Over 97 percent of Israel’s residents over the age of 15 can read and write. The Arab literacy rate is only 68 percent, with men being much more literate than women.
Israel is the most modern and technically-advanced state in the entire region. It’s ranked as the 24th most competitive nation by the World Economic Forum, and first in the quality of its scientific institutions. Only Qatar and Saudi Arabia among Arab nations have a better competitive WEF ranking, and those two countries lag behind Israel in the latter category.
The Israeli military abides by international laws and customs of war. Its troops wear uniforms, carry weapons openly, and take unprecedented actions to avoid injuring innocent civilians during operations. Israel’s Arab world enemies use terrorism to achieve political objectives. The U.S. State Department has designated 19 groups as foreign terrorist organizations that have gestated and operate in Arab land. Although they operate in clear violation of Geneva conventions and protocols, their Arab hosts, the UN, and others often refer to these groups as “resistance fighters.”
A great danger facing Israel is the prospect of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood gaining control of strategically important Arab countries like Egypt. The Islamists are well-posited to do so because they are organized, radical and ruthless – priceless qualifications for achieving power in that region. They also use a dangerous mix of politics and religion to recruit the Arab world’s abused, misinformed, impoverished, under-educated, and unskilled as well as university students and professionals like al Qaeda’s Zawahiri to become participants in various jihad movements.
For decades, statesmen and diplomats have incessantly and unsuccessfully sought to forge binding peace agreements between Arabs and Jews, even to the point of compromising democratic values by cutting deals with dictators and terrorists. The main impediment is that most Arabs have an intractable view that Israel doesn’t have the right to exist on what Arabs claim is Muslim land. And what many fail to grasp is that the clash is really between Western and Islamic civilizations, with Israel cast as an extension of the West.
The United States and other free nations could best help Israel and themselves by remaining true to core democratic values, criticizing oppressive regimes, condemning extremist violence whenever and wherever it occurs, and supporting legitimate freedom movements and the creation of true democratic institutions in the Arab world and elsewhere. That pathway offers the best chance for peace.
Fred Gedrich is a foreign policy and national security analyst and served in the U.S. Departments of State and Defense. He has traveled extensively in the Arab world and Israel on official assignments.
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