Israel’s brief air campaign against Islamic Jihad in Gaza, called Operation “Alot Hashacher” (Breaking Dawn) in Hebrew, ended in a ceasefire brokered by Egypt. By now, the outbursts of violence along the Gaza border are nearly routine. This event lasted three days. We hope the ceasefire holds.
But even as Israel reacts to terror threats and focuses on safety and security concerns, its government continues efforts to establish a mutually beneficial coexistence with neighbors with whom it has a longstanding cold peace or no peace at all. The impetus for some of the efforts may come from the success of the Abraham Accords, or not. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that we are seeing evidence of increasing improvement in relations with Israel’s near neighbors. And that’s good news.
In a recent meeting in Amman between Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, the leaders discussed a number of joint ventures, including in desalination, energy, food security, transportation and tourism. Significantly, the Jordanian statement on the meeting mentioned a discussion of the Palestinians and the two-state solution. The Israeli statement did not.
Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994. The temperature of that peace has been largely driven by the state of Israeli-Palestinian relations. A majority of Jordan’s 10 million people are Palestinian. Any warming of relations between Israel and Jordan, even by baby steps, helps efforts toward a broader Mideast peace.
There is also cause for optimism in the negotiations with Israel’s northern neighbor, Lebanon, over their maritime border dispute. The United States is pushing both countries, which are technically at war, to resolve their boundary dispute relating to offshore gas fields. Reports indicate that those talks have made significant progress. While an agreement will not likely lead to an embrace between Israel and the Shiite militant group Hezbollah — the country’s largest power center and a vassal of its sponsors in Iran — the fact that any agreement could be reached between the parties is significant.
But we aren’t fooling ourselves. The impending agreement with Lebanon is not a peace agreement. It is a business agreement designed to address the dispute concerning a potentially gas-rich 330-square-mile area of the Mediterranean Sea where a major Israeli gas project is set to come online this fall.
We are encouraged by these developments, just as we are encouraged by Israel’s closer ties with Egypt, improved relations with Turkey, recognition of Israel by the Kingdom of Bhutan and other international outreach by the Jewish state. All of this adds up to an Israel that is more secure and more fully integrated into the world community. And that is a good thing.