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Israel and the Jewish  World

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THE TORONTO  ZIONIST  COUNCIL

We don’t need open relations with the Arabs. We get more behind the scenes than we will ever receive in front of them. And the Palestinians aren’t the key to good relations with the West.  They are  they are the justification for the anti-Semitism.

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COMMENTARY:

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Israel’s Peace Fantasists in Action

By Caroline Glick

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In a clear vote of no-confidence in US President Barack Obama’s leadership, Saudi King Salman led several Arab leaders in blowing off Obama’s Camp David summit this week. The purpose of the summit is to compensate the Sunni Arabs for Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

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Salman’s decision is further proof that US-Saudi relations have jumped the tracks . For seventy years the Saudis subcontracted their  national  security  to  the  US  military.  Deals  were  closed  with  a wink  and  a nod. That’s all over now.

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Obama has destroyed Washington’s credibility.

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Salman views its gentlemen’s agreements as worthless. All he wants now is military hardware. And for that, he can send a stand-in.

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For seventy years the Saudis have played a double game, maintaining strategic alliances both with the l iberal West and the most reactionary forces in the Islamic world. The Saudis p ocketed petrodollars from America and Europe and transferred them to terrorists andj ihadist preachers in mosques in the US, Europe and worldwide.

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Although  for outsiders the worldview of the theocracy  governing Saudi Arabia seems all but identical to the worldview of the Muslim Brotherhood, the    Saudis    consider  the Brotherhood  a mortal foe. The Saudis claim that their   tribal ,  top-down   regime   is  the genuine expression  of Islam.

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The Brotherhood’s populist, grass roots organization rejects their legitimacy. And so, since the Arab revolutionary wave began in late 2010, the Saudis opposed the empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Saudis are the primary bankrollers of Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s regime.

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During Operation Protective Edge last summer, the Saudis sided with al-Sisi and Israel against Hamas – the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Turkish and Qatari state sponsors.

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Although Saudi Arabia had previously been a major funder of Hamas, that backing ended in 2005 when -following Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza – Hamas forged strategic ties with Iran .

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For the past five years, the Saudis worked against  both  the  Muslim  Brotherhood  and Iran.  But   in   recent   months   they   beo0an reconsidering their two war approach .

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With the Iranian-backed Houthis’ takeover of Yemen – and the US’s conclusion of its framework nuclear deal with Iran – the Saudis apparently determined that weakening Iran takes precedence over fighting the Brotherhood . With its Houthi proxies in Yemen deployed along the Saudi border abutting Shiite majority order provinces – and fighting for control over the Bab el Mandab – Iran now poses an immediate and existential threat to Saudi Arabia.

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Moreover, as the Saudis see it, the threat posed by the Brotherhood has severely diminished since al-Sisi began his campaign to destroy its infrastructure  in  Egypt.

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So long as al-Sisi continues weakening the Brotherhood in Egypt and Libya, the Sauudis feel safe working with the Brotherhood and its state sponsors Turkey and Qatar in Syria and  Yemen .  To  this  end  – much  to Washington ‘s dismay – the Saudis are willing to back a consortium of rebel groups in Syria that include the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al Nusra.

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The Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist offshoots are not the only strange bedfellows the Saudis are willing to work with in their bid to neutralize  Iran.

They have also signaled a willingness to work with Israel. Wh ile Israel should be willing to reciprocate Saudi overtures, there are institutional impediments to constructive cooperation .

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For more than twenty years, Israel ‘s policymaking community has been intellectually  ensnared  by  the  notion  of peace.

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As a consequence, the concept of joint action based on shared interests has become almost incomprehensible. Many senior officials believe that the only way for  Israel to collaborate with its Arab neighbors is by first   signing   a   peace   treaty    with  the Pal estinians. So long as such a peace treaty eludes us, no real  cooperation  is possible.

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This  is the reason  why  Labor  head  Bugie Herzog  and  Yesh  Atid  leader  Yair  Lapid, responded   to   the   stunning  support  Israel received  from  Egypt,  Saudi  Arabia  and  the UAE  during  Operation  Protective  Edge  – not with  a simple nod  and smile – but with the idea that what we all need to do to follow up with a regional peace  conference  where the  Egyptians ,  Saudis  and  the  UAE  could join  the  West  in  condemning   Israel  for failing to cough up Jerusalem.

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The problem is that the security establishment is committed to the notion that Israel’s international position is a function of the state of our relations with the Palestinians.  lf  we    appease  the Palestinians then people will develop ties with  us. If not, they will blackball us.

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This  week,  Dr.  Mark  Heller ,  a  principal research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies,  gave  expression   to  this popular assessment in an article he published on the institute’s website including  Saudi  Arabia  – share common interests, and it is possible that due to those joint interests “potential  may exist for expanded ties,” and nothing significant can come from those ties so long as Israel refuses to appease the Palestinians .

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In his words, ‘Those [who reject making such concessions to the Palestinians ] should at least refrain from indulging in the fantasy that Israeli involvement in a  regional response to Israel’s challenges; – the Iranian threat, Islamist radicalism, American fecklessness , or anything else is a substitute for movement on the Palestinian issue rather than  a consequence  of it.”

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Not only is this thinking wrong, given the chaos in so much of the Arab world today, IT IS DANGEROUS.  With  all  the  Arab regimes teetering on the edge or seriously threatened by rising jihadist forces, talk of peace treaties, overt ties and normalized relations between Israel and its neighbors is not merely irrelevant, it is dangerous. Going public with ties to Israel could endanger the regimes maintaining them.

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Israel’s reason for wanting to work with the Saudis and their neighbors is the same as their reason for wanting to work with us. Together we can weaken Iran more than we can separately.

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If the Saudis oppose open ties with Israel because they are threatened by jihadists, Israel should oppose ties because they are collaborating with jihadists . The greater the expanse of our joint efforts, the greater the threat  of  blowback.   On  the  other  hand,  if limited joint operations are successful, then the bilateral impetus for future cooperation will grow.  As to the  Palestinians;  suffice it to note that the agenda for Obama’s summit with the representatives of the Gulf Cooperation Council makes no mention  of the  Palestinians.

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If the Palestinians do arise as an issue at Obama ‘s summit this weekend, it will be because the Americans raised it. The Arabs for their part – will cluck their tongues and denounce Israel in unison for a bit, and then clear their throats and move on to a subject that interests them.

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And  this  brings  us  back  to  the   Israeli diplomatic-security brass and their antiquated notions about what makes our Arab neighbors tick.

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Israel today is confronted by two strategic threats that have little-to-nothing to do with each other. On the one hand we  have Iran. On the other hand we have the international campaign to delegitimize Israel ‘s right  to exist. Iran is a regional threat.

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The threat of delegitimization emanates mainly from Western countries acting hand in glove with the PLO. What we learn from arguments like Heller’s is that many  in the top echlons of our diplomatic-security community view them as interconnected. This is a problem because treating them as such only makes things worse.

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Iran is principally a physical threat. The center  ogravity    of    any strategy   for contending with Iran involves physically blockmg Iran ‘s territorial advance in the region and its acquisition of nuclear bombs.

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Cooperation  between  Israel  and  the  Gulf states would  consequently take place on the ground – far away from television cameras. The   public dimension of a strategy of blocking Iran’s    regional and  nuclear advances  –  continuously   sounding  the alarm  regarding  the  threat Iran poses  to international security is not an end unto itself. The purpose of these warnings is to develop the political maneuver room to enable actions on the ground.

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In contrast, a coherent strategy for combatmg the delegitimization threat requires Israel to act almost entirely above ground. To defeat the manifold forces seeing to cast Israel out of the community of nati0ns, Israel must expose and discredit the goals of the campaign, the political forces leading it and their sources of finance.

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The problem is that in order to adopt a competent strategy for countering the delegitimization campaign, Israel ‘s senior officials first need to understand what is happening. And here the        Palestinians are relevant to the discussion.

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Ever since the UN ‘s diplomatic pogrom at Durban, South Africa in August 2001  just a year after the peace process blew up at Camp David, the Palestinian conflict with Israel became part and parcel of a broad based campaign to deny Israel’s legitimacy and right to exist.

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For 14 years Israel has failed to forge coherent and successful policies for contending with this state of affairs because our senior officials refused to acknowledge what had happened and have instead insistently argued that the campaign against us is somehow related to a future peace with the PLO.

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We saw just how absurd this view has become earlier this  week  when  one  of the principal PLO  negotiators, the terroristturned security bossturned international soccer aficionado Jibril Rajoub, the current head of the Palestinian soccer federation , made real progress in his longstanding bid to get Israel expelled from FIFA.

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Rajoub  understands  that  any  success  he garners in his operation will  have a cascade effect on the overall campaign to expel Israel from the community of nations.  Rather than open a counteroffensive,  based among other things on exposing Rajoub’s true nature – he is a man whose hands are anything but clean – and making him persona non grata in polite company, Israel chose instead to pretend  he isnt our enemy and deal with this quietly . The same officialdom  that wrongly viewed Rajoub  as  a peace  partner in the  1990s, cannot  accept  that  he  is  our  enemy, hell bent 0n using political warfare as a means of destroying Israel. The officialdom that still believes Israel’s legitimacy is tied to its ability to appease the PLO cannot understand that the PLO has no reason to exist outside the campaign to destroy Israel ‘s legitimacy.

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The Iranian threat does share two common features with the delegitimization campaign. Both threaten Israel ‘s existence, albeit in different ways. And both require strategic operations that contradict the central guidepost of Isra eli strategic thinking/or the past twenty years.

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We don’t need open relations with the Arabs. We get more behind the scenes than we will ever receive in front of them. And the Palestinians aren’t the key to good relations with the West. They are the justification  for anti-Semitism.

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We have the means to handle both threats. But doing so requires that we first put our long held delusions behind us.

( 1 st published in The  Jerusalem Post.)

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