By Fareed Zakaria
As missiles and rockets exploded in Israel and Gaza, television news was dominated by the tragic violence, and we were warned that the battle between Israel and the Palestinians might spread because we are in a new and much more dangerous Middle East. Islamists are in power, democracies will listen to their people. In fact, as the relatively quick cease-fire between the parties shows, there is a very low likelihood of a broader regional conflict. It’s true that we’re in a new Middle East, but it’s one in which Israel has become the region’s superpower.
In a thorough 2010 study, “The Arab-Israeli Military Balance,” Anthony Cordesman and Aram Nerguizian document how over the past decade Israel has outstripped its neighbors in every dimension of warfare. The authors attribute this to Israel’s “combination of national expenditures, massive external funding, national industrial capacity and effective strategy and force planning.” Israel’s military expenditures in 2009 were about $10 billion, which is three times Egypt’s military spending and larger than the combined defense expenditures of all its neighbors — Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. (This advantage is helped by the fact that Israel receives $3 billion in military assistance from Washington.)