Cooling Tempers Over Iran: Israel and the U.S. on a Business Course

04/08/2015 09:51 am ET | Updated Jun 08, 2015

The U.S. ambassador in Israel, Dan Shapiro, stated that soon after the establishment of the new government in Israel, the old-new P.M. Netanyahu will be invited to the White House. Business as usual? Well, at the best of times President Obama and P.M. Netanyahu were not exactly bosom buddies, and any future meeting between them will not be anything like a new honeymoon. Still, while the desire to be a fly on the wall of the Oval Office is natural, the very fact that a meeting is planned for the near future is a step in the right direction. So are some other developments, such as the briefing given by Minister Steinitz in Jerusalem, according to which Israel FINALLY spelled out its specific list of grievances and requested corrections in the joint statement issued in Lausanne a few days ago.

It is also a welcome development, that President Obama explains the details of the statement and the thinking behind it in his media appearances, and from what's said, one can see rather clearly that the president accepts, in Israel they claim that he admits, that the understandings with Iran just delay the inevitable, leaving the unfinished job to a future president. It is an important statement by the president, as it puts in perspective the "historic" context, so much talked about in the immediate aftermath of the Lausanne statement. Well, as is so often the case in dealing with the Middle East, the use of history and its presumed lessons is amounting to an abuse of the study of history. Let some time pass for us to see what is really "historic," as opposed to what is yet another chapter, not necessarily SO significant, in the affairs of the region. But then, the same should be addressed to the doorstep of the P.M. in Jerusalem. Emboldened with his recent election victory, supported also by most of the opposition in his resistance to the understandings, he could leave history to the historians, and land back in the world of politics, which is achieving the maximum possible, not the desired absolute.

In this context, it makes P.R. sense for him to demand an Iranian recognition of Israel as a pre-condition for any final nuclear agreement with Iran. It definitely sends a signal to Israel's immediate neighbors, the Palestinians, and surely provides Congress with another argument with which to advance the demand to bring the agreement with Iran, once concluded, to an approval on the Hill. That said, the simple fact is that Iran would not comply, no country will demand it from them, and on top of all that, this is a bad signal to Israel's quiet allies in the region, Saudi Arabia, among others. If Netanyahu wants Iran to recognize Israel, why will he not demand it from the Saudis, the UAE and others? Clearly, Israel shares so much with these and other Arab countries in so far as the Iranian danger is concerned, but Israel shares very little with them otherwise, and it is therefore, not a sound diplomacy, to pit this purely Israeli concern on the forefront of the demands from Iran, rather than the other concerns which are shared between Israel and many Arabs. Hasbara as they call it in Israel is important, but real policy-making is more important, and Hasbara is a tool of policy, not the real thing itself.

Netanyahu can be encouraged though by the developing regional situation, as the Arab anti-Iranian coalition is up in arms, though judging by the performance of the Saudi air force in Yemen, not exactly very effectively. But we are in the very early stages of a big, on-going struggle between Shiites and Sunnis. No Marxist or Liberal interpretation of the situation can change this, as the issue with Iran is about that. Sure, it s about hegemony, regional interests, stability of regimes, but all the above emanates from the fact that Shi'a Iran poses an existential challenge to the supremacy of Sunni Islam in the Middle East. What is encouraging for Netanyahu is not that there is a war, as war is always an issue even for those who are close though not actively participants. It is useful for Netanyahu because it is the reality on the ground, not fantasy land dreams, in which Israel is not alone in explaining that Iran IS THE greatest challenge to regional security, so no agreement with her should bolster its position, rather weaken it.

Here is the challenge for the next stage of Israeli diplomacy. Yes, all options are on the table, and the Egyptian TV personality Tawfik Okasha publicly urges Israel to attack Iran, but this is NOT a real option now. This is the time for constructive proposals which the American side will HAVE to take into account in the future dealings with Iran, leading to the new deadline of June 30. It can be done, and cooling tempers are of the utmost importance, and let us remember the atrocious July-August heat in the Middle East... better to come to a viable understanding between Israel, the Arab States and the U.S. before climate drives people crazy over there...