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Security in a Post-American Middle East
By Shlomo Ben-Ami

The war in Ukraine has shown that security frameworks that exclude anti-status-quo powers are fundamentally fragile. The message for Middle Eastern countries attempting to bolster regional security is clear: excluding the Palestinians or the Iranians is a non-starter.

The Middle East is learning to live without America. While the United States will continue to shape regional security, not least through its advanced weapons systems, its (perceived) retreat from the Middle East has raised serious doubts about its willingness to fulfill its commitments to its allies. Now, local actors are revising their geopolitical strategies, with old enemies pursuing reconciliation and some countries even seeking to create a system of collective security. To deliver regional peace and stability, however, countries will have to overcome even bigger hurdles than they seem to realize.

Moreover, Turkey has sought reconciliation with Israel, with Israeli President Isaac Herzog making an official appearance in Ankara last month. This shift reflects Israel’s improving reputation in the Middle East as a legitimate ally, as well as Turkey’s hope to capitalize on the eastern Mediterranean gas bonanza.

Turkey has also pursued a thaw in relations with Egypt, which, like Israel, is a major player in the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, from which Turkey has so far been excluded. With Europe desperately searching for alternatives to Russian gas, Erdoğan is eager to facilitate the transfer of Egyptian and Israeli gas across the Mediterranean.

But while this reshuffling of bilateral relationships has important implications for Middle Eastern security, it lacks the transformative potential of an inclusive multilateral structure for ensuring regional peace and security. Such a structure might seem farfetched, given the seeming intractability of the Arab-Israeli conflict, at the heart of which is Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.

But the 2020 Abraham Accords – under which the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan normalized diplomatic relations with Israel – raised hopes that Arab-Israeli cooperation would be possible. And, at last month’s Negev Summit – hosted by Israel and attended by the foreign ministers of Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, and the UAE, as well as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken – those hopes seemed to be materializing. Participants pledged to expand cooperation to cover energy, environmental, and security matters, and to attempt to engage additional countries.

That is good news for Arab governments, for which the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, together with the proliferation of jihadist activities, has bolstered the appeal of a regional security agreement. But one group was conspicuously absent from the summit: the Palestinians.

With their hopes of an independent state dwindling, some young, desperate Palestinians have made their dissatisfaction known through a wave of terror attacks against Israeli civilians. This suggests that a grand Arab-Israeli regional initiative that excludes the Palestinians may well prove unsustainable.

As long as Palestinians feel trapped under Israeli occupation and abandoned by their Arab brethren, some will view terrorist acts as their only option for fighting back. Amid escalating violence – which would surely trigger an escalating Israeli response – Arab leaders would face popular pressure to sever ties with Israel.

Furthermore, while they are willing to work with Israel to bolster regional security, Arab countries do not view the Negev alignment as the only option for dealing with Iran; they are also pursuing diplomacy – and rightly so. But the Palestinians also deserve peace diplomacy. Instead of attempting to push the Palestinians’ plight onto a back burner, the regional concert of powers seeking to build a more secure Middle East must address it head on. As Jordan’s King Abdullah II recently noted, his country, too, must be involved.

The war in Ukraine has shown that security frameworks that exclude anti-status-quo powers are fundamentally fragile. In this sense, the Negev alignment has an even more challenging – and vital – diplomatic mission than its participants seem to realize. In building a post-American regional security structure, they must integrate both the Palestinians and the Iranians – the two revisionist forces that the US failed to pacify during its decades of Middle Eastern hegemony.

Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister, is Vice President of the Toledo International Center for Peace and the author of the forthcoming book Prophets without Honor: The 2000 Camp David Summit and the End of the Two-State Solution (Oxford University Press, 2022).
For Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-ve) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point

For Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-ve) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point

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Information for Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point
Information for Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point
Information for Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point