We all know what it's like when you don't get a good night's sleep. You’re irritable and paranoid. You're less rational, your fuse is shorter, and small disputes escalate into full-blown crises.
And we also know what it’s like when you get some much-needed rest. Problems become challenges that have a good chance of being solved. You notice people smiling at you. The world seems to have a rhythm to the music playing in your head.
Countries are no different. When nations don’t sleep, they look at each other through the lens of a gun. Tired political leaders offer rhetoric filled with threats, fear, and suspicion. To make peace, countries need to be creative and get a good night’s sleep. A well-rested nation can produce leaders who see the benefits of allies before the threats of enemies. It can see the benefit of compromise rather than the hysteria of threats.
For decades, the Middle East has been up at night, our dreams disturbed by thoughts of war, and enemy plots. Sleepless nights create fruitless days. When you are on edge, you are forever on the lookout. Without sleep, you see nothing but enemies and the threats that they produce.
But what happens after good night’s sleep? You can think creatively. You can collaborate and work toward positive solutions. With sleep, you are strong and rested and at a point where you can dare and see your allies.
In the last decades, politicians from both sides have been talking about what we must give up to broker peace between each other. Perhaps it’s time to change the paradigm and flip the pyramid on its head: it is not Arabs against Jews in our region, it is extremists against those of us who are willing to face them with determination and create the alliance of the moderates; it is time to think what it is that we can gain.
Our region is dry in both soil and supposition. It needs water and new ideas.
The Middle East is at risk from the fanatics of ISIS and the nuclear strategies of Iran, as well as its proxy military-state strategies seeping into Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. No nation needs to battle extremism on its own. For security and economic prosperity, Israel and its moderate Arab neighbors need an alliance, both to triumph against radicals and to nurture the innovation our region needs to create jobs, to fight poverty and to finally blossom economically. Let us not forget that our region was rightly called the fertile crescent
In my city, Jerusalem, I’ve seen the transformation that creative alliances can create. I’ve seen it in my country, Israel, where brainpower has triumphed over a lack of natural resources to bring us prosperity and security. But the revolution can be wider. Fresh thinking on water, agriculture, and tech can create jobs and rewrite the playbook for an entire generation in the Middle East. If innovation can change a city and innovation could change our country, then innovation can change our region as well.
Passover is a time where we celebrate moving from slavery to freedom, it’s a time of Spring and new beginnings in our region.
So let’s get some sleep, wake up in the morning, and start thinking creatively about how to lead this region forward. It needs new ideas, new energy and a new generation of leadership. One that would fight against the extremists but build the economic and security alliance between countries who are willing to be pragmatic. It’s time to get some sleep and explore new allies.
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