Socioeconomic Improvements Won’t Bring Political Moderation to Israel’s Arabs

In the past several years, Israeli Arabs have attained rising wages and standards of living as well as greater levels of education; they have also become more likely to learn Hebrew and to join the IDF. Mansour Abbas has led his Islamist Ra’am party into the governing coalition, and shifted attention away from the Palestinian cause—long the centerpiece of Israeli Arab politics—and toward the bread-and-butter issues facing his constituents. Yet there have also been less encouraging signs, particularly the riots that took place last year in cities with mixed Arab and Jewish populations, and the participation of Israeli Arabs in the recent wave of terror. Efraim Karsh sees in these last developments a disturbing trend that began with the Oslo Accords:

Within a month of his arrival in Gaza [in 1994, Yasir] Arafat had secretly ordered the extension of the Palestinian Authority’s activities to Israel’s Arabs, allocating $10 million in initial funding (in addition to $20-25 million for real-estate purchases in Jerusalem) and appointing Ahmad Tibi, an Israeli citizen, to head the subversive operation. In subsequent years, the interference of the PLO and its Palestinian Authority (PA) proxy in Israel’s domestic affairs would range from mediation of internal Arab disputes, to outright attempts to influence the outcome of Israeli elections, to the spread of propaganda calling for Israel’s destruction.

These incendiary activities had their predictable effect. By the time of the 2009 national elections, some 40 percent of Israeli Arabs were denying the existence of the Holocaust while one in two were opposed to sending their children to Jewish schools or having Jewish neighbors. Small wonder that the 1990s and 2000s saw the demise of Arab votes for Jewish/Zionist parties and their diversion to militant purely Arab parties that were openly opposed to Israel’s very existence, and this process gained considerable momentum in the 2010s.

Moreover, Karsh argues, increasing economic improvements are unlikely to change the Arab political trajectory:

If poverty and marginalization were indeed the culprits, why . . . did Arab dissidence increase dramatically with the vast improvement in the Arab standard of living in the 1970s and 1980s? Why did it escalate into an open uprising in October 2000—after a decade that saw government allocations to Arab municipalities grow by 550 percent and the number of Arab civil servants nearly treble? And why did it spiral into a far more violent insurrection in May 2021—after yet another decade of massive government investment in the Arab sector, including a 15 billion-shekel ($3.84 billion) socioeconomic aid program in 2015 in all fields of Arab society?

The truth is that, in the modern world, socioeconomic progress has rarely been a recipe for political moderation and intercommunal coexistence. . . . In 1937, a British commission of enquiry observed: “With almost mathematical precision, the betterment of the economic situation in Palestine meant the deterioration of the political situation.”

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Israeli Arabs, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Yasir Arafat

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy