The Worst Case


From an Israeli standpoint — and this is a non-partisan, across-the-board situation — the Middle East is heading toward crisis and disaster.

Just to list developments that are clearly happening is quite worrisome. The fact that the U.S. government doesn’t understand this long list of factors, nor do European governments, nor does almost all of the Western mass media, makes the problems far larger.

Egypt: In September, the country will elect a radical parliament, more anti-American and anti-Israeli than the country has been since the mid-1970s. The new regime will see Hamas as an important ally and want to tear up the peace treaty with Israel. Even if the treaty is not formally abrogated, it will no longer be observed.

Already, the Egyptian border with Gaza is being reopened. The possibility of an Egypt-Israel war is no longer unthinkable. Terrorist groups are emboldened and can be expected to step up cross-border attacks.

The certainty that the Muslim Brotherhood will be a powerful force in Egypt, perhaps even a governing power, is of deep concern to Israel. The Brotherhood collaborated with the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. For decades it has voiced hatred of Israel, anti-Semitism and support for wiping Israel off the map in every speech, article and statement, at least in Arabic. In addition, the Brotherhood is a strong ally of Hamas and of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood.

In an Egypt heavily influenced by the Brotherhood, the Egypt-Israel peace treaty would be abandoned; weapons, terrorists and money would flow freely into the Gaza Strip. In a war generated by a future Hamas attack on Israel, at the minimum the Brotherhood would send hundreds of volunteers to fight in Gaza and try to send terrorists across the Egypt-Israel border. At most, the possibility of Egypt joining the war is not beyond question.

With the Brotherhood influential in mosques, media and schools, the level of anti-Israel hatred will rise even higher, while attacks on any Israelis who travel to Egypt and the sabotage of the Egypt-Israel gas pipeline can be assumed as virtually inevitable.

Hamas: The radical anti-Semitic group that wants to destroy Israel and commit genocide against the Jews is stronger than ever. Under U.S. pressure Israel reduced sanctions to a minimum. There are no longer sanctions about weapons, money and terrorists crossing from Egypt into Gaza. The Obama administration pumped $400 million into the Gaza economy, helping Hamas.

Now Hamas has reunited with Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, giving it greater influence than ever. It is conceivable that Hamas will attack Israel in the future, and Egypt will either send aid and volunteers or even become embroiled on Hamas’ side.

Lebanon: Due to elections there, Syria has recaptured the country as a satellite. A Hezbollah-dominated government is waiting to take power. All of the promises made by the U.S. government and the international community to Israel have been broken. Hezbollah has returned to the south and rebuilt its military facilities there; according to the U.S. secretary of defense, it has more rockets than practically any country.

Turkey: Formerly Israel’s most important regional ally, Turkey is ruled by a government that loathes Israel and is trying to do anything possible to harm it. That regime is allied to Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Syria: The upheaval there against the regime has received no real U.S. support. Probably, the current government will survive and go on sponsoring terrorism and using Lebanon as a base to attack Israel. Even if the government falls, a revolutionary Islamist regime is possible there that would want to go to war with Israel. And, of course, Syria remains closely aligned to Iran.

Iran: The U.S. government has not supported the democratic opposition and the regime has successfully repressed the challenge. Sanctions have not stopped or slowed down Iran’s drive for regional power and nuclear weapons. Indeed, the U.S. government is not even trying to enforce sanctions on China, Russia or Turkey.

Palestinians: The Hamas deal with Fatah is a huge crisis. How can Israel negotiate with a Palestinian Authority government that incorporates as its main partner an openly anti-Semitic group whose leaders daily say they will never make peace with Israel, that Israel must be destroyed, and that they look forward to killing all of the Jews?

Any thought that Hamas will become moderate or that this development doesn’t matter is wishful thinking. In addition, the PA refuses to negotiate, keeps setting higher preconditions, prefers peace with Hamas to peace with Israel, and is seeking unilateral independence rather than a deal with Israel. There is constant talk of a “third intifada.”

So on every border and from almost every direction, Israel faces increased threats. Only in Jordan has the situation remained stable. But there’s one other factor that adds to all of the above problems:

United States: Israel cannot depend on the current president or government for full support. No matter how much one obfuscates, apologizes or ignores this factor and however one interprets it, the problem is undeniable. It is not a problem for Prime Minister Netanyahu personally or for the Likud party; it is a problem for Israel as a whole.

On a regional level, revolutionary Islamism is gaining power and advancing. Regarding Israel-Palestinian matters, President Obama has moved further from Israel than any U.S. president in more than a half-century. What would the United States do if Hezbollah or Hamas attacked Israel? If Egypt abrogated — formally or even just in practice — the peace treaty?

It is true, of course, that Arab regimes have used Israel as a scapegoat to conceal their own flaws. I’ve been writing about that for decades. But it is also true that the regimes are doing so in large part precisely because this is effective with their publics. The base of support for moderate democracy is limited (though each country differs). Consider these elections: Islamists win in Turkey, Lebanon and Gaza. Polls show the same in Egypt.

Thus, Israel has a lot to worry about in terms of the regional situation. And when you add an unhelpful West, the movement to delegitimize it, and outright Western blindness to the threats, that is a very big mess.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His new book, “Israel: An Introduction,” will be published by Yale University Press. His previous books include “The Israel-Arab Reader” (seventh edition), “The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East” (Wiley) and “The Truth About Syria” (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is