], it is more likely that more and more Israeli Arabs will in time follow the Druze example.

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Read more at Haaretz

More about: Druze, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli society

 

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy