Robert Satloff: The End of the Forty-Year Peace Between Israel and Arab States

Roundup: Media's Take

Robert Satloff is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Even before Gaza fell silent the other week, the blogosphere was full of lists of “winners and losers” of the mini-war that helpfully came to a halt before ruining Thanksgiving dinner. In one article after another, the big winner was Egypt’s President Muhammad Morsi, followed by the leaders of Hamas, and maybe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; the big loser was Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, followed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and maybe Netanyahu.
Titillating though it may be, this focus on personality politics missed the larger significance of the Gaza conflict as the beginning of a new era in the Middle East—one defined by the end of the region’s forty-year peace.
Don’t blame yourself if you didn’t realize that the Middle East has enjoyed four decades of peace. But that is precisely what has transpired between Israel and Arab states since the Yom Kippur War of 1973. In its first twenty-five years of independence, Israel was characterized by multi-state war with intermittent bouts of unsuccessful diplomacy. Six Arab armies invaded Israel in 1948; Israel fought four Arab armies in June 1967; twelve Arab armies participated in the 1973 war. In the forty years since, Israel has fought no wars against an Arab state, and its history has been characterized by frequently successful diplomacy with intermittent bouts of terrorism and asymmetric war against non-state actors.
The difference between these two realities may not be great to the grieving mother, the widowed wife, or the orphaned child, but the difference is profound in strategic terms...

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