Something good is happening

Today, perhaps like no other time, there is a real chance of disarming North Korea and preventing the nuclearization of Iran. That is the main issue of our time.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the UN  (photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
PM Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the UN
(photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
Over a year has passed and the aftermath of the 2016 US elections bears striking similarities to the turn of events after elections in Israel twenty years earlier.
The 1996 elections were considered a sure win for the late Shimon Peres, just as the 2016 elections were for Hillary Clinton. Virtually all the political pundits and media polls “proved” that assertion.
On election day, however, the voters thought differently, giving the underdogs historic victories and leaving the front-runners in dismay. The disbelief quickly turned into disgust in some quarters, where many felt their country was “stolen” from them. Some still do.
Shock switched to shoulder shrugs when the state of the nation began improving. When the unprecedented wave of Palestinian suicide terrorism died down prior to the 1996 elections, after Netanyahu came to power, his critics said it was clearly a coincidence.
When reciprocity was introduced into the political process with the Palestinians and concessions were more tightly controlled, Israel’s political left said it was the mistake of inexperience and nearsighted foiling of the prospects for peace. When it worked, it was seen by the same critics as unrelated to the policy directive but rather as the workings of force majeure.
When Trump triumphed in 2016, critics predicted catastrophe and market collapse. When stocks soared as unemployment declined, wages grew, and taxation eased, the “sophisticated strategists” said it was related to circumstantial market cycles.
When the “Start-Up Nation” moved from an appeasement policy to economic diplomacy, disgruntled writers said that would never work in the Middle East. But when more and more statesmen (not to mention tourists) started to flock to Israel in friendship and in search of the new frontier, the skeptics begrudgingly shrugged again as they enjoyed the fruits of progress.
At a luncheon held a few months ago at one of the most prestigious and distinguished universities in the United States, two of the most notable American scholars of North Korea, who served in Republican and Democratic administrations, deductively determined that a nuclear North Korea is a fait accompli and that economic incentives and deterrence are probably the only available strategies to prevent the use of those weapons. Dismantlement was a non-existent or naive notion.
One scholar went as far as to say that the threat to peace posed by a precarious American president was more severe than the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons themselves. The two scholarly pundits were probably wrong.
Something good is happening and it’s getting more difficult to deny.
Today, perhaps like no other time, there is a real chance of disarming North Korea and preventing the nuclearization of Iran. That is the main issue of our time. There is no certainty, but there is a chance. The historic handshake and summit between the two Koreas’ premiers show us that there is hope. Such hope exists today because North Korea’s leadership may realize that its best interest is to disarm. Trump’s ‘erratic’ diplomacy had a key role in that realization.
President Donald Trump made a significant step of bold leadership towards holding Iran accountable and preventing it from obtaining nuclear weapons by scrapping the misled deal. That “action” of folly should now be replaced with an effective and enforceable agreement.
Now that presidential promises once again have meaning and the truth about decades of Iranian deception has been unveiled for all to see, a realistic agreement must be pursued by the UN Security Council and responsible UN member states. Such an agreement would be the result of relentless diplomacy and steadfast conviction that will advance the prospects for peace in the Middle East and beyond like few agreements before it. Netanyahu, for over 20 years and on every major podium, played a key role in that.
Today, most Middle Eastern leaders understand that Israel is an important part of the solution to their problems rather than being the problem itself. Both Trump and Netanyahu played a big part in that thought transformation.
The policy moves made over the past year and a half, and perhaps most specifically the exit from the Iranian Nuclear deal, are not without risk, but they are based on common sense, valor and historical truths that should eventually increase the hopes for peace.
Like Obama and Peres before them, both Trump and Netanyahu would certainly warrant a Nobel Peace Prize once those feats are met - maybe more so.
The author is a visiting scholar at Georgetown University and a research fellow at the International Institute for Counterterrorism in Herzliya. The opinions expressed in this piece are those of his own.