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With Israel and a good part of the world of Sunni Arabs sharing common threats and opportunities, the term "Israeli-Arab" conflict is no longer applicable, former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Monday.
"Today – at the moment, in the meantime – there is no Israeli-Arab conflict: There is an Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Yaalon told a conference of the Truman Institute at the Hebrew University on the occasion of the 40th anniversary later this month after the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement .
And none of that would be possible, added Jaallon – number three on the list of blue and white parties – if Egypt did not withdraw from the ranks of countries in the war with Israel 40 years ago.
"When we look at the deal, there was no threat of a conventional war against Israel since its signing," said former head of the IDF cabinet. "No Arab leader or Arab army has dared to challenge Israel as an army against the army, and the Yom Kippur war was the last war that Arab leaders started against us."
He said the signing of a peace deal essentially put an end to a nationalist panarabistic threat to Israel, noting that a month before the signing of the deal on 26 March 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came to power in Iran announcing the Islamic revolution in that country.
And that revolution, Jaallon said, gave support and a strong backbone for all variations of Islamic radicalism-whether Sunni or Shia-that the region is witnessed by: increasing the impact of the Muslim Brotherhood on the rise of Hamas and al-Qaeda. The vacuum created by the end of the nationalist Panarabistic ideology was filled with a radical Islamist ideology, he said.
But this has also created opportunities for Israel, since – starting with the Egyptian peace agreement, even before that in 1970, when a de facto arrangement with Jordan was established – the overall hostility of the Arab world against Israel has diminished and relations have developed, mainly behind closed doors, with the world of Sunni Arabs.
The situation is not one of the "normalization," Jaallon said, "but they no longer tell stories about the extremist Zionist empire that wants to rule from the Euphrates to the Nile."
Regarding peace agreements, Yaalon said, it is important that Israel look at the sober way of past contracts, as there have been some positive experiences – for example, agreements with Egypt and Jordan – and some negative ones, such as the experience with the Palestinians, which was based on the idea of land trading for peace.
"Instead of a land for peace, it has become territories in exchange for terrorism or land in exchange for rockets in the south – and this leads me to conclude that we need to be careful when talking about agreements," Jalon said. "Peace is made of interests, with clear thinking, not a desire for thinking or illusions."
Jaallon said peace with Egypt should be seen in Zeev Jabotinski's Iron Gate, the idea that the revisionist leader expressed in a famous article in 1923 that the Arabs would give up trying to destroy the Jewish presence in Israel when they realized that they can not. He noted that Moshe Beilinson, a member of Mapai and deputy editor of Davar, articulated almost the same idea in the editorial board that he wrote at the start of the Arab riots in 1936.
The answer to the question how long the Jews will have to fight here, die and live with a sword, Yaalon quoted Beilinson as saying: "It is up to the last of our enemies to understand that we are here forever – that will be the end of the battle."
Peace, Jolon said, "will come out of strength, not from weakness, from the creation of common interests between Israel – Jewish, democratic, prosperous and ethical – and its neighbors."
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