Opportunities for Regional Peace Exist, Israeli Leaders Should Seize Them

February 20, 2017

A new report detailing a 2016 summit meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu, Secretary of State Kerry and the leaders of Egypt and Jordan demonstrates that Israel has had, and continues to have, historic opportunities to pursue a comprehensive regional peace process which could produce not just a two-state solution but full Arab-Israeli peace.

While the precise details of the summit and the proposals discussed remain uncertain, it is clear that the US government and major Arab allies told Prime Minister Netanyahu that they would help to facilitate an agreement that met his major conditions for peace, including Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, guaranteeing Israel’s security, and obtaining recognition for Israel from the Arab world.

And it is clear that no such peace process took place in large part because Israel’s right-wing governing coalition was uninterested and unwilling to pursue it. Internal pressure from Netanyahu’s own Likud party helped convince him that placing any significant restrictions on settlement construction and expansion could bring down his government.

While circumstances have changed significantly since 2016 and with US policy in the region under President Trump now very much in flux, there remains a major opportunity for a regional peace initiative that could attain for Israel its core aims: secure borders, recognition as a Jewish state and partnerships to increase regional prosperity and stability.

Both Netanyahu and President Trump have stated that they want such an “ultimate deal.” But this report makes clear that an Israeli government dominated by the far-right simply isn’t interested in the creation of a Palestinian state, even if many of the Prime Minister’s key conditions are met. It challenges the narrative that Palestinian rejectionism and intransigence is the reason peace has yet to be achieved, as the Prime Minister argues again and again.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has now been in office for the better part of a decade.  During that time, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has only deteriorated while settlements have expanded and the occupation has deepened.  There are real opportunities right now to pursue an end to the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is time for Israel’s government and this Prime Minister to demonstrate the leadership called for in this historic moment – to stand up for the moderate majority of Israelis that wants an end to conflict and to stand up against the extreme right of the settler movement.

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