In Egypt, the popular uprising unfolding is not about Israel, but about autocratic brutality, economic stagnation and skyrocketing prices. The same goes for Tunisia as well as the popular protests brutally crushed by Iran's mullahs in 2009. Turkey isn't Islamifying because of the Palestinians. Al-Qaeda surely hates Israel, but its roots lay in hatred of the Saudi royal family and the Islamist ambitions of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
And yet the "realist" fantasy that an Arabs-first (or Muslims-first) foreign policy will yield rich rewards endures. The French went that route. They nurtured the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in exile. They pander to Arab sensibilities. And what has it gotten them? A lot of burning cars but few lucrative oil deals.
As we've recently been reminded, Israel is the only truly democratic regime in the region, and therefore the most stable. But, somehow, if we were more conciliatory to dictators and more sympathetic to the "Arab street," the region would be more stable? Please.
No doubt this is what the solons of American foreign policy hear from their Arab and Muslim interlocutors. Because that's what the autocrats want everyone to believe, starting with their own subjects. Tyrants always want to focus on scapegoats, insults to national honor and shadowy enemies. Why apologize for skyrocketing bread prices when you can demonize the "Zionist entity"?
As one very prominent Israeli here explains, the international community is like the man who only wants to look for his wallet where the light is good. The real problems in the region are just too hard, particularly when any effort to take attention off the Palestinians is greeted with outrage from an anti-Israel industry that singles out Israel as the worst human-rights abuser in the neighborhood. Israel puts Arab critics in the Knesset. Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia put them in jail -- or in an unmarked grave.
All of this would be just as true if Israel retreated to the 1949 armistice lines tomorrow.
Israel's realists know this because they can't afford the self-indulgent abstractions and the cynical lies that pass for "realism" outside its borders.