As the Israeli political class continues to play silly and often dangerous political games, as with the latest natural gas madness, the region continues to evolve in ways quite favorable to Israel interests.
Relations with Jordan continue to strengthen as that country faces a serious threat from Islamic State (IS) on its northern and eastern borders. The seriousness of the threat is underlined by the decision of the Israeli security forces to build a fence along parts of the border with Jordan.
President al-Sisi of Egypt continues to provide Israel with opportunities to improve relations and to jointly secure the two countries' common border. Egypt is sending an ambassador for the first time since the "Arab Spring" and the Director-General of the Foreign Ministry, Dore Gold, has been invited to Cairo for consultations. It has also been reported that the Egyptian authorities have sounded out the IDF as to its willingness to assist the Egyptian anti-terrorist efforts in the Sinai if requested, and that the response has been favorable, so long as such assistance would be limited to air support or to in-and-out special forces operations.
It was revealed that former Israeli and Saudi defense, security and diplomatic officials have in recent months been meeting secretly with their Saudi counterparts. This, along with strengthened Kuwaiti resolve to combat terrorist groups and further indications of a change in Qatar's policies and activities both in and outside the region, are significant indications of a sea-change in Israel's position vis-à-vis its Sunni neighbors.
One result of this rapprochement is the increasing marginalization of the Palestinian issue in Arab calculations and consequent isolation of the Palestinian Authority. That is an important part of the manifest recent instability of the Abbas regime in the West Bank, with its open conflict with Hamas, attack on the al-Fayyad think-tank and dismissal of the chairman of the PLO. Amid increasing indications of IS infiltration in Gaza and popular unrest due to economic and social conditions, reports of a developing deal between Hamas on one side and Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the other gain credibility. According to these reports, Hamas would renounce violence, disband part of the its military forces as well as abandon all rockets and tunnels, and suppress groups such as Islamic Jihad, in return for the end of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade and Saudi financial aid.
Luckily, the defense, security and intelligence agencies go on about their work, paying as little attention to the politicians as possible. If only the rest of the government would help by facilitating economic integration in the region, rather than by throwing up additional roadblocks to the natural gas settlement.
Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and teaches at the Center for National Security Studies and Geostrategy, University of Haifa.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 9, 2015
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