Israel’s increasingly open diplomatic engagement with Sunni states may help the Jewish state to de-fang Hamas as well as prospective threats from Syria.

The existential despair of Hamas in Gaza is leading to the probability of a win-win outcome. Saudi Arabia and Egypt openly and Israel behind the scenes, have presented the Hamas government with a deal involving opening of the Egyptian and Israeli borders and Saudi financial assistance  to replace declining help from Iran, in return for Hamas renunciation of terrorist activity affecting Israel and the Sinai, as well as disarming Islamic Jihad forces based in Gaza and reducing its own armed wing. 

Hamas is increasingly under threat from local Islamic State supporters.  As part of the deal Egypt would remove Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations.  Verification of Hamas compliance would be undertaken by Egypt formally and Israel informally.  Consummation of this arrangement will secure Israel’s southern borders and greatly reduce the terrorist threat to the al-Sisi government in Egypt.

Unconfirmed but credible sources indicate that Israeli authorities have reached an agreement with the Syrian al-Nusra Front, which controls much of southwestern Syria.  Israel has promised not to attack al-Nusra in return for al-Nusra assurance that it will not attack Druze villages.  Recently al-Nusra has been distancing itself from al-Qaida Central and asserting greater independence in policy formulation and action.  If Assad fails soon, as appears likely, al-Nusra and its allies will likely be dominant in the southwest, bordering Israel.  

An accommodation would make much csense on both sides, since Israel will be more concerned with possible Hezbollah incursions from Lebanon and al-Nusra will need to consolidate its osition in the face of likely attack by Islamic state forces, as well as the necessary efforts to create a functioning civil order.

Norman A Bailey is the author of numerous books and articles and recipient of several honorary degrees, medals and awards and two orders of knighthood. He also teaches economic statecraft at The Institute of World Politics and has experience on the staff of the National Security Council at the White House, in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and in business, consulting and finance. He is professor emeritus in the National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa, and a columnist for Globes, the Israeli business and financial newspaper.

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