Israel 10 years down the road

Analysts discuss the route to a breakthrough and the obstacles along the way.


    Moshe Ma'oz says Bush has made noises about a two-state solution, but a US administration
    that is prepared to lean on Israel as well as the Palestinians is key to reconciliation

    As Israel winds down its 60th anniversary celebrations and Palestinians mourn the 'Nakba' or 'catastrophe' and loss of their land on which the Jewish state was established, analysts have warned that unless there is a major diplomatic breakthrough in the next decade Israel could face major threats from within the borders of the land it occupies, with support from Iran and Syria.

    Dr Moshe Ma'oz, an Israeli professor emeritus of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and senior fellow at the Harry S Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, sees two scenarios developing.

    "Either Israel will choose to make peace with its neighbours and resolve the dispute with the Palestinians on an equitable basis, or the alternative will be an unimaginable confrontation in the region," he says.

    But reconciliation will require urgent and serious intervention from a US administration that is prepared to lean not only on the Palestinians but also on Israel to ensure that it abides by international law and UN resolutions, he adds.

    However, Dr Samir Awad, the chairman of the faculty of law and public administration at Birzeit University's political science department on the West Bank, believes Israel will continue its short-term strategy of managing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict instead of a long-term strategy of resolving the crisis and that this will, in turn, backfire badly.

    "I don't think Israel will cede hegemony of the West Bank or address core issues such as the division of Jerusalem, the right of return of the refugees or the settlements. 

    "This will lead to the strengthening of Hamas in the West Bank, accompanied by the weakening of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority (PA), and a revolt of the people against his leadership for failing to deliver on core Palestinian demands and this is what Israel will have to contend with," Awad told Al Jazeera.

    Tough decisions

    Ma'oz argues that tough decisions have to be taken.

    "Both Israel and the Palestinian leadership comprises politicians who are interested in holding on to power instead of taking courageous decisions which could mean losing their political positions or even their lives as former Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin and former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who were assassinated by extremists did," he says.

    The Israeli analyst says it is imperative that Israel talk to Hamas, as he argues that the Islamic organisation is not a threat and would agree to a 15-year 'tadhiya' or ceasefire, which Israel has declined fearing the militants will use the time to strengthen and re-arm.

    But Ma'oz says Israel would always militarily outpower Hamas and it would be impossible for Hamas to smuggle tanks and aircraft into Gaza.

    Awad believes it is possible for Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip to reach a state of mutual tolerance if not recognition in the next few years, as Israel's demands for a ceasefire are within the Islamic organisation's conditions.

    Shia crescent

    Furthermore, neither Ma'oz nor Awad believe Iran is an existential threat to Israel's existence unless it is attacked first.

    "Iran started building its nuclear reactor in the 1980s after the unprovoked attack by Saddam Hussein.

    "Iran could close the Straits of Hormuz and threaten oil supplies to the West as leverage without having to resort to nuclear weapons as this would ensure mutual destruction," opines Ma'oz.

    The key to a diplomatic breakthrough is weakening Iran's influence through its proxies in the region - Syria and Hezbollah. Syria's ties to the Shia crescent of Iran, Hezbollah and possibly the Shias of Iraq could be broken if there was serious intervention by the Americans in regard to pressuring Israel to return the Golan Heights.

    "Syria uses this alliance to strengthen its hand politically against the hegemony of a Sunni leadership comprising Egypt, Jordan, part of the Lebanese government, and the Gulf states as well as a way of pressuring Israel to return annexed land,' explains Ma'oz.

    Weakening this crescent is possible, as the countries of the crescent have some common interests but also significant differences based on national interests as opposed to the establishment of a new Islamic caliphate, he maintains.

    Awad concurs, saying part of this would be Israel establishing quiet on its northern borders by reaching a deal with Hezbollah, another Syrian and Iranian proxy.

    This would involve a comprehensive prisoner swap and the return of the Shaba' farms as Israelis have no ideological or land ties to Lebanon, explains Awad.

    US administration change

    But the danger remains in the US being more interested in the Sunni alliance exerting pressure on Syria than coaxing the latter away from the Shia crescent, Awad adds. 

    This danger is further compounded by a new Palestinian revolt financed and militarily-supported by Iran and its proxies, should the Israelis not seriously address legitimate Palestinian grievances over water, settlement and refugees issues in the West Bank.  

    "I'm afraid that unless there is a change in the US administration to a new leadership, maybe under Barack Hussein Obama, I'm not confident Israel will choose the right path.

    "Bush has made nice noises about a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but has done nothing to ensure its implementation or take away Iran and the Muslim world's justification for enmity towards Israel," Ma'oz concludes.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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