MADRID – As the dramatic events unfolding across the Middle East capture global attention, the numerous challenges facing Israel are being largely overlooked. In fact, Israel is confronting one of the most dangerous periods in its existence. Not only do long-standing concerns like the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran remain unresolved; all of Israel’s neighbors are now either beset by or hurtling toward upheaval. And, though US-brokered peace talks with Palestine have resumed, they are likely to end in failure.
But there is one promising development: the European Union, in an uncharacteristic show of backbone, has issued written guidelines prohibiting cooperation with Israeli companies operating in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This bold move could presage a game-changing role for the EU in bringing about a long-awaited resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Such an outcome could not arrive soon enough, especially given the unprecedented chaos on Israel’s borders. In Egypt, the tense, polarized environment following the military’s overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi has created the real possibility of civil conflict. Although Israel was initially apprehensive about an Islamist government across its Sinai border, the Muslim Brotherhood’s value – its ability to influence Hamas, the dominant political force in Gaza – quickly became apparent. The nature and posture of the new military-led regime remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, Syria’s civil war has begun to spill over into Israel’s Golan Heights. The introduction of chemical weapons and the possibility of Western military intervention threaten to draw Israel directly into the conflict. The spillover effects of the Syrian crisis have also unsettled Lebanon, exemplified in the recent spate of sectarian violence, and threaten to destabilize Jordan, which is struggling under the burden of more than 500,000 Syrian refugees.