Why Is Israel Suddenly The Cool Kid in the Arab World?

Suddenly, the Palestinian issue isn't discussed so much any more by Israel's new friends with shared interests.

Israel is quietly becoming the cool kid on the block in the Middle East, especially among Arabs concerned with Iran's growing influence and the eradication of ISIS.

Paging Joel C. Rosenberg. Seriously, Rosenberg, in fiction, prophesied the 9/11 attacks, Arafat's death (though that wasn't particularly hard to predict), and Israel becoming an energy powerhouse.

Though Israel is hardly Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, or North Dakota, its natural gas discoveries have made it energy independent, and even an exporter, with partner Egypt. That, plus Israel's incredible tech sector and IPO factory, has changed the calculus in the Arab world, and subsequently lessened public discussion of the "Palestinian issue" as a front-and-center policy.

So says Foreign Policy:

During 11 days of travel through Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, we heard the Israeli-Palestinian conflict mentioned only once. This is a dramatic shift from decades during which hostility to Israel served as perhaps the most important unifier of often fractious Arab governments.

Will this mean the Gulf states will soon accept Israel and begin honoring Israeli passports? Not likely. The Palestinians are an oppressed people, and they--when they are allowed by supposedly pro-Palestinian governments to enter the same Arab states that ban Israel--are quick to squarely lay the blame for all their ills on the Jewish state. The governments of such places as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia (who have done nothing in 70 years to help the Palestinian people) realize that they can't simply ignore the ongoing invective against Israel among their populations in pursuit of such prosaic goals as money and political gain.

But Israel has done much to help its Arab neighbors, behind the scenes, fight terror, eliminate ISIS, and counter Iran--all shared interests in which the governments of Israel's titular enemies have privately acknowledged.

Enter President Donald Trump, a man who knows how to judge negotiating partners by the cut of their jibs. His friendly relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with a $100 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia has put the U.S. squarely in both camps and aligned America with the common interests of the newly cool Israelis and the Gulf states.

The muted Arab government reaction to President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is indeed a marker of what has changed — and what hasn’t. In absorbing that step, Arab governments have likewise had to reaffirm their Arab and Muslim solidarity with the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian claim to Jerusalem. Israel achieved a symbolic victory, but it may face a more united Arab front if it follows up with new unilateral steps that impede Palestinian aspirations. If Israel’s government wants to cultivate Arab state goodwill, it will have to be sensitive to the concerns of Arab governments who face contrary public opinion.

Now Israel faces a much better equipped slew of frenemies. FP's writers fret that this poses a dilemma for Jerusalem. "Israel already faced this dilemma regarding a pending sale of advanced German submarines to Egypt — and the disagreements among Israeli military and civilian leaders over this question have now resurfaced amid allegations of corruption and a criminal investigation surrounding Israeli relationships with the German submarine producer," they wrote. "Saudi Arabia’s recent quest for nuclear technology presents an even more vexing issue, since both states oppose Iranian nuclear capability — but to say the least, Israel is not comfortable with the idea of the Saudis acquiring such capabilities either."

I don't think this is really a problem for the IDF or for Israel's military planners. The heart of any army is the soldier, and Israel's military is kept at a razor's edge. Saudi Arabia and other gulf states, though on paper boast huge militaries, don't take the same approach as the Israelis. They simply lack the training or the desire to keep the high tech weapons they purchase from the U.S. as an actual fighting advantage. They rely on American contractors to do all the heavy lifting. Israel, assuredly, does not.

Israel knows exactly how long Iran could continue to use American F-14 Tomcats after the U.S. contractors withdrew in 1979. The Mossad knows how deep American strings run in Arab air forces. Where America sells arms, Israel is far more comfortable than those nations buying from Russia.

Iran, on the other hand, does pose a threat, especially in its Revolutionary Guard and proxy Hizbollah. The threat Iran poses to Israel, it also poses to Israel's new cool kid club members (their "Arab frenemies" as FP put it).

The Palestinians are a political threat, as they have always been. But this newfound popularity among its longtime enemies may buy Israel something that it never had: maneuvering room. When the "Palestinian issue" simply fades away into a slogan and a cause for celebrities like Roger Waters, that gives Israel time to wait out the internal strife, corruption and backbiting that poisons the PA-Hamas "unity" government. Eventually, Mahmoud Abbas will die, and with him, the current generation of sycophants and criminals that siphon every dime of aid from the U.N. and the world.

When Arab governments are more interested in cooperating with Israel on things Israel is good at (politics isn't one of them), this gives Israel time, the most valuable resource, to hope for a leader to emerge willing to become a partner in peace. Every so often a man like Anwar Sadat rises. I'm not saying President Trump or King Salman are another Sadat--but Israel's changing status among its neighbors is certainly something worth waiting for.

Unlike the FP writers, I don't think the choices Israel has to make are very tough at all.

Comments
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NWRED
NWRED

The end time have been projected for centuries, how much closer are we? "No knows the time nor day." Gaza has been a problem since Israel, drove the people to the sea, but did not finish off as God commanded in the Old Testament. Iran is not Arab. Enemies from the North: Syria, Turkey and Russia. Enemies from the East: Iran,, China and the very long shot, Korea. If you believe in Biblical prophecy,, read about Israel and those who stand by her. The Jews did not have a country from the Crusades until 1947-48. The Ottoman Empire had ruled most of the area until the end of World War I. Jerusalem has to be the capital of Israel.

perronepj
perronepj

Unfortunately this is not going to end well. Iran is insistent on building nuclear weapons. It makes sense for them to do so as they live in a tough neighborhood, but the Israelis are not going to allow that to happen. Too often the Jewish people have heard that someone wants to wipe them off the face of the earth and they have tried to do so. Israel had nuclear weapons and the only way to get rid of Iran's nuclear capability because it is dispersed, hard and deeply buried is to use them. And that may not be enough moreover their facilities are located in civilian population areas to deter such attacks. We in the US don't want nuclear war in the Middle East and we will be blamed by the Muslim world if Israel does attack. We are not going to be able to avoid getting involved. The current deal with Iran kicked the can down the road, but that road will end sooner or later. I think this is why Trump signed the omnibus spending bill, because of the massive increase in the defense budget. Couple that with John Bolton coming in as NSC advisor and Pompeo going to State. A war with Iran is coming.