Perfect Storm: The Implications of Middle East Chaos
In this major monograph, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror studies the storms convulsing the Arab Middle East. He looks at the long-term implications of Middle East chaos.
Amidror, the Anne and Greg Rosshandler Senior Fellow at the BESA Center, is an important analyst, since he is the immediate past national security advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu and previously served as chief of the research and analysis division of military intelligence in the IDF.
Amidror sees civilizational shifts of historical proportions underway, and he argues that there is no way of knowing how long the upheavals will continue or how they will end. “We are witnessing a wide and deep struggle over the character and future of the Arab nation, and perhaps of Islam as a whole,” he writes.
The troubles go all the way back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire, he writes, and to the revolution in Iran, the consequent rise of radical Islam, the attacks of 9/11 on the U.S., the conquest of Iraq as a response to these, and to the Arab Spring. “To this we must add the weakness manifested by the international system, especially the U.S.-led Western alliance; the total worthlessness of global organizations; and the ruinous activities of local forces unique to each state.”
Amidror’s conclusion is that anyone from the outside trying to influence these regional upheavals in a positive direction will find the task very difficult. “There is no silver bullet,” Amidror says, that will steer things in the right direction. “The problems are too significant. This necessitates a great deal of modesty in policy planning, and security caution too.”
For Israel, he writes, the best strategy is to identify the greatest threats looming in its vicinity, and concentrate its efforts narrowly in dealing with these specific threats, and on them alone. Primarily, this means focusing on the threat from Iran, and maintaining Israel’s military prowess. “A nuclear Iran is the greatest threat to Israel, period.”
“If Israel’s power is reduced or if it loses the determination required to use that power, then it will have no place in the Middle East; it will be destroyed. We live in a brutal world in which Israel’s enemies use weapons of the 21st century, but fight and kill according to the rules of conduct of the 7th century,” Amidror notes. “It is supremely important for Israel’s blade to be sharp, and for Israel to be prepared to use it, and not only for its own sake. This is so even if the other democratic countries are not prepared to admit this publicly.”
As for local threats, Amidror writes that “any agreement with the Palestinians must be based on the understanding that no signatory and no guarantor of the agreement is likely to have the power to prevent Islamic radicalization among the Palestinians. In order to prepare for the possible scenario of a very radical government in Ramallah, in mortar range of the Knesset in Jerusalem, the security measures specified in any Israeli-Palestinian agreement will have to be extremely tough – unlike the weak security provisions of the Oslo agreements.”
“The main problem for Israel is that what weighs on the Palestinians is not the conquest of 1967 but the ‘occupation’ of 1948. They do not accept the existence of the State of Israel even within the borders of the 1949 cease fire. It turns out that the slogan, ‘territories for peace,’ was an illusion. The fact that Jaffa, Tiberius and Safed are under Israeli control is more ‘oppressive’ to them than IDF roadblocks at the exits of Hebron and Nablus. The Palestinians have yet to internalize the fact that Israel will continue to exist as the nation state of the Jewish People.”
“In any case,” Amidror says, it certainly not true that the Palestinian issue is the core of Middle East troubles. Just the opposite: it is a marginal issue. Ameliorating the Palestinian-Israeli dispute will somewhat help Israel build alliances with other Arab countries, but it won’t solve any of the major problems that beset the region.”
In short, Amidror’s recipe for security in the crumbling Middle East is patience, vigilance and steadfastness.
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