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Daoud Kuttab Headshot

Israel's anger with US likely to be taken out on Palestinians

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On the surface, it is hard to see any direct link between the recently concluded deal by Iran and the P5+1 group and the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. If, as the world community believes, this deal makes the world safer, then it should speed up, rather than slowdown, the resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

But the reality is different.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made the Iran issue such a big part of his foreign policy rhetoric that losing it will potentially be felt on other fronts.

The effect of the Iran deal on the peace process is bound to be more psychological than any other. The Israelis claim that they were backstabbed by their American allies and therefore the trust factor between Tel Aviv and Washington is at an all-time low. Israeli leaders did not try to publicly water down their anger at the White House who they say has approved a "historic mistake".

The irony is that the Israeli anger with the US should normally lead to an equal reaction from America, which would potentially make Israel lose its strongest ally in the region.

A neutral US vis-à-vis the Israel-Palestine conflict would be a huge bonanza for Palestinians.

However, the problem is that when Israel gets angry with the US, America starts looking for ways to please its spoiled child rather than simply ignore it. Israel will clearly not pay a political price for its public criticism of the US, nor will the Americans lessen their total, unflinching support for Israel.

Palestinians are extremely worried that in the aftermaths of the public Israeli criticism of the Iran deal, that the Obama administration will be looking for ways to please the Israelis rather than react to them in kind for their anti-US public position.

The worry among Palestinians is that America is unlikely to anger the Israelis; that, having stood up to Israel and the Israeli lobby on Iran, the White House will ease off any pressure on Israel in regards to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Already a number of Israeli politicians have said that the Iran deal will cause damage to the peace process. In fact, in the heat of the discussions on Iran, the Israeli prime minister hinted that any deal (unacceptable to Israel) will in fact hurt the peace process.

While the above worst-case scenario is the most likely result of the recently concluded Geneva deal on Iran, it is unlikely that we will see any public manifestation of it.

Israel and the US will soon mend their relations and will publicly state that they are still committed to the peace talks. Israeli negotiators will continue to show up for the secret peace talks and the world will be assured that the peace process is on track, even if nothing of substance is likely to come out of it.

The crunch point, however, is not whether the peace talks will be affected or not. Because it will not.

The problem is that in the best-case scenario, to have the current peace process produce positive results, will require tremendous efforts and a lot of pressure, mostly on the Israeli occupiers who will need to make the hard decision of quitting an area they have controlled for decades.

To reach such an eventuality will require two essential elements. The most important is that Washington, and specifically the US president, will need to spend a tremendous amount of political capital to make such a deal happen. Second, Israelis and Americans must have a high degree of trust between them.

On both these fronts the possibilities are low.

The political capital of the White House is low due to the Iran deal. And the Israeli leadership, as well as many of the Israeli public, has a low degree of trust for its American allies these days.

When it comes to the issue that has a direct consequence on Israel (unlike the remote issue of Iran despite claims to the contrary), Israelis are likely to be extremely defensive when it comes to outside pressures.

Of course, the most effective pressure on Israel from Washington can easily be applied if the Americans simply lessen their aggressive defence of Israel in international circles. If the US veto would suddenly stop being used in the Security Council, this would be a huge reality check for Israel. The likely of this to happen in the near future, however, especially after the row over Iran, is nearly zero.

The Iran deal is good news for a Middle East that has seen only military actions and little progress on the diplomatic front. The long-term implications of this deal, if it continues as planned, will be good all around.

In the short term, however, it is unlikely to give any serious push to a political breakthrough on the peace process, unless a miracle happens. But miracles do happen sometimes in the Holy Land.