Israel, the Arab States, and the Prospects for Normalization

(Washington Post) Philip H. Gordon - The strategic rapprochement between Israel and some Arab states is undeniable, and behind-the-scenes cooperation is now greater than ever. But having spent much of the past several months in Israel and in Arab capitals, I believe that the hopes being placed on normalization are misplaced. If the Trump administration is looking to the Arabs for a shortcut on the Palestinian issue - or thinks Israel can establish closer relations with the Arabs without addressing that issue - it is likely to be disappointed. The main obstacle to Arab governments working openly with Israel stems from their own political weakness. Facing massive domestic and foreign policy challenges, they simply cannot afford to spend valuable political capital defending a rapprochement with Israel that most of their citizens would consider a betrayal of the still-popular Palestinian cause. On top of that, at a time of an intense competition with Iran, the Gulf Arabs and especially Saudi Arabia will not want to cede the Palestinian issue to their rivals in Tehran, who would be sure to denounce Riyadh for any public rapprochement with Israel. Moreover, since the Arab states are already getting most of what they need from Israel quietly with regard to intelligence, military and economic cooperation, they have little incentive to expand overt ties with Israel. The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was special assistant to the president and White House coordinator for the Middle East from 2013 to 2015.

2017-06-28 00:00:00

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