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Israel in the Post-American Middle East, by Martin Kramer (Foreign Policy via Mosaic)

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Jun. 8, 2016

Why the Status Quo Is Sustainable

With the signs everywhere evident that America is withdrawing from its longstanding involvement in the Middle East, Martin Kramer reflects on what awaits the Jewish state:

Even as Israel seeks to deepen the United States’ commitment in the short term, it knows that the “unshakable bond” won’t last in perpetuity. This is a lesson of history. The leaders of the Zionist movement always sought to ally their project with the dominant power of the day, but they had lived through too much European history to think that great power is ever abiding. . . . [The Jews] were alone during the 1930s, when the gates of the United States were closed to them. They were alone during the Holocaust, when the United States awoke too late. They were alone in 1948, when the United States placed Israel under an arms embargo, and in 1967, when a U.S. president explicitly told the Israelis that if they went to war, they would be alone. . . .

[T]he Obama administration has given Israelis a preview of just how the unshakable bond is likely to be shaken. This prospect might seem alarming to Israel’s supporters, but the inevitable turn of the wheel was precisely the reason Zionist Jews sought sovereign independence in the first place. An independent Israel is a guarantee against the day when the Jews will again find themselves alone, and it is an operating premise of Israeli strategic thought that such a day will come

This conviction, far from paralyzing Israel, propels it to expand its options, diversify its relationships, and build its independent capabilities. The Middle East of the next 50 years will be different from that of the last 100. There will be no hegemony-seeking outside powers. The costs of pursuing full-spectrum dominance are too high; the rewards are too few. Outside powers will pursue specific goals, related to oil or terrorism. But large swaths of the Middle East will be left to their fate, to dissolve and re-form in unpredictable ways. Israel may be asked by weaker neighbors to extend its security net to include them, as it has done for decades for Jordan. Arab concern about Iran is already doing more to normalize Israel in the region than the ever-elusive and ever-inconclusive peace process. Israel, once the fulcrum of regional conflict, will loom like a pillar of regional stability—not only for its own people but also for its neighbors, threatened by a rising tide of political fragmentation, economic contraction, radical Islam, and sectarian hatred.

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