Israel Grows More Isolated As Relationships Sour

Sep 14, 2011
Originally published on September 21, 2011 11:49 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, Host:

Robert, thanks for being here again.

ROBERT MALLEY: Thank you.

GREENE: Talk about the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas. A push for statehood does not seem like it's something he might have always been in favor of. It seems like a bit of a personal turnaround for him.

MALLEY: But I think it tells you something about how desperate Palestinians are, how lacking in alternatives they seem to have - they seem to see, that that leader has now chosen this time, when he has a very - supposedly a very friendly president in the White House, to choose that time to say now we're going to the U.N. and we're going to ask for statehood.

GREENE: And we should say the president is facing a lot of pressure. I mean, we saw an election in New York, a very Jewish district go Republican, in part because there's so many Jewish voters who don't want the president to put pressure on Israel. I mean, it could be quite a dicey time for the president to put any pressure on Israel at all.

MALLEY: And on the other hand, you have events in the Arab world that are pushing in a very different direction. And if the U.S. wants to remain quote, unquote, "on the right side of the Arab Spring," it needs to show that it is sensitive to Palestinian aspirations. And it's very hard to reconcile those two.

GREENE: If there is some sort of U.N. vote, what could this mean for the United States and its relations with all the other countries in the Middle East?

MALLEY: But when it comes to Israel, it has a different view of Palestinian aspirations. So it's going to make it more difficult at time when the Arab world is in such flux. And as we see with events in Egypt and elsewhere, in such a very uncertain and combustible period, that's just going to make things much more difficult for the United States.

GREENE: And we mentioned this combustible period has made things very uncomfortable for Israel. Over the weekend, Israel sweeps into Cairo to evacuate its diplomatic staff after protesters mobbed the Israeli embassy there. I mean, we see protests and mobs for different reasons in that region of the world. Is this a sign of an Egypt that's now much more hostile to Israel?

MALLEY: It doesn't mean that a majority of Egyptians wanted to mob the embassy, but it means that there are people there who feel very strongly, and it's much more difficult for a weak, and not very legitimate military - leadership to take action against them.

GREENE: Have there been calls in Egypt for an end to the peace treaty with Israel?

MALLEY: Well, there always have been calls, but I think at this point, organized political movements know that that's a red line for the military, and they're not - they won't take it in that direction. But it doesn't mean that the relationship is not going to be going through a very, very difficult pass.

GREENE: In the short time that we have, Turkey expelled its Israeli ambassador after Israel refused to apologize for a deadly raid on a Turkish ship last year. What's the implication of that move?

MALLEY: So a country like Turkey - which was very offended by the way Israel treated it and dealt with flotilla that tried to enter into Gaza. So you have Turkey that is already angry, that has its domestic constituents that it's taking - that it wants to take into account, and that wants to gain more influence in the Arab world.

GREENE: Robert Malley is Middle East and North Africa Program Director at the International Crisis Group. Thanks for joining us, as always.

MALLEY: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.