Sometimes, the forces pushing on Israel to compromise on the Palestinian front are so desperate to make their case that they accidentally reveal the flimsiness of their reasoning. Today’s example comes from James Jones, the National Security Adviser, who has asserted that if Israel were to make progress on a two-state solution with the Palestinians, this would somehow lessen the threat from Iran. His words echoed those of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, according to Ynet and the Jerusalem Post.
The intuition behind such a statement is fairly common: If only Israel were less hated its enemies would be less likely to try and destroy it. In case you feel tempted to buy this, think again:
1. The assumption that Israel will be less hated by its enemies if it advocates two states is simply wrong. The second intifada began as a response to Ehud Barak’s real efforts to effect the two-state solution. Ariel Sharon was the first Israeli leader to make the approach explicit, and it was held fast by Ehud Olmert. Was Israel any less hated, even in the slightest degree, by its enemies during that period? On the contrary, in addition to the intifada, Israel got the rise of Hamas, missiles to the south, the war with Hezbollah, and Iran’s full-speed-ahead nuclear program. (Not to mention niceties like Durban II and the atrocious war-crimes inquiries.)
2. The assumption that Iran will be so deeply moved by Israel’s gesture as to slow down its nuclear program is also wrong. Iran is enormously invested in its effort to build itself up as a mini-superpower and shift the balance of power in the region towards itself and away from Israel and the West. The Arab world is in many ways caught in the middle, and mostly prefers a strong West and a weak Iran — hence Egypt and Jordan’s tacit support of Israel’s military efforts against Iranian proxies in Gaza and Lebanon. The worst thing the West and Israel can do vis-a-vis Iran is to show its weakness by offering concessions without getting anything in return.
3. The only way for a two-state solution to emerge today is if Hamas becomes a full partner with Fatah in building a Palestinian state. In other words, a scenario where Iran’s proxy gets veto power over critical decisions in the Palestinian state, just as another one of its proxies has in Lebanon. By offering concessions here, Israel is saying exactly one thing to Iran: You are winning. Keep on going.
The Arabs understand this. The Israelis understand this. Iran certainly understand this. Will the Obama Administration get it?