Podcast: How Sunni Arab States See Security Threats Today

(JINSA) Amb. Ron Dermer interviewed by Dr. Michael Makovsky - In its first 72 years, until 2020, Israel had made two peace agreements with Arab countries - with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. There was nothing for over 25 years, and then in one year, 2020, there were four more - the Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco. What happened? A huge shift occurred in the region even before the Trump administration took office. Netanyahu spoke publicly about an opening for peace between Israel and the Arab states for the first time in 2015 at the United Nations. He said, "I've never seen this situation between Israel and the Arab world in our lifetime." He was already talking then about getting peace from the outside, in. A lot of people think the road to peace has to go through the Palestinians, but it's actually the other way around. We can actually make peace with the broader Arab world and then we'd have a greater chance of moving forward with the Palestinians. The change really began in 2011-12 due to a combination of factors where Israel's interests began aligning with some of the Arab states. The first factor was the Arab Spring beginning in 2010 in Tunisia and then Egypt, which led to a tremendous sense of instability. Then there was the emergence of threats that were becoming more acute such as the growing empowerment of Iran. The silver lining in the dark cloud of the nuclear deal was that it brought Israel and the Arab states together against the common threat. There was also the danger of Sunni radicals. Al-Qaeda was 1.0, ISIS is 2.0, and the Sunni regimes know there is going to be a 3.0. They're also worried about the Muslim Brotherhood. There was also the U.S. issue. Not only did the Arabs see that the U.S. didn't back its putative ally, Mubarak, but they also saw the U.S. as reducing its military footprint in the region. The key question is: Is the U.S. seen as the force that is going to maintain order in the region? In the American political system, 90% agree that they need to reduce their military commitments in the region. This is something that unites Presidents Obama, Trump, and Biden. So if you look at the region from the Arab states' point of view, you see this instability, you see this dangerous Iranian tiger, you see this ISIS-Muslim Brotherhood leopard that's coming at you, and then the 800-pound American gorilla just left the building. So they look around and see a 200-pound gorilla with a kipa on and they say, "Maybe we'll work with you" because their security interests are aligned with Israel. They need Israel in a way they didn't before, and a lot of it is because America has reduced its military footprint in the region. American withdrawal brought space for Israel and the Arab states to move closer together. Ron Dermer is a former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Makovsky is president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).

2022-06-16 00:00:00

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