Given the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians in the peace negotiations, the formation of a new right-wing Israeli government will make it further difficult for the two sides to come to terms on their own to reach a peace agreement. Leaving them to their own devices is inherently dangerous, which explains why the Obama administration might make one last-ditch effort to resume the peace process following the conclusion of the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
What is needed is a new strategy and a new venue to create a new political dynamic that will compel the Israelis and Palestinians to deal with one another. Being that the French are planning to submit a new framework for peace to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) the Obama administration can shape the resolution to make it consistent with its overall policy of a two-state solution. At the same time, this will prevent the Palestinian Authority (PA) from submitting their own resolution seeking an end to the Israeli occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state within a specified period of time, which can further complicate the conflict.
Contrary to common wisdom, the turmoil sweeping the Middle East, the convergence of multiple conflicts, and future uncertainties have created new compelling circumstances that support the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Whereas the regional violent conflicts distract attention from the currently less violent Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the relative quiet cannot be taken for granted. As the Palestinians’ frustration continues to grow, so does the risk of a new violent flare-up, which must be avoided. Preventing such an outbreak would allow for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating channels to remain open and for the Arab states to focus on the present danger posed by ISIS and Iran’s regional ambitions.
Why the conditions are ripe for the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations
More than ever before, the Arab states are eager to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, Israel and the leading Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, are tacitly exchanging intelligence and coordinating plans to face the growing danger posed by ISIS and Iran.
President Obama may well be more inclined at this particular juncture in his presidency to breathe new life into the peace process. He has little political capital to lose—any success, however partial, will be to his credit, and another failure will be left to his successor to deal with.
The EU is more eager than ever before to play a larger role in settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Europe is already suffering from Islamic radicalization.
Finally, a solution now would prevent the creation of additional facts on the ground, including the expansion of Israeli settlements, and narrow the opening for ISIS to instigate unrest.
Unlike previous peace efforts by the US, the Obama administration together with two major allies, France and Britain, can join hands and introduce a UNSC resolution.
The Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt, are in a position to exert political and material pressure on Hamas to adopt the API, which will provide common denominators with Israel about the principle idea of a two-state solution.
The US and the EU can use their leverage on Israel to also embrace the API, particularly since the majority of Israelis, including former top security officials, strongly advocate the adoption of the API.
For the renewed peace efforts to succeed, it will be necessary to address the psychological dimension of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on every conflicting issue. In this regard, it will be essential that both sides begin a systematic effort to reconcile, in particular, their historic and religious narratives.
Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians should be allowed to use their internal political factionalism as an excuse for why they cannot make certain concessions. This has been the practice by both sides in the past.
The UNSC resolution must call on both sides to stop their mutual public acrimony and criticism while the negotiations are in progress. This is particularly important because such negative statements lower public expectations instead of fostering hope for reaching a breakthrough..
Both sides must undertake any and all measures to prevent acts of violence that some extremists on either side might commit to torpedo the whole peace process, and embrace the late Yitzhak Rabin’s mantra: “fight terrorism as if there is no peace process; pursue peace as if there is no terrorism.”
(Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies) www.theseoultimes.com