With every passing day, the Arab unrest and political revolution confirms that a sea-change is going on in the Middle East. De facto dictators like Hosni Mubarak and Muammar el-Qaddafi are falling before the fearless surge of protesters’ discontent. Other leaders in the region like King Hussein II of Jordan are attempting to pre-empt protests by offering political reforms. What has happened in the last month has been utterly unexpected. What will happen in the next six to 12 months is impossible to predict.
[media-credit name=”Andrea Napoli / Daily Nexus” align=”alignnone” width=”226″][/media-credit][media-credit name=”Andrea Napoli / Daily Nexus” align=”alignleft” width=”226″][/media-credit]Throughout this disorienting surge of new politics, Israel has been the one constant in the Middle East. With the exceptions of Egypt and Jordan, no Arab states have diplomatic relations with Israel. An optimist may contend that the expansion of democracy will brighten the prospects for positive foreign relations between Arab states and Israel. However, the public opinion of average Arabs demonstrates a dangerous divide on Israel between Arabs and their political elites. In Egypt, for example, 2006 polling found large majorities (92 percent) believed that Israel was their “enemy.” The increase in political representation in nations like Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia and Libya does not equate to better prospect for peace. In fact, a more politically responsive Arab regime may find relations with Israel untenable or undesirable.
The authoritarian hand of Arab regimes has, historically, both suppressed politically participation and allowed for the possibility of diplomatic relations with Israel. The dangerous opposite of this duality is rising to the surface with the overturn of Arab regimes. The two leaders who signed peace treaties with Israel, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and King Hussein I of Jordan, were not popularly elected. The danger is that more politically responsive Arab regimes may be far less likely to strive towards recognition and maintaining diplomatic relations with Israel. That is why, now more than ever, America must maintain its friendship and support of Israel.
Mature relations between America and Israel should be a two-way street of clear honesty. America should not write a blank check in support of whatever Israel does. There are kernels of truth even within the exaggerated and distorted Arab prejudices against Israelis. Events like the May 2010 Israeli raid on the Gaza Flotilla are bad for Israeli’s reputation, regardless of whether the raid was justified. The media coverage of the Flotilla incident focused much more on black-and-white videos of the violence than the diplomatic repercussions of the raid.
All media outlets from Fox News to Al Jazeera must stop focusing on the violence in Gaza and the West Bank and start focusing more those individuals and organizations who are working towards a two-state solution for peace. This irresponsible media focus on violence obscures discussion of progress towards a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians. It further minimizes public perception that a peaceful solution can even be reached through diplomacy. The media focus dumbs down the public’s, including this writer’s, knowledge of Middle East diplomacy. If we are ever to understand the importance of America’s alliance with Israel in this new tumultuous era, we must demand media coverage that presents us with political analysis, not solely a bloodbath.