Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will eventually settle for a two-state solution, not by choice but necessity, that is, not because he wants but he has to. It is the only viable option for all parties concerned.
In the long-term, the status quo is not sustainable. Israel risks international isolation and the pariah-status of a South-African style apartheid state. The hopelessness of no real future for Palestinian society will continue radicalizing its young. The United States struggles to maintain credibility in the region and beyond.
A resolution to the Palestinian-Israel issue will not serve as a panacea to all of America's challenges in the Middle East region. However, it will provide US foreign policy with an enormous injection of diplomatic capital and goodwill to confront other global challenges with greater vigor and determination, which an unstable world desperately requires.
As a raw realist and calculated political survivor, Netanyahu will ultimately do whatever is necessary to remain in power, but he must save face and credibility. He will not be a push-over for President Barack Obama and will drive a hard bargain. He will engage in diplomatic and political foot-dragging through posturing and delaying tactics, such as trying to link talks with Iran and others to peace with the Palestinians. As a reluctant peacemaker, he will remind the Israeli public of the need to preserve Israel's strategic alliance with the US and simultaneously attempt to extract maximum concessions from President Obama in exchange for peace, particularly with US congressional support.
Furthermore, Netanyahu is politically obligated to drive a hard bargain due to Israel's shift to the right in recent elections. He must be perceived as negotiating a lasting peace from a position of strength. A Palestinian state is unlikely to be much of a state but in name as it will not be completely sovereign. Israel's demands for security guarantees will be significant. There will be no standing Palestinian army. In my opinion, there must be an international military presence under NATO command with a UN mandate and open to non-NATO states willing to contribute subject to the joint unanimous approval of Israelis and Palestinians.
This would allow for greater burden-sharing of resources and help alleviate potential political differences and diplomatic concerns. The purpose of this military presence would be to secure borders and train and supervise a Palestinian paramilitary force responsible for law-enforcement and maintaining internal order. NATO member-states with strong paramilitary and gendarmerie skills, such as France and Italy, could take a prominent role.
Resolution of the Israel-Palestine issue remains crucial to regional peace and stability and must be an international responsibility. Accordingly, it requires a collective contribution of resources to help make it a reality. Economic development and public administration should be kept under supervision of international financial institutions to ensure transparency and accountability at all levels. Diplomacy would be largely dependent upon support of the US, EU and select Arab countries, such as Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Unpredictable circumstances, such as the potential outbreak of violence at any given moment, can delay peace but must not be permitted to prevent peace. The longer the grievances fester the more opportunity it provides to radicals and rejectionists to exploit these grievances as a pretext to further their own agendas which goes far beyond the actual grievances. Such radicals on all sides have a vested interest in the continuation and preservation of the status quo.
Time has been of the essence for the past few years. Every possible turning point is declared the final opportunity for peace but yet the vicious cycle of violence continues to surge and recede. Talk of crossing the tipping point into regional conflagration swings between real and illusory.
The possibility of radicals throughout the region using violence in the Occupied Territories as a pretext to react against the status quo in their own countries, such as Egypt and Jordan, may not be so far-fetched. A greater burden falls upon the shoulders of President Obama, where most of his predecessors failed, particularly Bill Clinton. The former president's attempt to end a decades-old conflict in a two-week time-frame in 2000 proved too overwhelming for the participants, his advisors and himself. He was excessively over-confident in his own ability and over-ambitious in attempting to secure a legacy for his presidency.
With a global economic crisis and unraveling challenges at home and abroad, President Obama's ability to make a difference in Israel/Palestine may be less than most hoped. Despite coming into office with considerable political and diplomatic capital, it is dwindling much quicker than anticipated.
From a political, economic, diplomatic, security and humanitarian perspective, it remains in the best interests of all those concerned with regional stability and global order, to invest the necessary capital and resources to bring about a negotiated resolution sooner rather than later.
Marco Vicenzino is the director of the Global Strategy Project.
Related Materials from the Atlantic Community:
- Julia Galaski: No We Can't: Why Israelis Don't Vote for Change
- Bernhard Lucke: Israel: Swap Land for Peace
- Ari Rusila: Gaza War: Could Balkan History Show a Way Out?