For those who follow the ins and outs of the Middle East peace process, the past 13 months have been certifiably depressing. Since Israel’s military operation in Gaza last January, no progress whatsoever has been made in making peace with the Palestinians, Syria, or any one else. The year has been replete with pre-conditions, freezes, blockades, declarations, and even good will gestures, but there has been a severe drought of actual peace and progress.
In that light, I was pleasantly surprised to read Joel Rubin’s commentary and analysis of the Herzliya Conference last night. The conference is Israel’s largest annual global policy forum and is a perennial gathering of political heavyweights from the region and diplomats stationed in Israel.
Left and Right, those who spoke in Herzliya such as Opposition leader and Kadima Chair MK Tzipi Livni, Deputy PM Dan Meridor, and Deputy FM Danny Ayalon (of Turkish sofa incident fame) all stressed the essentiality of striking a two-state solution. As Rubin puts it, “none of [them] declared this for sentimental reasons.” That is the essential point. In today’s world, a comprehensive peace agreement is a strategic necessity for all parties involved. The balance of power in the Middle East is rapidly changing, and overwhelming American preponderance is slowly eroding into a thing of the past. That isn’t to say that the US has become irrelevant in the Middle East. It still will play a central role in forging a future for the region, but the game has certainly changed. The rising threat of Iran is an undeniable reality, and a regional peace agreement in the Middle East is invaluable in suppressing that threat as it will undoubtedly quell the flow of arms and money from Iran to other actors in the region like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Syria.
Consensus on a two-state agreement is not enough to make a stable, peaceful, and prosperous Middle East a reality. It will require tough decisions and compromises from both sides of the negotiating table, and today we have not even returned to the negotiating table. Despite the setbacks of 2009, Joel Rubin gets it right here:
There may not yet be peace…but this day may well have granted Obama a subtle victory, as the broad political recognition in Israel of the importance of a two state solution was made urgently clear.
My hope is that broad political recognition can be transformed into sweeping political action that delivers.