In 1977 the Egyptian leader, Anwar Sadat did the unthinkable, stepped off a plane in Israel and faced the Israeli leaders and public in the midst of war. “Everyone in Israel was glued to the television” my mother recalls. It was a historic moment. An unforgettable one because it was the first time a leader from the Arab world came demanding peace. At the time people could not imagine peace with Egypt.
Sadat stood in front of Knesset and faced the most challenging task that Israel still faces today: trust. Sadat’s historic speech at Knesset was one that perhaps laid the foundations of why Israel is unable to reach peace in its region. He spoke of psychological barriers, barriers that still exist today. Among the listed barriers mentioned was the lack of trust, fear and suspicion, which are perhaps the characteristics that come to mind among most Israelis when asked about Iran, Palestinians or any other Arab state. It is those characteristics that hinder negotiation talks and prevent us from electing anyone other than Netanyahu. It is those traits that the Israeli government brings to the table and it is with such attitude that we addressed our conclusion on the Iranian nuclear deal and probably sealed our own fate in alienating ourselves from the rest of the region and, to a greater extent, the world.
The Iranian nuclear deal is celebrated on the streets of Tehran. Waving Iranian flags and dancing was the end result to what seems to most European and American leaders as a successful end to a difficult dialogue. If Iran holds its end of the bargain it is unlikely that anything negative would stem out of this deal. Iran holding its end of the bargain is actually what makes up the deal. In a nutshell, the nuclear deal seems to be something along the lines of: ‘you can have a certain amount of nuclear enrichment to perform research but not enough to build a bomb. Cross the red line and sanctions will be the least of your worries’.
However, what perhaps impressed me the most was not only the fact that such a deal came through diplomatic means but rather the speech made by the Foreign Minister of Iran, Mohammed Javad Zarif, in making a reassuring statement that Iran’s purpose with the nuclear energy is not to build a bomb and concluding his speech with the statement of the rare occasion that such a deal was reached through diplomatic means. What seemed like the perfect end to a deal, the world held its breath for the outcome, was tainted with the only pessimistic Prime Minister, Netanyahu, to state that the deal is a “historic mistake”.
I am here to say that Netanyahu is wrong. This is not a deal that is bad for Israel. This deal could potentially pave the way to dialogue with Iran, peace in the region and to come to an understanding. I am not saying that this deal could transform Iran’s regime, that is not in Israel’s policies, what should be Israel’s policy however, is seeing such a deal that was resolved through diplomacy as a golden opportunity to resolve other issues in the region through diplomatic understanding.
What we could learn from Iran and particularly its Foreign Minister is that we need to perpetuate more speeches that have solutions through diplomacy and negotiations instead of speeches that involve deadlock, pointing fingers and firmly standing in place without compromise.
Many claim we do not need this region because we have the rest of the world, but I say why not?
The Middle Eastern region is not the same as it used to be. Events such as the Arab spring, the rise of ISIS and the plucking of authoritarian dictators have been a catalyst for crucial change. We are not dealing with the same Middle East that once housed dictators such as Saddam Hussein but rather a region that needs collective action against regional threats such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
If Israel is worried about its survival then it needs to work with the rest of the region if it hopes to stay in place for generations to come.
There was a time when Israelis never thought that peace with Jordan and Egypt was possible. There was a time when people would travel from Gaza to work in Jaffa and Tel-Aviv but there was also a time when Israelis did not think that all of that could happen, but it did.
What this Iranian nuclear deal means to Israel is just that: possibilities. Not fear, but a gateway to begin to trust in diplomacy and regional partnership. If Iran is planning on building a bomb, it is highly unlikely to develop one with its first generation centrifuges and its low uranium enrichment. Only time will tell what the consequences of the deal might breed but for now I am optimistic in diplomacy and containment of Iran.