U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif as he prepares to leave the Austria Center in Vienna, Austria, on July 14, 2015, after the European Union, United States, and the rest of its P5+1 partners reached agreement on a plan to prevent Iran from obtai.
(photo credit: STATE DEPARTMENT PHOTO)
Uzi Arad, a past Israeli national security adviser, and Daniel Kurtzer, a former US ambassador to Israel, on Tuesday reignited the countries’ debate whether progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace could have led to different results for the Iran nuclear deal.
The comments were part of an Institute of National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv on the aftermath of the Iranian nuclear deal.
Arad fired the first shot about US-Israel relations on Iran and the Palestinian issue, saying that if Israel had tried to make progress on peace with the Palestinians, it would neither have led to actual peace or have helped on the Iran issue.
The former national security adviser went through a 20-year history of US-Israel relations on the Iran issue. While he did critique both sides, Arad laid much of the blame on the Obama administration for what he said were negotiations with Iran behind Israel’s back.
Kurtzer shot back that Arad’s counterfactual history, or history of how things could have gone differently, started too late. He said Arad should have started with former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s statement to US President George H. W.
Bush in the early 1990s, in which he said that to address the Iranian threat “it was imperative to reach a resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict.”
In his critique of both sides, Arad quoted accounts of conflict and mishandling of the US-Israel relationship by US and Israeli officials Ehud Barak, Dennis Ross, Michael Oren and others.
Again, the former US ambassador countered, suggesting that US -Israel relations would be helped most if officials stopped airing their disagreements in public.
Both officials agreed that the US and Israel have valid strategic interests that differ at times.
Dr. Eli Levite of the US’s Carnegie Endowment and a former top official in Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission – who explained for Israelis the US perspective on the Iran deal – confirmed that linkage between Iran and the peace process was firmly on the mind of the Obama administration throughout Iran negotiations.