Israel’s Islamist dilemma | Times of Israel
By Ofer Zalzberg, Senior Middle East Analyst, and Robert Blecher, Arab-Israeli Project Director
The Arab uprisings could turn out to be no less fateful for Israel than for its neighbors. Will it seek new ways of engaging the region or will it continue to pay lip service to a peace process that it shows no interest in pursuing? The former sounds counter-intuitive: the Muslim Brotherhood hardly seems a suitable partner for any Israeli government – let alone a coalition led by a Likud that recent party primaries pushed to the right.
Though political Islamists theologically object to non-Muslim sovereignty over historic Palestine (which they see as holy Islamic patrimony), Egypt, Turkey and Qatar have demonstrated that at present they share Israel’s interest in regional stability and good relations with the West. This triumvirate of pro-U.S. Islamist governments, particularly Cairo, was instrumental in bringing Operation Pillar of Defense to an end on terms that were viewed favorably by many in Jerusalem. While few in Israel believe this bloc could be a strategic ally in building peace, the government increasingly is convinced that it could turn out to be a de facto partner in avoiding war.
The diplomatic posture of the Brotherhood, now that it is confronted by the demands of governing, could wind up being more flexible than anticipated. Some former and current Israeli officials argue that Israel should encourage this, for example by apologizing for killing nine Turks aboard a boat challenging the blockade of Gaza and by facilitating promised Qatari projects in Gaza. Some go further and call for pushing the limits of the Islamists’ theology by accepting Cairo’s desire to amend the military annex of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, which would require the Brotherhood to endorse the revised text and in doing so, a final status peace agreement with Israel.
Photo: Israel Defense Forces/Flickr