Netanyahu's Back

(Foreign Policy) Aaron David Miller - Before the Israeli elections in 1996, I quipped to my colleague Dennis Ross: There's no way Benjamin Netanyahu can win. 17 years later, Netanyahu has now served longer as Israeli prime minister than anyone other than David Ben-Gurion, and is about to begin coalition negotiations toward an unprecedented third term. The security issue is omnipresent. Take a look around. In Syria, Bashar al-Assad murders his own people; in Gaza, Hamas talks of pushing the Jews into the sea; in Egypt, President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood espouse the worst kind of anti-Semitic tropes; and in Iran, the mullahs can't seem to open their mouths these days without muttering something about the evil Zionists. Most likely, the kind of peace process that will emerge over the next year is one that Netanyahu can support - a bottom-up approach with little focus on the identity issues such as Jerusalem and refugees. I'm also betting that the Obama team, bogged down with so many other issues, won't get terribly creative on the peace process and will play to Netanyahu's strengths - an interim, incremental process that steers clear of high-profile initiatives. Even if Obama decides to roll the dice, he needs an Arab or Palestinian partner to help him. And those are in very short supply. Cooperation on Iran between Washington and Jerusalem will be required if an agreement on the nuclear issue is to be reached or successful military action undertaken. Iran isn't Palestine, some localized shepherd's war even with regional resonance. The Iranian nuclear issue could have grave economic, military, financial, and political consequences for the entire Middle East and international community. The stakes are simply too high to accommodate huge policy differences or public rifts, let alone a breakdown in cooperation that compels the Israelis to take unilateral military action. The writer is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

2013-01-25 00:00:00

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