By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh
The Core of the Zionist Equation
The Zionist project is based on the belief that its survival depends to a large extent on the weakness of the surrounding region. In other words, it fears that the rise of a hostile Muslim, Arab power could lead to the end of the Zionist project.
Hence, Israel was keen about keeping the surrounding region weak, fragmented and divided, and underdeveloped especially in the technological and military levels. This would also serve the Israeli western alliance of keeping the region under foreign domination serving as a source for raw materials and a market for the western products.
Indeed, for more than 60 years the region surrounding Israel has been suffering from deterioration, division and weakness. For this reason, should the changes in the region continue in the right direction, they might constitute a breakthrough in the conflict formula that might develop to end the Israeli supremacy.
Originally, Israel was established on the basis of enormous disparity in its balance of power with the Palestinians and the Arab regimes. In addition, the Israeli and American arrogant commitment to military power imposed a situation of calm on the Arab fronts where the Arab regimes diverted towards the path of peaceful settlement.
This was not the result of the belief of the peoples of the region—who were governed by corrupt, dictatorial regimes—in the feasibility of peace settlement. Thus, the removal of inefficient, undemocratic regimes and the establishment of new regimes that represent the nation’s dignity, freedom and pride would lead to a different conflict management with Israel. This management would not be based on regional selfishness, or traditional subordination to the Israeli and American conditions, or the complex of inferiority, but rather on an awakening that rejects humiliation and refuses anything short of liberation of land and man and the restoration of all usurped rights.
Strategic Dangers Facing Israel
Israeli experts and strategists talk about three strategic dangers facing Israel:
1. The increase of “radical” Islamic trends and forces in Palestine. This may lead to the growth of resistance forces, their assumption of Palestinian leadership, the disruption of the peace process and Israel’s inability to impose its conditions on the Palestinians.
2. The weakness and corruption of the Arab regimes in the region together with the increase of “radical” forces and trends, which might replace these regimes in a way that creates a hostile environment surrounding Israel.
3. The growing numbers of Palestinian population in Palestine, with the drying up of Jewish immigration, where the Palestinians will outnumber the Jews in historic Palestine within few years (around 2015).
We are still amidst the wave of Arab uprisings and in the midst of a storm which did not take its full shape yet. If the changes crystallized positively and new political regimes that reflect peoples’ wills were born, the strategic danger which the Israelis have warned against would be possible. However, if the changes were absorbed and redirected to reproduce corrupt and undemocratic regimes, Israel would survive the repercussions of this wave maybe to wait for another wave that would learn from its predecessor how to impose the will of the peoples.
The Implications of the Arab Scene
The positive development of the Arab scene, especially in the region surrounding the Occupied Palestine, would pave the way for the following changes which are related to Israel, both directly and indirectly:
1. The formation of an official and public environment more supportive of the Palestinian resistance and more hostile towards Israel.
2. More activation of the Arab and Muslim dimensions of the Palestinian issue.
3. Opening the door for an Arab Muslim revival, that might reverse the conflict equation and the balance of power with Israel in the medium and long run.
4. Weakening the American and western hegemony on the regimes of the region. Hence, these regimes would assume their role in the decision making process according to their interests and priorities without external dictations.
5. The making of a new “man” in the region who has strength, freedom and dignity. A man who breaks the wall of fear and does not only lead the political, economic, social and military development process, but refuses the fact that his land or the holy places remain under occupation.
6. A revision and reassessment of the feeble peace process that took place since 1993 with the Arab regimes and the possibility of freezing (or even abolition) of Camp David and Wadi ‘Araba Accords between Egypt and Jordan, respectively, and Israel. In addition to the deterioration of normalization between the Arab regimes and Israel.
7. An optimal utilization of the nation’s resources and capabilities in a way that enhances its position facing Israel.
The Israeli Scene
The Israeli scene shows much confusion and concern as reflected in the political circles. Israel, established on the logic of a weak and fragmented surrounding, deems the transformation of the region into a unified and strong entity as a real nightmare.
The Israelis have so far failed to present a peace settlement plan which can be accepted by the Arabs even in their weakest position. Furthermore, the Israelis have deliberately pursued a strategy of managing the conflict rather than resolving it. The Arab weakness tempted them into exercising more oppression, confiscation of lands, Judaization and establishing facts on the ground. However, the recent developments might show that the Israelis have lost their “golden opportunity” after the peace process lost its meaning and its “customers.”
In fact, the situation will be more complicated for the Israelis because their society is showing more inclination towards extreme rightist and religious trends, while the Israelis do not have a unified vision for resolving the conflict with the Palestinians and Arabs. On top of that, the over-confident commitment for military power still contributes to increasing the current and future political miscalculations in Israel.
The Expected Conduct of Israel
1. The Israeli conduct will likely incline towards further isolation and alienation. Though a nuclear power, Israel is living the complex of fear for its survival and the fear of future. In addition, it also lives the state of illegitimacy and rejection in the environment surrounding it. The transformations in the region will perhaps exacerbate these fears in a way that leads Israel to cling to one of its old-new characteristics namely the “ghetto mentality.”
2. It does not seem that the current changes would cause the Israelis to make real concessions related to the peace process; such as accepting the Arab Peace Initiative, even if it were possible to talk about some offers which are known beforehand to be unacceptable to the Palestinians and the Arabs. It will also try to take advantage of the current situation to express its evasive commitment to “peace” at a time when Arabs are demonstrating more “extremism.”
3. Israel would try to rely more on military power and to prepare itself for confrontation with the countries surrounding it, especially Egypt. With the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, the Israeli government has increased its security military budget by around $700 million. On 8/3/2011, the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that Israel might request an additional military aid from the US amounting to $20 billion.
4. Israel would seek to restore its role in relation to the US and the western world as a strategic, stable, reliable ally in the Middle East. This is what Barak has said in the mentioned above interview with The Wall Street Journal, where he asserted that “a strong, responsible Israel can become a stabilizer in such a turbulent region.”
5. Israel would seek to maintain its international relations which is eroding over time, even in its relation with the US and Europe. In addition, it would try to find new allies (to replace Turkey) such as Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Ukraine, besides activating its relations with China and India.
6. Israel and its allies would try to exploit the situation of instability and unrest triggered in the region by the Arab uprisings and the clashes between the people and their regimes. There, also, would be attempts to take advantage of the difference and imbalances resulting from the multiple elements of the uprisings, in order to derail change from its real destination. Perhaps, the most dangerous aspect remains the attempts to trigger sectarian and ethnic strife in such a way that leads to more fragmentation and division in the Arab world. Apparently, the Israeli analyst Aluf Benn built on Lewis’s plan and wrote in Haaretz on 25/3/2011 that the Arab uprisings will lead to the redrawing of regional maps where the situation heralds the last days of Sykes-Picot agreement which in effect divided the region of the Middle East into separate states. He added that the coming years would witness the birth of new or renewed independent states such as South Sudan; Kurdistan, and the Western Sahara. Benn also predicted the separation of the Gulf States from the United Arab Emirates in addition to a split in the KSA. He confirmed that “the more states there are in the region in the future, the easier it will be for Israel to maneuver among them.”
In the light of the above, pioneers of change, especially the young generation and all those concerned with the process of change and reform have to be alert and wary of any ethnic, sectarian or tribal calls and to abort the efforts of those trying to sow more sedition. They also have to restrict the short-sighted and the reckless people (regardless of their enthusiasm and dedication) who are likely to be dragged to methods which inflame sectarian and ethnic sentiments that would tear the fabric of the society.
On the whole, Israel would not watch idly while the region undergoes major strategic changes. It would not give up on the attempt to stay a major power in the region and have the upper hand while remaining immune from any potential risks. However, Israel knows that it is defying history and there is no sign that its power would last forever or that the Arab weakness would not come to an end. Ultimately, Israel also knows that there is always an end to injustice and occupation.
The original Arabic article appeared on Al Jazeera net on 6/4/2011
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 14/4/2011