When discussing issues of the Middle East, a common assumption is that the core of the ongoing conflict is related to friction between Israel and its Arab neighbor states. Normally, little attention is given to the multiple other conflicts, revolts and even wars that Israel is not a part of.
With all of the talk about Iran’s nuclear program and its threat to Israel, the fact is that the US has been in conflict with Iran for over 30 years, during which the US has sent troops into Iran twice, with no connection to Israel whatsoever.
Although many might think that Israel is the only country immediately concerned with Iran's plans, they overlook the fact that the UAE has an ongoing conflict with that country over land rights in the Abu Musa and Tunb Islands, which Iran has occupied since 1971.
While many Arab states are concerned with Iran’s involvement in Bahrain and with Syria’s internal events, to its shame, the Arab League has been unable to come to the assistance of the people of Syria, who are being massacred by the Assad regime. And there are concerns all around that the fighting in Syria could overflow into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
Few take notice of Turkey’s war on the people of Kurdistan, which is not contained within the borders of Turkey. As media services reported last week, the Turks have brought assaults even on Kurdish locations within Iraq.
A genuine Middle Eastern perspective is needed to truly understand the complexity of the region, and to demonstrate how Israel is part of a bigger picture that includes multiple regional interests. Israel need not be the unifying excuse for all Arab tyrants and their campaigns.
Israel not about to go away
In a recent opinion piece in Arab News by Saudi General (ret.) Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, marking 39 years since the war of 1973, Arab nations were urged to ask themselves what goal has been served by three major wars and 70 years of refusal to accept Israel as a neighbor. He honestly points to major suffering in the Arab world, including malnutrition and internal war crimes, which are due only to corruption of Arab leaders and not caused by Israel's continued existence. On the contrary, he points out that the Palestinians living under Israeli control (on whose behalf the Arabs have based their boycott of Israel) actually have a higher life expectancy and more freedoms than Arabs in many Arab states.
It is refreshing to see Arab dignitaries who are waking up and questioning the Arab attitude towards Israel. And what about the Israeli attitude towards its neighbors? Israel’s foreign policy (if it could be called that) was ironically shaped by the decision of the Arab League Summit in Khartoum, after the Six Day War in 1967. From that poorly attended meeting came the infamous "Three Nos" declaration, stating that the members of the Arab League would refuse to recognize Israel or have any dealings with it. Israel accepted that ruling, and has refrained from direct interaction with Arab states.
In another refreshing article by Naava Mashiach, published on the Your Middle East website, Israel is urged to take part in the region in which it is physically located - the Middle East. I was glad to see the writer seemingly ignore or forget the above policy of the Arab League, and suggest that we just do business. Israel is an international leader in the development of advanced technology in computers, medical equipment and agriculture. These products and others are in great demand in countries around the world. The writer proposes that Israel actively promote trade and tourism with her neighboring countries. This type of normal interaction would effectively bypass pointless peace negotiations and bring all sides into a basic understanding for mutual benefit.
The fact is that the Arab collective consciousness and pride is hurt by the fact that non-Muslims control land that was once under Muslim domain. That will not change; it is part of their culture, which can be appreciated without being accepted as a mutual value. On the other hand, we can expect our neighbors to be realistic and pragmatic enough to realize that Israel is a fact that is not about to go away, and to learn to live with that in peace.
David Ha’ivri is the director of the Shomron Liaison Office. He and his wife Mollie live in Kfar Tapuach, Shomron with their eight children. You can follow him on Twitter @haivri