There’s evidence to suggest that much of the Muslim world is abandoning the Palestinians in favour of Israel. What in recent years had been covert has now become overt: Israel’s seemingly warm relationship with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States. Prime Minister Netanyahu is about to return to the region, this time to visit Bahrain and perhaps also another state.
The visit to Israel of the president of Chad, a predominantly Muslim state, is also significant. After some four decades of rupture, he’s said to be about to re-establish diplomatic relations.
Netanyahu gets much praise for this change in the political climate. He seems to be even forgiven for using these forays as part of his re-election campaign. He may indeed have done things that no other politician in his country could have achieved.
Part of his success is, of course, his consistent, relentless and passionately articulated opposition to Iran. Israel’s new friends in the Middle East seem to be much more imbued with hostility to Iran than friendship with Israel. They may also wish to benefit from Israel’s superior technological know-how for peaceful purposes and the opportunity to buy sophisticated Israeli arms for their own belligerence.
The accepted attitude of the majority in Israel is: never mind their motives as long as their actions serve Israel. The same attitude, incidentally, also colours views about the evangelicals’ professed love for the Jewish state. Yes, they may hate Judaism and hope for its end with the second coming of Jesus, but in the meantime they’re encouraging President Trump to support Israel.
Some of us – alas, a minority – may think otherwise, not only about the evangelicals but also about recent developments in the Middle East. Here’re some concerns:
- Friendships of this kind come and go. We still remember the warm relations between Israel and Iran and Israel and Turkey: look where we are now.
- Humiliating and isolating the Palestinians isn’t the way to make peace with them. They’re likely to become more desperate than ever, and desperation almost invariably leads to more terrorism. The less hope they have the more will they undertake daring actions to harm Israel and the Jews, both at home and abroad.
- And then there’s Trump: fickle, unpredictable, inconsistent, mostly ignorant and, therefore, unreliable. Israel’s justice minister Ayelet Shaked has already dismissed his long-awaited peace plan for the region, even before it has been published. Should Israel disagree with his proposals he may very well turn against his friend Bib and the country Bibi leads.
- Compared to other problematic allies Israel has to deal with, Trump may turn out to be stable and reliable. To have dealings with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, its de facto ruler, is, to say the least, highly problematic. Others, including European prime ministers who laud Israel and embrace its prime minister, may, in fact, be rabid anti-Semites.
With friends like that, who needs enemies? Though it may be churlish on my part to try to pour cold water on the celebrated thaw in Israel’s relationship with former enemies, unfortunately it may turn out to be ominously realistic. So, let’s hope that I’m wrong.
Jerusalem 27.11.18 Dow Marmur