Try to imagine the following scenario: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gathers his ministers for an unusual brainstorming. He tells them that Kerry’s efforts to reach a breakthrough in the negotiations stand a fair chance of succeeding. “I want each of you to outline for me how we can take advantage of a potential peace agreement with the Palestinians. I am tasking each of you to devise a plan how your ministries will leverage the peace agreement to optimally promote the nation’s interests.”
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The Prime Minister shouldn’t be surprised if his fellow ministers are left speechless, clearly shocked by his request. After all, they are not in the habit of envisioning, much less strategizing for an eventuality of peace.
Nevertheless, Kerry may well be successful in creating a breakthrough that could ultimately lead to a final Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. But the morning after would not reveal the absolute end of all antagonism and frustration. Deeply held perceptions and emotions can only change gradually; the process is sure to be slow. Therefore, we should now prepare for and creatively design a strategy to sustain the agreement and take advantage of its potential.
Here are some of the issues that call for a detailed strategy in preparation for a best-case scenario:
Security and Regional Geopolitics – an agreement with the Palestinians will provide Israel with an opportunity to normalize relations with the larger Arab and Islamic world, which, with the exception of Iran, support the Arab Peace Initiative. The current timing benefits such a move as Syria’s potential to spoil it has been diminished by its internal civil war. An agreement will enable Israel to build new strategic partnerships (with Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf states), and strengthen those that have either been damaged (Egypt and Turkey) or are under threat (Jordan). All this would substantially advance Israel's security and its ability to be part of a regional strategic alignment to counter radical terrorists and Iran's hegemonic regional aspirations.
Jerusalem – a compromise solution for the Holy City, however rife with emotions, is unavoidable. If strategized creatively, such a solution has the potential, not only to bring an Israeli-Palestinian peace, but also to serve as an historic moment of reconciliation between Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The capital of Israel will have a clear Jewish majority, crowded with embassies from all nations. For the first time, our roots, presence, and rights in Eretz Israel – and in Jerusalem – would be recognized by all.
The Economy – An agreement would significantly upgrade the ability of the Israeli economy to grow and find new markets. It would be much easier to cultivate business ties with the Arab and Muslim world, not to mention the rising powers of Asia and South America. Europe – Israel’s leading trade partner – is proposing, in the event of an agreement, an exceptional status upgrade to “special privileged partner.” Ending the conflict will enable Israel to attract unprecedented volumes of investment from all over the world. Tourism will have an entirely new potential: instead of being in line with Cyprus’s numbers (3 Million annually), Israel could reach those of Greece (15 Million). The threat of boycotts, disinvestments, and sanctions would disappear. The Negev and the Galilee will attract new investments and residents. The “start-up nation” will have new horizons to astonish the world with its economic and technological achievements.
Relations with the U.S. – It is not possible to exaggerate the importance of Israel’s relationship with the U.S., its only real ally, and home to 40% of the Jewish people. As the sponsors of the agreement, U.S. presence in the Middle East will be rehabilitated. Washington’s ability to achieve its goals in the Arab world will be enhanced. Continued U.S. engagement with the Middle East is an important asset for Israel’s security, standing and deterrence. The agreement will do just that.
Israel as a Jewish State – The agreement will preserve a Jewish majority within Israel‘s new recognized borders. Only then will Israel be free to make itself an attractive state that embodies and fully reflects Jewish humanistic values. The agreement will also help to respectfully and humanely manage internal co-existence with Israel's Arab minority. Israel's image and diplomatic standing around the world will be radically improved, the tide of de-legitimization against it stemmed. With Israel as an inspiring center-point for Jewish youth all over the globe, it would be an auspicious time to cement Jewish solidarity, identity, and the quest for “Tikun Olam.”
The essence of Zionism and the establishment of Israel is the combining of an inspirational vision with a concrete program of implementation. But fulfilling that inspirational vision depends on peace, and that is the opportunity that Kerry is now offering. If Kerry succeeds, Zionism and the State of Israel succeed also.
S. Daniel Abraham is an American entrepreneur and founder of the Center for Middle East Peace in Washington. Follow the center on Twitter: @AbrahamCenter