Eli Avidar 58.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The first decade of the 21st century began with a disappointment: the failure of
the Camp David conference in 2000, when Washington had a strong president who
had invested everything he could in the peace process. In Israel, we had a prime
minister who had been elected on a wave of hope for peace, and who was prepared
for far-reaching concessions, while on the Palestinian side there was Yasser
Arafat, seen as the only leader who could bring the Palestinians to an historic
The first decade also began with the terror attack on the
Twin Towers, etching into Western consciousness that terror organizations were
no longer restricting themselves.
It was marked by the rule of George W.
Bush as US president, who began with a certain hostility toward Israel and ended
as the best friend that it has ever had.
I can recall a cable I sent to
the Foreign Ministry immediately after the Bush’s election, when I served as
head of the diplomatic delegation in Qatar, in which I stated that Bush and
Richard Cheney were bad news. I detailed the scope of the deals that Cheney had
obtained as president of an oil company in the Gulf states – $9 billion – and I
insisted that their tenure meant problems for us.
I was wrong. My
assessment was based on logic. But logic is one thing, and reality is another.
The attack on 9/11 shocked the US. Every day that went by brought new
revelations about how Arab countries were turning a blind eye to terror
Finally, the West understood. We were given a place in the
VIP box for those who had been saying “I told you so,” when we had been telling
the US how it should fight its war. During the Bush era, the US demanded that
its allies move toward democracy. The first decade of the 21st century was one
in which the US operated proactively, and took advantage of every drop of
motivation, will and money in a war against the enemies of the West and
But in the end, the US tired of Bush’s crusade and of attempting
to reeducate the Muslim world, while it also tired of supporting Israel. It was
a decade in which Israeli leaders enjoyed huge support in Washington but that
support diminished with the accession of Barack Obama.
Toward the end of
the decade, Arab countries also realized that the US was weak economically and
militarily, and in particular discovered the limits of its ability to get
results in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US today is tired. The country wants to
engage in domestic matters, and be more popular among those who hate
This weakness has resulted in Arab countries no longer falling in
line with Washington’s positions, and small, impudent countries such as Qatar
doing everything in their power to support Hamas and warm relations with Iran,
while enabling Al Jazeera to stoke up anti-American sentiment.
understanding has also resulted in the Palestinian Authority, which relies on US
aid, launching a diplomatic offensive to recognize a Palestinian state by
explaining that the US is too weak to force Israel into an agreement. This is to
make the unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence seem
THE SECOND decade of this century will be one in which it is
not certain that the US will be part of any Middle East solution, and certainly
not on Iran.
The WikiLeaks documents that revealed the distress of Arab
leaders over Iran’s nuclear program and the lack of US will to act shows that in
the coming decade, the US will abstain from military action in Iran or even from
supporting operations by other countries in the Middle East. The US lives in
peace with nuclear bombs in Pakistan, Russia, China and India; a bomb in Iranian
hands is not an existential problem for it.
The second decade will be one
in which we will be forced to stop wasting time on declarations about the
responsibility of the West for the Iranian problem, and will need to take
practical steps as we see fit.
The decade must be one in which Israel
begins speaking Arabic. The meaning of this is not that we will assimilate into
the Middle East and join the Arab League as per the vision of Shimon Peres in
the 1990s, but rather we will begin to speak Arabic to become a more effective
player in the region.
An Israel that speaks Arabic will be better
understood and in this way, we will be better able to defend our interests and
finally achieve results.
We will also need to act independently, and not
rely on the US veto and support at the UN because that is no longer
The second decade will force us to create international policy
that relies on universal values and not just to explain our position within the
context of the Palestinian conflict. This will be the decade of the environment,
a decade of improved health and scientific development, and in all these areas
Israel has much to contribute. There are dozens of other issues in which
we can play a significant role in the UN and fight the delegitimization campaign
With the discovery of vast gas resources, the next decade
must also be a decade of renewal. It is enough for us to look eastward
and see what is happening to countries that enjoy fixed revenues from energy.
The gas must enable us to pass on to the next generation an economy without
national debt and cleaner air.
THE SECOND decade of the 21st century must
be an active decade from Israel’s point of view. A decade in which we
initiate actions to set the regional and international agenda, and are not
merely led by events to which we respond. This must be a decade in which,
instead of just purporting to build a new Middle East, we learn to conduct
ourselves wisely in this region.
The author is chairman of the Smart
Middle East Forum. This article was first published in Yisrael Hayom.