Asked whether the ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and other Arab countries might foster a supranational strain of radicalism in the Arab world, the official dismissed the scenario as extremely unlikely. “The Arabs are too divided among themselves for a unified Islamist movement to emerge. First, there is the Sunni-Shia split which probably will never be resolved. And within the Sunna, there are deep splits. The Muslim Brotherhood is at odds with the Salafists, for example; the Saudis are Salafist, and that is why the Saudis and the Egyptians are walking on eggshells when they talk to each other.”
As Jerusalem views the world, the official explained, two contradictory trends predominate. One is towards economic integration, and the other is toward geopolitical disintegration. “All through the Arab world the dialogue among intellectuals is about the dysfunction of their countries,” he said. The Arab world may be the most extreme example, he added, but it is not the only one: “Look at Scotland, or Catalonia. Who would have thought fifty years ago that the Scots might be voting on independence from England?”
Iran’s nuclear program remains the great danger, and April will be a pivotal month, the official added, both because of the rate of accumulation of highly enriched uranium, and because the campaign for Iran’s June presidential election will begin in that month. If Iran wants to avoid war, its political leaders will have to signal a change in policy to their own people in the lead-up to the elections.
Israel’s response to these trends is two-fold, the official said.
“The world has learned nothing two generations after the Holocaust,” citing the West’s failure to intervene to stop genocide in Rwanda and its belated response to massacres in southern Sudan. “That is why no-one can take away the right of the Jewish people to defend itself.”
Globalization, though, opens numerous opportunities for the Jewish state to distinguish itself through technology, business, and science. The world needs new energy technologies, more efficient agriculture, better water management, cost-effective medical diagnostics, and a range of other technologies where Israel excels. Israel aspires to a new image as the source of beneficial technologies and scientific achievements that improve the lives of people around the world.