Arab world prefers stability in Israel

Prof. Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.

By Prof. Eyal Zisser

The Arab world has so far been indifferent to the political crisis ‎currently plaguing Israel. This may indicate that the Arabs simply ‎expect the next Israeli elections to bring about more of the same ‎with respect to the makeup and balance of power in the ‎government, but it also seems that many Arab rulers are in no rush ‎to see a change in the nature of the Israeli government.‎

The messiah may not be coming anytime soon, but we are in the ‎midst of a golden age in term of Israel’s relations with the Arab ‎world. From the Persian Gulf states to North Africa, many in the ‎Arab world no longer regard Israel as a hostile or foreign element in ‎the Middle East, but rather as a solid regional player – one they can ‎cooperate with and even rely on when necessary. ‎

Gulf states have a clear reason to prefer political stability and ‎governmental continuity in Israel: They are concerned about the ‎regional threats, primarily those posed by Iran, and know that ‎Israel and the United States are collaborating on this issue. ‎

Arab states have never taken a special interest in Israeli politics, as ‎they struggle to understand its internal dynamics. As ties with Gulf ‎states began to warm up, Arab rulers have sought to work with ‎Israeli leaders they perceive as reliable and focused, those who ‎wield domestic and international clout. ‎

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, for example, never hid his desire ‎to see then-Likud leader Menachem Begin win the 1977 and 1981 ‎elections, despite the fact that then-Labor leader Shimon Peres was ‎perceived in Israel and abroad as a moderate on the pressing ‎foreign and security issues of the time. ‎

Sadat sought an effective and committed partner, even if not an ‎easy one to deal with; someone he could “do business” with and ‎whose word could be trusted. He found this partner in the leader of ‎the Right. ‎

King Hussein of Jordan also did not bother to hide his satisfaction ‎with Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory in the 1996 elections. He could ‎never forgive Peres for going behind his back and colluding with ‎then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on the 1993 Oslo Accords, ‎which he perceived as a threat to the Hashemite Kingdom’s ‎stability.‎

Regardless, the Arab world is up to its neck in domestic problems ‎and most Arab countries have neither the energy nor the ability to ‎deal with Israel’s internal political strife. They have even lost all ‎interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and all they want to do ‎now is remove this issue from the regional agenda and prevent it ‎from becoming an obstacle to improving their relations with Israel. ‎

This is why they are willing to support efforts to promote a solution ‎to the conflict that will be acceptable to Israel and to the Arabs, ‎even if not necessarily to the Palestinian leadership.‎

An example of these trends was seen as recently as last week, ‎when the recent flare-up between Israel and Hamas led to Yisrael ‎Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation as defense ‎minister. No Arab country rushed to stand by the Palestinians ‎against Israel, and most simply sought to restore the calm to the ‎region.‎

Moreover, no one in the Arab world fell for Hamas’ claims of victory, ‎nor for politicians’ claims that Israeli deterrence has been ‎dangerously eroded. After all, when the dust settles, Israel’s ‎enemies in Gaza, Beirut and Damascus go back to wallowing in ‎their own problems and ever-growing infighting.‎

No one in the Arab world deludes themselves as to the true balance ‎of power between Israel and its adversaries, which is why many ‎Arab leaders do not really understand the reasons for the ‎government crisis that threatens Israel’s political stability.‎

Many Arab rulers would gladly relinquish the upcoming elections in ‎Israel as they see them as harboring a subversive message to their ‎citizens, according to which democracy is not necessarily a recipe ‎for chaos, but rather for internal power – a demonstration that a ‎regime can be changed in the polls. ‎

It is precisely because of this that Israeli democracy is admired by ‎many in the Arab world, and it can contribute to bolstering Israel’s ‎regional image as a strong and stable country whose system of ‎government should be emulated.‎


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