Israel arrives at a tough diplomatic intersection
Israel's crises with key regional partners Egypt and Turkey could pressure the Jewish state to make a renewed push for peace with the Palestinians.
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"Israel is entering September without Turkey, almost without Egypt, while Jordan is paralyzed in fear, Europe is overwhelmingly hostile and America is almost indifferent," wrote Israeli columnist Ben Caspit in the daily Maariv newspaper yesterday. "Israel's public image around the world is at a nadir, an unbridled campaign to delegitimize it is afoot and, worst of all, its best friends are beginning to lose interest."Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Caspit portrayed Netanyahu as facing a diplomatic intersection at which he must choose between the hard-line policies of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and a more moderate course that could win back crucial support from Israel’s international allies.
Negotiator: Israel should embrace Palestinians' UN bid
The new tension has reignited a debate that started in wake of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's Feb. 11 ouster about whether a renewed peace push toward the Palestinians could defuse a potential flareup in regional opposition to Israel.
"A lot of what drives the frustration in Egypt and Turkey is the stagnation with the Palestinians," says Gidi Grinstein, president of the Reut Institute in Tel Aviv and a former peace negotiator during Ehud Barak's tenure as prime minister.
He says that if Israel embraced the Palestinian effort in the UN, it could help shape the resolution and secure UN backing for diplomatic goals such as the recognition of "two states for two peoples" – a move that would likely improve ties with Turkey and Egypt.
The liberal Haaretz newspaper today cited position papers in Israeli intelligence agencies advocating a renewed push for peace with the Palestinians. The leak likely came from the Defense Ministry, which Mr. Barak now runs. He published a statement yesterday calling on the government to reconsider its regional strategy.
"We must state our opinion … on the larger picture of what is going on around us," said Barak in a statement. "On this triangle of Turkey, Egypt, the negotiations with the Palestinians, and of the intimacy with the U.S., which has been weakened."
Ofer Zalzburg, an analyst for the International Crisis Group, a Belgian think tank, says many Israeli diplomats are saying a revival of negotiations will alleviate in Egypt the public pressures that the leadership is facing, and will make it harder for Mr. Erdogan to attack Israel.
Concessions could be even riskier now
But a predominant view in Netanyahu's government sees Israel as unable to sway the leadership and policies of Turkey and Egypt. Officials believe that Prime Minister Erdogan has made a strategic shift toward confrontation with Israel. Meanwhile, Egypt’s public revolt against rulers is not inspired by the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Therefore, according to this view, Israel can do little to reduce tension by granting diplomatic concessions – in fact, it may even be taking a larger risk than previously thought.
"With such uncertainty, we have to be strong and continue to try to talk to our neighbors, but we have to be careful to not give up on defensible borders that we might need later," says Uzi Dayan, a former Israeli general and a member of Mr. Netanyahu’s party.
"At the end of this tunnel, there is a hope the countries will become more democratic, but until then, we have to survive a long Islamic winter."