December 8, 2011:
The first round of voting (for parliament) in Egypt saw Islamic conservatives take over fifty percent of the seats. But only a third of the Islamic winners are the conservative (Salafist) types who want Sharia (Islamic) law and a religious dictatorship. Most of the Islamic seats went to men who say they are willing to work in a democratic government. The next round of voting will be on 21–22 December and the final batch of districts will vote on 3–4 January. Any run-off votes will be held on 10–11 January. The new parliament (508 members) will create a new constitution and presidential elections will be held next Summer. The army has threatened to intervene if it looks like a religious dictatorship is being established. This is how it played out in Algeria two decades ago, which led to a decade of bloody insurrection by Islamic radicals. This is not expected to happen in Egypt for two reasons. First, there is the example of Algeria, which no one wants to emulate. Second, Egyptian Islamic radicals were defeated in the 1990s, during a nasty campaign which revealed that Islamic radicals did not have as much support in Egypt as they did in Algeria. But the Egyptian Islamic conservatives still have the support of about a quarter of the population, largely because they promise to clean up the corruption and inept government. The military is intent on maintaining its economic advantages (a large chunk of the government budget plus immunity for bad behavior) and avoiding prosecution for past sins. There are a lot of Egyptians who see the military as part of the old Mubarak dictatorship. As far as Israel is concerned, a less-corrupt Egyptian government is fine as long as the peace treaty with Israel continues to be honored. An opinion poll last April revealed that 54 percent of the population wanted to cancel the peace treaty. This would risk war with Israel, which Egyptians, on reflection, decided was not a good thing. Now the majority are willing to keep the treaty. Decades of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic government propaganda continue to poison public attitudes. Corrupt Egyptian leaders felt safer with a demonized Israel. While that didn't save Mubarak, it helped keep him in power for over three decades, and it will help the next Egyptian dictator.
Israel and the U.S. are at odds over American insistence that Israel do whatever it takes to get a new round of peace talks started. The Palestinians won't even show up unless Israel cuts back on West Bank Jewish settlements first. The settlers have too much political support in Israel for the government to do that. Israel is also angry at the U.S. for ignoring all the anti-Semitic and "Israel must be destroyed" propaganda in the Palestinian media. Meanwhile, the Palestinians appear to be putting more faith in their propaganda campaign that portrays Palestinians as innocent victims of Israeli aggression. This plays well in most of the world, and is increasingly bringing diplomatic pressure on Israel to give the Palestinians whatever they want. The problem with this is that the Palestinians want the complete destruction of Israel.
December 7, 2011: Jewish settlers in the West Bank made another attempt to set fire to a mosque (which had been attacked several times before.) This was considered a "price tag" attack. In this case, the attack was in retaliation of the Israeli government dismantling illegal structures in the West Bank. Price tag attacks are used now for all sorts of reasons. For decades, the settlers could be depended on to be passive after a Palestinian attack, letting the Israeli police and military look for the culprit. But now the settlers are increasingly launching "price tag" counterattacks. The price tag refers to what the Palestinians must suffer for every attack on Israelis, or for Israeli police interfering with settler activities. This is vigilante justice, and it does more damage to Palestinians than Israeli police efforts to catch and prosecute Palestinian attackers. The Palestinians are not accustomed to this kind of swift payback, and they do not like it. Israel is under pressure to crack down more vigorously on the vigilantes. This is especially urgent because the attacks are much more common, and are even extending to feuds between factions of Jewish religious extremists. The Palestinians are still committing most of the terror attacks, but the Jewish terrorists are catching up.
Israeli warplanes attacked two groups of Palestinians preparing to launch rockets into Israel, killing one known Palestinian terrorist.
In the West Bank, police arrested a Palestinian who attempted to stab an Israeli soldier. This is the third such attempt in the last two months.
December 4, 2011: Israel has agreed to release over $100 million in Palestinian taxes it was holding, while Germany has agreed to provide Israel with a sixth submarine, and pick up part of the cost. German media insist that the two events were interrelated (release the money and get the sub).
In Syria, several rockets were fired, apparently as part of a military exercise. Israel described the event as an effort by the embattled Syrian government to show that it was not being worn down by months of anti-government protests. The Syrian government is losing that struggle, but is not yet defeated.
November 29, 2011: Someone fired a rocket from southern Lebanon into Israel. In response, Israel fired six artillery shells to the area where the rocket was launched. There were no injuries on either side of the border. No one took responsibility for the rocket attack.