August 9, 2007 Al-Ahram
In his last article on Zionist strategy, Hassan Nafaa sums up the core of Israel’s aims, which have nothing to do with peace. (The writer is a professor of political science at Cairo University.)
This is the last in a series of articles examining Oded Yinon’s paper, “Strategy for Israel in the 1980s”. The paper first appeared in Hebrew in Kivunim, a magazine specialised in Jewish and Zionist affairs, in February 1982. It was then translated into English by Professor Israel Shahak, a prominent Israeli human rights activist, and republished under the title, “The Zionist plan for the Middle East”. In this article, I will discuss Yinon’s ideas concerning the Gulf and Arab Maghreb countries.
At first glance, Yinon seems to be focussing on Israel’s neighbours, including Egypt, Jordan and Syria. But a closer inspection shows that Yinon’s exposition of the Zionist strategy covers a much wider region, one that runs from Morocco to Afghanistan and from Turkey to Bab Al-Mandab. Yinon dedicates much of his paper to Egypt and the Levant for obvious reasons. One is that Egypt’s existence as a cohesive and central country is a threat to Israel’s security in the short and medium terms. Yinon also is aware that the cohesiveness and unity of the Levant can impede Israel’s expansion in its immediate vicinity.
Other Arab and Islamic countries do not, in Yinon’s mind, pose a direct threat to Israel’s security on the short and medium terms. Not only are they distant, but also — Yinon argues — they are so fragile they would collapse under their own weight in the long run. Yinon, however, doesn’t advise Israel to ignore those countries. On the contrary, he advises Israel to keep track of the conflicts that develop inside and around those distant neighbours. I, for one, have no doubt that Israel has always kept a close eye on the Gulf and hopes to control it one day.
Yinon describes the Gulf as a “fragile edifice that has nothing to offer but oil.” Although the Gulf has the world’s largest oil and financial reserves, “small minorities with no pubic backing” benefit from its wealth, he says.
Yinon sees three major structural weaknesses in the Gulf. First, Sunni minorities control a majority of Shias and other ethnic groups in Bahrain, the Emirates, Oman, and other Gulf states. Second, small local minorities control communities of foreign workers that sometimes constitute up to 80 per cent of the population. Third, for all the stockpiling of Western weapons, national armies are too weak to defend the existing regimes against domestic and foreign perils.
In Yinon’s view, such contradictions can only mean one thing. Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, are prone to collapse under the weight of domestic and foreign pressures. This collapse is going to happen irrespective of how long the oil boom lasts.
As for the Arab Maghreb, Yinon discusses another set of problems. First, ethnic tension between Arabs and the Berbers, that occasionally borders on civil war, as in Algeria. Second, Islamic extremists challenge existing regimes, as in Tunis (the most obvious example at the time). Third, border disputes and other problems inherited from the colonialist era (such as the Western Sahara) that may lead to war (as in the case of Morocco and Algeria).
Yinon concludes that the ability of Maghreb countries to survive intact is questionable. It is worth noting here that the strategy of fragmentation suggested by Yinon in 1982 is not confined to the Arab world, or even the Middle East. Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan are all part of Yinon’s strategic thinking. It is no coincidence that the countries Yinon mentions by name in his study 25 years ago are the very ones covered by the “Greater Middle East” scheme the US administration has been proposing since Bush’s re-election in November 2004. If anything, this proves that current US policy mirrors almost literally the Zionist thinking Yinon presents in his paper.
Having completed this new reading of Yinon’s paper, here are my thoughts on his doctrine.
Firstly, the Zionist movement was never interested in bringing about a genuine peace based on a historic reconciliation with Arab countries. Israel sometimes sounds more flexible than Arab countries, but this is only a tactical ploy aimed to consolidate its gains at any given stage before moving on to another stage of its Zionist scheme, a scheme that involves the creation of a major state that dominates the surrounding region.
The Jewish Agency accepted the portioning of Palestine in 1947. But the Zionist movement had no intention of confining itself to the slice of land it got out of that bargain. Israel signed an armistice treaty in 1949, but it had no intention of respecting it. Israel accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242, but only after stripping it of any meaning.
Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt, but only to get the largest Arab country out of the conflict. With Egypt out of the scene, Israel had an opportunity to dictate its conditions to other countries in the region. If it succeeds in doing so, it will turn against Egypt once more and try to get back by force the land it had to give away for tactical purposes. Israel signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organisation, but had no intention of allowing the Palestinians an independent and geographically contiguous country. Its aim was to resolve a demographic problem. Israel had rid itself of densely populated Palestinian areas, but is keeping the Palestinian people under its thumb to this day.
Secondly, Israel and the Zionist movement are managing their conflict with Arab countries in a belligerent manner. Israel is maintaining military superiority and using it to bully anyone deemed as a threat to its national security. Israel understands that it needs strong allies, but it makes sure that its policy is independent of those allies. And yet, it does everything it can to convince its allies that what is good for Israel is good for them. Israel tries to prove to its allies that the services it provides to them outweigh anything they do to help it. Israel has so far convinced its allies that they need it just as much as it needs them.
Thirdly, Israel sees everything Arab or Islamic — not just Palestinian — as an immediate or potential threat. Israel doesn’t care much about the political rhetoric or inclinations of any Arab or Islamic countries. What Israel wants to see around it are regimes that do what is good for Israel. It doesn’t matter much for Israel whether Arab and Islamic countries are democratic or not, nationalist or not, capitalist or not, secular or not. Any Arab or Islamic country that has a strong political system and that follows an independent policy is automatically considered a present or potential danger to Israel, and that goes for countries that have peace agreements with Israel.
Fourthly, Israel has not invented the contradictions latent in the structure of Arab and Islamic countries, but is determined to use those contradictions to its advantage. It is therefore willing to fuel those contradictions and push them to the point of conflagration whenever convenient. Israel is also opposed to any attempt to resolve those contradictions under Islamic or pan-Arab slogans.
Yinon’s strategy of fragmentation encapsulates Israel’s attitude to all Arab and Islamic countries. It is not hard to figure out how the Zionist mind works. Israel knows that it has a major security problem. Israel is aware that it has stolen the land of others and that its victims will never forget that. Therefore, Israel has decided not to seek reconciliation, but to weaken its victims forever, or crush them once and for all.
The only way for Israel to have security is to weaken everyone around it. This is why Israel wants all other countries in the region to be restructured along sectarian, ethnic, doctrinal or racist lines. Once this happens, there would be no country left with enough power to challenge Israel. Only then can Israel emerge as the uncontested master of the region and arbiter of its future.
There is a difference, however, between what Israel wishes for and what it gets. Israel tried its strategy of fragmentation on Lebanon and failed. It got the Jewish lobby to push the United States into Iraq, but that didn’t go according to plan either.
Still, the situation in the region remains perilous, and more disturbances and civil wars are on the cards. Unless the Arab world awakens to the dangers facing it, things may get worse still.
The writer is a professor of political science at Cairo University.