Globalist Perspective

Wake Up, Israel (Part I)

Are Israelis facing a critical juncture that will determine their future security and prosperity?

Takeaways


  • President Obama knows as well as any one that there is no issue that has helped Iran undermine Israel's national security concerns more than the Palestinian conflict.
  • Netanyahu is correct when he suggests that Israel and the Arab states share a common Iranian nuclear threat.
  • The Arab countries do not wish to see Iran in possession of nuclear weapons, but the prospect of provoking anti-government sentiments throughout the Arab world is deemed considerably worse.
  • With new U.S. and Israeli leadership in office comes a renewed prospect to solve the old struggles, and to address once and for all the Palestinian question of statehood.

The challenges and opportunities that Israel faces today will undoubtedly lay the foundation for its future coexistence both in the Middle East and as an ally to the West.

With new U.S. and Israeli leadership in office comes a renewed prospect to solve the old struggles, and to address once and for all the Palestinian question of statehood.

Israel must wake up and heed the call of the international community and use the support it has now and its overwhelming power to make the necessary sacrifices for peace. Above all though, Israelis must look introspectively and ask themselves where they want to be in 10, 15 or 20 years from now.

Do they want to live in peace with security and prosperity or do they wish to continue the struggle, which is becoming increasingly more threatening if not existential? I believe that Israel is approaching that fateful hour.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Washington raised many hopes — but then quelled just as many expectations. It appears he was neither ready to deal with the hard choices presented to him by President Obama, nor was he prepared to offer credible alternatives to deal with the simmering Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At this point in the process, coming to Washington to discuss Arab-Israeli peace without acknowledging the two-state solution only hurt Netanyahu’s standing with the new American administration. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made it clear that there will be no peace without a Palestinian state, and there will be no Palestinian state with the continued expansion of the settlements.

President Obama’s demand that there will be a moratorium on settlement building and expansion is rooted in the simple logic that the settlements not only impede the viability of a Palestinian state, but they rob the Palestinians of any hope that they will have a partner in peace who respects their claims to the land. The settlements, furthermore, tell twenty-two Arab states that Israel is not interested in their peace initiative.

Continued expansion signals to the United States that Israel does not take American strategic interest and friendship seriously — and it tells the European Union to mind their own affairs.

Most importantly, Israel’s inability to control its settlers conveys to the majority of Israelis who are yearning for peace that they should expect nothing but more violence and bloodshed for decades to come.

The Obama administration has stressed that a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the top of American national strategic interests, and that the United States will provide the utmost security for Israel.

Successive American administrations have committed themselves to Israel’s national security and President Obama’s commitment is as unshakable as any of his predecessors’. The difference today is that the President has inherited a region in turmoil with an alarming rise in Islamic extremism, terrorism and sectarian strife — as well as a daunting Iranian nuclear threat capable of destabilizing the region in a fundamental way.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict only feeds into this frenzy, edging ever closer to the precipice.

Caring about Israel’s national security requires more than supporting Israel’s policies and providing it with the military means to defend itself. Support for Israel will not come with a blank check and a blind eye.

President Bush offered unmatched cooperation, but he failed miserably to deal effectively with Iran as it threatened Israel existentially, time and again. Bush also neglected to pursue a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the majority of his two terms, and thereby undermined Israel’s only prospect for peace and real security.

Israel has every right to thwart any potential Iranian nuclear threat, but it must first exhaust every peaceful option with its closest and most trusted ally: the United States.

President Obama has come to the conclusion that isolating Iran is not making Israel or the United States any better off. He offered a direct dialogue with Tehran and established the end of 2009 as the time to determine whether or not Iran is willing to commit to negotiations on its nuclear program, leaving all military options on the table.

But he has also committed to finding a solution to the Palestinian problem that has eluded all of his predecessors. The President knows as well as any one that there is no issue that has helped Iran undermine Israel’s national security concerns more than the Palestinian conflict.

He appreciates Netanyahu’s legitimate concerns about Iran, and thus reasons that dealing more effectively with Iran and weakening its resolve in the Mediterranean would in effect distance Iran’s mischief from the Palestinian interests.

Netanyahu must do better than dismantling a few illegal outposts, offering a lip service to a President who believes in Israel’s destiny and is ready to commit time and treasure to insure it as a safe and thriving state.

Netanyahu is correct when he suggests that Israel and the Arab states share a common Iranian nuclear threat, and it would seem logical to invite the Arab states to join hands in dealing with Tehran’s bellicose policies.

What Netanyahu fails to understand is that while the Arab states — led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt — are gravely concerned about the Iranian nuclear program, they will not cooperate with Israel as long as the occupation persists and Palestinian plight continues to haunt them.

Leaving the Palestinians to their own devices after sixty-two years of debilitating struggle would challenge the legitimacy of the Arab states’ governments.

The Arab countries do not wish to see Iran in possession of nuclear weapons, but the prospect of provoking en-masse anti-government sentiments throughout the Arab world is deemed considerably worse. From their perspective, continued Israeli occupation has not only displaced the Palestinians but provides a constant reminder of Arab humiliation — and nothing reinforces that more than the building and the expansion of settlements.

More so, if they were to see a moratorium on settlements while negotiations began, they are very likely to offer major concessions, such as state visits to Israel or the opening of economic trade talks.

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About Alon Ben-Meir

Senior Fellow at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs and Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute [United States]

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