Faster, Please!

Cruising Through the Middle East

We’ve been traveling through Jordan, Egypt and Israel and are now steaming across the Med towards Rome on a lovely cruise ship, guests of National Public Television. After dreaming about Petra for more than twentyyears, we finally spent a day there and it exceeded all expectations, which were plenty glorious. It was delightful to learn from our archeologist-become-guide that Spielberg got it right. The building in which Indiana Jones chooses wisely and drinks from the holy grail, really was a temple, not–as it is officially called–the Treasury.

It’s more than two miles from the entrance to that building, and we lucked out on weather: sunny and warm, but not yet hot, and there’s lots of shade, so it was both good exercise and fabulous sight seeing. At a rudimentary cafe just past “the Treasury” we chatted with the owner/waiter, an illiterate Bedouin who is fluent in five languages, tried living in Naples with the love of his life, but couldn’t manage it. The two of them moved back to Petra. I’m not much good at travelogues, but if you ever get the chance, see Petra, truly one of the wonders of the world. And did you know (I did not) that Aaron is buried on a mountain top overlooking Petra? If you want to visit that place it’s a ten-day hike, no road…

So we went on to Egypt and then Israel, with the dramatic contrast between failed states and the booming modern country that Israel has become. In Jordan and Egypt, they are desperate for tourists. A hotel room in Luxor that normally goes for 300-400 dollars a night can be had for 40, and high ranking bureaucrats and archeologists are now tour guides, essentially working for tips. The ports are working a bit, but there is little in the way of decent technology, most of the loading and unloading is done by hand and shoulder, while the docks in Israel at Ashdod and Haifa are very high tech, the docks full of brand new Japanese automobiles etc etc.

So when I read of Obama yelling at the Israelis to come to terms with their neighbors, I just laugh. The Arab states have failed–one reason for the surge in radical Islam–and if there were any logic in the realm of Western diplomacy our leaders would note that it is the Arabs and Iranians who need to learn from the Israelis how to makea country work well.

But the deep thinkers are well and truly overwhelmed by their antipathy to Israel, and they cannot and will not take an honest look at the most elementary facts on the ground. Instead of lecturing Netanyahu about the importance of forty-year old borders, we should be lecturing what Obama calls “the Muslim world” about what a mess their world is, and pointing out that the Jews have it right.

And, as always, the big question–Iran–is finesssed. You can’t talk seriously about the Arab-Israeli thing until you’ve dealt with Iran, because the Iranian regime runs the terrorists’ networks. The Arabs couldn’t deliver peace to the Israelis even if they wanted to, because the Iranians hold all the trump cards.