Breaking the Arab-Israeli Conundrum

The EU, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is leading an effort to maintain the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA). Merkel believes in the adequacy of this agreement. She also says that she is fearful of Iranian designs across the Arab Levant and also toward Israel. But just like the US Democratic Party (Obama, Biden and Kerry), the Iran nuclear deal appears to be Merkel’s top priority.

In truth, Iran signed the JCPOA because the deal fits very neatly into its imperial project. The reality of the situation is fairly clear for all to see: Sometime in the intermediate future, the JCPOA will allow Iran a nuclear weapon breakout time of mere weeks. With a potential nuclear weapon, Tehran’s hegemonic aspirations become ever more dangerous. Also, absent a strong sanction regime, Iran can afford the money necessary to continue its proxy wars and its buildup of forces on Israel’s norther borders (Syria and Lebanon).

Merkel argues that without the JCPOA, the world is left with a Middle East timetable for nuclear proliferation that becomes seriously shortened (once again) to perhaps two years, maybe less. But to remove the sanctions, in the midst of clear Iranian regional aggression, is plainly untenable for Israel and the Arab Sunni States. In other words, Israel and the Arabs are left with an impossible binary choice: A short term rupture to the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and a potential Israeli Air Force response to the mere perception of threat, or with the JCPOA in place, the potential for an Iranian nuclear breakout (within a decade) leading to devastating consequences for the entire region.

Merkel and the EU choose to “kick the can down the road”, hoping against hope to integrate Iran into the European economy and alter Tehran’s regional designs with an infusion of Euros. Merkel believes, along with Biden, Kerry and most US Democrats, that in the final analysis nuclear deterrence can somehow work in the Middle East — a very precarious notion indeed! But this is exactly how the JCPOA was set up. In fact, the Iranian nuclear program could proceed very nicely and legally without any restraint on future missile or centrifuge development. Both the EU and the Democratic Party have totally misread the situation. The Islamic Republic is simply not going to moderate its behavior with this kind of weak-kneed Western appeasement.

Trump and Netanyahu appear, on the surface at least, far more realistic. They want to pressure Iran with tough new sanctions and return the world to the old status quo. They hope such action will roll back Iran’s regional behavior, while at the same time force Tehran to renegotiate a new and improved nuclear deal. However Europe, Russia and China still maintain that without a very reasonable alternative, the JCPOA is better than nothing. And so far the Trump parameters for a new deal are simply not acceptable to anyone — in Europe or anywhere else. Hence, we remain left with the impossible position of choosing between two paths, both of which are extremely undesirable.

The Iranians, with Merkel’s assistance, hope to wait Trump out counting on his political defeat in November 2020. Tehran then hopes that the new US Democratic Party President (Biden, perhaps?) will lift the sanctions and re-institute the JCPOA. But this clearly is not a policy that any new president should pursue. First, it reeks of partisanship in an era of serious American division. Second, it confirms to all of America’s Middle East allies that Washington is unconcerned about medium and long-term nuclear proliferation and Iranian ambitions. Third, it fails to continue the pressure on Iran now. Finally, it works to everyone’s disadvantage by compartmentalizing the conventional balance of the region from a potential hair-trigger nuclear stalemate. This opens the Middle East to a potential nuclear war.

From the look of things, the next Israeli government is going to have to choose how to deal with either the Trump scenario (sanctions now) or a new Democratic Party administration and the lifting of those same sanctions by a rejoining of the JCPOA. Netanyahu with his new, extreme, right-wing coalition will probably do little to advance peace. They are indeed counting on a second Trump incumbency. Bibi has never presented an alternative to the JCPOA, even when he was directly challenged by the then President of the US, Barack H. Obama.

What a Prime Minister Gantz would do — with a minority government dependent on Palestinian support — is probably just go along with Merkel and hope to “kick the can down the road”. Without Trump or an alternative plan to present to the Europeans, Netanyahu or Gantz must begin to prepare for an eventual nuclear arms race in the Middle East. If nuclear deterrence is a precarious notion, then Israel must be prepared to win a nuclear war.

But isn’t there an alternative to the JCPOA that Israel and the Arab Sunni states could jointly present to the world? An alternative plan presented to ensure that there can’t be a blocking backlash from the Palestinian parties of the Knesset aligned with the Jewish center-left in new Israeli minority government. And at the same time, a plan which would unite Israel with its Arab partners thus precluding any rejection attempt by Netanyahu’s Likud — because of its forward policy of Israeli-Arab rapprochement. Only a far-sighted plan with a regional nuclear-weapons-free dimension could capture the imagination of the world. Such a plan is in the interests of both Israel and the Sunni Arab States. Such a plan could maintain the sanctions on Iran until it too chooses to accept moderation. Also such a plan would provide the US Democratic Party and Europe with a much needed alternative to the JCPOA. China and Russia might even go along. I have called this plan “The Zone of Peace”. It has been published many times in this blog. I believe that its time has come. Here it is once again.

1) A Zone of Peace shall be established among the states of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, so that trade and navigation shall move uninterrupted. 2) All foreign navies shall be denied basing rights within the Zone of Peace. 3) All foreign air forces shall equally be denied basing rights within the Zone of Peace. 4) No state within the Zone of Peace may attack another state. 5) If such an attack should occur, the permanent members of the UN Security Council would come to the aid of the aggrieved state, and points 2 and 3 would become temporarily suspended. 6) If such an attack should occur, the states within the Zone of Peace would come to the aid of the aggrieved state. 7) Only sovereign states would be allowed to posses military equipment. Extra-territorial militias would be outlawed. Missiles and missile production would be kept at very short distances and very low numbers. 8) Nuclear enrichment would not be allowed, and its enforcement by the strictest verification regime would become the norm. The reprocessing of plutonium would be prohibited.

9) All states within the Zone of Peace must recognize and have diplomatic relations with all other states. 10) All states within the Zone of Peace must sign the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty), and negotiations for a Middle East nuclear-weapons-free zone must begin no later than 24 months after all states have finalized mutual recognition. 11) All states within the Zone of Peace must respect the human rights of their citizens, and states whose use of force against their citizens — which violates international standards — may be suspended from the Zone of Peace. 12) All states within the Zone of Peace shall pledge their allegiance to a non-hegemonic regional structure, and states within the zone will also pledge not to conspire with other states for the purpose of such hegemony. 13) All states within the Zone of Peace shall abide by the rules (to be established) for the equitable dispensation of all regional hydraulic resources. 14} The Zone of Peace is NOT dependent on the conclusion to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Furthermore, this conflict shall be decided through negotiations among the parties themselves without coercion or outside interference. Genuine compromise and goodwill must become the principles upon which these negotiations rest.

The Warsaw Conference proves that history is on the side of a deepening Arab-Israeli connection. The Jewish People are a Semitic People who stood up to the pagan forces of Imperial Rome. They did this in the name of the one, true G-d. It is now incumbent upon all true Muslims to recognize the Jewish dispersal at the hands of those Romans and all the suffering that ensued. Now is the moment for Arab-Israeli reconciliation. As always G-d’s Will is dependent on our acts.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).
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