Israel has shown that modernity and tradition can fruitfully coexist, which has rubbed many in the Muslim world the wrong way, while others now wish to copy its success. An Arab-Israel deal would blaze a path for many.
What is Israel, really? In its essence, Israel is a marker, a model, a demo of sorts. It is a small-scale demonstration of how deeply held religious and traditional beliefs can coexist with modernity. And not just coexist grudgingly, uneasily, always at each other’s throats, always poaching from each other to the diminishment of the total, but coexist fruitfully, with creative rather than destructive tension. Coexist in a way that makes the whole larger rather than the sum of its parts.
Granted, even in Israel this coexistence is very much a work in progress, but it is doubtlessly closer to the ideal than anywhere else in the world. Japan comes to mind as a close second, but it has one irredeemable flaw; its birthrate is among the lowest in the world. The Japanese people have no wish to survive. This means that the model they have created is bankrupt. It does not work.
The world sorely needs a working model in which modernity does not consume tradition because without tradition there is no life. It also needs a world in which tradition does not consume modernity because without modernity, without technological progress, life can no more exist than without tradition. Both are essential for human survival; if tradition is the necessary condition for it, modernity is the sufficient one.
Most Arab and Muslim states have been trying a different model; that of segregation. In places like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, modernity is castrated, limited to technology and engineering. It is walled off from the rest of society, tolerated as a necessary evil to compete with the West, substantially to build and operate modern weaponry or extract natural resources. This model has given us Al-Qaeda and ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Revolutionary Guards. It has been the most destructive force of the last fifty years.
This fact is not lost on the leaders of major Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors, Egypt, Morocco, and a few others. They understand that in order to survive they need, in simple terms, to be more like Israel. And to be more like Israel, they need to let Israel be.
Iran and its proxies wish to cling to the segregation model at all costs. To do that, they must destroy Israel. They must prove the Israeli model’s unsustainability. This is what is at the core of the conflict in the Middle East today and it is a conflict of a global rather than regional scale. It affects all human societies, from the US to Russia, from China to India.
Trump’s MAGA movement is essentially an Israeli-style model for creative coexistence of modernity and tradition. Progressive globalism is a model for the destruction of tradition and the dictatorship of a sterile, grey, dystopian modernity, one that has been described in countless works of science fiction.
The deal of the century, perhaps the deal of the newly begun third millennium, is a deal between MAGA and globalism, a deal for which the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is but a pilot project. The success of this pilot is aspired to by people at the center. People who enjoy the fruits of modern technology, but who also have a deep connection to their ethno-religious roots, to their ancestral traditions.
The failure of this project is the hope of the extremes. It is the hope of the Mullahs in Tehran who see in modernity nothing but evil, a genie of enormous destructive power that must only be be let out of its bottle deep underground in secret facilities with strictly limited access. It is also the hope of the progressive globalists who wish for nothing more than to completely efface any vestiges of religion, nationhood, even parenthood and family.
Within both camps that are the subjects of the pilot, within Israel and within the Arab world, the battle lines are drawn. The stakes are high. If Israel can be accepted by the Arab and Muslim world fully, if Israel itself can avoid falling into the twin traps of atavistic religiosity and progressive secularism, the MAGA model can begin to expand across the globe, making it a more stable, more prosperous place. If the pilot fails, winners and losers will have to be determined in another, much less peaceful, way. Let us pray for the middle way, the MAGA way, to prevail.