Israel from space 1.
(photo credit: NASA/BARRY WILMORE)
I woke up this morning and I suddenly realized that Israel was an insignificant country.
Watching the heart-breaking images of the Syrian refugees in Europe, it dawned on me that Israel had absolutely nothing to do with it. In terms of cause and effect, it had no role whatsoever in creating the problem. Indeed, Israel had no responsibility for the civil war taking place in Syria.
If Israel had not existed, the civil war in Syria and the consequent refugee problem besetting Europe at present would have occurred anyway.
Glancing more widely into the region, I then became aware that in terms of cause and effect, Israel was not the motive of the cruel and destabilizing events that have occurred in the Middle East in the last four years.
I became despondent as I realized that the emergence of the Islamic State had nothing to do with Israel; that if Israel had not existed, al-Qaida and the Islamic State would nevertheless have emerged and wreaked havoc in the region.
Further, I then understood that the civil war in Libya, prior and subsequent to Muammar Gaddafi’s fall, would have taken place no matter what Israel did or said.
Turning eastward, I saw the light as I realized that the evolution of the political landscape in Egypt would not have changed a bit if Israel had not existed.
Former president Hosni Mubarak would have been toppled; the Muslim Brotherhood would have been elected to power, and Gen. Fattah al-Sisi would have staged a coup d’etat at the head of a military-civilian coalition in Egypt.
As tears were pouring down my cheeks knowing that my beloved Israel was such an insignificant player in the Middle East, it struck me that Israel had no role in the whole conflict engulfing the Muslim world between the Shi’ites and the Sunnis. Had Israel not existed, I mused sadly, the two rival camps would have been still at loggerheads hating each other fiercely.
What about the bloody conflict in Iraq? I asked myself in a futile endeavor aimed at finding some solace in a problem besetting the region where Israel might be responsible. Unfortunately, Israel is neither the cause of the current civil war there nor is it responsible for the political stalemate in Iraq.
Wait a minute! If Israel had solved its own conflict with the Palestinians, wouldn’t all the problems aforementioned been avoided, to begin with? Let us assume that a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians had been signed five years ago. Would the civil war in Syria have occurred? Would the civil war in Libya have taken place? Would political events in Egypt have taken a different turn? Would the conflict between the Shi’ites and the Sunnis have disappeared? Would the Islamic State have emerged? Would the civil war in Iraq have been solved? It was an excruciating intellectual exercise that led me to the following depressing rhetorical questions: How could an Israeli-Palestinian final agreement have altered events in Syria if all the variables related to them are unconnected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? The same question could be advanced as regards the civil war in Libya and the political developments in Egypt.
What about the bitter rivalry between Shi’ites and Sunnis? How could a final Israeli-Palestinian accord have modified its character or intensity? Would a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians have prevented the emergence of the Islamic State? What could have changed in the bloody internal conflict in Iraq had Israel and the Palestinians resolved once and for all their conflict? Desolated and distraught, I reached the conclusion that the Zionist dream had suffered a major setback. A Jewish state might have been established, but its regional influence was desperately limited. Events unfolded in the Middle East without Israel having a part in them. Israel’s role in causing or in turn in preventing them was insignificant.
What’s the purpose, I asked myself, of being a stable, prosperous parliamentary democracy if Israel does not play even a limited role in shaping the major upheavals in the region? What is the purpose of being such a scientifically and technologically advanced country if Israel cannot prevent such regional upheavals from occurring? At least I could console myself with the thought that Israel may be insignificant but hardly unnoticed.
After all, so much attention is paid in the world to anything Israel does or says – or might have done or said – that our national ego could feel compensated for our lack of influence.
Emotionally and intellectually beaten, I could still feel proud that Israel, however insignificant it is in shaping major events in the region, is hardly ignored.
The writer is a lecturer at the Diplomacy Studies Program at Tel Aviv University.
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