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Eureka: An Israeli foreign policy and economy paper
by Jay Gutman
2018-07-27 05:24:06
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The idea for this paper came when I was trying to work on a few problems with Arab friends. I would reiterate the problem over, and over, and over, and over again, yet my Arab friends did not even give the hint of a solution, not the glimpse of a solution, not a single personal opinion on the problem, nothing.

Eureka! I thought. In the Arab world, very few people are taught to have personal opinions or ideas on subjects. That is they can read problems, they can read articles, they can listen to problems or to ideas, but they'll never have the glimpse of a personal opinion on the subject.

ismone001_400So be it the Palestinian question, the Iranian question, the Syrian question or other questions, we're stuck in the middle of a situation where no one in the Arab world is coming up with any solutions regarding those problems. That's what happens when you have education systems that don't allow students to express their own personal thoughts.

So here are my own, perhaps faulty, educated guesses on the foreign affairs situation in Israel.

The Palestinian question and relations with the Arab world

We've been hearing the same drum beat since 1968. That the Zionist occupant is occupying the land of Palestine. Now look, guys. When Algeria fought for independence, they wanted Algiers to be Muslim, they wanted Oran to be Muslim, they wanted Constantine, Annaba, Batna or Tlemcen to be Muslim. They did not send mujahedeen to make Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Nice, Toulouse or Nancy Muslim. Paris was to be French, Algiers was to be Muslim.

Now you have the drum beat saying that the Zionist occupant is occupying Palestine, with no clear definition of where the Palestinian borders are. During the Evian agreements, France and Algeria made it clear that they would not go to war against each other. Plus there's an entire sea between France and Algeria. What troubles me, and I say this as a free thinker, is how come Algeria never pointed missiles at France over all those years. This is exactly what we need to study to try to solve the conflict. How come, over all those years, Algeria never threatened France in any way over 56 years.

I know there's a sea that separates Algeria and France. But lots of Algerians study in France, Algerian politicians do most of their shopping in France (although places like London and Geneva are gradually replacing France) lots of Algerians speak French, 400,000 Algerians visit France each year and France is a solid trade partner with Algeria. The rare diplomatic incidents involved Algeria demanding that France refrain from interfering in domestic politics, especially during the 1990s civil war.

I know the borders and the walls are thin between Israel and Palestine, but we could have imagined that the Algerians point missiles at the French or organize terrorist attacks in France or the likes. But that didn't happen.

Palestine is a little different. First they learn in school that the land was theirs and that it was stolen. Second there's no unified Palestinian organization to negotiate with. France negotiated with the National Liberation front and there was no other liberation front. Third the plot of land at stakes is much smaller. Fourth there were few Algerian Muslim refugees during the war of independence, but, the Palestinians still haven't figured out a solution for their refugees 70 years on. This basically means I could talk about and describe this problem for the next 70 years, and won't get a suggestion or solution from the Palestinians, for the reasons I described above.

Let me tell you something. In a lot of the Arab world, having personal opinions and offering solutions is a sign of arrogance. In tribal societies, you figure out what the group thinks, and that's exactly how you'll think. So because we deal with group opinions rather than individual opinions, opinions tend to come out as vague and ambiguous. If you have clear, personal opinions on the subject, you're a greedy, arrogant, filthy Jew. At least that's what I've been told over and over again.

Let me finish with a word on Palestinian refugees. Keeping them as refugees for 70 years in the Arab world was partly deliberate, but also had to do with poor housing planning and policies in the Arab world. There are millions living in slums, including in Gaza and area B of the West Bank. They don't live in slums because they were kicked out by the Israelis, they live in slums because Arab nations do not understand that they need to bring the private sector to elaborate housing policies taking into account and consideration the fact that the average Arab family has three, five or seven children in some cases.

The Iranian question

Again let me go back to the question above. If Algeria never pointed missiles at France, how come Iran is threatening to wipe Israel off the face of the earth? What I noticed in Algeria is that when economic and social problems become too much of a burden, Algerians tend to take their anger out on the French. Had the French not colonized us, we would not be in this situation, some people like to claim.

Iran is a desperately mismanaged country. There's no housing policy, no infrastructure policy, no business policy, no roads policy, no agricultural policy, no industrial policy. Perhaps the Iranians should get inspiration from such policies outside religious literature, because chances are you won't find the answers to such policies in religious scriptures or textbooks.

So the team is losing, the crowd is jeering, you threaten to destroy Israel, the crowd starts cheering again. We lost against Spain, but next time we will destroy Brazil, France or Croatia. The crowd starts cheering again.

Iran does not lack intellectuals, nor does it lack capable men who can get the economy back to work. Again the same problem holds, if you have personal opinions on economic development, you're a selfish thug. So if I ever have time, I will write a long article I will call “Iran 2033, heaven on earth.” I will lay out my personal, perhaps selfish view on how Iran can reach incredible levels of economic development, social cohesion, and political maturity that will make a lot of nations envious of Iran. My two cents on the issue is Iran should have every right to defend its Persian borders, but no rights to invade the rest of the world or to threaten the rest of the world. As for the place of religion in society, all I can ask is why is it that a lot of Iranians binge on wine once they leave Iran and drunkenly brag about the fact that Shiraz wine was the best wine in the world.

Dealing with Europe

Back when I was a young 21 year-old student, I remember writing quite a few articles on European regulations. My writing was somewhat shabby, ambiguous, but what I was really trying to say is that if Europeans use 20th century regulations in a 21st century economy, you're doomed. Why? In the 1900s, if you invented a product, it was OK to wait for 10 years or so for it to be approved. But in the 2000s, if you invent something and need to wait for 10 years for it to be approved, China, Korea, Japan will come up with a product 10 times better, because they don't need to wait for 10 years to be approved.

French, Spanish, German or Italian industrialists don't necessarily like to relocate in Bangladesh or Cambodia to assemble their products. They miss their cheese and tapas. But when you have hundreds of pages of regulations to start and operate assembly lines in Europe, and that the European Union votes new more complicated regulations every day, you do away with the cheese and tapas and relocate to countries where you don't need hundreds of checklists to move your business forward.

So eventually the new trend in Europe was for ultranationalist parties to gain ground, in some cases win elections. They want to close borders for migrants, they want more economic patriotism (which they won't get unless they deregulate) and they have one of two views on the Jews and Israel. On position is that of indifference, Israel is none of our business type of attitude. The other is one of soft bullying of local Jewish communities, where they want Jewish communities to conform to national standards, in some cases try to close Jewish schools and make it complicated for Kosher products to be made and sold.

One thing that can give Israeli foreign policy headaches is that a lot of Europeans want to hear both sides of the story. They want the Palestinian side of the story, the Iranian side of the story along with the Israeli side of the story. To a lot of Europeans both sides of the story have equal value, and both sides are either telling the truth or lying. Jewish stereotypes such as Jews being shrewd and malicious does not help defend the Israeli side of the story. Plus Europe has in some cases excellent relations with the Arab world and does not want to taint relations with the Arab world by blantly siding with Israel. That's why few of them would dare relocate their embassies in Jerusalem.

Exporting Israeli technology

I'll very briefly talk about exports. There's a global trend where younger people are no longer waiting for older people to tell them what to do, they just dive into business. In Africa, in Europe, in Asia, in Latin America, pretty much everywhere. They buy land and start farming. They start water conservation projects. They start security companies. They start cyber-security projects or automated machine projects.

These young people looked for jobs in the classical market, sent hundreds of applications, got nothing, and decided to launch their own projects in such fields. They finish studying in Europe or North America, can't land a job, don't want to get married just for green cards, and go back to their villages with a little bit of cash and launch those projects.

Partnerships with classical businesses are good, but those young entrepreneurs are also worth looking at. They are often entrepreneurs with flexible political views, who spent at least some time living in international environments, and they like talking with everyone. In some cases they can also feel a little isolated in their business ventures, and they love receiving emails and phone calls and they tend to reply. Unlike classical businesses, they don't make arrangements too complicated. Big companies tend to have some reservations when it comes to dealing with Israeli technology, because a lot of times such companies are heavily bureaucratized and the CEO must OK everything and by the time the CEO gets the news we'll have celebrated a couple of Passovers. But I know a few Argentine, Brazilian or Nigerian farmers with Ph.D.s who would love a little help from Israel.

How Technology-anti-Terror-Peace can work

Relations between the Arab world and Israel have become a little smoother because of a tacit anti-terrorist alliance of sorts. It's a win-win alliance of sorts, but here are a few points that I want to emphasize.

-there's a demographic time bomb in a lot of the Arab world, and nothing's being done about it.

-Housing and food are the main concerns in the Arab world, people who lack decent food and housing tend to join paramilitary organizations.

-Arab leaders have in some ways catered to such paramilitary organizations which are often religious in nature, and have in some cases welcomed members of such organizations into their government.

-The Middle East is made up of failed states such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, and conservative Islamic republics including Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Trucial Sheikhdoms, and social/Socialist Islamic republics such as Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan. Turkey and Tunisia, which used to be secular states, have now become de facto Islamic states.

-Keep the Pépé le Moko moral of the story in mind. Pépé le Moko hides in the Casbah, the police can't arrest him, he falls in love with the woman and eventually leaves the Casbah and gets arrested by the police. I've been to the houses of several Arab friends, and some of them like to display pictures of Cheikh Yassine or Palestinians throwing stones on their walls. So my view is I'd be very skeptical if anyone told me that relations between the Arab world and Israel suddenly became something of a love story. 

External factors, the global political and economic situation

To sum up the global situation, I would say that a lot of countries invested in mega projects that failed for two reasons: defaults on payment and drowning in their own bureaucracies. I used to work at a Korean university, when everyone knows shrinking demographics means fewer students will come. Rather than tightening their belts, Korean universities invested in buildings, more buildings and even more buildings when the number of students was shrinking each and every year. It's not just Korean universities, it's thousands of corporations that responded to the global recession by investing in more mega projects, and of course payments defaulted. Their overregulated bureaucracies did not help ease the pain of payment defaults. So given all these problems, I think a lot of countries no longer really think of Israel as being an agenda item, economic recovery and failed states are now the main agenda items.

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