Israel is a winner in the new Middle East


After exchanging ambassadors last week, Turkey and Israel completed the last phase of the reconciliation deal. Of course, it was an important step for both countries, beyond bilateral relations, as the rising Iranian and Russian influence in the region has created new power centers and produced a new Middle East. And Israel, despite the new emerging threats, is one of the relative winners of the latest geopolitical shifts.

I'm surprised by the fact that a lot of analysts tend to ignore the rising Israeli influence in traditionally hostile Islamic states. Yes, it is true that the nuclear agreement with Iran did not solve the root cause, Iranian animosity against Israel and its willingness to annihilate it - at least at the rhetorical level - and U.S.-imposed checks will be off duty. This is still something that largely bothers Israeli officials and their only focus is to prevent Iran's further seizure of influence in its immediate neighborhood.

But let's try to view everything from a different angle. Of course, the Obama administration's decision not to employ its power in Iraq and Syria other than the operations against Daesh created a power vacuum that has been filled by Russia and Iran. But this was not only something that undermined Israeli security but also created significant challenges for other regional actors whose main purpose is to preserve and protect the status quo. So Israel has the luxury of having new allies.

Tel Aviv has significantly improved relations with Egypt and Jordan. While both countries depend on the Netanyahu government due to shared concerns on the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. King Abdullah also needs Israeli backing to keep the country together against the spillovers of the Syrian conflict. Israel has begun talking with Saudi officials and Gulf states about the Iranian threat and there is now every sign that Tel Aviv and Riyadh are synced to disrupt Tehran's influence at any cost.

Israel also garnered support from Cyprus and Greece thanks to the rapid deterioration of Turkish-Israeli relations following the Mavi Marmara raid in 2010 where Israeli special soldiers killed Turkish citizens. Not only did Israel sign some military training agreements with Cyprus, they also started to have a conversation on bilateral trade and energy deals to sideline Ankara in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkish-Israeli relations are in a much better state right now, however, it is very clear that Israel will not diminish its Greek ties for Turkey.

One can talk about the Russian presence in Syria and potential shipment of heavy weapons to Hezbollah as emerging threats for Israel. I think this is not very concerning. Israel and Russia have already established some confidence-building measures to avoid direct conflict and Israel, spontaneously, kept bombing Syrian army bases if it had intelligence on Hezbollah-involved arm transfers. Syria has been a threat against Israel since before the civil war, in that respect, increased Iranian involvement in Syria is hardly a new problem for Tel Aviv.

Israel has become an actor that regional Muslim powers have been pushed to embrace half-heartedly by Iran. Netanyahu is still approving new illegal settlements in Jerusalem and threatening Muslims with a ban on Islamic call to prayers in the city yet Arab capitals do not look very concerned about them. The overlap between Arab and Israeli interests may eventually create an environment that these countries finally accept that Israel is a legitimate state.

Of course there is always a possibility of the sudden deterioration of Israeli ties with regional powers depending on many parameters, however, I'm certain that there is an absolute silver lining for Israel that can be a game changer for everyone.

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