Don't Ignore Kushner's Quiet Mideast Gains - Ahmed Charai
Jared Kushner, who supervises America's Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, recognizes that Iran now matters more to the Arabs than Palestine.
With Iran and Islamic militants threatening the survival of major Arab states, many Arab leaders have quietly decided to align with Israel - dialing down their interest in the Palestinian drama.
Consider that President Trump's plan to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem did not touch off huge protests in Arab capitals or angry editorials in the Arab press.
Kushner realizes that more than 60% of Arabs are too young to remember the 1967 and 1973 wars with Israel.
As a result, younger Arabs largely accept Israel's existence as a settled fact, and generally see trading with its prosperous economy as essential to their own economic growth.
I know. I have heard them tell me these things in the privacy of their living rooms.
Kushner has befriended Saudi Arabia's deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Both are seen as disrupters of the status quo and both favor practical solutions over symbolic displays.
Other Gulf Arab leaders that I have met tell me that they have heard positive things about Kushner and are eager to work with him.
In short, Kushner's correct reading of this unique moment in Arab politics positions the U.S. to make historic progress in the Middle East.
The writer, a Moroccan publisher, is a member of the board of directors of the Atlantic Council.
- Moshe Yaalon and Leehe Friedman
- In recent years, the scope of common interests between Israel and the Sunni Arab world has widened. Given the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS), chaos stemming from stateless Libya, and civil wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, the Arab states - which are a pragmatic lot - can no longer claim that the Palestinian issue is the region's top priority.
- The Arab people likewise see the Palestinian issue as a less pressing concern. An annual survey of young people in the Arab world, conducted by ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller, revealed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was rated eighth among the region's main threats, down from seventh place in last year's survey. On top of this, the Arab states have reduced their financial assistance to the Palestinians.
- The main obstacle to normalization is public opinion in the Arab world, which "obliges" Arab regimes to put a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute before normalization. This hurdle must be overcome, either by settling the conflict or by persuading the Arab world that it is worth separating the artificial linkage between the two issues.
- Current geopolitical conditions have created a critical mass of new and overlapping interests between Israel and the Arab countries, and there is now a historic opportunity to promote a process of normalization.
- Hinging normalization on the resolution of the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not brought the region any closer to a solution; what it has done is to make both the Arab states and Israel hostages to a conflict that has no solution on the horizon.
- It is therefore time for the pragmatic Arab camp to abandon this formula, which has so far led only to stagnation, and instead to seriously examine steps toward gradual normalization that will help to build mutual trust.
Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon is a former Israeli defense minister and IDF chief of staff. Leehe Friedman is a research assistant at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.