Price for a potential Israeli strike on Iran? A Palestinian state.
Israel may attack Iran's nuclear facilities soon. The Obama administration must insist that any strike be part of a grand bargain that finally breaks the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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A grand bargainSkip to next paragraph
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Thus, if military conflict with Iran is where the region is headed, it's essential that the Obama administration craft a strategy promising much more than the destruction of (probably some but not all) Iranian nuclear assets.
The US should insist that a military strike by its close ally be part of a broader "grand bargain" that also finally resolves the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While this continuing conflict is not the only source of violence in the region, ending it is a strategic imperative that will do much for US and allied interests in Southwest Asia and beyond. The essence of this "grand bargain" is that the US would greenlight an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities designed to remove the single threat the Israelis most fear.
But Washington's price for this would be the Netanyahu government's ironclad commitment to a peace deal with the Arabs on US-endorsed terms: not the continued freezing of settlement activity, not the resumption of direct talks; rather, a substantive deal (contingent only on the acceptance of these terms by the Palestinians and the other Arab governments).
We don't presume to specify here every material term of that deal. But it would undoubtedly include a return to the pre-1967 boundaries and the creation of a Palestinian state, with mutually accepted alterations. Other likely terms would include an international security guarantee and peacekeeping presence, as well as Israel's return of the Golan Heights to Syria.
And the US and its allies – primarily the European Union, Japan, and the oil-rich Arab monarchies – would provide tens of billions of dollars to both sides to lubricate the deal; these contributions would finance the relocation of Jewish settlers, provide generous compensation for Palestinian refugees, finance border security, and pay off Syria and Palestinian groups for the loss of their Iranian funding.
Israel and the Palestinians would be offered preferential trade deals with the US and the EU. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states would establish relations with Israel, open their markets to Israeli goods and services, and end anti-Israeli propaganda.
Not an easy deal
Orchestrating a deal this complex and multifaceted would be challenging, to say the least. It would entail a very tough negotiation, in an already strained relationship, with an Israeli government strongly preferring to keep the Iranian problem unlinked to the Palestinian problem. And, of course, it would be predicated on the viability of a military operation whose success is far from assured but which the US may be unable to stop.
It may turn out that the Iranian nuclear crisis gets resolved peacefully, perhaps as a result of sanctions; or the Netanyahu government may conclude that containing a nuclear Iran is preferable to attacking to prevent it. But with no choice but to prepare for the very real possibility of an Israeli strike against Iran, the White House must insist that any such action, if taken, be embedded in a broader strategy promising dramatic benefits commensurate with the sizable risks.