An island of tranquility: the Middle East as seen from space

Any alien would be surprised to hear that Israel is considering leaving areas that are tranquil and abandoning them to the looming storm.

Moshe_Arens_cropped-150x150By Moshe Arens

Imagine a manned spacecraft approaching planet earth. Its pilot is scanning the earth searching for signs of activity. As his craft comes closer his infra-red sensors detect heat emanating from the Mediterranean region. A great storm and fires seem to be raging there. Looking closely he is able to discern the geographic boundaries of the storm. From Tunisia, the storm has spread with increasing intensity eastward. To Libya, to Egypt, to Syria, to Lebanon. And now he sees a storm moving westward from Iran, where his sensors can detect a lot of radiation, to Iraq, and coalescing with the storm from the east, which seems at the moment to be centered in Syria. The entire Middle East seems to be, aflame, engulfed by the storm. He will learn later that the inhabitants of planet earth at first used to refer to this storm as the “Arab Spring,” and later as the “Arab Winter,” but it seem more like a giant tornado to him. Now as he looks closer he sees what seems like an island of tranquility in the midst of the storm – Israel, and the immediately neighboring areas – Judea, Samaria, and Jordan.

As the spacecraft comes closer to earth the pilot begins to pick up audio-signals from the areas in which the storm is raging. At first all signals are drowned out by cries of “Allahu Akbar.” His on-board computer provides him with an instant translation: ”Allah is the greatest.” What does that have to do with the storm, the pilot wonders. Are they calling for Allah’s intervention to calm the storm, or are they calling on Allah to increase the intensity of the storm? Now he is even more puzzled by voices emanating from Israel. As fires from the surrounding storm lap at Israel’s borders, he hears: “The status-quo is unsustainable.“ What’s wrong with the status-quo, he asks himself. Does that mean that the people down there feel that those untouched by the storm are bound to be hit by it, that there is nothing they can do to ward off the storm, that the quiet is unsustainable and that Israel cannot remain an island of tranquility and that the storm is bound to reach it as well?

Now he hears another message: “territories for peace.” It seems, he says to himself, that they think they have found the answer to the threatening storm – sacrifice some areas that are at peace to the storm so that the rest can be spared. Does that make sense, he asks himself. Won’t that increase the danger to those who have made the sacrifice to the storm? Do they want the storm to engulf them as well, the pilot wonders. “Is it possible that they are not aware of the storm that is raging all around them?”

At this point, the pilot concludes that it will not be possible to conduct an intelligent conversation with the people down there and decides to turn back. He would have been surprised to learn that while he was heading back into space, Israel was carrying out negotiations with the declared objective of abandoning areas that were tranquil at the time.

Do you really have to go into space in order to understand just what is happening in the Middle East these past years? That the storm raging all around Israel is not likely to abate in the foreseeable future? That it may yet reach Jordan? That caution is called for and that this is not the time for hasty moves? Certainly not for withdrawing from territories and abandoning them to the raging storm – and bringing the storm closer to Israel’s population centers.

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