by Zalman Shoval
A new Middle East is indeed rising up before our eyes, but in direct contrast and contradiction to the reasons Peres predicted
One of the more laughable expressions of its day was "a new Middle East." Then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres firmly believed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the root of all the troubles that befell the Middle East and the cause of instability in the region -- particularly the continued hostility of Arab nations toward Israel, whereas the Oslo Accords would in a short time bring change and magically lead to the birth of genuine cooperation between all nations and countries.
But Peres does not seem to have understood that the majority of the Arab world, with all of its public concern for the fate of the Palestinians, did not view its treatment of Israel solely through the Palestinian lens, and that unique national interests and geopolitical considerations played no less of a major role.
Furthermore, some in the Arab world, not to mention the Palestinians, did not see, and continue not to see to this day, their ultimate goal as the establishment of a Palestinian state on a portion of Palestinian land, but rather the disappearance of the Jewish state. Peres and many others who thought like him could never have predicted al-Qaida, the Arab Spring and the fruits it would bear, Islamic State and the general irreparable chaos that has taken over this "new" Middle East -- developments that have nothing to do with the Palestinian issue -- but reality was a slap in the face, dealing a blow to their aspirations that cannot be ignored.
In the eulogy he gave at the funeral, U.S. President Barack Obama maintained that Peres understood "peace is the true security." It's unlikely Peres would have signed on to that statement, since in his heart, he understood, just as Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, and Zionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky with his Iron Wall policy understood, as far as Israel is concerned, security and Israel's ability to defend itself will always be the basis, not just for the achievement and preservation of peace, but for the country's very existence.
Still, Peres succeeded in witnessing the very essence of historical irony: A new Middle East is indeed rising up before our eyes, but in direct contrast and contradiction to the reasons he predicted. In his article "The Real Middle East Story," one of the world's foremost thinkers and experts on the subject of international affairs, Professor Walter Russell Mead, declared Israeli diplomacy in Asia, Africa and Latin America a success and wrote that "Israel's prestige -- even among people who hate it -- has grown." According to Mead, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been successful because he understands ("better than Obama") how the world functions, and that the Sunni Arab world feels threatened, particularly by Iran and by what is transpiring in Syria. According to Mead, the result is that the world recognizes the importance of Israel's strength.
Mead says this "has led to something close to a revolution in Israel’s regional position." He concludes that these developments "undercut the salience of the Palestinian issue for world politics and even for Arab politics" and strengthened Israel's regional and international standing. Articles written in a similar vein by historians and diplomacy experts have been published in Foreign Affairs, the leading U.S. magazine on foreign policy, and even in the Israeli press (although anyone dependent on reports by the majority of Israel's media outlets certainly hasn't heard anything about them). A new Middle East indeed, no quotation marks necessary.
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