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It's time for a new strategy

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Wednesday, 10 June 2015


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. I do not believe, however, that the resumption of bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations with US mediation alone will succeed any more than the two previous efforts.

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) –which requires the US's full support to pass it – 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.

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Whereas the regional violent conflicts – particularly in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen – 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; they see Israel as a natural ally against their common enemy-Iran and ISIS. 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, which they view as another flash point that adds more fuel to the fire engulfing the region.

Europe is already suffering from Islamic radicalization and views the resolution to the conflict as one of the central components to protecting its massive interests in the region and significantly reducing radicalization.

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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 in the territories, making it ever more difficult for Israel to extricate itself and end the occupation.

Provisions for a framework for peace

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 that will be based on the following provisions:

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About the Author

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.

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