Asked if the peace process with Israel was now dead, [Assad] replied, “No, it is not dead because you do not have any other option; if you talk about a ‘dead’ peace process, this means everybody should prepare for the next war.” Parallel to this pronouncement, a long line of Egyptian figures proclaimed their belief that the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, even if not to their original liking, is here to stay. This has now been confirmed by the Egyptian High Command that has recently taken over in Cairo.
Neither the Syrian president nor the Egyptians have made these clear statements out of love for Israel; they have spoken out because the avoidance of any new war and the preservation of existing international treaties with Israel are vital strategic interests of both Syria and Egypt. Israel, post-Mubarak, has been confirmed by its two key neighbors from south and north as a vital bloc in the region.
There is an additional factor that refutes the dire prophesies which have filled Israeli and international media. The two largest armies in the region—that of Israel and that of Egypt—are both equipped by the United States. This means Washington is in a pivotal position to prevent a bloody confrontation from happening. The clear desire to avoid war is thus an aim of all three parties. This can and should become a primary building block for the creation of a fruitful relationship with any new Egyptian leadership.
Israel, in short, is not in the precarious situation that so many pundits have described. What this suggests in practical terms is that Israel can approach the scene unfolding around it with a large measure of justified self-confidence, knowing that it continues to operate from a position of strength. Some are saying that the Israeli-Palestinian track must go on hold because of the events in Egypt. The opposite is true. While the ultimate solution is at present out of reach—indeed, now would be a good time to admit that it has never been within reach due to insurmountable blocks on both sides—it is also quite conceivable that a Palestinian state can be born in the year 2011, even before all the I’s are dotted and all the T’s crossed.
Israel can similarly operate from a position of strength in facing up to the challenge from Iran. The Iranian people and even its oppressive regime cannot survive the North Korean-type isolation that would certainly be imposed should they ever cross the plank of nuclearization. As Israel and others continue to pursue a clandestine war with Iran—a war both sides prefer to cover with a cloak of secrecy—Tehran will gradually realize that the price exacted for its intransigence will be more than it can really pay.