Now that the agreement was reached by P5+1 and Netanyahu is less than satisfied with it, will he withdraw from the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations?
Was there an understanding between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu that the US would “deliver” Iran, and Israel would then “deliver” Palestine? It seemed to me that indeed there was. That is the only explanation I can find for Netanyahu’s commitment and follow-through on continued negotiations and on the release of Palestinian prisoners who killed Israelis.
The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are quite difficult and challenging for Netanyahu. He knows, just as we all do, what an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement looks like, and the concessions that he will have to make for an agreement go against his grain. Nonetheless, it seems to me that in the past months, he was really trying to move forward with the Palestinians, against all the internal pressure from within himself, his own party and government.
Now that the Geneva agreement was reached by the P5+1 and Netanyahu is less than satisfied with it, will he withdraw from the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and no longer feel obligated to his promise to President Obama?
Netanyahu’s expectations regarding the agreement with Iran were simply unrealistic. No agreement could have been achieved that would put a complete end to Iran’s nuclear program. The international community accepts the right of Iran to have nuclear energy produced with its own means and technology. The international community rejects the right of Iran to have a nuclear weapon; therefore, the agreement’s most important aspect is its compliance and verification regime to ensure that Iran does not reach “break-out” status at any time in the future.
The world is quite aware that Iran has lied about its nuclear program for 30 years, and that is why the interim period of six months is so crucial to be able to assess the effectiveness of the verification regime before negotiating a more permanent agreement and removing all sanctions against Iran. If the regime of verification fails, the international community will have the determination to reapply all the sanctions and to even intensify the pressure on Iran that would have violated this agreement. If it works, then the security of Israel and the world will be significantly improved, and Israel will not have to launch a military escapade against the evil empire that could result in missile attacks on Israel’s citizens from the north, the south and the east. During the next six months, Israel does not have a military option against Iran unless it can prove without a shadow of doubt that Iran is breaking out to nuclear weapons status.
The victory of international diplomacy, once again, after the success with the Syrian chemical weapons threat, will generate thoughts about wider international cooperation to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If Netanyahu decides to withdraw from the negotiations with the Palestinians, no longer feeling obligated to them, he should expect the possibility that the P5+++ will take action to convene Geneva II, focusing on this conflict whose solution has wide international consensus.
There are many interested parties, many of whom are stakeholders who would be happy to sit at the table and work out a deal on the fulfillment of the two-state solution.
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, in addition to immediate neighbors Egypt and Jordan, with the possibilities of the Qataris and the Saudis joining in, alongside Germany, Lady Ashton, Ban Ki Moon and others, all weighing in on coming to an end to the Israeli Palestinian conflict, might look threatening to many Israelis, the prime minister included. But it could be a blessing in disguise as the best way to secure Israel’s legitimate security needs vis-à-vis a Palestinian state. The establishment of an international compliance and verification regime for Israeli-Palestinian peace is an essential aspect of a successful peace agreement, and the new model of international diplomatic responsibility in resolving disputes and preventing war could be a very good way to create it.
The Geneva (Iran – P5+1) type of negotiation and agreement is perhaps not the best way to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. The best way is through direct Israeli- Palestinian negotiations. But if the negotiations fail, Israel and Palestine should not be surprised if the world powers decide that the time has come to put an end to this conflict with direct international intervention. It does seem hard to imagine, but then the thought of a US-Russian agreement of Syrian chemical weapons and even the Geneva agreement on Iran just a few months ago would have seemed quite far-fetched.
We are living in a world with fewer local and regional conflicts being waged than at any other time in the last century, and those wars in general are getting shorter all the time (according to The Economist). It is possible that the new world order I wrote about a few months ago, in which competing interests in the global world are using diplomacy to prevent wars rather than using proxies to wage them, is beginning to emerge.
The world is a safer place, and the prospects for global prosperity and dealing with some of the larger issues may well be in the wings. These problems, which in times of global conflict and strife seem insurmountable, during times of global cooperation can be successfully confronted – poverty and food scarcity, global warming and the energy crisis, the eradication of diseases, the cure for cancer and more. In light of these issues and the possibilities for global cooperation, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in global terms, becomes a nuisance and obsolete in attracting the attention of the world. Failure of the parties to put an end to this conflict could easily bring about a global commitment to insist that it does in fact happen, with the two parties kicking and screaming all the way to an agreement.
Gershon Baskin is co-chairman of IPCRI, Israel-Palestine: Creative Regional Initiatives (IPCRI), formerly known as the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, a nonprofit think tank that combines research with peace-building actions and advocacy across Israel and Palestine. He is a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His book Freeing Gilad: the Secret Back Channel has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew, and The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas by The Toby Press in English.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.