Israel needs some reassurance. With the U.S. having pinned new Mideast peace efforts on persuading Israel to freeze settlements and endorse the goal of a two-state solution, it’s not surprising that Bibi was looking for – and apparently got – a sign that the U.S. will not stand idly by while Iran threatens the Jewish state’s very existence.
Nevertheless, questions remain about U.S. and Israeli obligations and commitments.
On the issue of settlements, Israel has already agreed not to build new settlements, and the prime minister has not called that agreement into question. But the U.S. made certain commitments as well. Under President Bush, the United States indicated that large settlement blocs would remain under Israeli control in future peace deals.
How does a country hold onto a settlement without maintaining its infrastructure? How, in the words of Shimon Peres, does a government stop the “natural growth” of a populated area? After all, said Peres, “Israel cannot instruct settlers in existing settlements not to have children or get married.”
Clearly, this situation requires further clarification.
Another question: What if Iran agrees to comply with the requirement that it limit its nuclear program but does not allow independent monitors into the country to confirm that it has, in fact, done so? In the face of the Iraq invasion – and our fruitless search for nonexistent weapons of mass destruction there – do we have the political will to go into another country on a similar mission?
Even supposing, as President Obama suggests, that an Israeli-Palestinian accord would help secure regional support in the face of Iranian aggression, could we really expect Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia to send troops into Iran? And if Hezbollah, heavily financed by Iran, were to attack Israel simultaneously, would the new coalition of the willing rally to Israel’s defense?
Netanyahu – though loath to utter the phrase “two state solution” – has implicitly accepted it by voicing his commitment to the Oslo accords. Have his Palestinian counterparts accepted it as well? And if the Arab unity talks do not yield a clear statement that Israel has a right to exist, will the new regional coalition demand it?
Israel is being asked to trust her neighbors. One can forgive her skepticism and understand her asking for something in return. We are hopeful that the United States, a proven friend of the Jewish state, will understand Israel’s concerns as it embarks on yet another quest for peace.