Analysis: Is Mossad chief right about a one-time shot at peace?

Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen says there’s a unique opportunity for regional peace in the Middle East.

By Daniel Krygier, World Israel News

Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen recently said that there is a unique and possibly one time opportunity for regional peace in the Middle East.

Such comments have been made in the past. But is there a unique window of opportunity for Middle East peace? On what does Cohen base his assessment?

According to Cohen, the unique opportunity comes from a convergence of Israeli and Sunni Arab strategic interests.

The Jewish state and much of the Sunni Arab world oppose Iran’s regional aggression and Islamist terrorist organizations like ISIS.

Israel has formal peace agreements with only two Arab countries: Egypt and Jordan. However, in recent years, the Jewish state has cultivated stronger tacit ties with a number of Arab states like Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

The main glue that connects Israel and the Sunni Arab world is the threat from the Iranian regime and its regional terrorist proxies like Hezbollah.

While warming ties shouldn’t be confused with genuine regional pro-Israel sentiments, (animosity toward Israel and Jews is still prevalent in the Arab street), the Arab leadership at least sees Israel as an ally against the Islamic Republic.

It is that fear of Iran that gave Arab leaders the strength to buck Ramallah over the Bahrain Conference. The interests of Mahmoud Abbas pale in comparison to their own more pressing problems.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama unintentionally paved the path for the emerging Israel-Arab alliance. By embracing the Iranian regime, Obama brought Arab and Israeli leaders closer than ever. It was a wake-up call to Sunni leaders, who realized that their differences with the Jewish State were dwarfed by Iran’s imperial ambitions.

In 2019, Israel is indeed facing a very different Middle East dynamic than in the past, as the Mossad’s Cohen pointed out. In the 1950s, Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion formulated the so-called Alliance of the periphery strategy.

In Ben-Gurion’s strategy, the Jewish state would offset intense Arab hostility by establishing close ties with regional non-Arab states like secularist Turkey and pre-revolutionary Iran. Jerusalem also established closer ties with Christian-dominated Ethiopia and with Kurds throughout the Middle East.

Jerusalem still maintains close ties with the Kurds and has good relations with Ethiopia. However, relations have deteriorated considerably with Turkey and, needless to say, with Iran.

During the Cold War, Israel was isolated in the Middle East. Today, Israel’s enemies are facing isolation. Most of the Arab world opposes Iran regime and its proxies. The U.S. is turning the screws with sanctions. With the exception of Hamas and Qatar, the Turkish regime has failed to expand its influence in the Arab world.

In 2019, the Jewish state is an economic and military powerhouse. For the first time in is turbulent history, Israel maintains close relations with both the United States and Russia as well as with emerging powers like China and India.

In combination with converging Arab-Israeli interests, perhaps Cohen is right and wider Middle Eastern peace is possible.

If and when Middle Eastern peace emerges, it will not be a Western-style peace, but rather based on pragmatism and mutual regional understandings.

Cohen’s reference to a “one-time opportunity” is likely meant to encourage swifter action. However, time has always moved at a more patient pace in the Arab world than in the fast-moving West.