In Egypt the elected Moslem Brotherhood government has become enormously unpopular because it attempted to neutralize the judiciary dominated by the previous dictatorship by simply declaring that the president could ignore the court rulings that stopped the government from operating. The judges are largely bought and paid for by the corrupt dictatorship, which still has the cash and control of the military to thwart efforts by the new government to deal with the pervasive corruption and misrule. This was seen as a problem from the very beginning, but many Egyptians (and foreigners) believed it would somehow magically disappear. Once the rebellious Egyptians accepted the military (one of the more corrupt organizations in Egypt) as an ally (for not firing on the demonstrators) the revolution was doomed. Although the new president replaced most of the leadership in the military, he simply replaced one bunch of corruptible officers with another that were also up for sale. Few senior officers are immune from the corruption or from the tempting offers from the wealthy officials and businessmen who want to keep the corrupt practices, which have strangled the Egyptian economy for decades from continuing.
The Palestinians are also angry at the November 29th Israeli decision to build 3,000 more homes in the West Bank for Israeli settlers. This is all about Palestinian violence and Israeli politics. The Palestinians have consistently, since before Israel was founded in 1947, called for all Jews to be expelled from the Middle East. The Turks, who ran the region for centuries until 1918, would not do this, nor would Britain and France, which took over for a few decades until the former provinces of the Turkish Empire became independent again. Israel tried, for decades, to make a peace deal but whenever they got close the Palestinians, urged on by all Arab countries, turned to violence and calls for the destruction of Israel. That happened in 2000, and since then the Palestinians have split into Fatah (more corrupt, less Islamic) and Hamas (less corrupt, more Islamic) factions. Both groups continue to spew “death to the Jews” messages via their media outlets (with a more moderate tone in non-Arabic pronouncements). In response to the death threats from the Palestinians, many Israelis have backed Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Originally these were efforts by extremist groups to begin the process of annexing the West Bank to Israel. The most extreme of these groups want the Arabs expelled from this territory which, thousands of years ago, was part of ancient Israel. The Israeli government has never backed the expulsion idea but does support the settlements, if only because it makes the West Bank less of a threat to Israel.
Many Europeans see the settlements as the only obstacle to a Palestinian peace deal with Israel. Israelis see this European blindness as a return of the ancient European anti-Semitism. Any European trying to adopt the Israeli view of the Israel-Palestinian situation is shouted down in Europe. Most European diplomats, who have to deal with their Arab counterparts, know better but also know it’s best to keep quiet about the realities of Middle Eastern politics. Israel faces a seemingly impossible situation with the Europeans, who ignore the fact that the Palestinians have broken every peace deal they ever made with Israel, while the Israelis have kept their end of these deals. The Palestinians openly call for the destruction of Israel and uses the peace talks as a tactical ploy, not for the purpose of achieving a lasting peace. Israel has learned to just deal with all these mass delusions.
Hamas has begun stopping civilians from approaching the security fence. This became a popular way to protest against Israel after the November 21, ceasefire deal went into effect because the rumor spread that the Israeli troops would not fire at anyone trying to get through the fence and into Israel. The rumor was incorrect and although Israeli troops were slower to open fire, they eventually did if any Palestinians seemed on the verge of getting into Israel.
December 9, 2012: Italian customs officials, acting on a tip from Israeli intelligence, found weapons hidden in a cargo container headed for Gaza via Egypt. An Egyptian was arrested in Italy in connection with this smuggling attempt. Iran is seeking new ways to smuggle weapons into Gaza, now that Israel is going after the shipments to Sudan.
In Gaza Hamas celebrated its 25th anniversary with the first visit of its exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal. He was there because of the recent ceasefire deal with Israel, which explicitly forbids Israel from killing Hamas leaders. This will change when Hamas resumes its rocket attacks on Israel, but for now Mashaal is safe and declared that Hamas has won a great victory over Israel in its recent war and that Israel would eventually be destroyed. Mashaal repeated the pledge that Hamas would never recognize the existence of Israel. While Israel allowed Mashaal to visit safety, it reminded two senior leaders of Islamic Jihad (an Iran backed terror group that is a Hamas rival) that they were not covered by the peace deal immunity and would be breaking the ceasefire deal if they showed up in Gaza. The two men stayed away after Egyptian officials confirmed the warning.
December 7, 2012: Israeli police are investigating the theft of F-16 engine parts from an air base. While there have been thefts of weapons and munitions from isolated reserve storage sites, the theft of aircraft engine parts indicates an inside job. There is a lucrative black market for such parts, largely because there are so many nations using so many F-16 fighters.
December 2, 2012: Ultra-orthodox religious leaders were calling on draft age men among their followers to resist new laws that make ultra-orthodox men eligible for conscription. 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. For over half a century most Haredi men did not serve in the military, and some Haredi sects believe that Israel should not exist. Growing anger from the Israelis who do serve in the military led to new laws reducing Haredi exemptions from conscription.
Israel is withholding $100 million a month in customs duties it collects for the Palestinian Authority (PA) until the Palestinians get current on the electricity bill. The Palestinians own about $200 million for electricity and that will be deducted from the customs income until the bill is paid. In response to this cutoff, the Arab Gulf states have pledged to provide the Palestinian Authority with $100 million a month. A lot of this money will be stolen by PA officials, which is a source of much discontent among Palestinians and the donor states. For that reason details of how, when, and to who this $100 million will be paid were not detailed.
December 1, 2012: An explosion in Gaza was initially reported as Israeli tank fire but was later revealed to be an industrial accident. There were four casualties.
Now that the Palestinians have won recognition in the UN, they plan to prosecute Israel for war crimes (mainly related to defending themselves against Palestinian terrorism or attack). International law experts are warning the Palestinians that this could backfire because this leaves the Palestinians liable to prosecution as well and in any fair court the Palestinians would find themselves in a very disadvantageous position. This will not stop Palestinian plans to press on, for after all, it is God’s Will.