Strengthening Israel: The Impact of Bandwagoning States

April 16, 2024



What leads powerful Middle Eastern countries to form an alliance with Israel over Iran? States either balance against the perceived danger or align with the dominant power through bandwagoning to safeguard and advance their interests.

In the Middle East, Israel and Iran are among the major superpowers, often in opposition. While Iran does not directly engage in balancing, its main strategy is proxy balancing, which involves the transfer of resources to third parties to rectify regional imbalances of power. Resources transferred include selling arms to third parties.

It’s common knowledge that Iran transfers resources to the resistance group Hezbollah, a resistance movement that was established in Lebanon in response to Israel’s invasion in 1982. Israel has emerged as a regional hegemon and opted to use an offensive strategy in dealing with its foreign relations.

Despite attempts by Western media to twist the narrative, Israel employs offensive tactics, and this was evident in the Palestinian case. Critics argue that Israel has the right to self-defense, overlooking the fact that Israel is based on occupied territory, violating multiple international laws and agreements.

Breaking historical precedent, on April 14, Iran carried out a direct retaliatory assault against Israel following the bombing of the Iranian consulate in Syria, shifting away from its usual proxy balancing strategy. The Israeli assault can be interpreted as a clear declaration of war. However, this does not immediately indicate an open Iranian-Israeli war. It’s unlikely that Iran would officiate a war against Israel. While Iran is a major power in the Middle East, Israel is backed by the US, a hegemonic state with abundant military and financial resources.

At the onset of the Palestinian conflict, there was an assumption that Middle Eastern nations would rally behind Palestine; however, upon closer examination, they concluded that forging alliances with Israel would better serve their interests. This move sparked international surprise and disappointment. However, this underscores the relentless pursuit of states to protect their sovereignty and interests, acquire more power, and maintain the status quo. Regional dynamics are unlikely to shift unless states such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Bahrain adopt a balancing strategy instead of bandwagoning against the perceived threat. The normalization agreements between Israel and Middle Eastern states have been significant diplomatic breakthroughs in the region. While these agreements didn’t directly make Israel stronger, they did enhance Israel’s diplomatic standing and regional power.

If countries such as the UAE and Bahrain did not take part in normalization agreements with Israel and it did not rise to power, would the state of Israel commit actions that can be construed as crimes against humanity so freely? The answer is unlikely. Middle Eastern states that chose to bandwagon with Israel rather than oppose it did so after calculating that it was in their best interest to join the perceived threat. By allying with the perceived threat, they made the regional threat more powerful. While those Middle Eastern countries chose to ally with the perceived threat power, weaker states such as Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen used a balancing approach by allying with Iran, a major power in the Middle East, in an attempt to weaken the regional hegemon.

The strategic alignment of Middle Eastern states with Israel made Israel more powerful. Those agreements gave Israel regional leverage, shaping the geopolitical landscape of the region in major ways. These developments marked significant shifts in the regional balance of power and have implications for peace and stability in the Middle East. While analysts believe that Iran is unlikely to wage an open war on Israel due to its limited resources, the situation is evolving, leaving room for unforeseen developments.