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The Obama administration’s push for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace may have a much stronger likelihood of succeeding this time around because of the prevailing political and security dynamics. For an agreement to occur however, Israel must concede the inevitable by relinquishing territories captured in the 1967 war, and the United States must provide a new security umbrella to its regional allies. This would lead not only to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, but it could seriously impede Iran’s ambitions for regional hegemony with nuclear weapon capabilities.

The administration’s ambitious agenda came to a focus this past week as Special Envoy George Mitchell, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, National Security advisor Jim Jones, and Obama’s Iran strategist Dennis Ross all converged in the region for a series of high level security meetings with Israeli officials. Subsequent visits by Mitchell to Ramallah, Cairo and Damascus are clear evidence of this administration’s emphasis on a regional diplomatic push that goes well beyond the Israeli-Palestinian track.

With the international spotlight on Israel, it now must find a way to work harmoniously with the Obama administration if it wants to be viewed as a genuine partner in the peace process. The United States remains indispensable to Israel’s national security and is ultimately the last line of defense against any threat—including Iran’s, so for Israel to appear flippant to US pressure at this juncture is a dangerous gamble. The territorial concessions necessary to forge a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace could further cement Israel’s relations with the United States by upgrading Israel’s US strategic cooperation into a new security arrangement akin to a defense treaty. If Israel has full American backing in security and defense, it will have more flexibility to concede the occupied territories because ultimately ensuring Israel’s security takes away its main rational for keeping Palestinian and Syrian territories.

Such a security agreement with Israel does not mean that the Obama administration has resigned itself to the inevitability of a nuclear Iran. Israeli Minster of Intelligence and Atomic Energy Dan Meridor recently alluded to this in an interview with Army Radio, noting that, "Now, we don't need to deal with the assumption that Iran will attain nuclear weapons but to prevent this." A US-Israel security agreement, and possibly a larger security umbrella that covers Arab allies as well would likely make Iran’s nuclear ambitions less compelling. This agreement, combined with potentially crippling sanctions might provide enough deterrence for Iran to consider cooperating with the international community on its nuclear program. Moreover, since Iran never admitted to pursuing nuclear weapons, the US strategy might offer Iran a face saving way out. But if diplomacy nevertheless fails and Tehran continues with its refusal to settle the nuclear conflict through negotiations, then Israel will still have gained from the United States’ full cooperation and security partnership, as long as the negotiations with Iran are not open-ended.

Israel’s other significant advantage would be an opening to the rest of the Arab world. The Arab states led by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco deeply dread the Iranian nuclear threat and many would be willing to work with Israel to mitigate their deep concerns. But they are loath to cooperate with Israel, and rightfully so, as long as Israel continues to occupy Arab land and expand the settlements which, symbolize to them an indefinite occupation. The Iranian nuclear menace has created a new power equation in the Middle East, where Israel and the Arab states share a common threat. Israel, which for decades has been seen as the enemy of the Arab world, could now become a potential ally through various cooperative defense deterrents against Iran. For Israel this represents not only an historic opportunity to forge a comprehensive peace, but to form a de-facto united Arab-Israeli front while working closely with the United States for a sustained regional security.

Finally, there is the international public opinion which is unified on the issue of occupation and sees Israel’s intransigence as cause not only for regional instability, but as a threat to global energy resources. In case of a major conflagration between Israel and Iran, the effects of oil and gas volatility could be potentially devastating. As for the Israeli-Palestinian issue, much of the international community with the EU at the forefront has become far more forthcoming in its opposition to Israeli policies. Recently twenty-seven EU foreign ministers decided to put off the planned upgrading of EU-Israel relations to an “association agreement” which would have large trade benefits, until they can see a stronger commitment from Israel to a Palestinian state. No one should expect Israel to compromise its national security only to please the international community. That being said, Israel has made tremendous strides in becoming a respected member of the international community in terms of diplomatic and trade cooperation. But the scores of countries affected by the continuing turmoil in the Middle East are fed up with a conflict they believe can be resolved by ending the occupation. From their perspective, linking territory to national security no longer holds the weight it used to, not only because of Israel’s technological superiority but because the Arab world has come full circle to accept Israel’s reality. If Israel were to forfeit this opportunity, it will be blamed for many of the regional ills as well as the growing rift with the United States—which most Israelis will not tolerate.

The Obama administration is investing tremendous political capital in its effort to forge a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. Moreover, for the Obama administration to restore its moral leadership, neutralize Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and reach a major breakthrough in US-Middle East relations—following eight years of President Bush’s disastrous policies—it has no alternative but to tackle the Arab-Israeli peace process head on. If these efforts require a regional security umbrella by the United States, as was suggested by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Israel can come out of this not only with a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace deal but with stronger security ties with the United States.

This prospect offers what most Israelis yearn for—peace with security. Any Israeli government that refuses to see that will have forfeited its mandate to govern and should give way to a new Israeli government capable of delivering peace.

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I agree with you it is a necessity for Israel to accept the line Obama suggest, it is our acceptance of Palestinian entity and realization that we share this land with equals and not controlling the Palestinians for some minor Jewish group within Israel.

but we need to take the inner political climate of Israel as reality and take into consideration Israel internal power structure and current situation.

At the moment I miss to see the Jewish world support of Israel settlers, these are people who consider themselves as "true Israelis" and their world view is about to break down, these people will need to accept that they cannot build their lives in this part of historic Cennan and must move back to Israel territory agreed with the Palestinians.

So parallel of asking from the political leaders to make the logical decision, we need to make the emotional decision and support the settlers when their world is changed for ever and the biblical Israel dream is lost for the sake of the Palestinians.

We also need to see shift in the Palestinian side, they cannot claim a state when they are divided and some of them practicing violent resistance against Israel.
Why Obama's peace process is still going nowhere
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 30 July 2009

Much of the debate about US President Barack Obama's push for Middle East peace resembles the proverbial argument about whether the glass is half full or half empty. But even a full glass is not very useful if you need to fill an entire reservoir.

A common assumption is that earlier American administrations were insufficiently "engaged." Obama's early moves, including the appointment of former Northern Ireland mediator George Mitchell as his envoy, have therefore been widely welcomed.

The problem was never a lack of American engagement, but what kind. Indeed, the Bush administration took engagement to unprecedented lengths. It pushed for Palestinian elections, and then when Hamas defeated the US-backed Fatah faction, America attempted to overturn the result. The Bush administration helped arm and train Palestinian militias opposed to Hamas and vetoed a Palestinian "national unity government." It supported the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and politicized financial aid to bolster Palestinian leaders whose legitimacy, as they have effectively become Israeli quislings, has all but vanished. At the same time, the United States and the Quartet imposed lopsided preconditions for dialogue that they well know Hamas cannot accept.

Absolutely none of this has changed under the Obama administration. Despite lip service about easing it, the United States continues to support Israel's criminal blockade of the Gaza Strip, and like the Bush administration, Obama has never criticized Israel's attack on Gaza despite incontestable evidence of atrocities and war crimes.

America continues to funnel arms and money to Fatah-controlled militias, encouraging them to attack Hamas in the West Bank, sabotaging the possibility of intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

And while the Obama administration and the British government prepare for negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan, they intransigently reject talks with Hamas despite that group's electoral mandate, its repeated offers of a reciprocal long-term ceasefire with Israel and its acceptance of a two-state solution.

The Obama administration has used up its first six months negotiating a settlement freeze with Israel (with little to show). At this rate, how long would it take to negotiate the core issues in the century-long conflict resulting from the Zionist effort to transform an almost entirely Arab (Muslim and Christian) country, into a "Jewish state" with a permanent Jewish majority?

The constant focus on process and gimmicks -- like trying to get Arab states to normalize ties with Israel -- has obscured the reality that Obama's stated goal -- a workable two-state solution -- is almost certainly unachievable. The idea of separating Palestinians and Israelis into distinct ethno-national entities has become an article of faith within peace process circles, but rarely are its supporters asked to justify why a "solution" that has eluded them for decades has any merit.

Today, as a result of natural growth, Palestinians form half of the population living in historic Palestine despite decades of expulsion and exile. Within a few years they will once again be the majority. A two-state solution as currently envisaged would leave Palestinians with a state on no more than a fifth of the land, with less of the water and no real sovereignty. Even if Palestinian refugees agreed to return to such a state, there would be no room for them.

Nor would repartition actually separate the populations: no one involved in the "peace process" is talking about removing all, or even most of the half million Israeli settlers implanted illegally in the West Bank -- especially around Jerusalem -- since 1967. There is talk of compensating Palestinians for the land taken by settlers with "equivalent" land elsewhere. But whoever can find land that can "compensate" Palestinians for Jerusalem, would be just as likely to find land that could "compensate" the British for London or the French for Paris.

As for the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, a two-state solution would only make their situation worse. Already treated as second-class citizens, they face escalating racist campaigns and a raft of legislation proposing to ban them from commemorating Israel's near-destruction of Palestine in 1948, forcing them to take loyalty oaths, or even to sing the explicitly Jewish Israeli national anthem. If Israel remains an unreformed ultra-nationalist "Jewish state," its Palestinian citizens are more likely to face apartheid conditions at best or ethnic cleansing at worst, than be allowed to live as equal citizens in the land of their birth. Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman represents the growing number of Israeli Jews who think a Jewish state should be cleansed of non-Jews.

This is why an increasing number of Palestinians, conflict resolution experts, and a small but growing number of Israelis are giving serious attention to the idea of a one-state, or bi-national solution for Palestine/Israel. This would dismantle the current system of Israeli ethno-religious domination and institute a democratic system guaranteeing the civic, political, religious and cultural rights of all citizens and communities.

Although peace process insiders constantly dismiss these ideas as far-fetched, utopian or naive, they continue to gain adherents. After all, similar, but even deeper-rooted conflicts between settler-colonial and indigenous communities were resolved peacefully along such democratic principles in Northern Ireland and South Africa.

As George Mitchell surely knows from his experience in Northern Ireland, when two national communities lay claim to the same land and one dominates the other by force, partition only changes the contours of the conflict. It was by dismantling the "Protestant state for a Protestant people" in the north of Ireland and replacing it with a bi-national democracy, increasingly integrated with the rest of the island, that the 1998 Good Friday Agreement ended a conflict long thought to be insoluble.

Neither South Africa nor Northern Ireland offer exact analogies or ready-made blueprints for Palestine/Israel. But to continue to pretend that these working bi-national and one-state models have nothing to teach is to condemn Palestinians and Israelis to decades more of conflict, as diplomats chase mirages and Israel pursues its colonial policies unchecked.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. This article was originally published as part of debate hosted by The Economist and is republished with permission.
When it is started, few month ago Palestinian leaders and Israeli leaders estimated it would take two years.

Electronic Intifada is too negative to spare us this time to progress in this complex bloody conflict. I guess they are as Israeli "peace now" who thought we can have peace by declaring it and ignored the complexity of our situation.

Obama direction is the best direction we have now, and the opportunity we have will take time to emerge. the people who just wait to defy it are not willing to understand we need to create it with out sweat.
"we need to create it with out sweat."

I agree Neri. Land continues to be confiscated, homes demolished etc. When was the last time you stood in front of a bulldozer, faced a racist settler, or comforted a child whose hoem was demolished? Images of spirals and words on thsi forum about seaking peace are nice but I live under colonial occupation and you live in a privileged society that profited from this occupation. Can you see that this is rather uneven and that action is needed to even it out.
Ok , I confess we need to use our wisdom too, and bringing the confrutantial elements as you do does not help.

The process of widening our identity to include all and our "enemies" is important, we must recognize the humanity of our enemy, if that the settlers who do wrong, or Palestinian aggressors in words and in doing.

calling Israel colonial and defy any humanity from Israelis is fake, you seem to miss it and invest in your "resistance" to resist any change and any idea that we need to work and develop our societies.

Intifada was historic change, it scale up the resistance of Palestinians for their identity - it is time now to move up and stop resisting our reality as one human tissue with Arabs and Jews fate to live here in one future and organize our societies accepting our differences and working to create justice and fairness for our children.
I am dissappointed that persist in changing teh subject and not answering the question. But to answer your knew/old line again: our "enemy" is not people but simply racist ideologies that are incompatible with peace. Enlarging the circle is exactly what we are trying to do and always rebuffed. We want to live together in a democratic state for all its peopel (especially those unfairly ethnically cleansed). Being willing to forgive and live together with those who came from abroad and stole the land is a huge compromise from the victims. It is the penultimate widening of the circle and acceptance of the other. Now there is resistance to change from those comfortable in the folds of segregationist racist ideologies and we hope and will work diligently to convince them that there is no future with racism. We invite them back to the human family. We do that whrether they are Avigdor Lieberman or Osama Bin Laden or any of the posters here.
Mazin,

to get to the stage of one state we need to see change in Israel understanding of the relationship with the Arabs, your voice do not enable that as it focus in blame.

we also need to see change in the Arab and Palestinian side, saying that you do not accept Hams and Fatah, as I do not accept Likud and Israel Beytanu does not help. as Palestinian you never showed activity toward your people and all you bring is repeated blame of Israel.

This is why I call for wisodm, it is not just racist ideologies Palestinians and Israelis bring here, it is also many other elements of development that you ignore.

we cannot jump from war to peace, this is a development we must go through a two state stage, and people who reject that make our situation worst and it does not count for them that they use nice words where they reject change and progress.
Again you are distorting reality. I do not blame Israel or Israelis. I do have problems with racist ideologies and I try to speak truth to those who support them. I did this when I worked (with others) against apartheid in South Africa and we do it now in the same context. I certainly do not blame trhe thousands of Israelis who shed tribalism ;-) I actually praise them and work with them. You might consider joining us and stopping the delusion that this is a tribal conflict. It is not that any more than the civil rights conflict was a fight between blacks and whites who both needed to work on their communities and perceptions of each other (I presume you would have asked them to see spiral visions in the 1950s when blacks were being lynched??).
this is a human conflict where the extremists use any way to attack the moderates, civil rights as important as it is used to present the conflict as one sided and instead of being a tool to protect innocent civilians it is used to flame hatred, blame and attack on civilians as Hamas did.

Your point of view expressed here ignore the complexity of the israeli society and fail to realize that we need a complex process to correct the many wrong doing that was done. you return to history and avoid the future we need to build by claiming that there is only one solution that you wish to force on all of us. The future we need to build must include all of us, all Palestinians and all Israelis, this mean it will include Hamas supporters who do not recognize Israel and Israeli settler supporters who dream on historic all-Palestine Jewish entity. all of them must be included, and hence we need a structure that can hold them for some generations till this hate and fanatic ideas will be weaken by reality of peace and cooperation.
I am sorry Neri but I find your reiteratin of such language that basically says nothing to be rather disingenious. I want to know specifically what you do to challenge injustice like the victions of the Palestinians from Jerusalem. I want to know what you do to specifically demand that I as a Palestinian born and raised here have a right to visit Jerusalem let alone live there - a mere 5 km away from me (when obviosuly any Jew in teh world can caome and live and work in Jerusalem). I want to see you take a real stand not verbal acrobatics.
Mazin,

I work with in the Israel society and train consultants and activists, I work with groups like mepeace.org to create more connection.

I have different judgment that what you have, and different goals.

All I see you do is sending hate mails that describe israel as Evil Nazi-Zionist entity and call for destruction of Israel for the sake of a one-state solution. I do not think what you do is enabling peace, but I am sure you do.
Neri stated "I work with in the Israel society and train consultants and activists, I work with groups like mepeace.org to create more connection."

Can you tell us how that prevented one eviction or one home demolition or allleviated the trauma for one Palestinian refugee family or put a smile on one face of one child who lost his mother.

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