The US has recently warned Israel that an Israeli strike on Iran will likely cause Egypt and Jordan to annul their peace agreements with Israel and sever ties, according to a senior Israeli official quoted by the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth on Thursday.
“These days, Arab leaders don’t rule their people. Rather, the street rules its leaders,” the official was quoted as saying. “An Israeli strike is exactly what the Iranians need: the entire Arab and Muslim street will go out to demonstrate.” …
“What we’ve been seeing with the anti-Muhammad film is nothing but a preview for what’s going to happen if Israel attacks,” the official was quoted as saying.
Well, sure. If they can use a stupid film made by some neer-do-well in LA as a pretext for violent ‘demonstrations’ against Western interests, they should have no problem being provoked by an actual bombing raid.
But by the same token, who cares? Anything can be used to provoke “The Street,” which is a cheap, easily deployed weapon in the hands of both the official leaders of the countries in question and the various radical groups.
Israel, of all nations, can’t let the Arab street set policy for it.
Would it help to point out that a nuclear Iran, which wants to set up a Shiite caliphate in the Mideast, also threatens Sunni Jordan and Egypt? No, because an Israeli attack is a win-win proposition for Arab leaders: they are saved from Iran, but they have another reason to stir up hatred against Israel. Guess they never heard of gratitude.
So what about the peace treaties? Again, who cares. The treaties are not accepted — they are considered treasonous, deals with the devil — by a huge majority of the inhabitants of Egypt and Jordan. The leadership has seen to it that there is the absolute minimum degree of normalization in relations. The Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt has said that they will ‘reconsider’ the treaty, which means that they can decide at any time that they can militarize the Sinai, if they dare.
It’s the IDF that prevents war, not the treaties.
And here is a point that American officials may have missed (h/t: Omri Ceren): the US wants Israel to make irreversible, highly concrete concessions to the Palestinians in return for a treaty. But if these treaties can be torn up by the anger of the street, then maybe they are not such a good idea. After all, Israel might have a need to defend itself again in the future.
Recently I mentioned to a friend that the peace treaty with Egypt turned out to be a bad idea. “Oh no,” he said, “we had 40 years of peace as a result.” But the truth is that Israel paid dearly in the coin of natural resources and long-term security for a temporary cease-fire, something which was guaranteed by the IDF anyway. Yes, Israel got US military aid in return — but so did Egypt, which has nobody to use it against except Israel.
Here is a lesson we can learn from history, both from the treaty with Egypt and the Oslo accords: a treaty is a piece of paper which is only good as long as both sides’ interests are served by it. Therefore we should never make a treaty in which permanent concessions by our side are paired with mere promises from the other, because their interests are always maximized by taking what we offer and giving nothing in return.
And while we’re learning lessons from history, let’s not forget this one: the Jewish people cannot afford to outsource its security, even to ‘friends’.