Negotiations in a Strategic Trap

With the rising Iranian threat fostering tacit security cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors, one might expect Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to aspire to resolving the Palestinian problem, thus removing the last obstacle to an overt strategic partnership. But Netanyahu’s school of thought is radically different.

TEL AVIV – The Israeli-Palestinian peace process, stymied by irreconcilable differences between the parties, has always depended on the strategic regional context. It was born, after all, in the wake of the first Gulf War, and was facilitated by the regional consequences of the Cold War’s end. These days, the process is shaped by two major regional dynamics, the so-called Arab Spring and the Iran nuclear deal.

The Iran deal has turned into one of the most serious crises of trust ever in the United States’ relations with its Middle East allies. Though they have no alternative, both Israel and the Arab states will find it difficult to trust future US commitments to their security. To Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, US President Barack Obama betrayed Israel when he sacrificed Egypt’s former president, Hosni Mubarak, and paved the way for the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power. Now he has wielded the knife a second time by reaching a deal with Iran, supposedly behind Netanyahu’s back.

Israel’s conventional strategic wisdom was based on an equation of “Bushehr versus Yitzhar” – that is, a readiness to dismantle West Bank settlements if the Iranian centrifuges in Bushehr were dismantled. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, this is not taking place.

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