The Demons of Arab-Israeli Normalization

[Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies-Shalem Center] Uriya Shavit - Israeli-Arab peace negotiations have often been based on the assumptions that normalization means a lot to Israelis, and can be easily handed out by Arab states, should they only decide to do so. Both assumptions are false. In fact, normalization is not so important to Israelis. Most do not want to integrate culturally into the region - they just want their neighbors to let them live in peace. At the same time, Arab regimes and citizens alike view normalization as a deep strategic threat. For a regime such as Syria's, the prospect of thousands of tourists coming from a free society such as Israel and telling locals about free elections or freedom of speech poses a potential risk to its foundations. Furthermore, to welcome Israelis essentially entails a legitimization of the Zionist project, which Arab publics strongly object to. According to a survey in the Saudi magazine al-Majala published on April 4, 2007, 60% of Moroccans, 54% of Kuwaitis, 74% of Palestinians, 76% of Jordanians, and 74% of Algerians believe that the Arab world should not recognize Israel as a Jewish state in the Middle East, regardless of progress on the Palestinian front. Perhaps most importantly, many Arabs view Israel as part of a "Western cultural attack" against Muslim society: to recognize Israel is to blindly support what many see as a Western master-plan aimed at destroying Muslim and Arab identity. A day will come when Israel lives in peace and cooperation with Arab countries, but we must give it time.

2009-10-02 08:00:00

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