by Zalman Shoval
Professor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as national security adviser during the Carter administration and is still considered a prominent foreign policy expert in Washington, used to say, "The road to Baghdad goes through Jerusalem." He meant that unless the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was resolved, the Arab and Muslim world would continue to turn its back on the West in general and the United States in particular, and the instability in the region would persist.
Brzezinski's idea of the "solution" to the conflict was to end the "occupation," accept the Palestinian demands, form a Palestinian state and, of course, cease all settlement activity. Various Middle East experts in the State Department and White House hung on his every word, as did many political analysts in the American and international media.
Brzezinski was not alone in his views, which were shared by many foreign policy-makers in western European nations, who never failed to warn Israel that "the current situation cannot continue."
U.S. President Barack Obama's Cairo speech of June 2009 perpetuated this view, which sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the heart of the regional unrest, while others saw it as yet another instrument that can be used to clobber Israel and undermine the extensive support it enjoys in Congress and among the U.S. public.
History remembers many cases when agreed-upon lies set the political agenda, but there are only a handful of examples of situations when reality has hit people as hard as it did Brzezinski and his ilk, given the events taking place in Syria and Iraq.
Several academic and media figures have, in the past, pointed to the real issued plaguing the Middle East and to the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict's role in them was actually marginal, although, until very recently, such people were in the minority. But now the cat is finally out of the bag, in the form of the Islamic State group (formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).
This radical group has shown its true colors in the most brutal of ways, declaring all-out war on the religious and power structures in the region. This may send the Middle East into a chaotic spiral in the next few years, and not only does Israel have nothing to do with it, the Palestinians too are irrelevant to the issue.
Several responsible individuals in the American administration are beginning to see things as they are, as are their counterparts in Jordan and other moderate Arab counties. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also knows the truth, but unfortunately, he has failed to draw the proper conclusions and dismantle his partnership with Hamas.
Hamas may not be a part of the Islamic State group, but it subscribes to the same Islamic aspirations and the same murderous jihadist methods. But have the Brzezinskis of the world learned their lesson? Will they admit their mistakes? Nothing is guaranteed, especially since some people find it very difficult to let go of their opinions.
Israel has to prepare for this emerging situation. Naturally, it must first deal with Hamas and see Operation Protective Edge to a successful conclusion, but it has to establish a common denominator with the international community when it comes to the new developments in the region.
The so-called new Middle East -- real and perceived alike -- is gone. Its true, intimidating nature is revealing itself right before our eyes. Then again, maybe it has always been here and we just did not want to face it.
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