Several looming challenges pose a clear and present danger to the Arab world’s ability to continue as a viable culture and functioning political system. At the head of the list are Iran, Islamic State, and the deterioration of the status of the state itself in countries where terror, motivated mainly by Islam and its dictates, is on the rise.
The Iranian challenge received a boost last year from the signing of Iran’s Nuclear Agreement with the West and the billions of dollars accompanying it, part of which will be invested in pouring more boiling jet fuel on the epicenters of Middle Eastern bloodshed and tension – Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – in a way that poses a direct threat to certain key countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The agreement will also make it easier for Iran to export the revolution to other parts of the world, starting with Europe and the United States.
The Islamic State challenge continues to threaten Syria and Iraq directly, but its influence is increasing in other focal points such as Libya and the Sinai Peninsula. Jordan, too, has been the scene of activities meant to prepare the population for the day after the monarchy, when an Islamic State-type regime can come to power. Although Islamic State lost territory in its battles with the Iraqi and Syrian armies, it is far from losing its ongoing ability to spread terror and propaganda and its defeat is not at all a sure thing.
The modern Arab state – as an ideology and political entity – is facing several difficult questions. Many of its citizens ask why they are forced to live in states created, designed and planned by the West to promote its own interests. Why, they ask, must they live under dictatorships where a ruling elite runs an economically and morally corrupt government? Social media are the main platform for expressing these opinions and serve as the stage where large numbers of people take part in a public debate that puts their own countries in the dock.
There is a not insignificant number of people in the Arab world who have reached the conclusion that it is time to act against their own states by means of intimidation, threats, terrorist acts and murder. The main leader of this trend is the Muslim Brotherhood and the political Islamic organizations it spawned.
These organizations make use of social media to organize, plan, get new volunteers, all the while sending their messages anonymously and without the constraints of government censorship.
A clear example of the deteriorating situation is the terror state that was established in Gaza nine years ago, in June 2007, when an Islamic terrorist organization – Hamas – took over an area that is home to over one million people and established an entity that is the political implementation of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology. The Arab world is paralyzed and prevented from reacting because every word against Hamas is immediately interpreted as being pro-Israel and therefore totally unacceptable in Arab circles.
The disastrous situation was actually strengthened when wealthy and important states such as Qatar and Turkey stood behind the Hamas state and aided it financially and politically, while Iran provided it with military support.
Meanwhile, the same phenomenon is developing in Lebanon, where the Hezbollah terrorist organization is taking over an entire country and turning it into a state run according to decisions made in Tehran. The most crucial decision that Iran made for Lebanon was throwing the country into the midst of the fierce civil war raging in Syria between Assad and his enemies.
This challenging state of events has been ruling the Arab scene for years with no solution in sight. Iran not only is not disappearing, its influence is getting stronger by the day. Islamic State is also not disappearing, despite the West’s declaration of war against it. The modern Arab state is not seen as a legitimate answer, causing the internal terror fueled by Islam to get more and more powerful.
In the past, the United States was a stabilizing factor that preserved the political systems in the region, but it has decided to step back and leave the area ripe prey for Iran, Sunni Jihadists, Turks and lately the Russians who have arrived to secure their own interests. Sadly, those who suffer most from this maelstrom of problems are peaceful citizens who once suffered under dictatorships and now suffer under Jihadist swords. They are fleeing en masse to Europe.
Israel can be accepted more easily while the Arab world is In this miserable situation because it does not pose a threat to any nations except the two terrorist mini states that have arisen in the Middle East: the Gazan Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah. Islamic State will also be a potential target for Israel from the second that its territory reaches any Israeli border, so that Israel has been transformed from being a problem to being a solution to problems.
The first Arab country to realize the Israel solution was Egypt, which shares Israel’s concern about terror and Islamic State, especially since IS has established a branch in the Sinai. Al Sisi’s Egypt, since 2013, works stubbornly and steadily, with minimum sensitivity, against Hamas. Egypt closed the Rafiah Pass almost hermetically, and has almost entirely eliminated the tunnel system into Egypt that the Gazans worked hard to dig. Those tunnels were not used only for weapons smuggling – an entire circus once arrived in Gaza that way!
Rumors have it that Israel is helping Egypt in the shared struggle of both countries against Islamic State’s “Sinai Province,” an organization that was once called “Ansar Beit al Maqdis” and was affiliated with al Qaeda, and whose hands are smeared with the blood of hundreds of Egyptian civilians and soldiers.
It has reached the point where the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukri, refused to accuse Israel of engaging in terror when it battles Palestinian Arabs. In his opinion, “Israel’s history forces it to grant an important place to security because Israeli society is faced with challenges that demand strict attention to security, control of the area and the sealing of any breaches in its protective shield.” He might well say the exact same words regarding Egypt.
Shoukri also noted that it is impossible to accuse Israel of terror since there is no accepted international definition for terror. This remark is actually a complaint aimed at all the Islamic countries which refuse to define terror in legal terms because doing so would by definition point to Islam as the factor motivating most terrorists today. The US government is not eager to identify the connection between Islam and terror either, so that his words seem to be pointed in that direction as well.
This week Israel struck Hamas in Gaza in retaliation for that organization’s launch of a rocket at Sderot, an insult to Israeli sovereignty. Israel’s reaction was what its enemies like to call “disproportionate.”)It would be interesting to see what they would do to anyone who dared to launch a rocket over their borders.) This time, however, the reaction was barely heard because most sane people in this world realize exactly what Shoukri, the Egyptian Foreign Minister, was talking about.
In contrast, the Turkish regime seems to have lost some of its ability to think rationally accused Israel of reacting disproportionately, of pointless violence that will not be allowed to go away quietly despite the newly signed reconciliation agreement, all this while using the old , tired rhetoric of former periods that divided the world into infidels and believers. Erdogan has not yet noticed that the world is divided differently today, between those who believe in political detente and those who cause trouble – among them Turkey, the country that played the most crucial role in making the rise of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq possible.
Erdogan’s treaty with Hamas puts him on the wrong side of history. He, naturally, attempts to cover up and obscure his Islamist leanings by renewing Turkey’s ties to Israel, Russia and NATO, but he cannot hide his abhorrence for al Sisi’s Egypt and for Israel, because both of these countries are a unified front against the Islamic terror that he, Erdogan, supports wholeheartedly.
In the current situation, now that Israel has switched from being the problem to being a solution, relations with Israel have ceased to be an embarrassment and many countries, both Arab and non-Arab, do not deny that they have some sort of relations with the “Zionist Entity.”
The other challenges, the real ones, threaten the very existence of any political order in the Middle East and countries in the region and outside it understand that Israel is the one to rely on for stability.
Considering all that, it is most definitely strange that there are still people in this world who believe that establishing a Palestinian Arab state is a positive and necessary step, despite the inevitability of it soon becoming another Hamas state.
Written for Arutz Sheva, translated from Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky, op-ed and Judaism editor.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. Thoroughly familiar with Arab media in real time, he is frequently interviewed on the various news programs in Israel.