Euroviews. For Israel, Iran’s attack is an opportunity to not miss an opportunity

In 1973, in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War — seen by many Israelis as a disastrous failure by Israel’s security establishment —the Geneva Conference convened to address the fallout from the conflict. 

It was during this conference that Abba Eban, Israel’s esteemed diplomat, famously quipped that “the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” 

The phrase encapsulated the reluctance of Palestinian leadership to engage constructively in peace negotiations, once again missing out on a prime opportunity and choosing to continue on their path of terrorism.

Now, fifty years later, as Israel continues to grapple with the aftermath of the disastrous 7 October attacks, we find ourselves at a critical juncture. 

The weekend assault launched on Israel by Iran has rocked the region and underscored the relentless hostility faced by the only Jewish State in the world.

 However, amidst the chaos and uncertainty, there lies a profound opportunity — a chance for us in Israel to defy Eban’s sentiment for the region and seize this crisis as a catalyst for historic change.

A once-in-a-lifetime shot at a new chapter

The opportunity is one that could help secure Israel’s place in the region for generations to come, and one that if missed, may not come around again soon.

Iran’s assault, orchestrated with over 300 drones and missiles, lays bare the unyielding hostility that permeates the region. 

It is a stark reminder of the existential threat Iran poses not only to Israel but to the entire Western world, and much of the Middle East too. 

This moment demands not just defensive tactics — it requires bold strategic vision. Such a vision must see the opportunity to redraw the entire geopolitical landscape of the Middle East and pave the way for a historic normalisation of relations with Saudi Arabia.

Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari display to the media one of the Iranian ballistic missiles Israel intercepted over the weekend, April 2024

In the face of this aggression, however, stood the unprecedented military cooperation witnessed between Israel, the US, France, Jordan and others. This alliance is a key to curbing Iran’s destabilising activities across the region.

But this moment demands not just defensive tactics — it requires bold strategic vision. Such a vision must see the opportunity to redraw the entire geopolitical landscape of the Middle East and pave the way for a historic normalisation of relations with Saudi Arabia.

Just as the Palestinians have been criticised for missing opportunities generated from crises, Israel must not fall into the same trap now. 

Instead, we must harness the momentum generated by the strong support of the US and the response to the Iran attacks to rewrite the narrative of this region. 

This crisis presents a unique chance for us in Israel to redefine our strategic position, forge unprecedented new alliances, and chart a path towards a new chapter.

Extending a hand of friendship

Saudi Arabia, long viewed as a regional powerhouse, has the potential to be a key partner in Israel’s quest for peace and security. 

By leveraging the momentum generated by the weekend attacks, Israel can extend a hand of friendship to Saudi Arabia, laying the groundwork for a historic rapprochement.

A recognition of the Jewish State by Saudi Arabia would put an end to historic tensions between Israel and much of the Arab world, paving the way for enhanced economic ties, security collaboration, and much broader reconciliation with other Arab nations.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, not pictured, in Jeddah, March 2024

Such a bold move would not only bolster Israel’s strategic position but also serve as a catalyst for realignment across the entire region, completing the work begun by the historic Abraham Accords.

A recognition of the Jewish State by Saudi Arabia would put an end to historic tensions between Israel and much of the Arab world, paving the way for enhanced economic ties, security collaboration, and much broader reconciliation with other Arab nations.

As for the Palestinians’ aspirations, Israel can offer a horizon and support assuming they for the first time do not miss their own opportunity and focus their efforts on political nation and institution-building rather than terror.

This opportunity might never come again

War is not an end in itself but a means to a political end. Israel’s political goal must be the security of our state for generations to come. 

By seizing this moment to redraw the geopolitical map of the Middle East and normalise relations with Saudi Arabia, Israel can secure a brighter future for itself and its neighbours. 

The time to act is now — for if we fail to seize this historic opportunity, it may never come again.

Mati Gill is an IDF veteran and CEO of AION Labs, a venture studio for new start-ups utilising AI for drug discovery and development. Prior to founding AION Labs, he served as Chief of Staff for Israel’s Minister of Public Security.

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