On the Israeli side, the toxic interaction between the Palestinian issue and Israel’s unwieldy political system may have become the biggest obstacle to a breakthrough. This increasingly invites an international role. Interestingly, this is no longer total anathema to Israeli strategic thinkers. In recent years, confronted with threats from non-state actors and distant powers such as Iran, Israel has abandoned the kind of self-reliance embodied in Ben Gurion’s famous Um Shmum (“the hell with the U.N.”) dictum. Let the international community deal with Iran, the thinking goes; let a U.N. force deal with south Lebanon.
When the current revolutionary unrest in Egypt and elsewhere ends, conceivably the clock will be turned back on some aspects of Israel’s relationship with its neighbors. That could provide another occasion to visit these grand strategies—or to devise new ones.
Yossi Alpher is co-editor of the bitterlemons family of Internet publications. He is the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.