Words in support of Israel were recently iterated by current American President George W. Bush in his Knesset speech. Words supporting Israel and her “undivided capital, Jerusalem” were also uttered by presidential candidate Obama in his latest speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. However slogans in support of Israel, important as they may be, will not usher us into a resolution of the conflict.
For Israel to be able to cut a deal with the Palestinians and the rest of her Arab neighbors it needs to find a true friend in America. This means that our friendly supporter should guide and help us act in our own interest. It should encourage us to change false illusions of a zero-sum game into tangible perceptions of a win-win situation. It should understand that in a negotiations process both parties need to feel they have gained. That Israel will have security when the Palestinians have a political horizon.
It would be extremely hard to claim that the very friendly strategy adopted towards Israel by President Bush has enabled us to resolve any of our too-many conflicts: not with the Palestinians and Hamas, nor with Syria or Iran. All of these pose serious threats to Israel. All of these have been significantly boosted in President Bush’s eight-year term.
US support for negotiations on the Syrian track, for example, could significantly contribute to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations currently conducted as part of the US-backed Annapolis process. Should a peace deal be achieved, Syria would no longer provide support for armed action by Hamas nor other Palestinian groups against Israel. A peace treaty with Syria would also mean the end of arms shipment to Hizbullah, and that Iran’s standing in the Arab-Israeli arena would be significantly weakened. Syria’s ruling secular Alawite group is no natural bedfellow with the fundamentalist Shiite regime of Iran. With intensive involvement and strong economic inducements from the US it will likely separate from it.
More so, American involvement and backing that would facilitate an Israeli agreement with the Palestinians and with Syria will lead to the normalization of ties between Israel and the entire Arab world in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative, and consequentially, a stable Middle East.
Clearly then, true friendship between America and Israel requires the former to not only speak words in support of the latter but to enable, encourage and back Israel in tireless talks and unending efforts to engage rather than isolate her neighbors.
Obama’s recent confession to using “poor phrasing” on Jerusalem in his AIPAC speech and the fact that, as opposed to other senior American leaders, he has slotted time to meet with the PA leadership during his visit – could be indicative of an emerging true friend.
Michal Radoshitzky is the director of foreign relations at Geneva Initiative