Obama of Arabia

The talks between the P5+1 and Iran are stirring up an already bubbling cauldron in the Middle East. The US’ position in the region is going to change in the next few years, though how that change manifests remain to be seen. One thing is certain, and that is that a deal between the United States and Iran is desired by both of those parties and scares the hell out the US’ closest regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. I explore in this week’s column at Souciant.

Israelis, Saudis Just Getting Started in Opposing U.S.-Iran Detente

This article originally appeared at LobeLog.

Bibi and Kerry

Bibi and Kerry

The trick to finding an agreement between the P5+1 world powers and Iran has become clear: keep Israel and Saudi Arabia out of the room. (But don’t expect them to be happy about it.)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is touring the globe now with his message of doom about an impending Iranian nuclear weapon. “It will be tragic if (Iran) succeeds in avoiding the sanctions,” Netanyahu said in Rome on Tuesday.

That statement comes on the heels of his Meet the Press appearance where he said: “I think the pressure has to be maintained on Iran, even increased on Iran, until it actually stops the nuclear program, that is, dismantles it.” Continue reading

Dismantling the Target

The new nuclear talks with Iran seem to be reflecting a new direction for the Islamic Republic under Hassan Rowhani and a new openness from the US and Europe to a reasonable compromise. The unhappy parties are Israel and Saudi Arabia, but at least for now, they are not able to scuttle the hope for a resolution. Some of what this theater demonstrates is the obvious fact to anyone who has been paying attention for the past fifteen years: the entire issue of an Iranian bomb has been phony. I explain this week in Souciant.

Netanyahu’s Threats Ring Hollow Amid Iranian Proposals

The talks between the P5+1 and Iran got off to a promising start. Not surprisingly, that doesn’t please Benjamin Netanyahu. I explore at LobeLog.

The One-State Burden

In the American Prospect today, Gershom Gorenberg raises the key argument against a one-state solution: that nationalism is too strong

Gershom Gorenberg

Gershom Gorenberg

on both the Jewish and Palestinian side for them to reasonably exist in a single state.

I agree with much of Gershom’s argument. But it is worth pointing something out, something I have been arguing forcefully about in my series of three articles this week (see them here, here and here). It is summed up in Gershom’s closing paragraph:

“The challenge to one-staters is to explain how two national groups, Jews and Palestinians, will peacefully put together a single state, live together in that state, and prevent it from ripping apart. Expecting that their nationalism will disappear is even less realistic than expecting the gold, red and blue flag to vanish from Catalonia.”

Yes, that is the challenge to one-staters. But where is the challenge to two-staters to explain how a Palestinian state with full sovereignty (meaning the right to self-defense and a total absence of Israeli forces in its territory), viability (where the area is not broken up by settlement blocs like Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim), connection between the West Bank and Gaza, a capital in East Jerusalem, and an acceptable resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue (which is both a human rights issue and a central issue in the very Palestinian nationalism Gershom discusses) is to be achieved under the two-state formula.

Oslo fails on all of those points. Yet somehow, for Gershom and many other sincere two-staters who recognize the need for Palestinian freedom and are not only concerned about Israeli security, this challenge does not have the same force as the one they bring up for one-staters. In my series, I explained why this is—because two-states has an international consensus behind it, arrived at by circumstance, happenstance and a 40-year old Palestinian decision, but not because it was necessarily the best path, while one state solutions have no political backing.

But the message for Gershom, Jeremy Ben-Ami and other purportedly pragmatic two-staters is how we get to a truly workable resolution if we begin from a point where we discount some possibilities because they have serious problems while ignoring problems of at least equal magnitude in other solutions simply because the latter is the path preferred by those enforcing an unhelpful and no longer viable consensus.

One State of Mind

In the last of three pieces, starting with an article at LobeLog earlier this week and one at this site yesterday, I look at the need for advocacy for various one-state formulations to be part of the discourse around resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. I argue that, even for two-staters, there is an absolute need to broaden the discussion, to get to a better idea than the failed Oslo one, but that this won’t be possible unless some leadership, probably Palestinian though it could be Israeli too, is willing to advocate a one-state solution. That’s what is missing now, and what needs to emerge and just might be doing so.  Check it out in Souciant this week.

Splitting the Child

I’ll be writing a follow-up to my piece from earlier this week about the various one- and two-state formulations shortly, where I’ll be

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami, champion of the two-state solution

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami, champion of the two-state solution

focusing more on the one-state side. But today, I saw a very important example of one of the problems in the two-state crowd, especially from the Israeli side.

The Middle East Policy Council put on a very interesting panel about the future or lack thereof of the two-state solution. The leading two-stater on the panel was Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street. Let me say that I like Jeremy, and I think he and J Street come in for criticism from the left that is often over the top and much too harsh (and, I’ll admit, sometimes I’ve been guilty of that myself). I’ve known Jeremy for the better part of a decade and I am convinced his heart is in the right place and that on balance, J Street has done good work.

On this particular panel, Jeremy defended the two-state solution in various ways, and I found some of them problematic. He echoed the “pragmatic” view that the two-state option, and particularly the Oslo formulation is the only viable option, and sometimes implied that those who advocated some other option were naïve and utopian thinkers. But he made one point that I think reflects a deeply problematic mode of thought in even the most progressive pro-Israel thinking. Continue reading