7.29.2013

The High Ground Belongs to??

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks and Iran's Nuclear Program

by James Towe

I was taken aback to hear of the beginning of "painful sacrifices" Israel must make for peace. Israel unveiled its 'positive' gesture to Fatah and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry by agreeing to release 104 Palestinians imprisoned on terror related crimes. Yes, this includes Palestinians responsible for the murder of civilians. Now, I suppose, the Palestinians will come to the negotiating table.

It's somewhat curious that the typically rigid Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Natanyahu suddenly feels a dovish tinge. The PA (Palestinian Authority) has refused to restart peace talks until Israel ceases its settlement building in areas deemed 'off-limits' by the Palestinian Authority and the international community. 

I have wondered why Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has refused peace talks with continuing West Bank and East Jerusalem settlement building as his excuse. His people sit helpless, with no leverage, yet they set the tone and make demands. There are a multitude of reasons, or possible reasons the PA behaves as it does with regard to its own rigidity in returning to negotiations. I can't get into these twists and turns with one blog entry. Maybe some other time.

On a side note, many of these Jewish settlements are located in east Jerusalem; an area on the west side of the so called 'Green-Line'. This area of Greater Jerusalem was annexed following the 1967 War and is considered by Israel to be a permanent, indivisible part of the State.

Israel is the power broker, yet the PA sets demands for the resumption of the peace process. How does this work? 

The Israeli government has traded settlement freezes for the release of Palestinian prisoners to resume peace talks. The PA seems to be open to this arrangement. But why would Netanyahu suddenly change his hard-line against the Palestinians and the Obama Administration?

I don't believe that Netanyahu suddenly had a moment of enlightenment or that Secretary of State John Kerry's words soothed Israel's fears. This is a dangerous moment in the history of modern Israel. More dangerous than any it has faced in its modern existence. The current crisis goes beyond past Arab threats of pushing the Jews into the Mediterranean. Today's threat is nuclear and from a very unsavory character.

Iran as a Nuclear Power Player. 

Analysts who see Iran as a 'rational actor', fall into an irony as cultural relativists unable to shake off their own Western assumptions. Iran is certainly not Western in its mindset, thus cannot be trusted to play the game as say, the Americans and Soviets during the Cold War. Such an error in understanding Iran could cost the lives of millions of Arabs and Jews in the Middle East, not to mention the global economic meltdown that would likely result in any nuclear exchange.

Iran publicly declares its hatred of the Jewish state while it continues to develop longer range missiles concurrent with its nuclear program. This is somewhat reminiscent of Germany's re-militarization of the Rhineland in 1936. France and Britain did nothing; they could have pushed back a relatively weak Germany and drawn a line, possibly preventing another world war in the process. But, there was no political will left in those wary countries and Nazi Germany grew into an unchecked monster. After a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States is also wary.

Though sanctions have slowed Iran's nuclear ambitions, they haven't succeeded in halting development. Despite Netanyahu's somewhat cool relationship with Barak Obama, Israel could be positioning itself for the increasingly likely event that Iran will have to be confronted militarily, with or without America. Israel's willingness to resume peace talks with the Palestinians just might have more to do with Iran than it does with the West Bank.