by Daniel Pipes
Moment Magazine asked: “In recent months, the Middle East has been set aflame by democratic uprisings, popular protests, brutal crackdowns, political upheaval and international military intervention, shattering conventional wisdom about the region. Israel—surrounded by a newly unstable Arab world and confronting a Palestinian march toward statehood—faces uncertainty on every front. Moment speaks with an array of leading Middle East experts and thinkers to examine how Israel should weather the storms unleashed by the ‘Arab Spring’.” For all sixteen replies, click here. Daniel Pipes’s response:
The current Middle Eastern upheavals are mercifully not about Israel. Anti-Zionism has been a minor, even negligible part. I find it remarkable, in fact, how small a role Israel has played. And, in general, Israel benefits by having attention elsewhere. The Israeli government should stay out of the way, as it correctly has.
The current upheaval may prompt Palestinians to conclude that violence doesn’t take them where they want to go and they might emulate others in the region by shifting away from warfare and terrorism in favor of non-violent political action. That could include massive non-violent demonstrations such as marching on Israeli towns, borders, and checkpoints.
Ironically, this shift could be to Israel’s detriment. In some ways, it has benefited from Palestinian violence. That’s in part because violence is ugly and in part because Israelis have proven themselves more capable in the military realm than the political one. A shift to the political realm could transform the conflict to Israel’s detriment. I don’t think the shift creates an opportunity for Israel because the goal remains unchanged: elimination of the Jewish state.
I hope Israelis are preparing to contend with this phenomenon, from gathering intelligence to training troops to deal with demonstrators to responding with smart political arguments. The last point is especially important. In the past, Arab leaders ranted and made preposterous arguments, but now they’re getting better, more rational, more appealing. Their political campaign of delegitimization will likely reach new heights with a General Assembly resolution in September.
Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.
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