Whoever doesn't understand Iran doesn't understand the Middle East. If Iran goes nuclear, so will Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East will become a multipolar nuclear region. If Iran goes nuclear, the Shi'ites will get stronger and the Sunnis weaker, and religious radicalism will threaten every moderate regime. If Iran goes nuclear, the Middle East will be in real danger of nuclear terror. If Iran goes nuclear, Hamas will get stronger and Fatah will crash. If Iran goes nuclear it will be the end of the two-state solution.
Fortunately, Barack Obama understands Iran to a large extent. Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak understand Iran extremely well. Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy understand Iran. Even Gordon Brown does. Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah and the moderate Arab rulers in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates understand Iran best of all. Its only in Israel that not everybody understands Iran just yet, and well-wishers from the left and right continue chanting outdated mantras.
The left is quite right in asserting that only a two-states-for-two-peoples solution will lead to an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Granted, evacuating settlements is a necessary condition for peace. Granted, talks with all the Arab states will provide an adequate framework for peace, and perhaps even yield regional peace. But all these in themselves cannot stop a single centrifuge in Natanz.
Talking about peace, even making peace, won't stop the ayatollahs. And if the ayatollahs are not stopped in the coming year, the peace discourse will lose its meaning and any peace agreement would be empty. Anyone wanting peace must find an answer for Iran. This is the eleventh hour. It's time for the ostriches to take their heads out of the sand.
As in the past, the right wing today is even wackier than the left. The right wing's settlement project was senseless from the start. But in 2009 only a blind man would believe that Israel's security depends on some isolated settlements. Only someone lacking any understanding of state affairs would believe that Israel's future depends on the illegal outposts in Judea and the natural growth in Samaria. The Israeli right pretends to be not only religious and ideological but realistic and sober. But a political faction that insists on sacrificing nothing in the West Bank increases the strategic threat on the eastern front. At the moment of truth, the right wing's anachronism jeopardizes Israel's existence.
Israel needs a three-stage peace plan to stop Iran. In the first stage Israel should bring moderate Arabs and Israelis together around a joint vision and take confidence-building measures. In the second stage it must deal with Iran. In the third stage it must try to implement the peace vision with daring but realistic acts. But to advance such a comprehensive initiative, Israel must break free of the old leftist and rightist dogmas. On the one hand it must understand that there will be no peace under the shadow of a nuclear Iran. On the other, it must understand that without a commitment to peace and movement toward peace Iran will surely go nuclear.
There is no time. Netanyahu's government must act before Obama's speech in Cairo in early June. It must present without delay a peace vision that is both inspiring and realistic. Evacuating outposts and halting construction in the settlements must be part of this vision. But it must focus on the proposal for Israel and the Arabs to sign a treaty to build Palestine. The Gulf emirates can undertake to develop the West Bank. Saudi Arabia can offer Gaza a horizon of hope. The Egyptians and Jordanians can provide the necessary security and diplomatic responsibility. A coalition of moderate forces can thus act jointly in the Middle East to change the situation on the ground. The responsible powers in the international arena would be able to provide the strategic background to take firm action against Iran.
On his return from Washington, Netanyahu is supposed to realize that it's now or never. The left may be irritating, but the right is restrictive. Israel must act if it is to answer to its challenges. It must put together an Israeli initiative. But to formulate an Israeli initiative, Netanyahu must finally release himself from the grip of the deluded right.
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