Has ample American support for Israel diminished traction on the peace process? Could in fact an unlikely peace broker – in this case Russia – fair better? At least one of my PolicyMic colleagues believes so. But here’s my take: Abundant U.S. support for Israel is a necessary dynamic that will ultimately facilitate a final settlement between Israelis and the Palestinians – not hinder it.
To begin, one must understand why the Americans are the only ones capable of brokering an agreement. It is exceptionally easy to criticize abundant U.S. support for Israel as “unfair” and “overzealous." However, such an outlook doesn’t do justice to the role that this support has played in brokering Israeli-Arab peace in the past.
It is precisely because Israel had unwavering and sacrosanct security commitments from previous American administrations that it had the confidence to broker peace accords with previously hostile Arab countries. American assurances guarantee Israel’s security in the face of over-arching concessions and land withdrawal that would otherwise diminish it. Previously these security commitments gave Israeli prime ministers such as Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin, as well as the Israeli public as a whole, the assurance to broker peace and security agreements with Egypt and Jordan, respectively. This support also gave Ehud Barak the necessary confidence to make his historic offer to the Palestinian Authority at Camp David.
Without U.S. support the Israeli security ethos and paranoia that Jews live in a region bent on their destruction would be exacerbated in every echelon of the Israeli public. This would further reinforce the notion in Israeli society that the Jewish state is alone and must fend for itself or face annihilation, ultimately causing the vulnerable Israeli electorate to eschew peacemaking politicians and policies. In turn it would be nearly impossible for any Israeli government to build the tremendous amount of political capital needed to strike an agreement with the Palestinian Authority without the fear of being voted out of office.
This critical nuance is what the U.S. understands, and this explains the rationale for strong and robust American commitments to Israel’s security. No overwhelming security commitments for Israel means no peace. Call it fair or unfair, right or wrong, moral or immoral – but this is reality and this is how the dynamics of Arab-Israeli negotiations have always worked, and how they will continue to work moving forward. As Israel's initial 10-month settlement moratorium to placate the Obama Administration's requirements for direct negotiations demonstrates, the U.S. can and does successfully use its influence and security guarantees to facilitate the peace process.
Conversely, Russia is not committed to Israel’s security and therefore it cannot achieve a similar influence over Israel. Rather Israel perceives Russia’s arms deals to Syria and Iran as jeopardizing to its security. These deals have deeply strained the bilateral relationship between the two countries. Despite Israel’s clear objections, Russia is currently in the midst of transferring P-800 missiles to Syria that are capable of hitting Israeli targets as far as the Mediterranean coast.
Furthermore, Russia is notorious for its reputation of facilitating the development of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which Israel views as the most clear and pressing threat to its very existence. Ultimately Russia’s grim ties to Iran and Arab countries hostile to Israel disqualify it as a potential peacemaker, and even call into question Russia’s own desirability to play the part of a neutral broker, as such a stance would jeopardize Russia's valuable and existing Persian and Arab relationships.
Ultimately peace in the region will come through the U.S. and the U.S. alone. American security commitments to Israel’s safety have always been, and always will be, necessary conditions for any final settlement between Israel and its Arab neighbors and cannot be replaced by that of any other country – especially by one who has no credibility to make them.
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