Elkan’s View from Netanya

ELKAN’S VIEW 20TH May 2015

One of the most irritating things about Western commentators on the Middle Eastern situation is that they ignore reality and assume that the Arabs are really European gentlemen of a slightly darker hue. Nothing could be farther from the truth and no settlement is possible in the Middle East without an appreciation of this fact.

The Arabs have a long and glorious history. Up to the 13th century they were in many ways the intellectual drivers of civilisation and even to this day the numbers that we use are described as “Arabic numerals” and are really variations on the Arabic alphabet.

But their civilisation works in a completely different and non-democratic way to that in which Christian Europe developed. Arab society is tribal, has loyalty to its particular conception of the Muslim religion (such as the dispute between Sunni and Shia which is currently tearing the Middle East apart), and is comfortable with strong authoritative government. The assumption that the Arabs really want democracy and given the chance will embrace it is simply naive.

The Arab Spring, a concept of journalists more than anything else, has now evolved into a yet more violent and inhumane society.

The same lack of reality applies to commentators on Israeli politics. The fact that Bibi got in with a substantial vote is an indication that there is no overwhelming expectation in Israel at the moment that there can be an immediate settlement with the Arabs. Since there is no one on the Arab side who can sign a peace agreement and make it stick, the urgency to negotiate one has diminished. The incredible Abbas, now in the 11th year of his four year term as president, cannot deliver, is afraid to try, and in any case makes precondition demands which he knows Israel cannot possibly meet. The possibility of an aggressive terrorist state on the West Bank of the Jordan makes any moves in that direction unacceptable to the majority of Israeli voters.

In meantime the situation is stable and we can live with what we have.