Difficult Choices For Israel
In his shortest column ever, Thomas L. Friedman outlines the three-cushion bank shot of a plan to coordinate a peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia with the United States as a guarantor.
There are many obstacles to finalizing such a deal and Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu are discussing these complexities currently.
What are the impediments?
First, the Palestinian question will need to be answered if the Saudis are to strike a deal with Israel. Yet, the current government of Israel is threatening to annex the West Bank and make it part of Israel because Judea and Samaria should be Israeli. Should the Netanyahu coalition move forward to annex even some of the West Bank (e.g., area C where the settlements are), the Saudis would never agree to any deal. If the Israelis want a deal with the Saudis, they are going to have to once and for all create some kind of sovereign state for the Palestinian Arabs and it will probably have to be a bit more than just areas A and B. This process must be started if the three-way deal is to be consummated.
Second, Israel has been mired in arguments about its judiciary that the Netanyahu government believes is an unelected block to a host of things it wants to do in service of its Mizrahi and ultra-Orthodox constituency. This has given Iran the space to move in diplomatically all around Israel. The controversy over the judiciary has also weakened the volunteer parts of the Israeli military and set the people in country and out against one another, Jew against Jew. This is bad, unnecessary, and against the long-range prospects of the start-up nation. Bibi, knock it off. You can end this, but it might mean the end of your coalition and it may wind up sending you to jail. (See The New York Times Magazine of October 1, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/27/magazine/benjamin-netanyahu-israel.html)
Finally, as Friedman points out, the Saudis would be doing something hard if they normalize diplomatic relations with Israel. The U.S. would be doing something even harder if it entered into some sort of mutual defense treaty with Saudi Arabia like it has with Japan or South Korea as a way to encourage the Saudis to sign the deal and as an impediment to Iranian aggression in the area. (https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/19/us/politics/biden-saudi-defense-treaty.html?searchResultPosition=3)
What are the Israelis willing to do that is hard to cement a deal with Saudi Arabia? Are they willing to finally get to a two-state solution? Are they willing to stop the nonsense about the judiciary that is cleaving Israel in two? Is Netanyahu ready to sever his coalition to quiet the ultra-Orthodox demands of everyone else (secular Israel) and curb the Mizrahi thirst for dominance?
This is a short one from me, too. The answers to these questions will be what determine whether this deal can be attained. That and whether President Biden can muster 67 votes in the Senate for such a treaty with the Saudis. Stay tuned.
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