This Israeli dealing with a part of the Syrian mess is interesting to me because, correct me if I am wrong, it ends some years when Israel stayed almost aloof before the Iraqi war and the wave of Jasmine revolutions. Norman mentioned also Israel’s growing cooperation with both Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Does all of this mean that Israel is thinking of a new policy of collaboration with some of its neighbors?

The backdrop is worrysome. For years Israel had good ties with Turkey, and before that it had not horrible ties with Iran at the times of the Shah. These two countries now are gone, America is dragging its feet in the Middle East, where for some 15 years it created more chaos than order; the USSR, once a protagonist of the ME, has not passed the baton onto Russia, which is not a gigantic player in the region; China is not politically there and no-body knows if it will be there and when.

Then it makes sense for Egypt and Saudi Arabia to look to Israel and vice versa, and if this can bring some forces in Syria too and perhaps also some elements of the Palestinians it all could start to sketch a new environment in the region.

Personally, I don’t believe in quick fixes in politics, and as a ideal revolutionary in my youth, I have now come to loath the idea of revolutions. So the problem for me is how long can this new set of ties around Israel hold?

My fear is that both Turkey and Iran, competing with Egypt and the Saudis, might want to disrupt it and the old easy way to achieve it is to re-kindle the old Gaza conflict or something along those lines. It would a political trap and Israel should avoid at all costs.

Here perhaps there could be a Chinese lesson. Not so long ago the Vietnamese went on a rampage against Chinese investments and Chinese nationals (also Taiwanese) in Vietnam because Beijing had sent an oil rig into disputed waters. Chinese assets were torched, Chinese people were lynched… China pulled off the oil rig, kept quite and sent some more money in Vietnam.

Of course it is all different, the Vietnamese are certainly no Hamas Gaza Palestinians, Israel has no strategic depth et cetera… But present Israel is also a superpower, and everybody knows it.

Francesco Sisci is an Italian sinologist, author and columnist who lives and works in Beijing. He works for the Catholic research center

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