What an Israeli Peace Initiative Should Look Like

Jan. 13 2021

For decades, nearly every U.S. president has made some effort to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and there is no reason to think that the incoming administration will be an exception. Efraim Inbar and Eran Lerman argue that, rather than simply oppose any such attempt on the grounds that it is unlikely to succeed, Jerusalem should present a plan of its own, which American policy-makers can take into account as they develop their own proposals:

President-elect Joe Biden has welcomed the growing acceptance of Israel in the region, and signaled that some aspects of his predecessor’s Mideast policy (such as the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and recognition of Israel’s sovereignty on the Golan Heights) will not be rescinded. Nor can Biden easily undue the restrictions on U.S. aid to the Palestinians that flow from the Taylor Force Act.

Regarding the substance of future negotiations, . . . it is unlikely that a Biden administration would back maximalist (and non-implementable) Palestinian demands, such as establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem (and the Temple Mount) as its capital, and a softened “right of return” for Palestinian refugees their descendants to Israel.

[An Israeli peace initiative] can preserve the basic strategic gains contained in outgoing administration’s approach. Speaking the language that Democrats in the U.S. prefer to hear, the point can be made that the real options for progress towards peace lie with abandonment of the fantasy of coercion [of the parties into an agreement], and with resuming negotiations towards a compromise between the two national movements. In parallel, the point can be made that even if little happens “top-down,” adopting “bottom-up” economic packages conducive to Palestinian welfare would be useful.

This initiative should reiterate the territorial principles put forward by Prime Minister Yitzḥak Rabin (who is a hero of peace for many Americans, especially Democrats) in his last speech to the Knesset in October 1995. Thus an Israeli peace plan should give prominence to security arrangements; to the strategic importance of the Jordan Valley; to the unity of Jerusalem as a living city; to rejection of the so-called Palestinian “right of return” and to recognition that there are two refugee problems, not one; and to an end to PA incitement, boycott efforts, and support for terror and terrorists.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Joseph Biden, Peace Process, US-Israel relations


Leaked Emails Point to an Iranian Influence Operation That Reaches into the U.S. Government

Sept. 27 2023

As the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal began in earnest, Tehran launched a major effort to cultivate support abroad for its positions, according to a report by Jay Solomon:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues—particularly its nuclear program—by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative. The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails.

The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: at least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

In March of that year, writes Solomon, one of these officials reported that “he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics—Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary—following a meeting with them in Prague.” And here the story becomes particularly worrisome:

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

Tabatabai . . . on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, [an Iranian scholar in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and involved in the IEI], in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d met Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—a former ambassador to the U.S.—who expressed interest in working together and invited her to Saudi Arabia. She also said she’d been invited to attend a workshop on Iran’s nuclear program at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. . . .

Elissa Jobson, Crisis Group’s chief of advocacy, said the IEI was an “informal platform” that gave researchers from different organizations an opportunity to meet with IPIS and Iranian officials, and that it was supported financially by European institutions and one European government. She declined to name them.

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy