Ray Hanania
The Jerusalem Post (Opinion)
August 24, 2011 - 12:00am

If you are a Palestinian or Israeli driven by common sense, you are an anomaly in the Middle East.

That could explain why there is no end in sight to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is not much common sense in the Middle East. People are consumed with fear, suspicion and traditions of vengeance. There is a lot of passion. A lot of anger. And a lot of meaningless, distorted rehashing of the past.

I consider myself a reasonable person. You have to be when you are both a journalist and a stand-up comedian.

That also means I have a lot of common sense.

So here is my common-sense view of the many changes sweeping through the Middle East these days, touching on Egypt, Gaza, the UN and Israel: Egypt: The future of Egypt remains a big question mark for Israelis and Arabs. It is amazing that the people themselves actually toppled a dictator, even though that dictator was getting old and weary.

Hosni Mubarak is a lot of things, but he is not the tyrant he is being made out to be. He may be a thief who stole a lot of money. Or maybe he was just a stooge whom someone forgot to replace.

Mubarak was never a real leader, just a bureaucrat who found himself at the right place at the right time. Seated next to president Anwar Sadat, Mubarak lucked out when assassins attacked 30 years ago on the anniversary of the only war with Israel the Arabs ever came close to winning.

Sadat was the foolish leader who mistakenly believed he could use drama to make peace with Israel. They didn’t have Twitter or Facebook back then.

Israel’s idea of peace was not Sadat’s idea.

Sadat wanted peace for Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinians. The Israelis gave him back the Sinai so they could avoid another full-scale regional war.

Putting an ambassador in Cairo is not really peace. And we can see how fragile that peace really is as Mubarak’s caretaker government has collapsed, replaced by uncertainty.

Gaza: Though Israel has been steadily killing its leaders, Hamas is here for the long haul. They are basically tyrants and dictators, but for some reason, in the Middle East, Arabs tolerate religious dictators and are not protesting to demand freedom from the religious extremism that binds their minds and their voices.

That Hamas continues to control the Gaza Strip is ominous for Israel and secular Palestinians.

Although I don’t believe that all the people in the Strip are religious fanatics, I think it’s fair to say that few will challenge Hamas. There will be no pro-democracy protests to demand freedom of speech.

If Mubarak was a bureaucrat, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is even more of a bureaucrat.

He’s a good person, but is either the most ineffective, indecisive leader the Palestinians have ever had, or is simply surrounded by a bunch of incompetents who are hostage to the much more powerful Palestinian “state of the mind,” which keeps all the Palestinians in hostage limbo.

Hamas has proven that neither “the Wall” nor the Iron Dome can stop it if it wants to retaliate against Israeli occupation abuses. In short, as long as Israel continues to occupy the Palestinians, Israelis will be subject to violent resistance, since that is all they have.

The United Nations: Abbas plans to ask the UN General Assembly to grant formal recognition to Palestine. Never mind that America will (hypocritically) block any such move. UN recognition will fortify Palestine’s alliances and Israel’s growing isolation in the international community.

Israel: Israel has learned to live without international love. It has several suitors – the United States and Turkey, the feeble country of Canada (which is more like a punch line than a real nation), and Australia.

To many Arabs, it might seem that Israelis can live with an occupation where there is no end in sight for peace, but they can't seem to live with the thought of having to pay more for bread. There is much hope the protests will address the failed peace process as much as the failing economy.

Peace: Wouldn’t it be nice if one day we woke up and read in a local paper (like this one) that Israeli and Palestinian leaders had decided to set aside their political goals and agree to a real peace? I’ll bet if that happened, we wouldn’t need to rely on social media. Like I said, I have a lot of common sense. And I am an eternal optimist.


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