Strategic Shifts in the Middle East

(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) Yuval Steinitz - Israel hopes for the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. It is prepared to see the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and to make painful concessions once it is clear that it will get real, enduring peace in return. While Israel does not have preconditions for negotiations, any authentic resolution of the conflict will require both genuine peace and genuine security for Israel. Genuine peace requires Palestinian recognition of Israel's right to exist and not just of the fact of its existence. It means recognizing the right of the Jewish people to maintain their own Jewish state, alongside a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people. So far, such acceptance of Israel as the state of the Jewish people remains lacking. On the Syrian situation, Israel has a clear-cut policy of noninterference. Israel is, however, very concerned about the possible transfer of specific kinds of highly advanced weapons to terrorist organizations, especially Hizbullah, and also about the fact that such weapons, such as the Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft system, could fall into Iranian hands. Israel is engaged in close dialogue with Russia and vehemently opposes the provision of such weapons to Syria. The Iranian nuclear program has reached emergency proportions. Although the Iranians have not yet produced their first bomb, their nuclear industry was not built from the outset with the aim of making only a few bombs and keeping them in a shelter. Rather, it was designed to produce hundreds of nuclear bombs within a decade or two, bombs that are to be mounted on hundreds of long-range ballistic missiles. This is a threat of a totally different magnitude than that posed by either North Korea or even Pakistan. It would be a game-changer that would not just alter the course of Middle Eastern history but of history as a whole. In the next few months, the Western world must decide how to prevent the nuclearization of Iran; otherwise it will be too late. The only diplomatic approach that will work is one that is accompanied by a credible military threat. The Iranians understand that they are very vulnerable to a decisive, accurate airstrike by NATO or the U.S.. There is a good chance that if the Iranians are issued a credible threat of a military strike, they may reconsider their behavior and opt for a genuine compromise - but the time left to make such a move is quite short. Prof. Yuval Steinitz is Israel's Minister of International Relations, Intelligence, and Strategic Affairs.

2013-07-01 00:00:00

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