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Column: The Middle East powder-keg

Bell Johnson

Nov. 30, 2012

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

Anyone who has ever walked across thin ice can attest to how fragile it is, and how terrifying watching the ice splinter around your feet as you walk across can be, because everyone knows that it could break at any moment.

Israel, Hamas - the Palestinian political and military group in control of the Gaza Strip - and the rest of the Middle East are walking on thin ice, and at any moment the cease fire and everything else could shatter.

To say that Israel and Hamas don’t get along is an understatement. They hate each other. The animosity started over 2,700 years when Moses led the Hebrew people out of captivity back to the “Promised Land.” They came back to a land already populated by Palestinians.

In 1948, the UN declared the territory then known as Palestine two independent countries: Israel and Palestine. This was to make home for a large number of displaced Jews after the Holocaust. Arab leaders disputed the declaration and attempted to unite the region into one unified Arab Palestine. They lost, and after the fighting ended, Israel controlled even more land than it had previously. These years of resentment and miscommunication have fueled that hatred and have sparked tensions and political division in the region.

This leaves nearby Egypt in a precarious position. Egypt helped broker an unstable ceasefire that brought Israel’s and Hamas’ mini-war to a standstill. Yet, in order to help negotiate the ceasefire, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi signed a presidential edict that gave him unchecked authority, and that’s a problem.

Egypt is already bitterly divided after six decades of dictatorial oppression from Morsi’s predecessors, Hosni Mubarak, Anwar al-Sadat and Gamal Nasser. By seizing control, Morsi did help alleviate the tensions in Israel and Gaza, but he only further enraged his critics and left his supporters fearful of a return of a dictator. This puts the Obama administration in a difficult situation as well.

Morsi’s recent grab at power could possibly foreshadow a return to autocracy. This marks a crucial moment in U.S. foreign policy. President Morsi was democratically elected, but if he continues to abuse his position and attain more power, what is the U.S. to do? President Barack Obama faces the same situation many of his predecessors have struggled with over the past 40 years: If he does nothing and turns a blind eye to poverty and oppression, the revolution in Egypt will have meant nothing, and the cycle will continue.

Yet, regardless of Morsi’s power grab, it is Egypt that could bring peace first to Israel, then to the Arab world. That is, if Morsi remains an elected leader rather than an oppressive one. The likelihood of the Muslim Brotherhood, the party that backs Morsi’s presidency, engaging in peace talks with Israelis is unlikely. The Muslim Brotherhood supports a return to conservative Muslim values that are antithetical to Israel’s religious freedoms, political pluralism and feminism. So it seems as if the death grip between Israel and Hamas will remain.

Even with all of this going on, Iran still lurks in the shadow, and this poses an even greater threat. Instead of accepting and recognizing Israel in exchange for open borders, Hamas has decided to forgo the opportunity and instead keep borders closed and start smuggling in rockets. Iran is supplying these rockets through tunnels originating in Egypt. It’s an interesting turn of events. Egypt may want to remain out of the conflict, but it seems as if they are being pulled into it anyway.

The tension in the Middle East is palpable. With so many conflicts and clashing agendas, it’s no wonder the world is on edge. The Israeli-Palestine dispute, Egypt’s democracy, Iran’s nuclear buildup and U.S.-Israel-Arab conflict are now all interconnected.

What the Middle East and the West need to focus on is providing adept and strong leadership to defuse the tension, isolate Iran and provide peaceful solutions. Egypt needs to remain strong and democratic, Israel needs to be patient, Hamas needs to recognize Israel’s existence and Iran needs to be contained. Weak leadership and apathy will only intensify the problems that have been around for centuries. Because it only takes one misstep to break thin ice.

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Article comments

Nov. 30, 2012 at 10:40 a.m.

Arafat: "The animosity started over 2,700 years when Moses led the Hebrew people out of captivity back to the “Promised Land.” They came back to a land already populated by Palestinians." This is Muslim propaganda. Islam was not counded until Mohammed was born in the late 6th century.

Nov. 30, 2012 at 10:44 a.m.

Arafat: "Yet, in order to help negotiate the ceasefire, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi signed a presidential edict that gave him unchecked authority, and that’s a problem. " Morsi's decalartion of unchecked power was unrleated to the Gaza conflict. What Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have been doing since the elctions is consolidating their power base and Morsi's decision to bypass the more liberal judicial side of Egypt's society was in line with the Muslim Brotherhood's tactics. It had nothing to do with Gaza.

Nov. 30, 2012 at 10:44 p.m.

Dr. langhorne: Oversimplified and representative of a new generation so remote from facts it's appalling. But nutshell opinions trump facts any day of the week these days. For starters the original inhabitants of Israel before it was called Judea were made up of many pagan tribes and kingdoms in the land of Canaan. One of them was the Philistines who were defeated by the ancient Israelites who called their new kingdom Judea. The name Syria Palaestina was imposed on Judea by the Romans after a difficult & costly war against Jewish rebels around 130 CE. The name was taken from the ancient Philistines and used as punishment to strip the Jewish identity from then Judea. The name stuck until Israel was established with a declaration of independence and a UN vote in 1948. Jews always maintained a presence in Palestine despite persecution by both Crusaders and Muslims. They were thusly Palestinians as well. Jews and every other people who've been wartime refugees relocated and were absorbed over relatively short periods of time. Arabs living in Palestine could have easily been absorbed into the vast aray of neighboring Arab countries..and many of them did. But after the 1948 defeat in a war the surrounding countries started (primarily Egypt, Jordan & Syria) Palestinan "refugees" we're forced to live in squalor in UN supported "refugee camps" and continue to do so in perpetuity. This policy was forced on them by surrounding Arab states at the UN in an effort to delegitimization the tiny infant Jewish state, establish long term breeding environments that continually incubate hostility & hatred towards the Jews and plant seeds for a hostile Muslim population time bomb. The strategy has been extremely effective along with the adoption of an underdog victimhood that resonates with many despite the vast & incredibly savage and heinous acts of terror committed against the Jews of Israel by Palestinian terrorists. A simple search of the murder of the Fogel family and the portrayal of the purpertrators as Palestinian heroes is mind boggling. We live in an upside down word where facts are trumped by emotionally fueled opinions and loud, popular and politically correct opinions are hammered with oversimplified revisions of actual history. College campuses...former seats of learning and free discussion, have been converted into indoctrination camps where students can't easily voice differing opinions from their oft leftist teachers without getting penalized. It is no wonder that despite his incredible stature and amazing contribution to the establishment of our beloved country George Washington has been reduced to a man who wore wooden dentures, chopped down a cherry tree and never told a lie. BTW: He in fact had the best dentures money could buy and they were made of ivory and horse teeth.

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