Sunday, October 22nd | 2 Heshvan 5778

Close

Be in the know!

Get our exclusive daily news briefing.

Subscribe
November 12, 2015 7:43 am

A Conducive Geopolitical Environment for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

avatar by Alon Ben-Meir

Email a copy of "A Conducive Geopolitical Environment for Israeli-Palestinian Peace" to a friend
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama met at the White House on Monday. Photo: Prime Minister's Office.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama met at the White House on Monday. Photo: Prime Minister’s Office.

The upheaval sweeping the Middle East might suggest that it will be extraordinarily difficult if not impossible to resume the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and reach a successful outcome. Yet on the contrary, because of the prevailing political conditions and the continuing rise of extremism in both communities, the resumption of peace talks is as timely as it has ever been — and these conditions may, in fact, lend even more urgency to the search for a peace agreement.

Moreover, waiting for these raging conflicts to settle down before resuming the peace negotiations is not an option. Many of these violent conflicts will last for years and may well get much worse before they presumably create a more conducive environment to restart the talks in earnest.

There are six fundamental reasons that explain why the present geopolitical environment is conducive for the resumption of peace negotiations and why outside constructive intervention has become sine qua non to reaching an equitable peace with security.

First, the regional turmoil: Contrary to common wisdom, the turmoil sweeping the Middle East, the convergence of multiple conflicts, and future uncertainties have created new compelling circumstances that support the resumption of peace talks. Whereas the regional conflicts — particularly in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen — distract attention from the currently less violent Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the relative low level of violent clashes is deceiving and cannot be taken for granted. As the Palestinians’ frustration continues to grow, so does the risk of an even greater violent flare-up, which can be avoided. Recent violent disturbances in Jerusalem and several Israeli cities only attest to this eventuality.

Related coverage

September 19, 2016 6:32 am
0

Israel Is High on Medical Marijuana

JNS.org - Google CEO Eric Schmidt believes Israeli entrepreneurs succeed because they challenge authority, question everything and don’t play by the rules. “The...

Although the Netanyahu government denies any connection between the occupation and the violent frenzy sweeping the region, most Israelis and moderate Palestinians are alarmed about the possibility that ISIS will find, if it hasn’t already, fertile ground among radical Palestinians who detest the Israeli occupation and their own leaders more than they loathe ISIS.

It is true that this has not manifested itself in any significant way as of yet, but it is only a question of time (even if defeated in Iraq and Syria) when ISIS will establish active cells to act against both Israelis and moderate Palestinians.

Opening Israeli-Palestinian negotiating channels would prevent such an outbreak and would allow the Arab states to focus on the present danger posed by ISIS and the Sunni-Shiite proxy war (led by Iran and Saudi Arabia) over regional hegemony.

Second, the Arab States’ eagerness to end the conflict: The Arab states have for more than two decades been calling for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution, which was formalized by the introduction of the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002.

With the exception of Egypt and Jordan (who forged their own peace agreements with Israel in 1979 and 1994, respectively), the rest remain tied to their position not to normalize relations with Israel before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is settled.

Interestingly, many of the Arab states in the Gulf and North Africa have developed clandestine relations (including exchanging intelligence) with Israel over the past ten years, and they no longer view Israel as an enemy but instead as a potential ally against their common enemies — Iran and ISIS. As they see it, once peace with Israel is established, they can create a crescent from the Gulf to the Mediterranean that will be a formidable bloc against the Iranian crescent, which includes Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Third, the Arab Peace Initiative (API): The API is still on the table and can provide an overall umbrella for the negotiations, which would allow the Arab states to lend significant psychological and practical support to the Palestinians and the peace process. Furthermore, since Israel is particularly keen on ending the Arab-Israeli conflict, the API provides a clear road map to peace between Israel and the Palestinians in the context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. The US and the EU can use their leverage on the Israeli government to also embrace the API, particularly since the majority of Israelis, including former top security officials, strongly advocate for the adoption of the API.

Fourth, Hamas’s new disposition: The Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt, are in a position to exert political and material pressure on Hamas to formally adopt the API, which will provide common denominators with Israel about the principle idea of a two-state solution. Consistent with the API, on more than one occasion Hamas has clearly stated that it is willing to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel based on the 1967 borders. This is not to suggest that Hamas is ready and willing to make the necessary compromises to achieve peace, but it does suggest that Hamas also understands that Israel is here to stay and is now looking for ways to accommodate the Israelis in return for easing the blockade and eventually lifting it altogether, bringing an end to the occupation.

Fifth, the US position: President Obama may well be more inclined at this particular juncture in his presidency to breathe new life into the peace process. However, he realizes that any resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations fashioned along the line of previous negotiations with US mediation will fail, not only because of political factionalism in Israel and among the Palestinians, but also because he is domestically constrained to pressure Israel unilaterally, especially during presidential elections.

That said, Obama stated in March 2015 that the US is reassessing the situation and is considering a different approach to tackle the conflict. Given that the US has a moral and material stake in Israel’s well-being and is committed to its preservation, it is in a position to shape and influence any international initiative to achieve that very objective.

Notwithstanding the fact that Israel has enjoyed tremendous political support from both Congress and the American people, there is a definite shift among the public and leading politicians toward putting the blame on Israel for the continuation of the conflict. By demonstrating tough love, the US can fulfill its moral obligation to best serve Israel’s national security and preserve it as an independent Jewish and democratic state, which for nearly all Israelis is their most cherished dream.

Sixth, the EU’s growing stakes in peace: Given the increasing turmoil in the Middle East, the EU is more eager than ever before to play a larger role in settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which they view as another flash point that adds more fuel to the regional fire. Europe is suffering from domestic Islamic radicalization and considers the resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one of the central components to significantly reducing radicalization at home while protecting its extensive interests in the region.

Moreover, the European community has come to the conclusion that Israel’s intransigence is behind the stalemate and that by not acting now, they will in fact render serious disservice to Israel, which they view as an important strategic ally, especially from a security perspective.

In spite of the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement throughout Europe, they prefer to avoid taking such punitive action against Israel without the support of the US. That said, they appear to be determined to formulate a joint action plan led by France in an effort to end this debilitating seven decades-old conflict, which is bound to explode to their and their regional allies’ detriment.

A careful review of the above suggests that due to unfolding regional events, the shifting geopolitical dynamics within the Arab states, the changing nature of the bilateral relations between Israel and the Palestinians, and the strong Western desire to bring an end to the conflict, the conditions are ripe to reach a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.

That said, neither Prime Minister Netanyahu nor, to a lesser extent, President Abbas will come forth with a framework for peace where critically important compromises must be made.

A change of leadership will be necessary to bring this about, but that can happen only under intense US and EU pressure.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

Share this Story: Share On Facebook Share On Twitter Email This Article

Let your voice be heard!

Join the Algemeiner
  • What Is A True Jewish Leader?

    The Torah (The Old Testament – Jewish Bible) clearly expresses the true character traits necessary for leaders of the nation. It is not great rhetorical skills that helps a person succeed in leading “The Nation of Israel”. The gift of self-expression is not a necessary component in the skill set of national leaders.

    A Jewish leader is one who is meant to represent the nation as a whole, externally and internally. Expressive ability is no more than an impressive external trait that occasionally has the power to cover an internal void. That is not what sets apart the leader of the Jewish nation. A Jewish leader must have the ability to withstand external pressures and protect his people and the Jewish nation at all times.

    The Jewish nation that appeared on the stage of history thousands of years ago did not begin as a nation with an impressive external appearance. On the contrary for long periods the Jewish people lacked military and political capabilities. However, since its inception, the Jewish nation has represented a huge world of moral, ethical and just values. Values which the entire world learned, some more and some less, and spread to cultures everywhere throughout the world .

    A leader of the Jewish nation is not meant to stand out as having an impressive external appearance but, rather, a significant internal appearance that also expresses the special characteristics of Jewish culture and humility. Moses (Moshe in Hebrew) was “heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue” yet he led the Jewish people out of Egypt following hundreds of years of slavery and oppression. Moses was the one who led the Jewish people during their exodus from Egypt and were attacked by various nations. Hence, the Jewish people had to learn how to defend themselves and thus, with the help of the almighty were victorious. The Jewish nation’s first leader Moses signaled to us by example with his presence and leadership, the correct path and the worthy considerations which should guide us as we choose our nation’s leadership.

    A true leader of Israel has to lead from a platform of absolute faith. He cannot be a politician, only. He has to embrace the history of the Jewish people and Israel. A leader of the Jewish nation has to understand what the Jewish people had to endure for thousands of years and still endure today to survive.

    A true leader must act from a foundation of humility and perseverance. Understanding the welfare of Israel and the Jewish people should be the foremost reason before any action is taken. The leader must lead by action and example — not by rhetoric.

    A faithful Jewish leader must be one who will not compromise Jewish values.

    A true leader has to have a vision, fortitude and determination to overcome internal and external obstacles!

    A true leader must stand relentlessly behind the defenders and supporters of Israel.

    YJ Draiman

Algemeiner.com