What is generally referred to as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has, in effect, been over the years, a three-dimensional conflict involving, in addition to the Palestinians, also the Arab world and the Muslim world. Hostility to Israel has been the one unifying factor in the Arab and Muslim world, which overcame disagreements on other matters between the constituent members. Since the founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964, the Palestinian issue has served as the linchpin around which hostility to Israel has been built and unity maintained.
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Israel’s existence was endangered three times — in 1948, 1967, and 1973 — by the combined attacks of Arab armies, which enjoyed the support of the entire Muslim world. Although the Israel Defense Forces brilliant victory in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 has served as a deterrent against further attempts by Arab armies to attack Israel, the continued hostility of the Arab and Muslim world toward Israel has been demonstrated by their support for terrorist activities against Israel and their backing of anti-Israeli motions at international forums like the United Nations.
But there is a change in the wind as far as the Arab world is concerned. For some Arab rulers greater enemies than Israel have appeared in recent years. Iran, reaching out for nuclear weapons, Al-Qaida, the Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL), Hamas, and assorted Arab terrorist groups, are aiming for the jugular of the ruling classes in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. They are a mortal danger to them, the kind of danger that Israel never constituted. Averting this danger is far more important to them than backing the Palestinian cause. From this new perspective, in the eyes of these Arab rulers Israel is beginning to look not like an enemy, but rather like a potential ally.
An Iranian nuclear bomb scares the wits out of them. They see little future for themselves in a Middle East dominated by an Iran with nuclear weapons in its arsenal. Most threatened is the Saudi ruling class who are likely to be the first in line to be toppled as Iranian influence grows. They surely must have quietly applauded Benjamin Netanyahu as he appeared in front of both Houses of the U.S. Congress in March to make the case against a nuclear armed Iran. The Israeli opposition may have criticized him, but the Saudis were surely on his side.
In the meantime, armed Islamic State terrorist gangs are knocking on Jordan’s door in the north. It is not hard to guess whose head is going to be severed first if they succeed in reaching Amman. Is it any wonder that King Abdullah II looks to Jerusalem for help if worse comes to worst. Although he repeats almost daily his support for the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, he knows full well that it would only be a matter of time until such a state would be taken over by Islamic State terrorists, or Hamas, and he would find enemies knocking at his door in the West as well. The establishment of such a Palestinian state on his western border is something he is not likely to welcome.
In Egypt, beset by Islamic terrorists in Sinai and in the streets of Cairo, ruler Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi has declared all out war against them. At this time that seems to take precedence over all else, including his support for the Palestinian cause. Israel’s agreement to allow Egyptian army units to enter into eastern Sinai, a deviation of the provisions of the Israel-Egyptian peace treaty of 1979, is a clear indication of the commonality of interests between Egypt, the largest Arab country, and Israel.
The Arab anti-Israel front which existed for over 60 years is in the process of disintegrating. The rulers of major Arab countries are finding shared interests with the State of Israel. Support for the establishment of a Palestinian state may continue to exist in Washington, Brussels, and at the UN, and among the Israeli opposition, but it is losing support in much of the Arab world. Israel has enemies in the Middle East but it is also gaining friends in the Middle East. These friends may prefer to meet their Israeli counterparts in back alleys, but you can be sure that these meetings are taking place with increasing frequency.