Nov 28 2013

Iran deal expected to slow Palestinian-Israeli talks

Published by at 12:16 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics



By Daoud Kuttab

After the signing of a breakthrough agreement between the world community and Iran, the question on Palestinian lips now is how this affects the Palestinian cause and specifically the current Palestinian-Israeli talks. On the surface, the questions seem strange as there is no direct relationship between the Iranian nuclear file and the Palestinian issue. But in reality the signing of the agreement, especially in light of Israel’s public opposition to it, puts Israel’s relationship with its biggest ally, the United States, in a difficult situation.

Washington’s apparent unwillingness to take Israel’s public opposition to the Iran deal into consideration puts a major question mark on future relations between the United States and Israel.

Israel’s criticism of the White House could go in at least two opposing directions. The United States can use the success of this unprecedented international consensus and move in a more aggressive direction to press Israel to make serious concession in the peace talks. It might also be more willing to put forward new ideas for solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

One recent personnel decision — as first revealed by Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen — can give an indication of Washington’s interest in putting forward a plan for solving the conflict. Martin Indyk had recently hired Israel-American dual national David Makovsky, who had prepared maps that illustrate how a two-state solution can actually be implemented on the ground.

On the other hand, the United States might slow down rather than try to speed up the peace talks. Coming out of the current public confrontation, the last thing that the White House might want is another war of words with Israel. This line of thinking might mean that the United States will try to make it up to Israel by “trusting” it more on Palestine than it did on Iran.

The current rift between Israel and the United States is unprecedented in scope and tone. While the two have had publicized disagreements before, there has never been a situation in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken so loudly and with such ferocity against the United States. What makes this divergence apparent is the lack of trust by Israel. The Israelis don’t trust Iran and don’t believe that the United States should trust it, either.

If the issue of trust bleeds into the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, the problems there will again be magnified. Israel doesn’t trust Palestinians to gain sovereignty over many parts of their future state, including the Jordan Valley. Israel also doesn’t trust the possibility of placing a multinational force in the Jordan Valley in place of Israeli occupation forces.

If the Israelis insist that the United States and others have abandoned it and failed to respect its worries about Iran, it becomes difficult to imagine how Israel will accept US guarantees of protection in regard to its immediate Palestinian and Arab neighbors. If Israel is not convinced that the Iranian deal will make Israel safer, why would Israel trust the Americans on anything to do with the much closer case of the Palestinians?

In terms of the timeline, the six-month provisional agreement will overlap the nine-month Palestinian and Israeli commitments to hold face-to-face peace talks. It is highly unlikely that any progress will take place before the end of the interim period with the Iranians. The provisional agreement to suspend any increase in the rate of enrichment is to be followed by a permanent agreement. Israelis predict that once the economic sanctions on Iran start to ease, the international community will lose its ability to pressure Iran to ensure that its nuclear plans have no military viability. A permanent agreement will certainly deflate Netanyahu’s public criticism and weaken his continued attempts to call out the “wolf.”

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