Leadership: Arabs Take a New Look At Israel


May 24, 2007: Despite being a beacon of economic, educational and military might in the Middle East, Israel has been shunned by its Arab neighbors for over half a century. But no more. Since the 1990s, Islamic radicalism has become a greater threat to Arabs than Israel ever was. And in the meantime, many Arab nations have found it economically, militarily and diplomatically worthwhile to develop working relationships with Israel.

Now, as Islamic radicalism becomes the popular cause of Arab youth, Arab leaders have realized that, while there is no compromise with radical Islam, you can do business with the Israelis. Doing the math, Arab rulers have concluded that given the choice between working with the Islamic radicals, or Israel, the latter is a safer, saner and more profitable choice.

The only problem with all this, is finding a suitable (that is, least stressful) way to break the news to the Arab people. That may not be all that necessary. Opinion polls have shown the Palestinians and Islamic radicals ratings falling over the past few years. While the Palestinians are the largest, per capita, recipients of foreign aid on the planet, and have failed, at every turn, to cut a deal with the Israelis. The latest "intifada," began with a new wave of terror attacks against Israel in late 2000. The Arab world was appalled at this, but dutifully got behind the Palestinians. Not only did the Palestinians lose that war, but they made it worse by embracing radical Islam, rather than peace negotiations, as a way out.

Despite Arab public opinion turning against the Palestinians and Islamic radicals, there is still the Arab media, which dutifully repeats 60 year old slogans about hating Jews and supporting Palestine, and the long cherished idea of destroying Israel. Even some Western diplomats have been approached by their Arab counterparts, looking for ways to jettison the unsuccessful past, and introduce the Arab people to their new good neighbor. Naturally, some politicians and journalists are fighting this trend. Tradition, and all that, plus it takes a lot of effort to shift targets after all these years. But Arabs are finally coming to realize that they either change direction, or fall farther behind the rest of the world.


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