While Israel was not asked to join the international coalition against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) when it was formed in 2014, it was already accepted that Israel was regularly cooperating with many Arab states in counter-terrorism efforts. Israel was not allowed to join the anti-ISIL coalition because the ten Arab members of this twenty country coalition are still trapped by decades of their own “Israel must be destroyed” propaganda and rhetoric. Many Arabs now regret this rigorous anti-Israel policy but it has become a part of Arab culture and very difficult to change or even discuss openly. While many middle-aged and older Arabs are still inclined to be anti-Israel, this is not the case with a growing number of younger Arabs. A recent poll of young (18-24) Arabs in 16 Arab countries found that the respondents listed their top four obstacles to the Middle East as ISIL (27 percent), terrorism (32 percent), unemployment (29 percent) and Israel (23 percent). The respondents were given fifteen obstacles to choose from that total responses added up to 235 percent as those taking the survey could list all of the items they felt relevant. Many did not list Israel at all. Similar surveys over the last decade have shown a trend in the decline of younger Arabs blaming Israel for Arab problems.
Many Arab leaders see Israel as a solution, not a threat, if only because Israel is the most successful democracy and economy in the region. Arabs note that nearly half of Israelis are ethnically Semites (as are nearly all Arabs) because 20 percent of Israelis identify as Arab and many of the Israeli Jews descend from Jews expelled from Arab countries (where they had lived for centuries or even thousands of years) and moved to Israel. Palestinians know well that you cannot tell Jewish Arab apart from a Moslem one, especially if the Jewish Arab is working undercover. Some of these Sephardi Jews who came to Israel in the 1940s and 50s went on to be key Israeli intelligence operatives because they looked and acted like Arabs and spoke Arabic like natives as well. That’s because many had grown up among Arabs. Many of the children and grandchildren of these original Sephardi immigrants still speak Arabic and share some Arab customs. They make it easier to connect with Arabs for business or diplomatic reasons.
What all this means is that time is on Israel’s side. Eventually the majority of Arabs will support establishing formal economic and diplomatic relationships with Israel.