mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Strange Bedfellows in the Middle East
Israel Looks to Broaden Rapprochement with Arab States

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu pointed to the cooperation between Israel and the emerging Saudi-Egypt-UAE alignment, on display during the last Gazan conflict, as the best hope for peace going forward. Addressing the United Nations General Assembly,  Netanyahu said:

Ladies and gentlemen, despite the enormous challenges facing Israel, I believe we have a historic opportunity. After decades of seeing Israel as their enemy, leading states in the Arab world increasingly recognize that together, we and they face many of the same dangers, and principally, this means a nuclear-armed Iran and militant Islamist movements gaining ground in the Sunni world. Our challenge is to transform these common interests to create a productive partnership, one that would build a more secure, peaceful and prosperous Middle East. Together, we can strengthen regional security, we can advance projects in water and agricultural, in transportation and health and energy in so many fields.

I believe the partnership between us can also help facilitate peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Now, many have long assumed that an Israeli-Palestinian peace can help facilitate a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world. But these days, I think it may work the other way around, namely that a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world may help facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian peace. And therefore, to achieve that peace, we must look not only to Jerusalem and Ramallah but also to Cairo, to Amman, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and elsewhere.

The cooperation between Israel and the Arab regional powers during the last Gaza conflict was something that any previous Administration would have given its eyeteeth for—but one that, during the conflict at least, we appeared determined to cold-shoulder. Fortunately, as Netanyahu’s speech indicated, the continuing common danger posed by Iran and ISIS means that this alignment will probably continue beyond that conflict.

So perhaps the United States will have another chance to take advantage of these circumstances. And it looks like the Arab States and Israel might decide to work on the problem together, even if we don’t support them. Strange new world.

Features Icon
show comments
  • AndrewL

    Perhaps the Arab States and Israel are working together precisely because of our absence? Back when we were heavily involved in the Middle East, the Arab States had their cake and ate it too: they could simultaneously enjoy U.S. protection and bash Israel. Now that we’re reluctant to get involved, the Arab States are panicking and suddenly see Israel in a new light: as a potentially useful ally against Iran and Islamic extremists. Hence, contrary to the recommendation of this article, we should continue to stay out and let regional powers sort out the problems in their own neighborhood.

  • PDX_traveler

    Netanyahu continues to grasp at anything that will help him avoid making the hard choices – a metaphor of our age, perhaps. In the end, as every schoolboy to college student to adult learns, avoiding the hard choices doesn’t mean they go away. The central problem for Israel is securing borders and rationalizing the internal structure of the state. Saudis and Egyptians won’t cut it – Israelis and Palestinians have to figure it out themselves.

    • George Von Herman

      rationalizing the internal structure of the state – what in the world does that mean?

      • PDX_traveler

        preserving israel as a jewish, democratic state – as well as one that doesn’t evolve into a police/security apparatus dominated nation.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service