The Jewish state’s relations with Arab states continue to improve—evidenced most recently in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Oman and Minister of Culture Miri Regev’s visit to Abu Dhabi. Consequently, many experts on Israel and the Arab world, who long insisted that such reconciliation could not occur absent a resolution to the conflict with the Palestinians, have been forced to change their tune. But even while admitting they were wrong, their response has been simply to move the goalposts and suggest that the Palestinian issue will serve as a “glass ceiling” preventing complete normalization. Evelyn Gordon comments:
The experts [claiming normalization is impossible] generally favor Israeli concessions to the Palestinians, so they don’t want Israel to be able to normalize relations with Arab states without such concessions. Similarly, the few experts who confidently predict that normalization is possible regardless of the Palestinians are generally people who oppose such concessions.
[But more importantly], predicting change is hard. For decades, with the notable exception of the peace with Egypt, Arab attitudes toward Israel were in stasis, making it easy to predict that the future would resemble the past. But now, with Arab attitudes in flux, nobody can really know how far Arab states are willing to go. . . . That’s precisely why experts are so often wrong on so many issues—not because they’re stupid or evil, but because they’re too arrogant to admit that even experts can’t predict the future. They can’t predict whether a complex policy will succeed or fail; they can’t predict when a seemingly stable country will suddenly implode; they can’t predict when long-held attitudes will suddenly shift.
That doesn’t make them useless; experts excel at concrete tasks that don’t require oracular powers. For instance, though Israel’s intelligence agencies failed to predict the second intifada, they became very good at the day-to-day task of thwarting terror attacks once they adjusted to the new situation. But unless experts acquire enough modesty and honesty to admit that they have no special expertise about the future, they will keep getting big issues wrong. And eventually, like the boy who cried “wolf,” people will stop listening to them altogether, even on issues where they do have something to contribute.