Time is on Israel’s side

The military and economic power differential between Israel and its regional foes has grown.

Israeli flags 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Israeli flags 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
ONE OF the main arguments for urging the government to cut an early deal with the Palestinians is that time is working against Israel.
The truth, however, is quite different. Close military, global, social and economic analyses of Israel’s current standing point to a remarkable success story and to a linear progression indicating that, on the contrary, time is on Israel’s side.
Significantly, the military power differential between Israel and its regional foes has grown. The current turmoil in the Arab world underscores a colossal failure to modernize and, as a result, the Arab capacity to challenge the status quo by conventional military means is limited.
Moreover, Palestinian terror has been successfully contained. The IDF has also learned from the bungled 2006 Lebanon War, and now seems better prepared to deal with Hezbollah. For the past seven years, the northern border with Lebanon has been quiet and for the time being, Israeli deterrence seems to be working.
Similarly, Israel’s military handling of the Hamas threat in the south, while not muscular enough, has been successful in limiting Gaza’s nuisance value.
The only serious security threat is a nuclear Iran. It is still unclear how the gullible international community will handle the issue.
But even if Israel is left to deal with the Ayatollahs on its own, derailing the Iranian nuclear program is not beyond its capabilities.
In the international arena, developments have been similarly positive from an Israeli perspective.
The American victories in the Cold War and in Iraq in 1991 significantly strengthened Israel’s regional standing. The November 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, convened by the US in the wake of the Gulf War and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, marked greater Arab acceptance of Israel. The 2002 Arab League peace initiative and the Arab states’s presence at the Annapolis gathering in 2007 indicate a continuation of this trend. Even an Egypt ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood maintained the peace treaty with Israel.
Furthermore, the Iranian nuclear threat puts most of the Sunni Arab states in the same strategic boat with Israel.
After the Madrid Conference several leading international players, including China, India and Turkey, decided to upgrade ties with Israel, seen as a useful conduit to Washington and a fruitful source of military and technological cooperation. Most importantly, popular support for Israel in the US, its main ally and the hegemonic power in world affairs, has remained very high for the past two decades. About two-thirds of Americans support the Jewish state, a figure that translates into solid political support at the congressional level.
The ups and mostly downs in Israeli-Palestinian relations have hardly had an impact on how states conduct their bilateral relations with Israel. Actually, the failures of the Palestinian national movement and the ascent of Hamas in Palestinian politics have elicited greater understanding for the Israeli predicament. Moreover, the 9/11 mega terrorist attack on America led to greater international empathy for Israel’s struggle against Palestinian and Islamist terrorism.
There is also good news on the domestic scene.
The common image of a deeply torn Israel is simply inaccurate, as social cohesion is greater than ever before. The divisive ideological debate over the future of the territories acquired in 1967 is over. The Sinai was relinquished in 1979 and Gaza in 2005. Over two-thirds of Israelis oppose any territorial concessions in the Golan Heights. As for Judea and Samaria, there is a large consensus that despite Israeli territorial generosity, Palestinian intransigence will prevent a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Indeed, Israeli society has reconciled itself to the idea that it will have to live by the sword for the foreseeable future and is, on the whole, ready to pay the price.
Similarly, the debates over economic policies have long disappeared.
Nearly all Israelis agree that capitalism is the best way to create wealth, and the country’s increasingly robust economy, with its strong high-tech sector, reinforces its capacity to withstand protracted conflict with its neighbors. Indeed, democracy and free market Zeitgeist favors Israel rather than its Muslim opponents, who continue to grapple with the challenge of modernity.
Of course, Israel is not perfect and it has numerous problems that need to be addressed. But it is a success story. And if the country is able to continue inculcating the Zionist ethos for generations to come, its future looks bright.  Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is Professor of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and a fellow at the Middle East Forum