The Obstacle to Full Ties between Israel and the Sunnis

August 9, 2016 | Yaakov Amidror
About the author: Yaakov Amidror is a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, and a Distinguish Fellow of JINSA’s  Gemunder Strategic Center, Washington DC. He served as national security advisor to the prime minister of Israel and the head of the National Security Council from 2011 to 2013.

The Sunni Arab states (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf emirates), threatened by Islamic State on the one hand and an expansionist Iran on the other, and without faith in American protection, increasingly find their interests aligned with Israel’s. Can this lead to a true, open alliance? Yes, writes Yaakov Amidror, but only by overcoming Palestinian intractability:

Israel is the only country in the area whose stability is not in question. It is a strong country, both economically and militarily, and it has the ability and willingness to defend its essential interests. This is the foundation for the blossoming relationships between Israel and these Sunni countries—classic status-quo countries in an ever-shifting region that are looking for an anchor with which to stabilize themselves. Israel can serve as this anchor.

[This] is a marriage of convenience, not of love, but it is one of increasing importance. . . .

However, a serious collaboration—a public, unhindered cooperation—between Israel and these Arab states requires a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Not because this issue is dear to the hearts of the Sunni leaders, but because without it these leaders would lose the support of the street, which is imperative if the relationship is to go public.

Sadly, the Palestinians are in no rush to advance a peace agreement or their relations with Israel. On the contrary: their recognition that they are the key to enhancing Israel’s ties with the nations of the region only makes them think more highly of themselves and prompts them to ratchet up their demands.

The only way to overcome this hurdle is to change the order of the steps. First, build a relationship that will serve as an inclusive umbrella for Israelis and Sunni Arabs, and then lead the Palestinians into it to engage in peace negotiations.

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