Iran for Palestine?

Leftish Israeli journalist Ben Caspit thinks that he knows what is going on between Obama and Netanyahu, and he may very well be right:

So what is the grand plan? In broad strokes, its tenets are as follows. This is a plan hatched between the US administration and Netanyahu, with Palestinian knowledge as well as the tacit knowledge of other elements in the Middle East. Its general underlying principle is “Iran for Palestine.” US President Barack Obama pledges, by also giving his own personal guarantee, to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capability. In return, Netanyahu will reciprocate by awarding him a diplomatic achievement vis-a-vis the Palestinians. We have seen the first step in this direction in recent weeks in the arrangement Obama has worked out to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons. Netanyahu did not speak against this arrangement, partly because he has received US assurances that this will not be a precedent, that the Iranian issue is entirely different from the Syrian one and that the “credible threat” of a military strike on Syria still remains on the table.

Netanyahu is unable to reach a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians. Everyone in Ramallah, Washington, Jerusalem and the settlements knows that. According to the plan, at some point in the negotiations all the parties will have reached this conclusion, and at that juncture the Americans will lay out their alternative proposal. It will consist of a permanent arrangement in phases, beginning with an interim arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians in the setting of which a Palestinian state will be established under temporary borders.

Netanyahu hopes that he will not have to evict any settlements in the framework of this arrangement and that the Palestinian state will be established in areas A and B, which are under Palestinian security or civilian control. The United States will give the Palestinian Authority (PA) guarantees that this is not the final arrangement but rather an interim stage that is limited in time. The issues of Jerusalem, the refugees and final borders will be postponed to later stages. The Palestinian state will be recognized by the United Nations, with the support of Israel, which will withdraw to the separation fence line.

If true, this explains a lot, including Netanyahu’s agreement to a shameful prisoner release last month. It also explains why Washington continues to push Israel to negotiate with the PLO, despite the ample evidence that a real final agreement is unreachable. This plan achieves the multi-decade high-priority US policy goal of getting Israel out of the territories, without a final agreement. And getting Israel out is what Obama and the State Department care about, more than almost anything.

A deal with the PLO as described above would be very bad for Israel’s security, since a sovereign Palestinian state in Judea/Samaria that the IDF can’t enter without violating the UN Charter will become a terrorist base far more dangerous than Gaza. And delaying the intractable issues of Jerusalem, refugees, etc. until after Israel withdraws from much of the territory means that Israel will lose its leverage on them when they are finally laid on the table.

I understand why Netanyahu thinks the problem of Iran is of overriding importance, because it is. But of course there is one literally fatal flaw in the logic that would trade submission to the PLO for US action on Iran.

Even given the best of intentions, today’s US cannot be trusted to keep its commitments. If there is one lesson from the shockingly incompetent fumble of the Syrian situation, it is that one cannot count on America. And we cannot assume the best intentions from Obama, whose anti-Israel bias has been evident from the very beginning of his presidency.

Recent overtures between Obama and Iranian President Rouhani indicate that Obama is prepared to accept some kind of diplomatic ‘solution’. But it is certain that Iran will not agree to anything that will deny it the weapons that it has been struggling to develop, despite international condemnation and economic sanctions, for more than a decade. As in the case of Syria, Obama wants an excuse to declare victory. But only a credible threat of military force will succeed in getting Iran to dismantle its weapons program.

A PLO terror state a few miles from its population center or an Iranian bomb are both unacceptable to Israel. There is no way it can trade one of these for the other — it is not in Obama’s power, nor does he desire, to keep such a bargain.

The proposed American deal, if it is as described, is a chimera. Israel needs to take the hard road, to destroy Iran’s nuclear program itself and to keep sovereignty over the territories, at least for the near future.

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2 Responses to “Iran for Palestine?”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    Such a deal sounds plausible, but it is doubtful that either side will accept it. The pressures within Netanyahu’s own party may be too great for him to overcome.

  2. Robman says:

    Here is the problem.

    First, yes, Iran’s nuke program is of overriding importance. But U.S. intel assets are powerfully trained on Israel. As soon as Israeli jets formed up on the tarmac for a strike, the U.S. would likely know about it.

    Never mind Zbigniew Brzezinski’s idiotic admonishments to “shoot down” Israeli warplanes enroute to Iran. All Obama & Co. have to do is leak to the media knowledge of an impending strike, and the chances for the decisive success of the same, absent the critical element of tactical surprise, are greatly reduced. With the stakes being this high, that is one helluva chance to take. Oh, and by the way, whatever Israel loses in such a strike in terms of materiel, and the subsequent fighting, the U.S. under Obama would be unlikely to replace.

    So much for a “surgical” Israeli strike.

    Alternatively, Israel could go ahead with a strike using weapons of such great power that such advance warning would not matter. But the collateral damage – and consequent international consequences to Israel – would be very grave. (All the same, if it were me, I’d take this latter route if I were in Bibi’s shoes, and then tell the world after the fact that Obama left me with no choice…but that’s me, and I’m not in Bibi’s shoes.)

    So, if U.S. pressure leaves Israel with no choice but to put a unilateral strike on hold until some post-Obama future point in time, what is Israel to do?

    Can Israel afford to risk alienating the U.S. in a potentially fatal manner as Israel’s principal ally? This question apparently weighs very heavily on Netanyahu, whom I suspect cannot imagine a world other than one in which the U.S. is, at least ostensibly, Israel’s ally. At least according to him, apparently, this is a risk he cannot take.

    I’m not sure the risk is as concrete as all of that. Obama will be in office for a while yet, but not forever. American public support for Israel is still high…while Obama’s credibility with both the world and the U.S. public is not very high and seems to get worse by the month. I believe this is a gamble Israel can take and win. And, given that prominent members of Israel’s ruling elite – such as Naftali Bennett, and Danny Danon, who would have access to the same info on any threats Obama made to Israel behind closed doors as Bibi would, also think this is a risk Israel can take, I think I’ve got good company on this.

    But, while Bibi is not a physical coward – one can hardly accuse a combat veteran of the IDF’s special forces of this – he does seem to be a political coward. He’s reasonably good at making Israel’s case in front of friendly or at least reasonable audiences (e.g., the U.S. Congress) but has trouble standing up to implacable, unreasoning hostility of the sort represented by Obama. This is a very serious problem.

    So, I think Bibi’s strategy, rather than to confront Obama, is to run out the clock on both tracks as best he can.

    I don’t think he believes Obama’s assurances about U.S. action against Iran. I don’t see how he could (I don’t see how a barnyard animal could). But since his hands are tied, in the interests of maintaining what he considers to be an alliance of existential importance to Israel, he has to at least pretend to take Obama seriously on this.

    Thus, on Iran, he’ll continue with the “Dagan” strategy of cloak and dagger ops against Iran’s nuke program, in the hopes that these can put off the necessity for more overt and major action until Obama is gone or nearly gone.

    He’ll also pretend to go along with Obama’s game with these bogus “peace talks”, hoping that the Palestinians will overplay their hand – as they usually have in the past – and he won’t wind up having to give up anything permanent. (The trouble this this tack, however, is that unlike any past U.S. president, it is virtually impossible for the Palestinians to “overplay” their hand in Obama’s eyes..he backs them no matter what, never holds them accountable for anything..this is a new playing field for any Israeli leader, and I wonder the extent to which Bibi fully comprehends this.)

    But Obama probably already expects Netanyahu to try to “run out the clock”, and that is why he issued whatever threat he did, behind closed doors (probably abandonment at the UN, in addition to no cooperation on Iran), to make Netanyahu give up something already in terms of Israeli honor and justice up front, by means of the prisoner release. With more than three years left in office – unless he gets impeached, which I would hardly bank on, though would not rule out entirely – there is a lot more he can squeeze out of Bibi, unless Bibi finally finds it in himself to stand up to Obama and take risks of a scale not seen since 1967, or even since modern Israel’s war of independence.

    I don’t envy Bibi. No one should. He is faced with the leader of the most powerful country in the world, and Israel’s most important ally, who in fact represents the crowning achievement of the Arab Lobby. The whole purpose of the Obama presidency is to force Israel to accept a suicidal “peace” agreement with the thugs of the PA, or failing that, to sabotage the U.S.-Israeli relationship, and leave Israel twisting in the wind to meet the sort of fate delivered to Rhodesia or Apartheid S. Africa. Obama can’t seem to do anything else…because he is not there to do anything else. At least, nothing with the priority of this particular objective. As anyone can see after four and a half years in office, everthing in Obama’s foreign policy, it seems, revolves around this issue. Everything.

    But Israel has many strengths that she did not have 46 years ago, and certainly not 65 years ago. Obama also has many weaknesses; he is perceived increasingly both at home and abroad as a failed/failing president, and he is a mediocrity surrounded by mediocrities (and that is putting it kindly). People like Bennett and Danon are not stupid, and they surely have good reasons for wanting to call Obama’s bluff…even if it isn’t a bluff.

    I hope Bibi listens to such voices and acts accordingly, before it is too late.

    Sorry, Israel, for Obama. I never voted for him. He too will pass, however. Stay strong over there.

    And, Good Shabbos, everybody.