A furious debate has erupted between Israel and the United States in relation to
the US administration’s positions on Iran and on the Palestinian issue – a
divergence of views that threatens to undermine the necessary mutual trust
between the leaderships in Washington and Jerusalem, and with it the
all-too-necessary policy coordination between the two countries.
harsh attack of our prime minister against John Kerry at the conclusion of his
last visit and the secretary of state’s rebuttal in the media and in Congress do
not just reflect friction within the family or traditional political bravado for
the sake of domestic audiences. The rift is a function of a very real abyss
between the governments as to their respective views on the Middle East and as
how to deal with the different threats and crises at hand.
lives in a new world, Binyamin Netanyahu in yesterday’s world.
Obama-Kerry administration understands too well the shortcomings in the use of
power, based on recent frustrating experiences.
They believe in a greater
equality between nations, in a dialogue of mutual respect, and do not delude
themselves that change can be dictated; diplomatic power is the new agent of
change and deterrence; it grows within new structures of collective diplomacy,
led by Washington.
That was the case in Syria, which is now being
disarmed of chemical weapons, not due to an American military strike, but
because of American-Russian diplomatic cooperation. Barack Obama was wise to
give Vladimir Putin a leading role in the resolution of the crisis and was ready
to absorb criticism for not being the macho world sheriff that many
conservatives would like him or America to be. Here too, Israel was offside, as
the only country lobbying Congress in favor of a military strike. If listened
to, Syria would have maintained it’s chemical arsenal.
As the Security
Council has been paralyzed due to the veto, a new international structure has
evolved for conflict resolution: the five permanent members of the Security
Council and Germany (P5+1).
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They are acting in relative coordination to
prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear military power. Their interests and power
assets are diverse, yet all of them have a stake in curbing the possibility of a
regional conflict becoming global. Today this is the forum to prevent World War
III, and is, in many ways, the real security council.
The P5+1 also have
an interest in keeping a good degree of coordination between them, as their
economic interests are to a large degree interconnected. When the Iranian
foreign minister is meeting with the six foreign ministers around the same table
in the Geneva Intercontinental Hotel, he meets with the international community
as a whole. His ability to divide and conquer has been reduced; he is dependent
on all when it comes to a significant lifting of sanctions.
In this forum
the American administration aims to reach an agreement with Iran that will
completely neutralize the ability of the Tehran regime to develop nuclear
military capability. It knows that the Iranian regime of Ali Khamenei and Hassan
Rouhani is under pressure from the street to make concessions on the nuclear
program in favor of lifting the economic sanctions which have crippled the
Obama and Kerry would like to sustain the relative
pragmatism of the Iranians with an interim agreement that would freeze the
nuclear program for the duration of negotiations in return for a very partial
and reversible lifting of sanctions.
The US administration understands
that in today’s world no deal is possible or will last if it does not respect
the prestige of the other side and strengthen the more pragmatic elements within
A perfect agreement is overkill and may end up in no deal at all. The
Iranians have an alternative to an agreement – no agreement – and a constant
brainwashing of their public opinion; an Islamic North Korea.
must, and will, for the sake of the full deal with Iran, insist on all measures
that prevent Iran from developing nuclear arms and it should take very
determined positions on all core issues. At the same time it must be a carrot
and a stick approach, opening the way to a historic agreement.
the best strategy for success, shared in large part by all other
It’s also the only strategy of toughness and flexibility that
will hold the coalition of six together.
Netanyahu and his chums in the
Republican Tea Party not only object to, but also do not begin to understand the
new rules of the game of international relations.
believes that the United States needs only to decide to increase the level of
sanctions and threaten military action agaist Iran in order for the Iranian
leadership to hoist a white flag – the Iranians should be defeated at the
negotiation table nor the battlefield, not comprehending that defeat is both
impossible and counterproductive. A defeated and humiliated Iran would have
every incentive to develop nuclear weapons as the capacity exists, the
motivation to use it must be altered. We don’t need another Versailles Treaty in
the Middle East.
This is also the prime minister’s view on the
Palestinian issue, to defeat the Palestinians, if not through the IDF, then at
the negotiation table.
International agreements must take into
consideration the motivation of all sides to sustain the agreements. More
importantly, agreements in today’s world must have popular support. One-sided
agreements will create resistance and will not survive. Virtually every country
today has interests in peaceful arrangements because its economic future depends
on it. Every country is also sensitive to its prestige and will not accept
Bridges between agreements that, on one side, disarm and pacify
countries and regions, and, on the other, link to the fruits and assets of the
global economy, are possible as part of collective diplomacy. Given the economic
power of the European Union, and also China after its recent gradual
privatization reforms, and the political and security leaderships of the United
States and Russia, the permanent members plus Germany could very well become the
framework in which peace and disarmament agreements can be reached. It can
become a win-win situation for the six partners.
This framework could
very well become useful for a broader deal in the Middle Eastern region. Such a
regional arrangement would begin with Syria, continue with Iran, and conclude
with Israel and Palestine.
Many Israelis may see in this a dangerous
scenario. It must not be, as we have to adapt to a new world of collective
On an Israeli-Palestinian deal, the P5+1 must include the rest
of the region. In return for a 1967-lines based border, with mutual land swaps,
and the sharing of Jerusalem as two capitals, Israel must demand recognition by
the entire Arab world, including full diplomatic relations and regional
cooperation. We must, and will, put an end to occupation. The Arab states must,
and will, put an end to the rejection of Israel. Within such a regional
framework agreement, Israel and its neighbors must insist on full assistance and
cooperation by the international community, in the form of P5+1.
Americans can give us all necessary security support, not just of a tactical
nature along the Jordan River, but also of strategic significance.
Europeans can give the Palestinians the necessary economic and
institutionbuilding support and allow Israel to have the desired regional
economic cooperation that will make peace sustainable.
Russia and China,
which have their own global and regional aspirations in a peace deal, could
exert their influence on the extremists to halt terrorism and the development of
non-conventional weapons, as Russia did with Syria.
We may not be far
away from a moment in 2014 in which Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas
will be invited to the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva.
The writer is
honorary president of the Peres Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief
negotiator for the Oslo Accords. Barbara Hurwitz edited this column.
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