About the Forum
The Smart Middle East Forum was established in the course of the year 2008 with the aim of developing processes that would help create a different operational atmosphere in the Middle East. The Forum took upon itself the task of dealing with the mode of operation concerning the processes taking place in the Middle East, rather than with their results. Its approach is based on change in our modus operandi, on creative thinking and on an understanding of the cultural foundation of this region.
The 21st century finds the Middle East moving potentially in the direction of regional instability and the danger of a deteriorating situation. Supported by a growth of escalating trends, this situation represents a threat to Israel, with the attendant possibility of throwing the entire global array off balance. To prevent this from happening, the Forum aims to raise, within the Israeli public, a number of options for modes of operation in the region emanating from a concept of humanism and creativity.
The Forum has made it its goal to work for a change in the way decisions are arrived at and in the way we conduct ourselves vis-à-vis the issues of the region – and, at the same time, to play a more active role vis-à-vis the leadership and public opinion in the Arab world, through the use of the Arab satellite channels.
The basic lines of the strategy that has been mapped out by the Forum may be summed up as follows:
Open Channels of Communication
The State of Israel must continue to aspire to peaceful relations with the countries of the region, and in cases where this objective is unattainable, the channels of dialogue must be kept open. In countries where the leadership denies Israel’s right to exist, we must act vis-à-vis moderate oppositionary elements within that people, state or entity.
Activity at Parallel Levels
The peoples and leaders of the Middle East do not conduct their affairs in absolute terms: “This – and that too” is in the natural order of things.
The Cultural Context
The conduct of policy in the Middle East must be based on an understanding of the motivational elements of the regional system and on the ability to recognize the cultural differentiation existing among the various players in the arena.
Time as a Cultural Concept
The concept of time in the Middle East is basically different from what it is elsewhere. Middle Eastern societies “have time” in the sense that temporary gains do not affect the aspiration to reach some long-range goal (viz. the paradigm of the “Salami Method”).
Evolution vs. Revolution
The development of ideas, concepts and dialogue in the Middle East is evolutionary in character. This is because, whereas in Western culture creation and reconstruction are accepted in a positive spirit, in the Middle East these things are perceived as unworthy moves aimed at eradicating the historical heritage. For this reason, all such development must be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary.
The conduct of a proactive policy is a necessary point of departure in the Middle East. By the same token, a policy of merely reacting to events, and of failing to engage in long-range planning, produces a lack of clarity with regard to political processes and achievements, and reduces the prospects of arriving at solutions.