'Palestinian peace may help coalition against Iran'

Former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer links breakthrough on the Arab-Israeli peace process with the Iranian threat.

April 11, 2013 03:03
2 minute read.
Former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer.

Daniel Kurtzer 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

WASHINGTON – The Arab Spring has worsened the United States’ ability to work with Arab leaders on facing Iran, but efforts on the Arab-Israeli peace process could help improve the US position, according to Daniel Kurtzer, a former US ambassador to Israel.

“The ability of the United States to marshal a coalition that will be necessary to deal with the Iran issues is far more complicated today,” Kurtzer said in an appearance at the Middle East Institute in Washington.

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He attributed that to “far weaker Arab leadership and the tendency of Arab leaders to be much more attuned to what we have traditionally called the ‘Arab Street.’” Kurtzer said that in that context, working on the Arab-Israel conflict would help those leaders in dealing with their street and therefore create more space to “follow the United States’ lead with respect to an Iran crisis should it emerge.”

In pressing ahead with the peace process, Kurtzer, speaking to The Jerusalem Post after his MEI presentation, said that US President Barack Obama’s second term had “gotten off to exactly the right kind of start.”

He called Obama’s recent trip to Israel and the West Bank, the first of his presidency, as “very important,” not only because it helped in “clearing the air” in the at-times tense relationship between the president and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu but also because of its overall message.

That message, according to Kurtzer, “is that the peace process is important; I am behind an effort that I’m going to delegate to Secretary [of State John] Kerry; but it’s not a forever effort, and we have to see progress made.”

He also said that it was helpful for Obama to communicate directly with the Israeli public, something he did little of in his first term.

“It’s a healthy thing for the American president and the Israeli public to connect, I think that was one of the missing elements of the first time,” Kurtzer said.

“It’s a way of helping to explain what we’re doing. Some will like it and some won’t, but there’s no filters. You can hear what the president says and then you can judge for yourself.”

With Kerry back in the region this week, Kurtzer said it was important that he continue to stress to both parties the importance and urgency of making peace.

In Kurtzer’s opinion, Kerry needs to say: “The possibilities of actually making this happen require decisions, [so] gird your loins, get yourself ready to make those decisions.”

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