Everyone feels that the peace in near. Another push, another turn, perhaps. Oh, how wrong they are.

“Peace” is merely a euphemism for a period between wars: there is no eternal peace. And I’m not going to dispel the silly notion that Israeli-Palestinian peace would somehow end the conflicts between Egypt and Sudan, Syria and Jordan, Iran and Iraq, Libya and Chad, Morocco and the Sahara, the Sudanese government and the Fur tribes, and so on.

Far from edging toward peace, the Middle East is close to an eruption of unimaginable scale and consequences. The region has only five entities which could be called states: Egypt and Iran are the powerhouses, Israel and Syria the second-tier players, and Turkey an outsider. Everything else is not a state in the sense of a polity of its citizens. Jordan is an apartheid society which excludes from political life all Palestinians, three quarters of its citizens―and there is no international outcry. Jordan is not ruled even by all its Bedouins, but by a single tribe. Every other tribe receives government subsidies in return for complacency. As the Jordanian economy crumbles, consumer expectations nevertheless continue to rise. Dissatisfied tribes will bring the monarchy to the knife, and Palestinians will finish them all off.

Yemen is already being torn by tribal conflicts. The American deal with Iran which left Houtis without Tehran’s support won’t stand: the US cannot offer Iran anything comparable to a large chunk of Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has not evolved in terms of statehood since T.E. Lawrence mobilized the Arabs against the Turks. To call the Saudis barbarians would be an offense to the ancient Gauls. A country which exports trillions of dollars in oil wealth has failed to establish any other domestic industry whatsoever. Its oil wealth is located in Shiite-populated regions, which will eventually become subject to Iranian influence and ultimately fall under Iranian control.

This brings us to the economic question. Except for Iran, Iraq, and Egypt, the Arab countries have no economy whatsoever, and no prospect of developing one. Egypt and Iran are the only two Muslim countries in the region which have developed work ethics. Syria, arguably, once possessed a work ethic, but seems to have lost it completely centuries ago. Turkey, it seems, has fallen irreversibly behind Western standards of work ethics. So far, Muslim countries in the region have survived for two reasons. First, primitive societies and authoritarian rule have limited demands for public welfare. Second, oil wealth has alleviated popular discontent. The population exploded has, democracy has brought welfare demands, and oil revenues are poised to dwindle due to fuel economy and alternative fuels.

States cannot be formed at will. Italy and Germany are hardly a century old, and separatist tendencies exist in many European states. The Arabs lag behind Europe in societal development by more than a century. The ability to live in a state derives from a centuries-long tradition of obedience to remote power―not to village chiefs.

The Middle East will eventually return to the historically normal division between Iran and Egypt, with Syria on the outskirts. All other states will fall into their sphere of influence. Fighting this trend is an exercise in futility. Lebanon is doomed, Yemen will return to tribal governance, and the best we can hope for in Jordan is that it will be overtaken by Palestinians, thus allowing Israel to annex the West Bank in a border dispute. In this sense, procrastination over signing a peace deal with the Palestinians is suddenly an option again. Instead of supporting an inherently non-viable tribal monarchy, Israel should help Hamas to bring it down. We will lose a buffer state with Syria, but Syria borders us directly, anyway.

Overall, the Middle East is returning to its historically standard bipolar model. Turkey will fall into Iran’s orbit, and Israel into Egypt’s. We lost that bet some twenty-five centuries ago. The bet looks no better today: supported by oil revenues, Iran is richer than Egypt; Iranians are also smarter than Arabs. Years ago, Israel could have partnered with weak Iran. Now that Iran is scoring one victory after another against the West, it won’t need a Zionist partner.

This is not to overestimate them; both Iran and Egypt will remain very weak states. Whatever was accomplished by their ancient civilizations, their populations have now fallen far behind the West in education, technology, and affluence. Nevertheless, they will be assertive and aggressive, and the y will take over the region the way primitive barbarians encroached on Rome. Hamas and Hezbollah’s relative successes against Israel confirm that in war and politics, determination beats technology.

The region is going to become flush with nukes. Partnering with nuclear Iran would have been a great option for Israel five years ago. Today, it would look like a capitulation. Whether we attack Iran or not, Israel cannot stop its nuclear program for long. Even if another regime were to succeed the ayatollahs, Iran is unlikely to halt its nuclear development, if only for nationalist reasons. If it does, we still have active nuclear programs in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, plus potential sales of ready-made bombs by Pakistan and North Korea. In the current political climate, there is no way Israel would attack Egyptian or Saudi military nuclear installations. The nuclearization of the Middle East is therefore certain. It is equally certain that nukes will make their way to terrorists: Iran has threatened that much in the face of belligerent American rhetoric.

Sam Huntington would say that Muslims are not prone to fighting among themselves, just as he ruled out intra-cultural wars between Russia and Georgia―mistakenly, it turned out. True, Arabs like other primitive peoples are cynical, not easily given to nationalist rhetoric, and strongly opposed to large wars. But large wars happen even in their milieu, the Iran-Iraq war being a primary example. Overall, nuclear weapons will make Arabs still more averse to large-scale wars. Their aversion, however, does not rule out the possibility of such wars. It is a matter of probability alone that a sufficiently radical ruler will eventually come to power in a nuclear state. Nukes will be used in the Middle East―as elsewhere―and the prideful Arab mentality won’t allow the targeted country to abstain from retaliating in kind.

Even if we are spared a nuclear war, the Arabs have amassed hitherto unseen arsenals. IDF may be the world’s fourth-strongest army, but Arabs procure some twenty times more weapons than Israel. IDF’s edge in aerial warfare is leveled by the Arabs’ S-300 and S-400 SAM batteries. Vast territories and swelling populations allow Arab states to conduct prolonged wars involving millions of troops, a luxury Israel lacks. The Arabs are improving the training of their armies, while the Jews, de-motivated by the peace process and continual concessions, have lost much of their fighting spirit. In 1948, we won by zeal; in 1967 by luck; and in 1973 because the Egyptians were not ready for mobile warfare. In a large war today, Israel would not have any conceivable advantages.

If Israel can manage to stay out of their conflicts, the Arabs will soon nuke themselves back into the Bronze Age.