Leading article: A grand bargain for the Middle East is achievable

Barack Obama is right to aim high, but must be aware of the dangers

Share
Related Topics

There is a sense that the politics of Middle East peacemaking, largely suspended since Israel's general elections, are returning to the boil once again. The United Nations Security Council met yesterday to discuss injecting some impetus into Israeli/Palestinian negotiations.

Meanwhile, the new Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, travelled to Egypt, hoping to build up an anti-Iranian regional coalition. There was also an intervention from King Abdullah of Jordan, warning that unless serious progress is made in peace talks between Israel and its neighbours over the next 18 months another conflict is likely.

Yet the most significant moment in this international re-engagement will come next week when Mr Netanyahu visits Washington for talks with Barack Obama. The Israeli Prime Minister has been talking of a "triple track" approach towards the Palestinians (referring to political, economic and security development in Palestinan areas) but the words "two-state solution" have not passed his lips. Worse, Mr Netanyahu's hard line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has dismissed the peace process with the Palestinians as a "dead end".

Many expect the Israeli Prime Minister next week to try to persuade the White House to focus on Iran's nuclear programme rather than Palestinian peace talks. President Obama needs to impress on Mr Netanyahu that the two-state solution is Washington's primary objective and that US pressure on this front will be unrelenting.

But what should the White House's response be to Israeli concerns over Iran? The Obama administration seems to be keen on entwining this issue with the Israeli/Palestinian problem. At the weekend, James Jones, President Obama's national security adviser, acknowledged Israel's concern about the "existential threat" from Tehran, but went on to argue that "there are a lot of things that you can do to diminish that existential threat by working hard towards achieving a two-state solution".

There is a logic to this approach. By actively addressing Israeli fears about Iran, it should be easier for the US to demand serious compromise from Mr Netanyahu over the Palestinians. Sunni Arab regimes, which are also concerned about Tehran's nuclear programme, would probably be prepared to acquiesce in US pressure on Iran in return for progress towards a Palestinian state. King Abdullah favours a grand bargain, calling for a "57-state solution", which would involve an agreement from the entire Arab and Muslim world to recognise Israel. From Israel's point of view, normalised relations with the likes of Syria would help neutralise the threat of Hizbollah and other hostile groups on its borders.

Any strategy that has a chance of reconciling Israel and its neighbours deserves support. But the White House must be careful that by conflating these problems, it does not end up making progress on any one of them impossible. It must guard especially against the Netanyahu administration stalling on the Palestinian peace process on the pretext of the continued threat from Iran.

King Abdullah believes that President Obama enjoys "tremendous credibility" in the Arab world. The next few months will be critical in determining whether that credibility will simply drain away, or whether it will be used to create progress towards an enduring Middle East peace settlement.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower