As I said yesterday, there’s no way anyone not on the ground now in Cairo contributes anything urgent to what’s unfolding.
Still, the upheaval in Egypt appears to be changing minds and alliances here, and producing some startling insights. I’ll try to keep a running tab in this space.
—George Soros, or his ghostwriter, has a proven talent for dunderheaded declarative sentences that are easily lifted out of context by his enemies and used against him. He scores again today in the Washington Post, in a column urging President Obama to side with the Revolution. The conservative Twitterverse is already eating up the first sentence in the following paragraph:
The main stumbling block is Israel. In reality, Israel has as much to gain from the spread of democracy in the Middle East as the United States has. But Israel is unlikely to recognize its own best interests because the change is too sudden and carries too many risks. And some U.S. supporters of Israel are more rigid and ideological than Israelis themselves. Fortunately, Obama is not beholden to the religious right, which has carried on a veritable vendetta against him. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is no longer monolithic or the sole representative of the Jewish community. The main danger is that the Obama administration will not adjust its policies quickly enough to the suddenly changed reality.
Soros’ overarching point is not controversial and has already been made by Jeffrey Goldberg and Elliott Abrams and Shlomo Avineri: Right now, Israeli leaders are wondering what the nascent revolution means for them, which is understandable; what needs to be explained to them, gently, is that it’s not all about them, or Israel, for that matter.
But starting a graf with a sentence like "The main stumbling block is Israel" is to invite exactly the kind of "they’re all agin’ us!" bunker mentality (whether real or disingenuous) he warns against.
Memo to Soros: Get a new ghost, stat.
–Soros is, it is true, wrong about AIPAC: I don’t think its approach to Egypt is as cut and dried as he implies (and he implies its "defend the status quo at all costs.’). AIPAC’s former spokesman, Josh Block, is still close to the lobby in its thinking. His takeaway from Egypt, published at his new home, the Progressive Policy Institute, is: promote vibrant middle classes in the Middle East, stat, and start by reinforcing Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad:
His economic initiatives, coupled with his institution-building programs, should not just be viewed as ways to increase the average Palestinian’s standard of living. More than that, they’re attempts to ground a future state in something like a civil society, the ultimate goal being to prevent a political vacuum from engulfing a future Palestinian government.
Not to get too Kremlinological about all of this, but AIPAC’s most recent spokesman is saying, don’t hang the Palestinian Authority out to dry. To whom do you think that message is addressed? That’s not insignificant.
–In a superb round-up, my former colleague at AP, Amy Teibel, corrals the "it’s all about us!" mentality now infesting the Israeli elites.
–At the New Jersey Jewish News Andrew Silow Carroll explains how it’s really all about the Jewish Brotherhood:
Muslim Brotherhood: While its radical wing was accused of trying to assassinate Nasser in 1954, the group has been a persistent critic of the Mubarak regime for decades without pursuing violence.
Jewish Brotherhood: Rivalry with Sisterhood has been largely nonviolent.
"Largely." Let’s leave it at that.