Tuesday, November 26, 2013

US Betrayal Opens Great Opportunity for Israeli Saudi Alliance

Ask yourself, what would happen if Saudi Arabia were to change its buying habits?

Here at the Muqata think tank, we've been analyzing the changes happening around us, and envisioning what a new Middle East could look like, or turn into, if given the chance—based on the real state of affairs in our region. Obviously, we're looking to develop the best possible realistic scenario for Israel, based on current parameters.

America's betrayal of long time allies, and its shifting of alliances to the worst of the worst of the Islamic fundamentalist governments, has encouraged a sea change for the entire region.

After U.S. failure to turn Egypt into a fundamentalist Islamic state, it's now turning to firmly prop up the Islamic Republic of Iran. The end result is that any hope for a popular uprising that would throw out the Ayatollahs is now lost.

A revitalized, aggressive, fundamentalist, and obviously nuclear Iran constitutes a clear and present danger to all the countries in the region, not just Israel.

The recent U.S. betrayal of its long time allies has taught Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Gulf States the lesson of an exaggerated reliance on the world's biggest super power.

America's Middle East policy has always relied on the three legged stool of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran. When America lost Iran, it tried to replace it with Iraq, then with Libya, and then Egypt, but each attempt resulted in unexpected consequences.

For the U.S., the Iran deal represents a much sought after return to an old and familiar Mid-East policy, never mind the fact that this time Iran and Turkey are very much Islamic, and have developed an imperialistic appetite that threaten their neighbors, most emphatically the Foggy Bottom stool's third leg, Saudi Arabia, which isn't buying any of it.

It's no accident that there has been noise about the Saudis preparing to assist Israel in a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. The Gulf States, too, save for Bahrain, are in Israel's corner, having had thriving business relations with Israel for years. They all view Iran as a radical menace (a rabid dog?) and Israel as its stabilizing antidote.

At the Muqata think tank, we've come up with what could be a very realistic alignment, and a plan for a truly new Middle East (Tom Friedman, NIF, eat your heart out).

Saudi Arabia has money. Lots of money. Lots of oil too. And of course, lots of desert.

Yet they lack innovation, technology, and no longer enjoy that sense of security they used to have.

Israel has innovation. Israel has technology. Israel knows how to make deserts bloom. Israel has security. But Israel, while becoming energy independent, doesn't have oil or money (on the Saudi scale), or the production capability to stand alone.

Actually, both states could use better production capabilities.

Both also have had the same reliance on the U.S. to supply them with military platforms.

It's also no secret that Israel's military technology and know-how is superior to that of the U.S., but the latter is making sure that the former not be allowed to compete with industries in the American military industrial complex.

And don't get us started on Israel being forced to take the less than wonderful but shockingly expensive F-35.

Ask yourself, what would happen if Saudi Arabia were to change its buying habits?

Let's say they decided to buy an Israeli designed advanced fighter jet. Let's say Saudi Arabia invested in Israeli green tech, to make their deserts bloom.

Let's say that Saudi Arabia made a new alliance with Israel, based on mutual defense and mutual interests.

It would require the hyper conservative Saudis to do something brand new, something they wouldn't have dreamed of doing only five years ago when their ambassador to the U.S. was considered an adjunct member of the Bush cabinet. But those days are gone, and the Saudis, perhaps more so than Israel, are fearing for their lives.

One could think of worse reasons than the will to live for cooperation between historic enemies.

If such a pact—which could be denied ad nauseam by both sides—were to happen, we would definitely see Egypt and Jordan joining in. Secretly.

The new Middle East would include Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states, vs. Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Gaza.

The "Palestinians" of Judea and Samaria would have to sit this one out for a while. Without the U.S. to dominate the process, Israel will be taking its time giving them anything other than their human and civil rights – no national rights for now, thank you very much.

Production facilities remain an issue. Who will be able to take Saudi money and Israeli innovation and offer the enormous industrial facilities required for building the fighter planes, anti-missile systems, and desert blooming technologies of the near future?

The Chinese.

They're already deeply interested in the Middle East. They're already involved in major Israeli projects. They will not pass up an opportunity to both become an equal player in the global manufacturing of innovation technology, and push the U.S. down several pegs in the process.

This enormous endeavor will require educating millions of Arabs across the region, forging an affluent middle class to replace tribal societies. Driven by economic opportunity, the masses will soon enough come to expect political freedom as part of the pie – within the scope of their traditions, much the way it's taking place in Arab communities in New Jersey and Michigan—to name but two states—nowadays.

What about the United States?

Israel and Saudi Arabia would of course still remain friends with the U.S. But no longer client states locked into an unequal relationship.

Perhaps by then Sharia law will have replaced the Constitution, and the next president be even more familiar with the way we do business between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean Sea…

And don’t bother lecturing us on the “evil” of Israeli alignment with the less-than-stellar human rights records of China or Saudi Arabia. The USA has zero problem imposing immoral and unethical demands on Israel to release murderous Arab terrorists “for the sake of the peace talks” and no problem throwing Israel under the bus to further diplomacy with Iran. If Israel needs to align itself for a better and more secure tomorrow with China and Saudi Arabia – it is no worse than its previous Oslo capitulation to Arab terror.

Actually, it’s far better because it could provide Israel with better economic and military security against the real threat of a Nuclear Iran.

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Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Monday, November 04, 2013

Return to the 1187 lines - a look at Crusader history

The Arabs in Israel love to compare the Israelis to the Crusaders.  They want to see us as a temporary invader, who will disappear from this land.

As MK Zahalka said a few months ago: "We were here before you, and we will be here after you."

To which Prime Minister Netanyahu replied: "The first part isn't true, and the second part won't happen", thereby earning himself a place in meme history.

But this view of Crusader history is also a very narrow one.  Though I generally focus on Jewish history in Israel, it's also important to be aware of the other people who lived in this land, if only because history repeats itself, and not always in the way the Arabs think it does.

The Crusaders conquered Israel in 1099.  They managed to hold the country for 100 years, but then in 1187, the Kurdish warrior Saladin conquered Jerusalem and Israel and expelled the Crusaders.  

End of story, right?

Well, not exactly.

The West immediately declared another Crusade to reconquer Jerusalem.  The Crusaders, led by Richard the Lionheart, started off by laying siege to Acre (Akko).  The Muslims vowed to fight till the last man, but after two years, they surrendered.  Saladin paid 200,000 gold dinars in return for the residents of the city.  He also freed 2,500 POWs and returned the remnants of the "True Cross" to the Christians.

The Crusaders continued conquering along the coast, and Saladin, who found himself retreating, responded by destroying the fortresses, in order to prevent them from falling into Christian hands.

In September of 1192, a peace agreement was signed in Jaffa (Yaffo), in which the Muslims recognized the new Crusader state that stretched from Tyre (Tzor) to Jaffa, with the addition of the Ramle-Lod enclave.  The Christians got permission to make free, unarmed pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Over the next 100 years, the Crusader state spread out over the coast.  Spanning from Armenia, through Syria and along the Israeli coast down to Ashkelon, and included Ramle, Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  At times it also controlled Judea, the Galilee and Lake Kinneret.  Western influence on the coastal area continued almost unabated from the Crusader Era down to today.

As part of the on-going wars: in the spring of 1219, the Ayyubian rulers, Saladin's successors, destroyed the walls of Jerusalem.

During this period the Crusaders focused on trying to conquer Egypt, which they saw as the key to conquering all of Israel.  In the fall of 1219 the Crusaders conquered a major port city on the Nile, Damietta.  The Ayyubian Sultan Al-Kamil started peace negotiations even before the city fell to Christian hands.  He offered to return the Crusaders to the 1187 lines - everything West of the Jordan - and to sign a 30-year peace treaty.

The various Crusader groups split on the offer.  Some wanted to go back to the pre-1187 lines, which included the areas East of the Jordan.  The Sultan then offered the two biggest forts on the eastern side of the Jordan, and agreed to finance the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and three other cities.

The Christians rejected the offer.

Saladin - the great conqueror whose successors
were willing to give it all away

In the summer of 1221, the Muslims reconquered Damietta, and the deal was off anyway.  But the Crusaders continued making gains in Israel.

In early 1229, following political manipulations, Emperor Frederick II signed a ten-year treaty with Al-Kamil: The Tell El-Ajjul-Jaffa Treaty.  This treaty gave the Christians Jerusalem (except for the Temple Mount), and recognized Crusader rule of Sidon, the Nazareth enclave, and several other areas in the Galilee.The Jerusalem enclave included Ramle-Lod and Bethlehem.

This treaty was roundly criticized by various Crusaders, as it was signed without the agreement of the local ruler of the Galilee, and was therefore somewhat theoretical.  But the Crusaders now held Jerusalem.

In 1239, after the treaty expired, the Crusaders sent another force to Israel.  But the Muslim forces attacked their camp and killed them off while they were dining.

In 1240 a new Ayyubian ruler took over, precipitating civil war on the Muslim side.  As the Ayyubians in Egypt and Syria geared up for battle, both sides turned to the Crusaders and offered a land-for-support deal.  Some of the Crusaders sided with the Syrians, and some with the Egyptians.  The Syrians offered the Crusaders the Galilee and Southern Lebanon.  In a treaty signed by the Egyptians in 1241, the Egyptians recognized Crusader rule of the Galilee and added the coastal areas up to Beirut, and down towards Gaza (not included).  The southern border now stretched from Gaza towards Hebron.

But the wars between the Ayyubians were not good for the Crusaders, and the Muslim mercenary forces that came into Israel reconquered almost everything.

The Mongolians attacked in 1260, and were soon followed by a new force - the Mamaluks, the Central-Asian slave-soldiers of Egypt.  The Mamaluks set about to reconquer Israel.  In 1291 Christian Acre fell to the Mamaluks, and so came an end to the story of the Crusaders in Israel.

Bottom line: History is not always so simple, and it did not end in 1187.  The Muslims did reconquer Israel, but quite soon were willing to give it all away.  The successors to the Great Saladin didn't manage to hold Israel for longer than the hated Crusaders.  On the other hand, the Crusaders were offered peace deal after peace deal.  They missed opportunities and always demanded more, until they were finally kicked out and lost everything.

See here for an archive of articles about our history in Israel.  

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