Why the ‘Arab street’ didn’t just explode
By Ralph Peters
New York Post, December 10, 2017
In the wake of President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week, the “experts” crowding the media predicted strategic calamity: Vast, violent protests and a wave of terror would sweep the Muslim world in the coming days.
Instead, the largest demonstration anywhere this weekend was the funeral procession for Johnny Hallyday, the “French Elvis.” Nothing in the Middle East came close.
We have witnessed, yet again, the carefully phrased anti-Semitism of the pristinely educated; the global left’s fanatical pro-Palestinian bias; and the media’s yearning for career-making disasters.
A Palestinian protester throws stones at Israeli troops during a protest against President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. However, generally numbers were small.
Rather than waves of protest, the waiting world got tepid statements of disapproval from otherwise-occupied Arab governments; demonstrations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that, combined, barely put a thousand activists in the streets; and yes, four deaths: two demonstrators and two Hamas terrorists hit by an Israeli airstrike.
Sunday did see a smallish protest outside the US Embassy in Lebanon, but it was hardly Benghazi under Barack Obama. Predictably, Turkish President and self-appointed sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan (officially our NATO ally) didn’t miss the chance to spew venom toward Israel, the US and Europe. But even in Turkey, things were all quiet on the Bosporus front.
An act of justice for Israel did not ignite Armageddon.
A generation ago, a US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would, indeed, have led to mass demonstrations and widespread violence. But now? While the endlessly recycled experts snoozed, the Middle East changed profoundly.
Once upon a time, the Palestinians were the only game at the propaganda casino, a marvelous tool for Arab leaders to divert attention from domestic failures. Then came al Qaeda. And Iraq. Iranian empire-building. The Arab Spring. The oil price collapse and the rise of ISIS, with its butcher-shop caliphate. The civil war in Syria, with half a million dead. And, not least, the region-wide confrontation between decaying Sunni power and rising Shia might.
Nor did it help the Palestinians that many of them sided with the Assad regime, alienating former partners from Amman to Beirut.
But by far the most significant factor is that Israel has become an indispensable, if quiet, ally of Sunni states against Iran. Although well-armed, Saudi Arabia remains inept on the battlefield, bogged down in Yemen and terrified of Iranian gains in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Israel doesn’t need Saudi Arabia, but Saudi Arabia definitely needs Israel.
Nor does the United States automatically do Riyadh’s bidding these days.
As for Iran, the regional ambitions of Israel’s top enemy have ironically made it Israel’s unintentional benefactor. To the Arabs, yesteryear’s Israeli boogeyman now looks more like Caspar the Friendly Ghost. “Palestine” is so over . . .
And blame the Palestinians, not Israel, for their lack of statehood. Since the failed 1948 Arab assault on newly reborn Israel, the Palestinians have had literally dozens of opportunities for an advantageous peace. Yet even Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — no friends to the blue-and-white flag — ended up frustrated as Palestinian leaders, on the cusp of peace time and again, decided that three-quarters of the pie was insufficient.
A Palestinian call in social media to action to protect al Quds (Jerusalem) against the occupation.
Inevitably, the pie got smaller over time — but the Palestinian leadership continued to profit from “occupied” status. Now it’s too late for anything that looks like a viable Palestinian state. It’s time we all faced that reality.
In Paris this weekend for talks with the French president, Israel’s plainspoken prime minister stated that Jerusalem always has been and always will be Israel’s capital, and that the city has never been the capital of any state but the Jewish state. Trump simply recognized that moral, practical and historical truth.
And lest any reader mistake this as a partisan paean to our president, let it be noted that I am not and never have been among the president’s fans. But Trump got this one right. The reflexive condemnation of his action by the usual suspects was indecent.
As for the long-term strategic effects: We don’t know. But we do know that the cherished “peace process” doesn’t even have zombie status.
Will there be more terrorism? Sure. As there would have been more terrorism, anyway. Terrorism isn’t about us, it’s about them.
If Arab leaders refuse to let the “Palestinian question” shape their policies, why should we allow it to deform ours?
A Central Asian proverb runs that “The dog may bark, but the caravan moves on.” The hounds of appeasement have barked for generations, but the Israeli caravan kept going, arriving at the only admirable (or even livable) state in the Middle East, an island of civilization amid vast deserts of barbarism.
Last week, President Trump did some small justice to that achievement.
Ralph Peters is Fox News’ strategic analyst.
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