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By Micah Halpern

Thursday October 15, 2000


Western democracies were pleased.

Mainstream Muslim Arab countries, countries described as non anti-Western, were coalescing and creating a free flowing block against the extremists in their midst. The movement was gathering momentum and would have inevitably pushed to destroy the more radical groups and states in the region. Even Iran would have been pressured into toning down the Shiite radical views that define Iranian culture and impact upon weaker countries in the Arab world.

The result would be a defacto easing of tensions in the region, the long sought after recognition of Israel and a gracious acceptance of United States involvement in Arab and Muslim affairs in the region

It was happening, it was happening - and then it stopped. And Middle East analysts and Israeli security experts have no idea why.

In an unexpected turn of events, the less extreme states of the Middle East are creating obstacles that serve to further distance them - rather than bring them closer - from the West and from Israel. The newly created alliances between the states is taking once moderate Muslim Arab countries and bringing them in line with radical and extremist points of view.

External manifestations of this shift are obvious and alarming. Turkey, a long standing pro-Western country, has befriended Syria, a breeding ground for extremism and terror. Saudi Arabia, a significant voice in the moderate, pro-West camp has made diplomatic forays into Syria. And Egypt, the big brother of the Middle East has brokered an agreement to unite warring Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas.

Internally, the shift has far reaching ramifications. Efforts are being made to alienate anyone who may have been open to friendly relations with Israel. A respected Egyptian magazine editor, an academic and ground breaking thinker named Hala Mustafa, is being kicked out of the national journalist association of Egypt because she met with the Israeli ambassador to Egypt. Ironically, the ambassador's name is Silvan Shalom - a name easily understood by the Arab world, a name that the Arab world would spell sallam.

Diplomats in the United States sense that the tide is turning away from them. George Mitchell, President Obama's Special Envoy to the Middle East, made his dissatisfaction with the current tone in the Middle East known to his Egyptian counterparts. He told them in no uncertain terms that the United States never envisioned nor intended for there to be reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. Hamas was to be brought under control and minimized - not embraced and incorporated into the Palestinian government.

And nuanced thinkers in Israel are uncertain as to the reasons for this shift. Some will blame the Goldstone Report for condemning Israeli actions and for tarnishing Israel's military and humanitarian image. Others will lay blame with Operation Cast Lead. But even those excuses are not enough to warrant a shift of this nature.

The reason behind this massive shift away from the West - and embracing radical extremism is as far away as is possible, is the disappointment and frustration and resentment that the Muslim world feels towards the new American president. The Muslim world feels jilted by Obama. When Barack Hussein Obama took office the Muslim world had high hopes and immediate expectations. Those hopes and expectations remain unfulfilled.

The fact that the president of the United States has not put Israel in its place and has provided only lip service in support of the Palestinian cause has led many in the Arab world who had once been eager to adopt Western ways to instead swallow the Iran/Hamas/Hezbollah mantra that the new president is the same as the old president, he just has a different name.

The mainstream Muslim Arab world was hoping for something new and better. The hope they had felt has turned to betrayal. The Western world had better prepare for turbulent times.

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4 June 2017 12:13 PM in Columns

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