Israel’s ontological ambiguity

Khairi Janbek
Khairi Janbek is a former private adviser to HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal.
Israel, a country without any geographical strategic depth, had always relied on its military superiority for deterrence, and on its nuclear capability. However, with the fast and rapid changes in military technology, especially missile technology, military power deterrence became a two-edged sword with potential harm to Israel; therefore, a shift in strategic thinking happened there, aiming at creating client political entities and states, or perhaps, friendly states in the region.اضافة اعلان

However, when it comes to its ontological mirror image, Israel remains ambiguous. On the one hand, Israel politicians say that Israel is part of the Middle East, in a politically correct manner, and wish that its Arab neighbors would accept it as part of the region, while on the other hand, Israel sees itself culturally and economically closer to Europe and North America.

It is this particular ambiguity that became the backbone of the post-Oslo agreements. Israel’s idea of peace in the Middle East was based on economics; economic integration, the thinking goes, transcends borders. It was the logical assessment emanating from the process of globalization taking place in Europe and the US, which erases boundaries and cultural zones. But in this particular case, it ignores the most important factor in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the question of occupation and Palestinian national rights, but then again, part of the Israeli mirror image ambiguity is seeing itself as the eastern edge of Europe and the US.

In effect, post-Oslo provided Israel with the illusion of opportunity to achieve what it could not throughout the years of conflict with the Arab world, and that is to demonstrate its economic superiority. I say illusion, because this led to a popular Arab backlash, in fear of neo-colonialism, irrespective of any outcome of the peace negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Currently, the old Arab rhetoric about Israel being similar to the crusader states of distant history is long gone, and with it the notion of Israel being an external entity to the Middle East, yet realpolitik keeps taking one step forward and two steps backward.

The Israeli ambiguity, which sees itself as part of the Middle East, at least rhetorically, while emphasizing its national identity, has given rise to an image of Israel as isolated and in a unique position, not only in the region but also in the global order.

The setbacks or the slow-pace of realpolitik in the region are always associated with the conundrum of the Middle East, but this is not true; the silence in the region, which one has to listen to, usually Arab silence, speaks louder than anything said or the tone in which it is said, usually for local consumption.

The Israeli ontological ambiguity is similar to the notion of democracy in the world, which sees the replacement of liberal democracy with authoritarian democracy, and that may well bring it closer to the values of its authoritarian Arab neighbors, as the more Israel becomes heterogeneous the more its governments will become more authoritarian, bringing about a modus vivendi with its Arab neighbors, or clients, or friendly states, that overarches the Palestinian problem.

The writer is former private adviser to HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal.

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