January 31, 2013: The recent national elections will keep the same government in power but with more factions who are eager to make peace with the Palestinians. That peace has been elusive because for decades the Palestinian leaders have been telling their followers that the only acceptable solution is to destroy Israel. This concept was pioneered by the other Moslem states in the region from the moment Israel became a state 65 years ago. While many educated Arabs now see this as a mistake, it cannot be safely discussed openly in the Arab world and the only acceptable policy is still “Israel must die.” Western leaders keep calling for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. But the last time such a deal was close (in 2000) it was turned down by the Palestinian leader Arafat because (as he admitted to American officials) accepting such a deal would get him killed by Arab radicals. Until someone comes up with a peace deal that does not involve the destruction of Israel or a violent reaction by Arab radicals there will be no peace. Decades of internal Arab propaganda simply won’t allow it. No one on either side has come up with a workable solution to this conundrum.
Israel has been losing ground in the UN, which has become a primary source of accusations that Israel is oppressing Arabs in general and Palestinians in general. Decades of Arab lobbying and corrupting oil money has turned the UN into a very anti-Israel organization. Outright anti-Semitism is now more acceptable and the most outrageous anti-Israel accusations are given serious consideration. The UN has always been a very corrupt organization and the Arabs have been exploiting that. It’s reached the point, where, if anyone wants a quick infusion of oil money (and many UN bureaucracies are chronically insolvent) just ask the Arabs. In return for some anti-Israeli theater, the money will appear.
A week of street violence in Egyptian cities has left over fifty dead. The violence is all about anger against the newly elected government of president Mohammad Morsi, who has tried to take more power than the current constitution allows. Morsi is doing this in an attempt to eliminate the opposition he is encountering from the judicial system, which is still full of judges and other officials appointed by the previous Mubarak dictatorship. These officials are also used by the wealthy business families that were friendly with Mubarak and want to retain their economic and legal privileges. When the Mubarak government was overthrown two years ago, many key Mubarak supporters (judges, generals, and wealthy families) still retained power and have maneuvered to block the new government from changing this. But in grabbing more power Morsi enraged many Egyptians because this looked like a new dictator emerging. The problems with the judges, generals, and businessmen were less obvious. Then there is the corruption, which is the basis of all Egyptian problems. Islamic radical groups like the Morsi led Moslem Brotherhood was always against corruption but was itself dirty. Since taking power seven months ago Morsi has had to use corrupt practices to keep the government operating and the economy limping along. The revolution scared away many tourists. This was bad news because tourism related firms employ 12 percent of the population and is a major source of foreign currency. But since the 2011 revolution, tourism has declined by over a third and if the new government enacts tourist restrictions based on a new Islamic legal code, the decline could be even worse. Many other businesses suffered disruptions because of all the demonstrations and demands for reforms. The wealthy families are opposed to reforms and any curbs on their power and wealth. The families can afford to shut down some of their enterprises and wait out this unpleasantness. President Morsi cannot afford to wait because many of his core supporters (especially the urban poor) are literally starving and seeing their revolution and its promises slip away.
What worries Egyptians the most is that the Mubarak supporters might get back in power. The most direct way is via a military coup. No one has dared to clean out all the corrupt generals or threaten the wealth of the active duty and retired generals. Meanwhile, the new officials in the new government are being offered cash for cooperation. The cycle of corruption continues and the message is that if you want more food for the poor, you’d better play along. Morsi is under pressure to reorganize his government, allowing in more democrats and Islamic radicals. That will most likely paralyze the government even more, provide the corruptors with more opportunities, and make a new dictatorship look palatable. Morsi has restored some semblance of order by calling off the security forces and shortening the curfews. But people are still angry and want some fundamental changes.
January 30, 2013: The government approved a law giving soldiers arrest powers.
Syria confirmed that Israeli warplanes had bombed a military research facility outside Damascus. Earlier, apparently false reports had the Israeli aircraft attacking a convoy taking Syrian weapons to Lebanon.
January 29, 2013: National elections gave the ruling right-wing parties 61 seats and a center-left coalition 59. This gives the current government control of the 120 member Knesset (parliament).
January 27, 2013: In Egypt the government imposed a curfew in cities hit by violent demonstrations in the last few days.
January 26, 2013: In Egypt huge crowds hit the streets in Port Said (a city on the Suez Canal) after a court sentenced 21 men to death for participating in football (soccer) related violence last year.
In Egypt police seized a truck carrying a ton of explosives that was trying to enter the Sinai Peninsula. Police have seized five tons of explosives in this area over the last three months, along with tons of weapons and ammo. All this stuff is headed for Islamic terror groups in Sinai or Gaza.
January 25, 2013: More violence erupted in northern Egypt cities on the second anniversary of the popular uprising that overthrew the Mubarak dictatorship.
January 24, 2013: Violent protests erupted in some cities against what is seen as dictatorial rule by the newly elected government. Many Egyptians expected the overthrow of the Mubarak dictatorship would make things better, but instead things have gotten worse.
January 17, 2013: Saudi Arabia is giving the Palestinian Authority another $100 million to replace money being withheld by Israel (in response to the UN accepting a Palestinian declaration that it is now a country). The Palestinian Authority was quietly discarded by the Palestinians earlier this month and replaced by the “Palestinian state.” Whatever you call it, this organization needs cash to pay its many employees. This is how the leaders maintain the loyalty of their subordinates.