He has not made the world anew, history did not bend to his will, the Indians and Pakistanis have been told that the matter of Kashmir is theirs to resolve, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the same intractable clash of two irreconcilable nationalisms, and the theocrats in Iran have not “unclenched their fist,” nor have they abandoned their nuclear quest.
There is little Mr. Obama can do about this disenchantment. He can’t journey to Turkey to tell its Islamist leaders and political class that a decade of anti-American scapegoating is all forgiven and was the product of American policies—he has already done that. He can’t journey to Cairo to tell the fabled “Arab street” that the Iraq war was a wasted war of choice, and that America earned the malice that came its way from Arab lands—he has already done that as well. He can’t tell Muslims that America is not at war with Islam—he, like his predecessor, has said that time and again.
…The laws of gravity, the weight of history and of precedent, have caught up with the Obama presidency. We are beyond stirring speeches. The novelty of the Obama approach, and the Obama persona, has worn off. There is a whole American diplomatic tradition to draw upon—engagements made, wisdom acquired in the course of decades, and, yes, accounts to be settled with rogues and tyrannies. They might yet help this administration find its way out of a labyrinth of its own making.
Jon B. Alterman, Director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, reviews Vali Nasr’s new book, Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean for Our World:
Vali Nasr’s new book, Forces of Fortune, was written largely in the exuberant phase of Dubai’s story, but it is being published in a more sober time. It reflects some of the old enthusiasm for the notion that “the Dubai model” — a multiethnic, capitalist society insulated from violence and ideology — could save the Middle East from a downward spiral of intolerance and political extremism. Nasr’s overall conclusion — that the triumph of free markets in the Middle East “will pave the way to the decisive defeat of extremism and to social liberalization” — is sympathetic to the Dubai experience. “If that battle is won by private-sector business leaders and the rising middle class tied to them,” Nasr argues, “then progress with political rights will follow.”
This is not merely a book about Dubai, however. It is a book about the enduring promise of Dubai, the struggles of Iran, and the success of Turkey. Bolstering these cases with brief studies on Egypt and Pakistan, Nasr suggests that where capitalism flourishes, so, too, do tolerance and moderation. He also thinks that the resurgence of Islam is promising rather than threatening. Judging that the tide has turned against extremism, he views middle-class religiosity as a path through which Muslim communities can integrate with the rest of the world. In Nasr’s words, “This upwardly mobile class consumes Islam as much as practicing it,” seeking to embrace modernity on Muslim terms rather than rejecting it as a form of corruption. The old populist dogmas that focused on injustice and encouraged resistance are waning. Consequently, resources poured into bolstering liberal ideals in Muslim communities merely feed the culture wars, Nasr cautions. Instead, “The key struggle that will pave the way to the decisive defeat of extremism and to social liberalization will be the battle to free the markets.”
The Economist writes,
The 22 countries, including the unborn Palestine, that belong to the Arab League as “the Arab world” are home to a heterogeneous agglomeration of some 350m people. Maronites, Copts, Berbers, Kurds and Africans as well as Arabs and Muslims inhabit a miscellany of lands from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf and from the Saharan desert to the foothills of Anatolia. One common characteristic, however, is the youthfulness of Arab society: the majority of Arabs are under 25 years old. But a shortage of jobs for the young means that political instability, in many Arabic countries, is likely to persist.
A poll released last week by the Israeli Democracy Index (IDI) concludes Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union “harbor significantly greater resentment toward Arabs than veteran Israeli Jews.”
The survey of 1,191 Israeli Jewish adults, which had a 2.8 percent margin of error, found that 77% of immigrants from the former Soviet Union support emigration of Arabs from Israel, compared with 47% of the native Jewish population.
In a related matter, 64% of former Soviet Union citizens oppose any retreat from settlements, a vast difference from the 48% of the entire Israeli population who feel that way.
Additionally, 74% of former Soviet Union residents believe a strong leader can do more for Israel than discussion and laws, compared to 61% of older Jewish Israelis.
A 2005 Associated Press article explores the hidden trade between Israel and the Arab world. It begins:
Experts say the camouflaged trade – just a small portion of such imports that have received publicity – has been going on for years between Israel and its officially hostile Arab neighbors.
The hidden trade is worth about US$400 million a year – about two and a half times what Israel sold to its official Arab trading partners, Egypt and Jordan, in 2004 – said Gil Feiler, the director of Info-Prod Research, a Tel Aviv consultancy specializing in Arab markets, and an economic professor at Bar Ilan University.
The article continues,
The true amount of Arab imports from Israel is impossible to establish because neither side makes it public, with Israeli-made goods moving to Arab customers through third countries – Cyprus or the Netherlands, for example, which list the shipments as local exports.
Feiler said the Israeli origins of products is hidden by methods other than third-country exports. Arabs of Lebanese origin in Israel sell counterfeit Lebanese certificates of origin complete with forged government stamps. Some Israeli factories have departments of so-called quality control – where any Hebrew writing or ‘Made in Israel’ marks are removed from product components.
As Milton Friedman said,
The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another.
People who seemingly hate each other will trade for personal gain. Even when the free market is restricted examples arise. This becomes all the more apparent when the free market system is permitted. Consider this: Germany is Israel’s largest European trading partner and Israel’s second most important trading partner after the United States.
The Economist writes a special report on the Arab world:
Freedom? The Arabs are ruled now, as they were then, by a cartel of authoritarian regimes practised in the arts of oppression. Unity? As elusive as ever. Although the fault lines have changed since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait 19 years ago, inter-Arab divisions are bitter. Egypt, the biggest Arab country, refused even to attend April’s Arab League summit meeting in Doha. Israel? Punctuated by bouts of violence and fitful interludes of diplomacy, the deadly stalemate continues. Neither George H. Bush at Madrid in 1991 nor Bill Clinton at Camp David in 2000 nor George W. Bush at Annapolis in 2007 succeeded in making peace or even bringing it visibly closer.
Al Bawaba reports:
The United States has demanded that Israel suspend a planned housing project in east Jerusalem following a complaint by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, senior Israeli officials said Sunday. This is the latest in disagreements between the US and Israel over settlements.
The Israeli officials confirmed that Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, was summoned to the US State Department and told that the housing project developed by American millionaire Irving Moskowitz, a longtime supporter of Israeli settlements, should be canceled.
According to Israeli Army Radio, the US demanded that Israel revoke approval for the project.
Abbas reportedly told the Americans that the construction of Jewish housing in east Jerusalem would shift the demographic balance of east Jerusalem.
Abbas’ argument seems reasonable, though the issue of property rights–whether to sell or purchase– is muddied by the the region’s political situation. At any rate, I find it important to point out that Arabs are permitted to purchase homes in both east and west Jerusalem, the Arab and Jewish sides. That being the case it seems inconsistent to prevent Israel’s Jewish residence from exercising the same rights. It is highly unlikely for Israel to prevent Jewish home purchases in east Jerusalem while permitting Arab home purchases in west Jerusalem, especially with a Likud-led coalition government under Netanyahu.