Israel, Arab Countries Share A Common Foe in Radical Islam

Article Summary
Regarding the explosive situation in the Middle East, an unsigned covenant exists now between several Arab states and Israel regarding their common concern about radical Islam, writes Eitan Haber. The situation is rare opportunity for Israel to advance a peace process with its neighbors.

Many years ago, a new concept was added to the Israeli political lexicon: a window of opportunity. In those years, the early 1990s, there was no need for erudite explanations of the concept. The Soviet Union collapsed; Syria lost its Soviet patron, halting the supply of Soviet weapons to Damascus and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was on the skids, actually crashing to the boards. The list doesn't end there. There were no doubt other such windows of opportunity in the course of modern history; however, that of the early 1990s is especially memorable — for better or worse.

The political wisdom is to sieze these developments once such a "window" opens, to look beyond the immediate events toward the historic horizon and to take full advantage of what may well be a one-time, unique opportunity.

I believe that it's precisely such a window of opportunity that has opened up right now, these very days, one that may never open again. The situation is currently like so: In the face of the rise of extremist, defiant, dangerous Islam, a coalition of sorts has been created, an implicit alliance between countries that are apprehensive or even outright terrified of it. This new brand of dangerous Islam is looming ahead, alarmingly drawing near like a tidal wave, threatening to wash us all away, foes and allies alike.

In a number of the neighboring countries, all of them hostile to Israel, there is still a solid core of figures in power who are deeply concerned over the future, even though they themselves may be a part of that extreme Islam. This is the way it is in Turkey, in Saudi Arabia, in the Gulf States, in Jordan and even in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. It is hard to believe, but under the surface, far away from the public eye and the glare of publicity, there are still, even today, channels of communication to the ruling groups in those countries, those that are constantly looking out the window in fear of the scary types with the slaughtering knife.

This is the situation so far, an interim situation. The former reigning regimes are no longer in power, and their successors are not properly settled yet. It seems that in the long run — it may take even years — no "moderate" regime is likely to hold out and stay in power. The sword of Islam is bound to reach them, and encircle us.

Thus, an implicit, unsigned covenant has been formulated between a number of Arab states and Israel, and all of them, all non-signatory parties to that covenant, are supported by and relying on the as-yet mighty United States. And while the United States, led by President Barack Obama, is making every possible mistake when it comes to its foreign relations, it is still a great power to reckon with — which may hold true for the entire world, except of course a few leaders of the Yesha Council (the umbrella organization of municipal councils of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and formerly also in the Gaza Strip).

The premise is that in the near future — that is, in the time span that is still within the window of opportunity — we are not likely to be dragged into war. After all, a war would knock down Egypt, whose aspiration today, with 80 million mouths to feed, is to bake as many pitas as possible to fulfill the demand. As to Assad in Syria, while he may be expected to open fire in the Golan Heights to divert attention from the war raging on his home front, he is keeping the calm on that front. Abu Mazen seems to have run out of energy and it looks as if he lost the drive in the territories. And it appears that even Hamas has at present an order of priorities where Israel is not on top of the list.

However, we had better not delude ourselves. In the long run, in the course of a historic process that may take years, the wave of Islamization will inevitably sweep the entire Middle East, putting the State of Israel at risk, one way or another. At the moment, the Islamists realize that an attack on Israel would derail them off the right historic path. And they believe they deserve credit for understanding the situation.

Be that as it may, the issue of creeping Islam and its long-range implications should be debated at another time and another place. But this is the time and place for us to discuss that window of opportunity that has opened up right now, before it closes in our face.

And an afterword in this context, if those at the helm in Israel and in the countries mentioned above are not asking themselves daily, first thing in the morning: "What have we done so far and what can we do today to advance mutual understanding?," then war is bound to erupt, sooner or later.

Found in: turkey, syria, peace process, peace, pa, middle east, jordan, israel, islamism, egypt

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