These are dangerous times in Egypt.
I was in Cairo’s Tahrir Square last week for the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution that ended the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak.
On the square, the opposition demonstrators were shouting the same slogans that brought down Mubarak: “The people want the downfall of the regime.” I don’t think that Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, who was democratically elected only seven months ago, will suffer the same fate as Mubarak, whose rule was marked by corruption and nepotism.
These are dangerous times in Egypt.
Briefly: The big surprise in the Israeli election was the sudden rise of Yair Lapid, a handsome and photogenic MSM celebrity “known for his chic, casual black clothing,” as The New York Times wrote, seemingly out of nowhere. But in politics, nothing comes out of nowhere and spontaneous awakenings like Lapid’s come in reaction to something else. Israel has recently been through a critical sequence: In October, Benjamin Netanyahu called for early elections to maximize his chances of reelection. Rockets fired from Gaza in mid-November attempted to intimidate the Israeli electorate. They did just the opposite and awakened a warrior instinct. Suddenly Israel then began to hear about the young Naftali Bennett, “the Zionist pin-up blazing a trail,” and his equally young colleague Ayelet Shaked, who rose to the Knesset in the Jewish Home Party with a determination to defend Israel.
"It makes no difference who is sitting on the throne," Moshe Feiglin writes from Jerusalem this week in his commentary on Torah. “What really matters is where the heart of the nation resides." Feiglin is writing about how Pharaoh sees the great power he is, a power telling him he is god the river, and god the creator of all that is, as it disintegrates around him and the world awaken again from the wreckage with Aaron and Moses. It is a fully appropriate reading for this week as Israelis prepare to go to the polls. The creations of Pharaoh appear on the verge of falling into the river, and Israel on the verge of finding its heart.
The questions we have asked here since Sandy, the storm, and Sandy Hook — guns, federal aid, psychotic movies passing as high culture, fascist computer games — suggest symptoms. Mentioned here recently, China has stepped away. Germany recalls its gold from the world. And on Jan. 22, Israel steps away from America.
The Obama administration is weighing what kind of military support it can provide to France, which has launched an airborne and ground-based offensive in Mali against Islamist rebels linked to al Qaeda.
What is under discussion is the likelihood of a direct threat against the U.S. homeland, and therefore whether vital U.S. interests are engaged. The same considerations caused President Obama to “lead from behind” on Libya. Yet so far, on Mali, the U.S. response is even more timid. And while the policy discussions continue in Washington, North Africa is in flames.
We should turn our attention again to the Middle East, but not necessarily Israel and the Palestinians. We should focus on Egypt, where the people have decided that they will not tolerate a power grab by President Mohamed Morsi disguised as maintaining order.
Those too young to have been there might have caught the clip on YouTube — the final scene in the Monty Python classic, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," where the mad peasants are being dragged away by the hair by London bobbies. They take advantage of the moment to shout at the TV cameras, “Look! The violence inherent in the system!” It was classic strategy of the trained apparatchik of the day to use the moment to politicize a greater purpose. In time things improved. Watergate maybe cleared the air, and people for awhile began to talk straight again. But this is what we are seeing again with Susan Rice on Capitol Hill.
The Obama administration’s clumsy attempt to mollify the Republican opposition in the Senate to a possible nomination of Susan Rice as the next secretary of State has not only opened another can of worms on “Benghazigate” but may have fatally damaged her prospects.
Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said yesterday there are “no unanswered questions” about Rice’s appearances on the Sept. 16 Sunday shows after the Libya attack and the talking points that she used, “provided by the intelligence community.” “Those questions have been answered,” he said after Rice and CIA acting director Michael Morell met privately with three key senators.
Watching the escalation of fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza this week, the words of God as recorded in Deuteronomy 30:19 continue to run through my head: “I call heaven and earth as my witnesses against you right now: I have set life and death, blessing and curse before you. Now choose life — so that you and your descendants will live.”
What the world is witnessing in Gaza is the stark contrast between Israel, a nation and a people that choose life, and Hamas, a bloodthirsty terrorist organization that celebrates and embraces death.
A hundred dead on the ground in Gaza in events that will shake the foundations of diplomacy worldwide, but the big reports this week are on the rise and fall of the Twinkie. Does anyone under 30 even know what a Twinkie is? Possibly a monument to Twinkie — a giant Twinkie by Claes Oldenberg perhaps, or something thrown together on the National Mall by Frank Gehry — will appear; Twinkie as a remembrance to the rise and decline of the American Century.
It’s the final presidential debate on American foreign policy tonight and you can expect Iran’s nuclear program to come up.
But there’s an equally topical and important issue that is extremely unlikely to be discussed by President Obama and Mitt Romney in the context of Iran: the 2012 Helsinki conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. This conference, planned since May 2010 under a consensus decision at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference, would bring Iran and Israel to the table for the first time to discuss nuclear disarmament in a region threatened by a nuclear arms race.