The Arab Spring, the rise of Islamic State, Iranian expansionism, the war in Yemen, and other recent events have stripped all credibility from the idea of “linkage”—that any solution to the region’s problems must begin with a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. With Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent official visit to Oman, and the president of Chad’s recent visit to Jerusalem, a second “linkage” is also eroding—namely, the idea that improvement of Israel’s relations with Arab and Muslim countries depends on its having achieved peace with the Palestinians. Shmuel Rosner writes:
Egypt was the first country to erode this linkage when it signed a peace agreement with Israel (with provisions aimed at advancing a solution for the Palestinians). Jordan likewise signed a peace agreement with Israel in the early 1990s, when Israel and the Palestinians seemed for a while as if they were moving toward resolution.
The situation today is much changed. It is clear that Israelis and Palestinians are not moving toward peace. It is also clear that when Arab Muslim countries get closer to Israel, they are not doing it because of the Palestinian issue but rather in spite of it. They are doing it because they have other priorities—concerns about Iran, economic or technological needs Israel can satisfy, or political needs that can be addressed through Israel’s ties in Washington. . . .
On November 25, the president of Chad, Idriss Déby, visited Israel. Chad is a poor, corrupt country in the middle of Africa that is plagued by political violence and ranked very high on the failed-state index. Déby has dealt with rebellions and coups d’état attempts since he first became president in 1990. Chad has little to contribute to Israel—except on the issue of linkage. It has a narrow Muslim majority, and in the early 1970s it severed ties with Israel under pressure from Saudi Arabia, Libya, and other Arab countries in an attempt by the Arab world to keep Israel illegitimate. . . .
Now that the second linkage seems to be dying, or maybe is dead, the Palestinians are no doubt following this process with apprehension. It takes away one of the key tools they used in their battle with Israel: the power of the Arab and Muslim world to put pressure on the Jewish state. For Israel, it’s a triumph. It carries the hope that the Palestinians will finally realize that time is not necessarily on their side.