November 28, 2011: The revolution in Egypt was revived by popular opposition to the interim military government efforts to control the upcoming elections, and preserve its privileged economic and political position. Over a week of violence has caused several hundred casualties and made it clear that many lower ranking troops would not back their officers in any attempt to shut down popular demonstrations. The army has backed off, for the moment, and agreed to replace military rule with an interim civilian government. Elections for a truly representative government will not be completed until June (when the president is elected). Before that, the parliament will be formed, and attempts at coalition building can begin. But there are many factions opposed to the parliamentary elections that begin this week. It is feared that these early elections will favor the better organized Islamic parties, as well as the pro-military groups.
For decades, Egyptian elections have been carefully manipulated by the president-for-life. Despite the overthrow of this dictatorship, the many military and business groups that benefitted from decades of dictatorial and corrupt rule still have their money and some of their influence. These groups could lose much of their wealth, and more, when a new government goes looking at who did what during the decades of Mubarak's corrupt rule. So the elections are expected to feature bullying and bribery in an attempt to get the Mubarak era people enough seats in parliament to keep themselves out of jail and in possession of most of their wealth and power. At the very least, the Mubarak allies want to gain enough influence to derail the corruption investigations. The opposition, led by democrats and religious parties, wants fair elections. Some of the religious parties want a religious dictatorship, but most would be content with a fairly elected government. It's unclear how this will turn out. Many wealthy families have survived several upheavals, staring with the overthrow of the monarchy in the 1950s, and several subsequent dictatorships. Corruption is still pervasive in Egypt, and the old money crowd knows how to work it to stay alive.
On the northern border, the Assad government in Syria is under growing pressure from the population, and the Arab League, to resign. The Syrian Army is falling apart, with a growing number of troops deserting (because the majority of troops, like the majority of Syrians, are Sunni Arabs).
Many Israeli politicians believe the Arab Spring rebellions will not be good for Israel. They note that the Arab Spring uprisings have demonstrated a lot of support for Islamic, anti-Western, anti-liberal, anti-Israeli and anti-democratic attitudes. This is all true, but Western politicians tend to hope that it will all turn out for the best. Israelis, who will be the first to suffer any consequences if it does not, are not so optimistic, and more observant.
Israel is increasing its security around its natural gas fields off its northern coast. The gas there is equivalent to over six billion barrels of oil. This is far in excess of Israeli needs, and plans are underway to build a pipeline to Europe for exports. Turkey and Lebanon have threatened to interfere with these plans, and Israel is preparing to deal with any such threats.
Israel is having a growing problem with its Jewish religious radicals and political conservatives who reject compromises with Arabs and support keeping part of the West Bank (the Jewish settlements). These religious and conservative parties are often strong enough to control the government, or at least many government decisions. But many of the religious parties want to turn Israel into a state governed by Israeli religious law. The majority of Israelis is opposed to this, but the very religious Jews (Haredi) are on a Mission From God and are determined to get their way.
These ultra-orthodox (Haredi) Jews now comprise about 14 percent of the population, and are the fastest growing portion of the population (followed by Arab Israelis). The Haredi are very poor (most men spend the bulk of their time in religious studies), but increasingly violent when it comes to imposing their customs (no traffic on the Sabbath, no advertising of women or women and men together on the same bus or public event) on non-Haredi Israelis. Street demonstrations are increasingly common, as is physical violence (stabbings and shootings). The Haredi believe their religious laws trump secular ones, and this increasingly brings them into violent conflict with the police, and their secular neighbors. Most Haredi men do not serve in the military, and some Haredi sects believe that Israel should not exist.
The Israeli Arabs make up 20 percent of the population, and also suffer from less education and more unemployment. The Haredi and Arabs make up over a third of the population, and they are the least productive third. Most Haredi and Arabs do not serve in the military or pay much, if any, taxes. These two groups are causing a skilled labor shortage, since so many of their kids do not study technical or business subjects, but tend to concentrate on religious studies, or simply leave school as soon as they can. This labor shortage, and rising costs of benefits for poor Haredi and Arab families, is causing political problems because the educated majority of Israelis are tired of the constantly rising taxes they have to pay.
For the ninth time this year, Egyptian radicals have blown up the gas pipeline to Israel (and Jordan). The pipeline has been there for 20 years, but many Egyptians believe Israel is not paying enough for the gas, probably because of bribes to corrupt Egyptian officials.
November 27, 2011: Israeli warplanes attacked two targets in Gaza, in response to recent rocket attacks from Gaza.
The Arab League imposed travel, banking and trade sanctions on Syria, because that nation refused to stop killing its citizens. Only Iraq and Lebanon (out of 22 Arab League members) refused to vote for the sanctions.
Israeli police conducted a night raid in the West Bank and arrested six terrorist suspects.
November 26, 2011: Israel told the Palestinians that if Fatah and Hamas form a unity government, water and electricity supplies for Gaza would be cut. Israel would also continue to hold tax payments for Fatah. Several times in the last decade Israel has withheld customs duties that it normally passed on to the Palestinians. Sometimes over half a billion dollars has been withheld before the Palestinians gave in. Israel, and many foreign states, recognizes Hamas as a terrorist organization. But if Fatah and Hamas unite, the resulting organization would be considered a terrorist one. In reality, Fatah also believes in the destruction of Israel (as can be seen in Fatah's Arab language media and web sites), but has been more discreet about. So the UN, and much of the world, pretends that Fatah is not a terrorist organization.
A rocket was fired from Gaza into southern Israel, but there were no casualties.
November 25, 2011: For the eighth time this year, Egyptian radicals have blown up the gas pipeline to Israel (and Jordan). Israel is arranging to import gas from other sources (shipping it in, possibly from Russia) until the Israeli offshore fields are producing enough to make up for the Egyptian supplies (which currently handle about 40 percent of the demand).
November 23, 2011: On the 240 kilometer long Egyptian border, an Israeli patrol encountered a group of men trying to sneak across at night. A firefight broke out, and the intruders retreated back into Egypt, leaving one AK-47 and some other equipment behind. Blood trails indicated that some of the intruders were killed or wounded. These intrusions have been increasing, and most tend to be smugglers (of goods or people.) Elsewhere on the border, two Egyptian soldiers were killed in a similar encounter with armed smugglers (most of whom are local Bedouins, from both sides of the border).