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The Muslim Wedge

2:34 PM, Dec 31, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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From a very smart Barry Rubin piece at Pajamas Media:

In some ways, the most important - or at least second most important - thing to happen in the Middle East this week is that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah went too far, calling for the overthrow of Egypt's government.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit responded, "They have actually declared war on Egypt." And when he says "they" he means Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. The Saudis and Gulf Arabs are also drawing lines deeper than ever before. Publicly and loudly, they look at Gaza and see Arabs and Muslims, and criticize Israel. More softly in public and loudly in private they look at Gaza and see the Iranian axis.

This is the Middle East of 2008 and not of 1958, 1968, 1978, 1988, or 1998. The Palestinian issue has little effect on any other issue. The real conflict is Iran-Syria against Egypt-Saudi Arabia. Islamists are seeking to conquer the region from Arab nationalists. Radical groups are not interested in happy homelands but jihad and genocide.

And so the issue is not why Israel is attacking Hamas in Gaza now, but why Hamas in Gaza is attacking Israel now.

Does Israel have any greater advantage in its existential struggle than the endless feuding among Sunnis and Shias, Arabs and Persians, nationalists and Islamists. Rubin makes an excellent point about Hezbollah having dangerously overreached (I think Hamas did as well, though on a smaller scale, with its attack yesterday on Be'er Sheva) and about the effect this latest fighting seems to have had on the existing divisions in the Middle East, but in many ways, the Middle East of 2008 is not so different from the Middle East of 1948 or 1967 or 1973. As long as the Muslim world is divided against itself, even a dysfunctional Israeli political system will be able to outmaneuver its foes as it has done for the last 60 years. Read the rest of Rubin's piece here.