Israel is directly involved in the struggle over the establishment of an independent Palestine and the shaping of its borders, and would be significantly affected by the disintegration of its neighboring states, chiefly Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia. A smart Israeli policy, which correctly identifies the opportunities inherent in the emergence of new states and knows how to take advantage of these opportunities, will be able to leverage the inevitable process to reinforce Israel's power and influence in the region.
The most common tribal map of the Middle East is shown here. The explanation (from Harvard):
KURDISTAN--The mountainous Kurdish-speaking region that occupies portions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Even the Romans (according to Gibbon) recognized the Kurds as fiercely independent.
NORTHERN TRIBAL AREA--Largely a Sunni Arab domain, encompassing the towns, small cities, and deserts of western Iraq and eastern Syria and Jordan.
SOUTHERN TRIBAL AREA--Also largely a Sunni Arab domain, encompassing the Saudi heartland. Its brand of Islam is the fundamentalist Wahhabi strain.
THE CRESCENT--On the one hand, ethnically Arab, like the people to the west; on the other hand, religiously Shia, like the people to the east. This arc of territory straddles portions of Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, and contains at least 20 percent of the world's proven oil reserves.
EMIRATES--The existing small, oil-rich Sunni sheikhdoms. These Persian Gulf enclaves, which unlike Saudi Arabia have a long mercantile tradition, form a natural collective--more like one another than like anyone else.
PERSIA--Occupying the Iranian heartland, the Persians have constituted a coherent and powerful cultural bloc since antiquity. The predominant religious tradition in Shia Islam.
AZERBAIJAN--A Turkic region to the east of Kurdistan, including a mountainous chuck of northwestern Iran. Ethnically and linguistically distinct from Persia, though with long-standing cultural ties, and sharing an adherence to Shia Islam.
BALUCHISTAN--The non-Farsi-speaking and largely Sunni Baluchis occupy an impoverished and increasingly restive region that sprawls across eastern Iran and western Pakistan.
ARABIA FELIX--A name from ancient times for Arabia's southwestern corner. A mixed Sunni and Shia population, highly independent, defined primarily by the mountain environment in which most people live.
OMAN--This sultanate has been autonomous and distinct for 250 years. The people are mainly Arab, but their Ibadhi form of Islam distinguishes them from mainstream Shias and Sunnis.
HEJAZ--The urbanized and mercantile Arabian coastal strip along the Red Sea. For a decade during the early 20th century it was an independent kingdom.
LOWER EGYPT--The Nile Delta region to the north, with its cities and commerce--Egypt's center of gravity.
UPPER EGYPT--Village-oriented and rural, but also clinging to the Nile's thin ribbon.
WESTERN TRIBAL AREAS--The desert to the east and west of the Nile Valley is an Arab domain closer in character to the tribal societies across the Red Sea than to the civilization of the Nile Valley.
ISRAEL--The Jewish homeland, with an Arab minority of 20 percent.
THE LEVANT--Encompassing parts of northern Israel, all of Lebanon, and portions of coastal Syria, this is the most cosmopolitan terrain in the Middle East, comprising Maronite Christians, Roman Catholics, Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, and Druze, as well as a host of other small communities.
TETRAPOLIS--This heavily urbanized Arab strip takes in four major cities: Aleppo, in the north; Damascus and Amman; and Gaza, in the south. The mental orientation is less to the ast than to the Mediterranean world, as it has been since ancient times. Gaza was the terminus of the Spice Route.
CONTESTED AREAS--Places that must be considered independently include Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Jerusalem. A complex mixture of ethnic and religious factors prevent these places from fitting conceptually into any neighboring entity.
UNCONTESTED AREA--The Empty Quarter, uninhabited.