Without question, the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip brought with it first overtures from the Arab and Muslim world towards Israel in years.
As of today, these moves amount to quiet meetings and joint ventures, practical cooperation without the stamp of official diplomacy.
These moves stem from the recognition that Israel is a strong economic and diplomatic player in the Middle East, and do not represent any legal or diplomatic recognition of Israel.
They are establishing relations with "Israel," not with the "State of Israel." With "Tel Aviv" as a general, non-binding term, rather than eternal, symbolic "Jerusalem."
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has said Israel will not make due with the current state of affairs, and will push for full diplomatic recognition of Israel in the Muslim world. But is it possible, or even desirable, for Israel to achieve such recognition from these countries?
A working relationship is the most Israel can expect today from the Arab world, especially after five years of intifada have so poisoned the regional atmosphere. Public opinion of Israel on the Arab street is worse than it has ever been.
If Israel demands diplomatic relations from Arab leaders, they will be forced to cave in to public pressure and scale back the working relationship that currently exists. As long as Israel does not demand diplomatic recognition, bilateral ties remain low profile and can continue to develop.
This is the opposite approach of that which has reigned in Israel until now. This suggestion proposes that a little is actually a lot, whereas we could wind up with very little, perhaps even with nothing, if we insist on demanding a lot.
Time to learn lessons of failed 1990s
Israel has always demanded "normalization," so much so that the word has become an insult in the Arab world. Israel proclaimed a "new Middle East," and from that moment those words were published, the Arab world freed itself from the approach as someone who awakes from a nightmare.
Israel asked for a "permanent status" agreement but got temporary diplomatic relations. Israel wanted "end of the conflict," and got war.
Perhaps the time has come to learn the lessons of the failed 1990s. Here in the Middle East, we must be modest, we must act without signing ceremonies, Nobel prizes, visionaries or loud proclamations.
The more publicly ambitious Israel becomes, Arab opposition will grow in equal measure.
In this light, Israel must take to refrain from bombastic visions of "peace", "diplomatic relations," or "solutions". These phrases have too many negative connotations, and the slumbering masses are sure to awake when they hear these defiant phrases.
If Israel says "there is a solution to the conflict," these forces will do everything they can to destroy that vision. On the other hand, if Israel says, "there is no solution," these forces will breathe easy and agree to local and temporary arrangements.
In the meanwhile, everyone in the region would be able to live in peace.
If so, the principle guiding our fragile, developing relations with the Arab must be: No arrogance, no bands and trumpets or signing ceremonies, no grand declarations.
Ties should include economic and trade work, quiet diplomacy, and practical actions that will bear fruit on the ground.
And we need not consider such steps as "preliminary." They are, in fact, the main steps.