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Israel’s Long Road to Peace with Its Arab Neighbors by Evelyn Gordon (Commentary via Mosaic)

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Mar. 1, 2016

While the “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians has accomplished little and promises less, writes Evelyn Gordon, Israel has been making small but significant steps toward improving its relations with many Arab states. For instance, shipping routes connecting the Middle East to Europe that once went through Syria now go through Israel:

Last year, some 13,000 trucks used the Israel route, up more than 25 percent from the previous year. . . . [Thus] Israel—for virtually the first time since its establishment in 1948—is playing a useful role in the broader regional economy rather than being largely isolated from it. And the more Israel’s Arab neighbors benefit from Israel’s stability, the more they will have an interest in trying to maintain that stability rather than disrupting it.

No less noteworthy was last week’s decision by an Egyptian parliamentarian and media personality to challenge publicly his country’s longstanding opposition to “normalization” with Israel. . . .

[These and other developments] may seem like baby steps. Yet the series of baby steps that have been taken over the last few years not only represents a major shift from the utter stagnation of previous decades, but is slowly adding up to significant progress, even if there’s still a long way left to go.

Ultimately, this progress is also crucial for any hope of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Barring the unexpected emergence of a Palestinian Anwar Sadat, Palestinians will need serious backing from the broader Arab world—and probably serious pressure as well—to make the kind of compromises any peace agreement with Israel would entail. So far, the Arab world hasn’t had any interest in applying such pressure. But if Arab countries become convinced that Israel’s continued existence and stability benefits them, they will finally have an interest in pressing the Palestinians to end the century-old conflict.

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