The Middle East Is Ripe for Peacemaking Efforts—but Not for Repeating the Mistakes of the Past

Nov. 18 2020

Following Washington’s success this summer in facilitating normalization between Israel on the one hand and Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Sudan on the other, new diplomatic opportunities are now open to the incoming president. Jonathan Schanzer explains:

The Abraham Accords was the first in a wave of peace agreements not likely to end with the Trump presidency. . . . Other Arab countries are now openly mulling similar shifts [regarding Israel]. They include Oman, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even a few others.

With an opportunity to notch additional diplomatic achievements that only a few years ago seemed impossible, the incoming administration should see clearly that diplomacy with countries peripheral to the Israel-Palestinian conflict has a greater chance of success than does direct engagement with the Palestinians themselves. That said, the more countries that de-emphasize historical Palestinian claims and narratives on the path to normalizing with Israel, the more the Palestinians will feel the pressure to negotiate and compromise. This creates an opportunity to pursue both tracks simultaneously.

But a word of warning: returning to the orthodoxy of two-state-solution diplomacy is ill-advised. Blindly yielding back leverage to the intransigent Palestinian leadership is not likely to encourage successful diplomacy. If anything, history has shown the opposite to be true.

With than in mind, the incoming administration should enlist the Arab states that normalized ties with Israel to play an intermediary role. In the past, many Arab leaders served as enablers of Palestinian intransigence. One gets a sense that fewer are inclined to serve that role today. Helpful allies can convey the friendly, yet tough, messages to the sclerotic Palestinian leadership that those leaders need to hear.

Read more at FDD

More about: Abraham Accords, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy


How Israel and Its Allies Could Have a Positive Influence on the Biden Administration’s Iran Policy

Nov. 25 2020

While the president-elect has expressed his desire to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic, this should not in itself cause worry in Jerusalem; it has never been the Israeli government’s position that a deal with Tehran is undesirable, only that the flaws of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration outweighed its benefits. Thus Yaakov Amidror, Efraim Inbar, and Eran Lerman urge Israel to approach Joe Biden’s national-security team—whose senior members were announced this week—to urge them to act prudently:

To the greatest extent possible, such approaches should be made jointly, or in very close coordination with, Israel’s new partners in the Gulf. These countries share Israel’s perspectives on the Iranian regional threat and on the need to block Tehran’s path to nuclear weapons.

For Israel, for Iran-deal skeptics in Washington, and for her partners in the region, the first operational priority is to persuade the incoming U.S. national-security team to maintain full leverage on Iran. Sanctions against Iran should not be lifted as a “gesture” without a verified Iranian return to the status quo ante (at the very least) in terms of low-enriched-uranium stockpiles and ongoing enrichment activities.

In parallel, there may emerge a unique opportunity to close ranks with the French (and with Boris Johnson’s government in London) on the Iranian question. On several issues (above all, the struggle for hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean, against Turkey), Jerusalem, Abu Dhabi, and Paris now see eye-to-eye. On Iran, during the negotiations leading to the [deal] in 2015, the position of France was often the most robust. In 2018, President Macron was willing to reach an operational understanding with Secretary of State Pompeo on [key issues regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities].

Last but certainly not least, it should be clear to the incoming U.S. national-security team that any attempt to negotiate must be, can be, and (as far as Israel is concerned) firmly will be backed by a credible military threat.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: France, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, US-Israel relations