By Amos Gilboa
Two major Islamic powers, Turkey and Iran, which are not Arab-speaking, have already begun to compete for hegemony in the Arab-speaking Middle East...“Islam-Israeli conflict” from now on?
Translated by Viktoria Lymar
Edited by Steven Stenzler
2 July 2012
The earthquake in the Middle East has strengthened Islam over the Arab national consciousness. When the U.S. is standing aloof, Israel has no choice left but to manage and contain the conflict.
At the moment, when there is an elected president of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, [we] can analyze what’s up with the Middle East and its immediate surroundings through three key characteristics.
The first of them is the transformation of identities and alliances: from the world of Arab nationalism, Arab identity, Arab unions, we’re entering a Middle East whose central component of identity is Islam. Nothing could be more detached from reality than the suggestion of President Shimon Peres to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin that the Arab League would receive a two-year mandate on Syria as a solution to the events happening there.
In practice, the Arab League is “dead - alive.” Two major Islamic powers, Turkey and Iran, which are not Arab-speaking, have already begun to compete for hegemony in the Arab-speaking Middle East.
What’s interesting is that the Arab nation-states and the secular Arab military regimes emerged in the wake of the Arab defeat in 1948 in the War of Independence. These regimes are falling now not because of Israel but instead, because of their social-economic failure.
Since 1948, our conflict with the Arab states has been called the “Arab-Israeli conflict.” Is it to be called the “Islam-Israeli conflict” from now on? Anyone reading the Hamas Charter will see: for the organization, it’s long since the conflict is against the Jews who took over the land of Allah.
The second notable feature is the continued atrophy of the Western [super] powers, with the United States at their head, and their helplessness in the face of the goings-on in the region. This is in parallel to the attempt of the powers such as Russia and China to try to influence in some way what is taking place in the region. When the President of the United States declared that it was “on the right side of history”1 and therefore, threw Mubarak into the dustbin of history, he signals to everybody that America doesn’t have a policy, but rather just a need to predict where history flows to.
The third trait is that the Middle East is located in the heart of a volcano that creates a relentless dynamic of instability and surprises. Will the map of the countries, as it was designed about 100 years ago, remain or change? In several countries, like Sudan, it has changed already. What’s going to be in Iraq, in Syria, in Lebanon? All the monarchic regimes in the region are still standing. Until when? Where is the Islamic Egypt to turn? Will it forge an alliance with Saudi Arabia in order to establish an Arab axis against Iran? Or will it become joined to Iran, actually?
The State of Israel is facing a hostile region, similar to the situation it found itself in after its foundation in 1948. However, then it was weak in all respects – whereas today, it is the third regional power along with Iran and Turkey.
What are Israel’s “dos and don’ts” commandments? First, not to try to interfere in what is occurring around us; second, not to get dragged into provocations and not to go into adventures, like the “elimination of Hamas” – or, differently, to position ourselves alone against Iran; third, to abandon the pursuit of peace agreements or permanent arrangements and the sick obsession with a “quick settlement with the Palestinians” (which one? With the Hamas state in Gaza?) – of course, without discarding the very professed desire for peace.
Management of the conflict and its containment are those that should guide us now – and not its solution. And the two last ones are no less important: to maintain the alert and readiness of the IDF2 and to protect the special relationship with the United States.
The author is Brigadier General (res.), adviser on intelligence affairs to the Israeli intelligence community and lecturer on intelligence. He has held several senior positions in the Intelligence Corps and in the Intelligence Department of the IDF General Staff, most recently as Head of the Research Division. He also served as Adviser to the Prime Minister on Arab Affairs and as Adviser to the Defense Minister.
Original Hebrew article:
2. Israel Defense Forces, lit. "Defensive Army for Israel"