Turning threats into opportunities

By Dow Marmur

Jerusalem (Nov. 19, 2017) – Iran building a military base in Syria close to the border with Israel and its sponsorship of the anti-Israel terrorist force Hezbollah in Lebanon may, after all, turn out to be not quite as ominous as it seems. According to the principle “my enemy’s enemy is my friend,” Iran’s foe Saudi Arabia has warmed to Israel. This is said to have been going on in semi-secret for some time, but it has now become public knowledge with the appearance in a Saudi newspaper of a lengthy interview with Israel’s chief of staff in which he speaks of the military cooperation between the two countries. By all accounts, other Gulf States are also part of the alliance. Threats may turn out to be opportunities.

At the same time, Egypt has become a much more active partner of Israel. The cold peace between the two countries that has lasted for forty years seems to be warming up. By destroying the tunnels of Hamas that made trade between Gaza and Egypt possible and provided the terrorists with revenue, Egypt has been the catalyst that has brought about the announced “reconciliation” between Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, and Fatah, the force behind the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. This could only happen because Hamas has been greatly diminished.

By fusing Gaza with the West Bank, peace between Israel and the Palestinians has become more of a possibility with perhaps Saudi Arabia helping out financially as a way of doing away with Iranian influence.

Turning a blind eye to human rights violations may be the necessary price for achieving the greater good

Some pundits speculate that the U.S. peace plan for the Middle East may be based on this. They also tell us that President Trump is behind it. His pathological obsession with Barak Obama has prompted him to undo as much as possible, and as quickly as possible, of what his predecessor in office has tried to achieve. The efforts to scrap Obamacare is only one aspect of it. Obama’s attempts to appease Iran and his coolness to Saudi Arabia and Egypt are other dimensions of the obsession. Trump’s speculations about cancelling the Iran deal and his efforts to establish warm relations with the Saudis and the Egyptians almost as soon as he moved into the White House, coupled with his apparent determination to be firm with North Korea, are aspects of Trump’s anti-Obama foreign policy that may work in Israel’s favour.

The much heralded blueprint for peace between Israel and the Palestinians that the Americans are said to be working on is probably linked to what’s happening in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Though the peace plan calls for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, the Egyptians, the Saudis and the Americans will be very much part of the process.

If some critics find it hard enough to reconcile Israel’s seemingly good relations with Egypt, despite Egypt’s dismal human rights record, they’ll find it even harder to accept friendship with Saudi Arabia and its oppressive regime. But they may have to live with it on the basis that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is essential for the well-being, nay survival, of both peoples. Therefore, turning a blind eye to human rights violations may be the necessary price for achieving the greater good.

The compromise may also include tamping criticism of Donald Trump. For all the crazy things that seem to be happening around him, perhaps, after all, he’ll keep his promise and bring peace to this region. This may be a time when even pessimists should allow themselves to be hopeful.

Rabbi Dow Marmur is Rabbi Emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. He lives in Jerusalem.

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