A grim night of violence in Cairo almost had explosive repercussions throughout the Middle East. Mobilized by the extremist Muslim Brothers, thousands of demonstrators marched to the Israeli embassy to protest about a recent clash: Palestinian terrorists from Gaza had killed eight Israelis, and, in an exchange of fire, Israeli troops had mistakenly shot five Egyptian border guards. Here was the pretext to manipulate anti-Israeli sentiment that the Muslim Brothers believe will bring them success in elections due at the end of the year. Armed with iron bars and sledgehammers, protesters broke into parts of the embassy. Six armed Israeli security guards were preparing to do and die. Egyptian police stood aside. Desperate telephone calls between Washington, Tel Aviv, and the generals of the Egyptian military council coordinated a rescue. Egyptian commandos took control. An Israeli military aircraft arrived and immediately flew out the Israeli ambassador, the security guards, and some 80 members of the staff with their families. It doesn’t bear thinking about the consequences had any of the Israeli diplomatic mission either been killed or else been obliged to defend themselves by using their weapons. The Israelis had the misfortune to be caught up in the crucial test of strength that will determine whether the future of Egypt belongs to the Muslim Brothers or to the generals of the military council. In Cairo, the Arab Spring has left power waiting to be picked up in the streets.
The rift between Turkey and Israel is serious and growing. The two countries had been allies, with military and defense agreements, and $3.5 billion in overall trade last year. There are no real grounds for hostility, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has fabricated them. In power for a decade, he is experimenting with an Islamist foreign policy. To gain leverage with Arab and Muslim countries, he has to hold off the United States and openly break with Israel. Last year, the perfect opportunity arose. The Turkish government backed Islamists sailing a ship, the Mavi Marmara, from Anatolia to Gaza carrying what was described as humanitarian aid. Fearing that the ship was gun-running, the Israelis boarded it, and nine Islamists were killed in the fracas. Erdogan peremptorily demanded an apology. The United Nations appointed Sir Geoffrey Palmer, former New Zealand prime minister, to investigate this incident. The report, just released, concludes that Israel acted within its legal rights. No apology is necessary or forthcoming. An enraged Erdogan expelled the Israeli ambassador and canceled all military agreements. He threatens to send warships into the eastern Mediterranean and prevent Israel from developing its newly discovered deposits of natural gas in that area. It’s an astonishing display of enmity from the erstwhile friend of the Jewish state.
Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., has been in Cuba, trying to see Alan Gross. The Cuban authorities have not let him. Gross is the American aid worker who has been held prisoner by the Castros since December 2009. He is their pawn, a tool for the extraction of (further) concessions from the Obama administration. Richardson, in a burst of candor, referred to him as “an American hostage.” The administration should make it clear to the Cuban dictatorship that there are consequences to what it has done to Gross. If America is seen to be a pitiful, helpless giant, it will be bad for Americans wherever they roam
It famously took Richard Nixon to go to China. Now, perhaps, it has taken John Cleese to go to London. The British comic, who has lived in the United States for more than two decades, recently lamented that “London is no longer an English city,” suggesting that, while diversity was a generally positive thing, “when the parent culture kind of dissipates, you’re left thinking, ‘Well, what’s going on?’” Cleese is a noted liberal, and has made a series of party political broadcasts for the Liberal Democrats over the years. For a man of the Left to make such a statement is notable, and provided clear opportunity and cover for a discussion about London’s cultural atomization. As usual, however, his comments were met with immediate condemnation: Multiculturalism has not gone too far, and London’s diversity should be “celebrated,” came the immediate retort. Who said this, missing the golden opportunity with which he had been provided? None other than a spokesman for London mayor Boris Johnson. Monty Python’s “Upper Class Twit of the Year” competition was obviously held 40 years too early