Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was hardly sworn in for a new term in office before becoming publicly involved in a love fest — in fact a menage de trios However before editor’s of Red Top’s the world over dispatch their reporters to Israel let me point out the parties he has been snuggling up to are President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey.
Netanyahu and Obama have long shown they can co-habit without really being close. Erdogan is new to the fold but already shows signs of cheating on his new partner both in public and private and revelling in it as well.
The modern state of Israel has long been a fixture in the Middle East, much to the chagrin of the neighbouring Arab States. The time of Israeli Independence in 1948 now seems like a life time away. Throughout the period, as one century has turned into the next, Israel has learned how to militarily defeat any single or combination of Arab States ranged against it and at the same time build a democracy among a population hailing from all four corners of the world as well as native born.
What they seem to have failed to understand is the thought processes and behaviour patterns of their neighbours. in short outside the propaganda how and what do the people of the Middle East really think, and what is really important to them.To know and understand this can be a game changer, and as effective as having the most modern military equipment and the knowledge to use it.
We now all know that taking your shoes off and waving them about or hitting them against the picture of an enemy is just about the greatest insult in the Arab world. We have seen it demonstrated in the Iraq war and throughout the period of the so called Arab Spring. Running alongside this is the loss of face which is particularly Middle Eastern.
I have a business colleague who hails from the Lebanon. He would rather lose money than lose face. I have often told him to forget about an insult , be it real or imaginary. No one knows about it other than you and the perpetrator and in many cases , I have pointed out, that no insult was actual meant. It was just perception
Perceptions however are very strong and inbuilt through cultures and traditions. Unless we recognise the cultural traits of both friend and foe alike we will never properly understand them. In Europe or in countries where the population is mainly of West European origin the attitude is totally different. For Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron “sorry” is certainly not the hardest word, its almost second nature
Cameron has apologised in the British Parliament for the murder of 13 Irish demonstrators , including young children, by the Parachute Regiment during the “Irish Troubles.” Also for the rounding up and massacre of Indians pre independence when a British officer ordered his troops to open fire on them as they were herded into a sports stadium.
These apologies also occur far from the shores of Britain. Only recently Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard publicly apologised to the children ,now all adults and many in late middle age, who were wrenched away from the bosoms of their mothers and given out for adoption simply because their mothers were unmarried. Many grew up traumatised believing they were unwanted and not welcome by their birth mothers when in most cases this simply was not true.
Nearer the borders of Britain the leader of the Irish Government, Enda Kenny , apologised for the years of torment suffered by unmarried mothers who were literally taken from their hospital beds and made to work in State laundries almost as slaves. Some of the woman, attended by nuns, became institutionalised and spent their whole lives there.
However the episode that should stand out most in Jewish minds involved Anwar Sadat. The Egyptian leader who shocked the world by travelling to Israel and addressing the Knesset famously said in many conversations afterwards that his trip to Israel had only been made possible by his redemption of Arab honour namely the defeat of Israel by Egyptian troops in the Yom Kippur war of 1973 .By this saving of face he was able to go on and make peace.
No matter that the truth was rather different. By the time the war was brought to a cease fire Sharon’s so called “Afrika Corps,” had penetrated beyond the Sinai desert leaving the whole of Egyptian Africa open to Israeli troops. What Sadat called a victory was the crossing of the Suez canal by Egyptian troops in the early days of the war. They finished that war hemmed in , surrounded , and at the mercy of superior Israeli forces. But they crossed the canal held their ground and thanks to the cease fire were not pushed back. They were heroes and here was their victory.
Perhaps if Israel’s leaders had understood Sadat’s thought processes better they might have been able to offer him a bloodless victory rather than fight a costly war which claimed so many lives on both sides.Was the rationale that here was just another Arab dictator and as such for ever hostile. Are the same signs being missed today among certain Palestinian leaders or is that a forlorn hope.If such a trait lurks somewhere in the mind of a current or potential Arab leader lets hope it is recognised.
But back to where we came in. Over the last four years both Netanyahu and Obama have learned to live together like an old married couple who have long realised what keeps them together is greater than that which drives them apart. As for Erdogan, he will continue to be both fickle and unfaithful. He is never going to be a Zionist or an admirer of Israel. His compliance will be good enough and as long as he can preen and fawn in the adulation of his own people he will stay alongside Israel as a friend of necessity rather than one of the heart.
The results in both cases are the same. Like most married couples we should in reality think it good enough. Elton John was not far from the point when he prophetically sang “Sorry is the hardest word.” This five letter word can also bring changes above imagining when used in its proper context.