August 07, 2023

Israel: The New Equation of the Middle East

Introduction: 

One of the most important events in modern Middle Eastern history is the establishment of Israel and its consequences for Arab-Israeli conflicts

The promised land” remains the validity point for Israel’s every dehumanization and destruction of human security in the region, and for Palestinians, the rights of self-determination have been the core of their historic struggles against Israeli illegal occupation. 

Moreover, the former Israeli government has some powerful allies like the US and the European Union, and they have been trying to solve this decades-long crisis but haven’t succeeded yet.

Since their beginning, Israel versus Arab conflicts have created equations after equations in Middle Eastern politics, and after the Trump administration, a new political equation is going to see the Middle East and the whole world. 

However, in this essay, we will delve into how to analyze the nature of the equation in the Middle East from the beginning of Israel to the present day; specifically, we will try to understand the new equation in detail, and we will conclude by remarking on what is going to happen in future Middle Eastern politics because of Israel.

 

Understanding the Middle Eastern Political Equation:

Today, the Middle East is the world’s most turbulent region, where conflicts, rage, and the interests of internal and external actors collide. The current political configuration of the Middle East is defined by the fact that it has a number of identical centers of power with profound inconsistencies in political, religious, and ideological spheres. 

The crisis in Syria is multi-dimensional, based on sectarian contradictions as well as social inequality. Therefore, foreign actors supported these different groups. The situation is similar in Yemen, but sectarian factors do not play decisive roles here. 

In addition, tribal conflicts are also prominent in the Middle East. So, Wars are becoming more bitter and protracted due to the activities of terrorist groups. Like ISIS and the Al Nusra Front.

Many conflicts are evolving to new stages, and some of them are susceptible to the influence of external actors, such as Israel versus Palestine and Hezbollah (USA and Iran), the Syrian Civil War (Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Syrian Government, and Rebels), and the Yemeni Civil War (Rebels, the Yemeni government, and Saudi Arabia). 

The United States is the most important external force in the Middle East. Relations between the US and particular countries often determine regional dynamics. Despite growing contradictions, there are some examples of diplomatic success in the region. 

For instance, in 2006, Iraq and Syria resumed their relations after 20 years, and in 2016, a strategic alliance between Iran and Turkey took shape. The Russian role in the Middle East is often noted because Moscow facilitated finding common ground with all the major actors. 

Western countries and Israel, the United States principal ally in the Middle East, are active in the region too. On the one hand, they fight against terrorism like Russia and Iran do, and on the other, by damaging civil infrastructure and encouraging Kurdish separatism, they destabilize the situation in the Middle East. 

The region is going through a painful transformation period, and its result will determine the new balance of powers and rules of the Middle East equations.

 

Israel and the Middle East Political Equation

Israel’s relations with the Middle East have always been suspicious and complex. For 70 years, Israel has strategically tried to overcome almost every difficulty faced in the Middle East and updated her national security mechanisms to survive in hostile environments. 

In the almost four or five decades since its establishment, Israel has developed its national security measures in more conventional ways. But the length of traditional military threats does not exist anymore at present, and it may not in the future.

 Because its diplomatic relations with Jordan and Egypt and destabilizing powerful regimes like Iraq and Syria into crises replace the fear of a conventional military threat to Israel. But Israel is not happy with it since traditional threats have been modified into a new paradigm—transnational threats. 

These transnational or supranational threats are of two kinds for Israel:

  • Possibility of nuclear development by Iran
  • High trajectory and destructive fire arsenals of its surrounding foes.

From the beginning, Israel has been trying to use diplomatic pressure or other means to stop Iran from developing its nuclear project. Iran’s nuclear deal with permanent 5 makes Saudi Arabia, Israel, and other regional actors more suspicious about the future of Iran’s nuclear project. 

The second threat is more significant for Israel’s national security. Because here are the threats of high-trajectory fire arsenals, they are not only from states like Syria and Iran but also from national and state-sponsored organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas.

Israel has limited choices in making its national and foreign policies because of the Middle Eastern System. She is surrounded by hostile states. Post-revolutionary Iran remains antagonistic to Israel’s existence. Though she has relations with Turkey, they are economic, not diplomatic, let alone strategic. 

Erdogan’s Turkey remains a harsh critic and has strong opposition to Israel. Israel has stable relations with all GCC states except Qatar. Besides Qatar’s present development of relations with Iran, funding for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood has caused other GCC states to impose sanctions on Qatar. So, for Israel, it becomes obvious in making relationships with the GCC and its allies, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan.

Saudi Arabia has been a supporter of Israel because Saudi Arabia’s ambitions for regional hegemony are also deteriorating due to Iran’s malign behavior in the region. Besides, both Israel and Saudi Arabia are the major political allies of America in the region. These artificial states are largely dependent upon external forces for their survival in the region, and the USA facilitates this view.

Consequently, both Israel and Saudi Arabia supported every US policy in the Middle East, even if some policies were against their interests, like the Iran nuclear deal. Their powerful lobbies put pressure on America. And Jordan plays a double role in Middle Eastern issues. 

On the other hand, Jordan remained under the Israeli security umbrella during the crises in Iraq and Syria, as well as the terrorist groups over there. On the other hand, Jordan supported a peaceful solution to the Palestinian crisis. Jordan pressured Israel, saying that Israel needed to give Palestinian statehood full status and support the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.

 

Israel and the Middle East: A New Equation

The new political equation in the Middle East surrounding Israel is going to happen for many reasons. Among the reasons we will try to discuss in detail are three significant causes (Jerusalem, the Iran Nuclear Deal, and normalization of relations with Arabs) that will create a new political situation in the Middle East and also for Israel.

Jerusalem, the ancient city, lies at the very heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the world has seen many times how a small change on the ground in Jerusalem can quickly lead to outrage and violence. Most Israelis see Jerusalem as their “eternal and undivided capital”, Palestinians, in contrast, see East Jerusalem as their capital, and that’s part of a long-standing conflict as well as a long-standing formula for peace known as the two-state solution. 

Basically, the idea of the two-state solution is that an independent Palestine state would be created alongside Israel, along the boundaries that existed before 1967. It is also declared through the UNSC Resolution.

For decades, the international community has been saying that any changes in the status of Jerusalem can only be made through peace negotiations. However, President Donald Trump unilaterally declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital. Trump said this decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would help bring peace and security to the region. 

But there has been widespread condemnation of his unilateral decision and protests in Cairo, the West Bank, Gaza, and other places. Both the Palestinian militant groups Hamas in Gaza and Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon have called for another intifada or uprising.

The decision of Trump hit over its allies. European powers, The Arab League, and other members of the UN Security Council, including Russia and China, have all pushed back against such decisions, as has the Pope. The US-led coalition has driven ISIS to the brink of defeat in Iraq and Syria, but Trump’s decisions could allow the extremist groups to further escalate conflicts.

The US needs military and security support from regional allies such as Iraq and Jordan for Israel and Saudi Arabia, but these allies have also warned that Trump’s decision could unleash further conflicts. 

This potential political threat from the decision between Arab nations and the USA could facilitate the growing influence of Iran in the region, including its encouragement of resistance groups.

The Iran Nuclear Deal was thought to be one of the greatest successes in diplomatic negotiations since the 20th century. The deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) developed after decades-long negotiations with Transatlantic allies against Iran, though China and Russia are also part of the deal. 

The deal Provided opportunities for Iran to gain great access to the global economy. In favor, Iran would expel every development-related nuclear proliferation.

 But after two years, the president of the USA, Donald Trump, unilaterally withdrawn from the deal on the acquisition of some nuclear deal provisions, but which provisions? Trump hasn’t mentioned that yet. From the beginning of this deal, the greater US allies in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, were not happy with it.

 Because the very existence of the Iranian military over the whole region, from Iraq to Yemen to Syria, and Iranian-backed militia groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as strategic partners like Syria, Iraq and Turkey are negative equations for Israel and Saudi Arabia Besides, in the US, powerful lobbies from these states pressured the US government to withdraw from this.

Both Israel and Saudi Arabia understood that the nuclear deal would facilitate Iran’s further development of its military presence in the region, and that is going to hurt the interests of the states.

Moreover, the Trump administration provided a strong economic sanction over Iran and every state that is going to do business with Iran and termed Iran the  biggest rogue state in the Middle East equation. These sanctions and the withdrawal create tensions in transatlantic relations and diminish the legacies of the US commitment on world stages. 

The USA withdrew from the deal, but its European allies didn’t, because the European Union prescribed the proliferation of weapons and the unavailability of natural resources as security threats to its own existence. So it assured the Iranian government that they would preserve the provisions of the treaty and provide the facilities prescribed in the treaty. 

Moreover, the Iranian government termed the USA a false representative and threatened that it would enrich its nuclear development level if the sanctions were tougher again. Both Saudi Arabia and Israel welcomed the Trump administration’s demand for such a decision.

The normalization of Israeli relations with its Arab neighbors is another important factor in Middle East politics. Four Arab states—the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco—normalize their ties with regional power Israel in the latter half of 2020. Scholars on Middle Eastern politics predict future shifts in the structure of the Middle East and lasting threats from both states and non-state actors in the region. 

Arab countries are going to see these significant changes in state relations. Interestingly, this process has been patronized and forcibly implemented through state officials; a great gap in popular consensus is obvious throughout the region, and one statistic shows that in about 93% of these four Arab states, ordinary people have never wanted such normalization of their relations with Israel. 

Scholars find at least three reasons for this normalization of relations between Arabs and Israel: regional commercial ties, the rise of Iran, and the decline of pan-Islamism and Pan-Arabism. Basically, the ties between Arabs and Israel have been facilitated by President Donald Trump, because on the last November US election, he tried to show his success in Foreign policy by disclosing their longtime relations. 

Whether some predict this normalization as a turning point or a winning point for Israel to underscore the struggle of Palestinians, some say that it may not much change the existing system. Those who disagreed with Israel’s landslide victory emphasized that these Arab neighbors of Israel have never been great players in Middle Eastern political equations. 

These sheikhdoms even participate a little against Israel compared to Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. Though Egypt and Jordan normalize their relations with Israel for Sinai and the West Bank, respectively, they have always supported the Palestine cause in their bilateral relations with Israel. 

Those scholars pointed out that even if Saudi Arabia normalizes its relations with Israel, it is not going to change the overall scenario because, for many reasons, Saudi Arabia has lost its importance domestically, regionally, and globally. Therefore, the presence of these normalized states will be very limited, as they are not central to regional crises or regional cooperation.

 

Conclusion: The Future of Middle Eastern Political Equations

During the 20th century, every decision on establishing Pan-Arabism and standing against Israeli illegal occupations was undertaken by regional powers like Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. Because of the Iraq and Syria crises, the future structure of the Middle East is going to revolve around Iran and Turkey. 

Scholars believe that if there aren’t any devastating wars in the Middle East, these two regional powers will frame the Middle Eastern political equation for the coming decades. 

So it is not the case that those who think that the normalization of relations between the Arab States and Israel is changing the geopolitics of the Middle East crisis or conflict or that something very revolutionary is happening in the Middle East are right.

Rather, the reality is that the re-emergence of regional politics in the Middle East, along with Iran, has led to instability in Israel’s power structure. Their plan to balkanize Syria has almost failed, creating new windows for the northern front.

After the start of the civil war in Syria, Robert Fisk, a great scholar on Middle Eastern politics, made a prediction about the war in Syria a few years ago: that the war in Syria would end against the plans of the West and Israel and that strong armies would emerge in Syria under the supervision of Russia and Iran. Today’s Middle Eastern equation is rotating in favor of Fisk’s prediction.

Besides, Iran, which sponsors Hamas and Hezbollah, is building new Hezbollah forces in Iraq and Syria in the same process, equipping them with targeted guided missiles as well as building their own military bases in Iraq and Syria. These have been Israel’s biggest concerns so far. 

Their new thinking has been influenced by the way Turkey has become increasingly active in the past few years on Palestine and Jerusalem issues. As a result, scholars believe, the future politics of Israel and the Middle East will revolve mainly around the Turkey-Israel-Iran equations.

 

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