'Israel no longer seeking peace at any price'

Foreign policy expert suggests Netanyahu's Africa trip, strengthening ties with Egypt show Israel dumping old model of foreign policy.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Dr. Efraim Arera
Dr. Efraim Arera
Eliran Baruch

Israel is on the brink of a new modus operandi in foreign policy, one which will include more assertive Israeli behavior, as well as closer ties with regional powers like Egypt and Turkey.

That is the conclusion drawn by Dr. Efraim Arera, a leading Israeli scholar of Islam and the Middle East, who suggests Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's recent trip to Africa – conspiciously coinciding with a rare visit to Israel by Egypt's Foreign Minister – hint at a broad shift in Israeli policy.

"The foreign policy of Israel is a new policy," Dr. Arera told Arutz Sheva. "No more weak state seeking peace at any price, but a strong state that can deliver help to its neighbors."

While many Israelis saw the recent reconciliation deal signed with Turkey as a major concession on Israel's part, Dr. Arera notes it included unprecedented acceptance of Israeli interests in the region, not least of which is Turkey's recognition of Israel's right to maintain its military blockade of Hamas.

"The first example is Turkey. We have signed an agreement with them despite the fact that [Turkish President Tayyip] Erdogan is close to the positions of the Muslim Brotherhood. In this agreement they recognize our right to the gas [deposits] in the Mediterranean Sea, and also the security blockade on Gaza, and these are good points for Israel because they deserve Turkish interest."

Dr. Arera then turned to Egypt, following reports of cooperation between the former rivals in the fight against the ISIS terror group, and the recent visit by Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry. While there is little affection for Israel in Egypt, the country's leadership is increasingly recognizing the benefits of cooperation with the Jewish state.

"Egypt has many problems; the first being a security problem. El-Sisi has enemies. The first is the Muslim Brotherhood, and the second is ISIS in Sinai. Israel can deliver intelligence to the regime of El-Sisi – and it does – and its very important help for El-Sisi."

"The second point is an economic one. There are many economic problems in Egypt. Half the population is below the poverty line. Links with Israel could help on this topic."

"The third one is the problem of water. You have the building, by Ethiopia, of a dam on the Nile. The strength of Israel in the meetings with African leaders in the last period could help Egypt to solve these very serious problems it has. So I think that the visit of Shukri in Israel was a very important one and its a success of Israeli diplomacy."

Egypt is not alone in the Arab wold, Dr. Arera says, in its evolving view of Israel, from mortal enemy to de facto partner in the war on radical Islamic terror.

"The Arab world is divided on this [visit by Shoukry to Israel]. The countries who support the Muslim Brothers see it as a bad deal, and as a treason of Egyptian leader. But many countries in the Arab world and outside of the Arab world, are conscious that this is part of a stability factor, and they support it even if they don't say it clearly."

"Is something new beginning in the Middle East? I'm not so sure. You have very deep hatred towards Israel and towards the Jewish people. But these countries see now how Israel could deal with these problems and can help them in their fight against extremist Islam. And maybe on the basis of [mutual] interest our position could be strengthened and Israel will be more accepted in the Middle East."