Opinion |

U.S. Diplomacy Festival Won't Put Out Israel's Fires

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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A Palestinian man walks with his bicycle past a mural depicting U.S. President Donald Trump, in Gaza City, June 24, 2019.
A Palestinian man walks with his bicycle past a mural depicting U.S. President Donald Trump, in Gaza City, June 24, 2019.Credit: Mohammed Salem / Reuters
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Donald Trump’s announcement that he’ll impose new sanctions on Iran stirred plenty of excitement in Israel. Like their predecessors, these sanctions were dubbed “unprecedented,” and we’re dying of curiosity to see how they’ll bring Iran to its knees. In this week of diplomatic festivals, the people are beside themselves with the surfeit of good news.

Following the welcome sanctions on Iran, the heads of the national security councils of the United States and Russia arrived in Jerusalem. This was also an “unprecedented” celebration – Israel and two world powers discussing the future of the Middle East, diplomatic channels for solving crises, and an international coordination of approaches as if it were the Yalta Conference that drew up spheres of influence near the end of World War II.

While they’re meeting in Bahrain's capital Manama, another “unprecedented” festival is taking place where representatives of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and “unofficial” Israelis, under American sponsorship, will dedicate the “economic workshop” – the summer event that’s supposed to reveal the “deal of the century.”

>> Analysis: Trump's Bahrain conference – not what you imagined ■ Analysis: Bahrain debacle marks crash of Trump team’s campaign to diss Palestinians into submission

There can’t be any stronger proof of Israel’s stellar international status and the prime minister’s diplomatic prowess than these spectacles that will undoubtedly change the scarred face of the Middle East. It’s a shame Winston Churchill died too early and didn’t see how his successor from Jerusalem would conduct the international and Arab orchestra with great virtuosity.

Still, there’s no avoiding a few delicate questions. For example, what was accomplished by the sanctions on Iran that wasn’t accomplished by the nuclear agreement? Iran promised not to enrich uranium or produce heavy water beyond the agreement’s limits, to destroy thousands of centrifuges, freeze its military nuclear program for at least a decade and allow inspections for another decade.

To date it has met all these conditions (as confirmed even by American and Israeli intelligence sources), and was on the verge of an economic breakthrough that would have turned it into a prosperous country but one whose economy is dependent on Western countries. Had Trump been president when the agreement was signed, nobody could have been prouder. After all, it’s his magic formula for solving international crises: Give them money and the rest will follow on its own. But unfortunately, Barack Obama was the one who signed the agreement, and that’s unforgivable.

What Trump missed out on in Iran he’s trying to do with the Palestinians. A few tens of billions and the conflict will disappear. What’s there not to understand? And after all, the Palestinians have no diplomatic partner for establishing their state, either in Israel or in the United States, so why not agree to receive money?

True, the money won’t really arrive, the commitment is like candles without wicks, and the Palestinians say that if Trump wants to help them let him first be so kind as to release the aid money he froze and order Israel to stop holding back their tax money.

History begins now, and don’t tell Trump that there’s already an agreement with Iran, or that innumerable road maps and agreements have been signed with the Palestinians. What happened before him doesn’t exist. The invention of the wheel is registered in his name, and it’s called the “Bahrain workshop.”

Israel’s problem is that Trump can decide to attack Iran, and after deep thoughts lasting 10 minutes, call off the attack. He can organize a show in Bahrain and go back to watching his favorite TV show. But once this week is over, Israel will still be left with the fires in the Gaza border communities, a collapsing Palestinian Authority and thousands of Hezbollah missiles. And they are not an illusion.

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