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Linking Palestine To Iran -
A New Excuse to Stall

By Terrell E. Arnold
Israel and the US seem to have agreed in the past few days that (a) any solution to the six decade long Israeli takeover of Palestine from its people and (b) the as yet undemonstrated search by Iranian leadership for some nuclear weapons capability are inextricably linked. Even for ordinary mortals who are not steeped in the arcane Zionist strategies for avoiding peace this gambit may seem far-fetched, but just what actually is in it for the two leading parties, the United States and Israel?
Let's take Israel first. In February Israel had an election in which the political center of Israeli leadership, already teetering in that direction, moved decisively hard right. The newly selected Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, made it abundantly clear from his electioneering campaign to his first days in office that he has no intention to negotiate with the Palestinians. His Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who is reputed to openly favor the assassination of Palestinians, rejected the US-sponsored Annapolis peace process of 2007. But Lieberman conveniently picked up on the US 2003 "Road Map" requirements as a reason to avoid any talks with the Palestinians. (The Map yet requires that the Palestinians cease and desist from any attacks on the Israelis--regardless of what the Israelis do--and recognize Israel's right to exist before any talks begin).
The starting position of the new Obama administration on Middle East peace negotiations placed the newly elected Israeli leadership at risk of confrontation with the United States. Obama's first public decision on Middle East peace matters was to select former Senator George Mitchell as Special Envoy on the peace process. Mitchell's reputation for getting things done on Northern Ireland negotiations suggested he could mean business. Not only did this appointment suggest that Obama intended to stand back from the traditional lock-step US support for Israel; Mitchell could, in fact, become the honest broker that Middle East peace efforts have lacked virtually from the beginning.
Complicating the situation, as new Israeli leadership would see it, was the suggestion that Mitchell's agenda very likely would include talks with Hamas. Although it won probably the freest and fairest election (US-sponsored by the way) that has ever been held in the Middle East, Hamas is still treated as a terrorist group by the US and Israel. But charges of terrorism and Islamic affiliation aside, the real problem with Hamas, as Israeli leadership privately paint it, is that the group stands for the basic Palestinian agenda. Both the US and Israel have exaggerated the role that Iran plays in supporting Hamas, but neither to this point had suggested that the way to deal with Hamas was to have the Iranians do it.
Having indicated even before he was elected that he would talk with Iran, Obama told George Stephanopoulos on ABC in early January 2009 that "My belief is that engagement is the place to start." Without specifying that there might be preconditions, he did say that the US had "certain expectations". Among those expectations would be that Iran make helpful efforts to rein in Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine.
In that vein, Iranian President Ahmadi-Nijad reportedly told ABC interviewers on April 26 that if the Palestinians and Israelis reached a two state solution, that would be "fine with us." In response to repeated, even hectoring questions, he made that point in several different ways, concluding that it is really up to the Palestinian people to decide. As if ignoring the obvious implications of Ahmadi-Nijad's position, the US State Department spokesman, Robert Wood, said on Monday that the US wants Iran to rein in the groups it supports, meaning Hamas and Hezbollah, and "play a positive role in the region, which up until now it hasn't."
The arrogant assumption of that remark is that the US is playing a positive role with two undeclared wars in the near vicinity, while watching passively as the Israelis (1) continue to build settlements in the West Bank, (2) destroy Palestinian homes and businesses in East Jerusalem, (3) hold more than 11,000 Palestinians prisoner in Israeli hell holes without trial, and (4) confine the rest of the Palestinians to two open air prison camps in the West Bank and what is left of Gaza.
The "link-Palestine-with-Iran" gambit is multi faceted. By creating the foregoing kind of linkage, the US and Israel would make Iran a direct party to Middle East peace negotiations, assigning to Tehran responsibility for getting the Palestinians in line behind some peace plan. At no point up to now has direct Iranian involvement been a consideration. Moreover, with the leadership of Saudi King Abdullah the Arab states collectively have put forward a peace proposition which Hamas has indicated it would accept, although Fatah has yet to speak up.
King Abdullah's proposal calls for "full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967, in implementation of (United Nations) Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, reaffirmed by the Madrid Conference of 1991 and the land-for-peace principle, and Israel's acceptance of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, in return for the establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel*"*. The Arab proposal does not recognize Israel as an all Jewish state. Since one-fifth of the population is presently Arab/Palestinian, such recognition would be contrary to fact. Note: The Iranians had no part in designing that proposal.
The key question regarding this or any other peace proposal is whether the Israelis are ready to play. According to Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, Israeli readiness deal on Palestine is firmly linked to Iran. As cited on April 24 in the _Washington__ Post_, he said "The new Israeli government will not move ahead on the core issues of peace talks with the Palestinians until it sees progress in US efforts to stop Iran's suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapon and limit Teheran's rising influence in the region." When Netanyahu meets in May with Obama, this issue will probably take center stage.
Whatever else this Israeli position may suggest; it does not touch the bilateral issues between Israel and the Palestinian people. In truth, under present leadership, as both Netanyahu and Lieberman have indicated, the Israelis are not interested in negotiating. Herein lies the political elegance of passing the buck to the Iranians and to the Americans. It accomplishes two purposes. It says, for starters, that there is no need for Israeli negotiators to talk with the Palestinians until the Iranians get Hamas and Hezbollah in line, or, as Danny Ayalon suggests, parroting earlier remarks by Netanyahu, until the United States gets Iran in line. In these terms, the Netanyahu government would not have to take the heat for failing to start talks; it could say it is waiting either for Iran to do its job on Hamas and Hezbollah or for the United States to do its job on Iran.
The US benefit from this schematic is equally artful. Since the Israelis have no need to talk to the Palestinians until the Iran matters are off the table, the United States will not stand exposed if it defers any moves away from the Israelis. The Arab-Israel dispute does not actually need an honest broker until the Iranian work is done. All the hard domestic political maneuvering to distance the US from Israel is indefinitely deferrable, perhaps even until after the next presidential election-and the one after that.
Both the US and the Israelis must know that the basic premise of expecting Iran either to get Hamas and Hezbollah in line or to become a good regional citizen by American/Israeli definition is false. Iran may have leverage via financial and political/moral support, but the evidence is simply lacking that Iran controls the leadership, the membership, the roles, the agendas, or the acceptability of these two organizations in the communities where they reside. Both have morphed into successful political parties in their respective communities, and they both play public service roles that generate stronger loyalties than their political competitors. That is why Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary election of 2006, and it is why Hezbollah has a third of the cabinet positions in Lebanon.
Iran might be able to convince both groups to cease and desist from attacks, but that could occur only in a situation where the Israelis are reliably known to have stood down. So long as the Israelis are attacking leaders or members of the groups, Iran could not be persuasive, and in any predictable absence of Israeli attacks, Iran is not needed to keep the peace.
On the broader issue raised by the Ayalon statement, Iran has interests in the region that comport with its size as one of the largest Middle Eastern countries, its energy exporter role as one of the world's major petroleum and natural gas sources, and its position as the leading country in Shia Islam-to say nothing of its long cultural history. The notion that those attributes can easily be suppressed in line with Israeli and US preferences is simply naïve.
The inescapable bottom line here is that the Zionists are blackmailing the Obama administration. Judging that Obama feels politically compelled to make visible progress on Palestine peace negotiations, the Zionists are using the opportunity to trade on Obama's necessity. The Israelis already have parlayed a something for nothing strategy into the ethnic cleansing of most of Palestine-without paying any of the people expelled. Now Israeli leadership can see in the Iran gambit a grand opportunity to get more for nothing. They propose to trade future movement that in their own interest they should make on Palestine for forceful US action against Iran. That might be a great Israeli windfall, but it assuredly could cost the United States and the Iranians dearly.
As usual, the Palestinians will pay no matter how this goes. Life may be somewhat better in the West Bank, but it is harsh in Gaza. And there is no evident pressure on the Israelis to improve that situation. Rather, the US and Israel, with European acquiescence, continue to deny assistance by refusing to allow the elected government, Hamas, to handle aid supplies in Gaza or elsewhere. The longer this stretches out the more misery accrues to already miserable people. A grand US-Israeli strategy to entrap Iran will progress, if at all, at the expense of the people of Palestine.
As experts have reminded us numerous times in the past several decades, the long term ideal would be a nuclear weapons free Middle East. However, the Israelis are unlikely to buy that, preferring instead to bolster their monopoly. As the next best choice, there has to be an honest effort by the leading nations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to keep Iran comfortable with nuclear power generation levels of energy materials processing. That would be infinitely more likely to prosper than past attempts to suppress Iranian rights under the treaty. And the best that can be hoped for on that path is an outcome that leaves for some future date any Iranian decision about weaponry. Continuing Israeli threats, bolstered by American displays of force, will simply cause the Iranians in prudence to make that decision sooner rather than later. Herein lies the most dangerous Palestine-Iran linkage problem, but once the realistic choices are faced, it is the easiest to resolve.
The writer is the author of the recently published work, A World Less Safe, now available on Amazon, and he is a regular columnist on rense.com. He is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US Department of State whose overseas service included tours in Egypt, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Brazil. His immediate pre-retirement positions were as Chairman of the Department of International Studies of the National War College and as Deputy Director of the State Office of Counter Terrorism and Emergency Planning. He will welcome comment at

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