Earlier this month I asked whether an Arab-Israeli rapprochement was on the cards. I pointed out that fundamentalist Islamic terror movements threatened many Arab governments, and as a result they appeared to be beginning to work together to counter the threat. As part of the process, there was a new pragmatic willingness to negotiate with Israel, the ancient enemy, because it, too, was threatened by Islamic fundamentalism in the form of Hamas, and would likely be just as pragmatic in mending old fences to deal with new threats.
Looks like I was right. In the past 24 hours, we've seen the following:
- Arab bombing raids on Libyan Islamic fundamentalists, carried out by aircraft and crews from the United Arab Emirates staging through Egyptian airfields (which is also a very public slap in the face - and probably a very direct warning as well - to Qatar, which had funded and supported those same Islamic fundamentalists).
- A very direct and unambiguous call by the Saudi Arabian foreign minister to 'denounce our hatred toward Israel and begin [to] normalize ties with [the] Jewish nation'. In the same address, he was blistering in his criticism of Hamas (an Islamic fundamentalist movement) for provoking Israel to respond to its aggression. In effect, he accused the Palestinian movement of being the author of current Palestinian misfortunes through its fundamentalist terrorism.
- The Jerusalem Post has acknowledged that 'Israel and Sunni powers finally display convergent interests'. The report quotes Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as saying: "We are enlisting the international community to support this goal of linking the rehabilitation and development of Gaza to its demilitarization but no less important – this may surprise many, but not us – is the unique link which has been forged with the states of the region ... This as well is a very important asset for the State of Israel. With the cessation of the fighting and the conclusion of the campaign, this will open new possibilities for us." This is a very public reciprocation by Israel of Saudi Arabia's public willingness to 'make a deal' - and they're doing it all themselves. The USA has been left on the outside, unable to affect or influence the process.
- Arab distrust of the USA has been growing over the past few years. In particular, Saudi Arabia has been angry over US policy. As Business Insider reported last year, "Saudi Arabia's warning that it will downgrade its relationship with the United States is based on a fear that President Barack Obama lacks both the mettle and the guile to confront mutual adversaries, and is instead handing them a strategic advantage". Neither the UAE nor Egypt consulted the USA before bombing Libyan fundamentalists - in fact, Egypt reportedly denied that it was involved, even as it made its air bases available for the raids (which were carried out using US-supplied aircraft and weapons). Middle Eastern nations no longer trust the Obama administration. (Note Hamas' despairing appeal yesterday to President Obama, rather than Middle Eastern and Muslim nations, to restrain Israel and 'end the genocide' in Gaza. The movement knows it's more likely to find support in Washington rather than Riyadh, or Abu Dhabi, or Damascus.)
Game on, folks. We're seeing the development of a whole new paradigm in the Middle East, based on one of the most ancient principles of that troubled region - "The enemy of my enemy is my friend".
EDITED TO ADD: And some 'old friends' may become 'new enemies' . . .