by George Friedman
Last week's events off the coast of
The most significant threat to
The first generations of Israelis lived under the threat of conventional military defeat by neighboring countries. More recent generations still faced threats, but not this one.
Given this, the probability of an effective, as opposed to rhetorical, shift in the behavior of powers outside the region is unlikely. At every level,
To begin to understand how deeply the Arabs are split, simply consider the split among the Palestinians themselves. They are currently divided between two very different and hostile factions. On one side is Fatah, which dominates the
Fatah arose from the secular, socialist, Arab-nationalist and militarist movement of Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser in the 1950s. Created in the 1960s, Fatah was closely aligned with the
Hamas arose from the Islamist movement. It was driven by religious motivations quite alien from Fatah and hostile to it. For Hamas, the liberation of
Hamas and Fatah are playing a zero-sum game. Given their inability to form a coalition and their mutual desire for the other to fail, a victory for one is a defeat for the other. This means that whatever public statements Fatah makes, the current international focus on
The Palestinians' deep geographic, ideological and historical divisions occasionally flare up into violence. Their movement has always been split, its single greatest weakness. Though revolutionary movements frequently are torn by sectarianism, these divisions are so deep that even without Israeli manipulation, the threat the Palestinians pose to the Israelis is diminished. With manipulation, the Israelis can pit Fatah against Hamas.
and the Palestinians Arab States
The split within the Palestinians is also reflected in divergent opinions among what used to be called the confrontation states surrounding
Outside the confrontation states, the Saudis and other
Israel's Short-term Free Hand and Long-term Challenge
Given this environment, it is extremely difficult to translate hostility to Israeli policies in Europe and other areas into meaningful levers against
Nations base their actions on risks and rewards. The configuration of the Palestinians and Arabs rewards Israeli assertiveness and provides few rewards for caution. The Israelis do not see global hostility toward
A single point sums up the story of
And while the break between
The most important change for
Should Mubarak's successor choose to align with these forces and move to rebuild
Where there is no balance of power, the dominant nation can act freely. The problem with this is that doing so tends to force neighbors to try to create a balance of power.
The Israelis have the upper hand in the short term. What they must calculate is whether they will retain the upper hand if they continue on their course. Division in the Arab world, including among the Palestinians, cannot disappear overnight, nor can it quickly generate a strategic military threat. But the current configuration of the Arab world is not fixed. Therefore, defusing the current crisis would seem to be a long-term strategic necessity for
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