While all international attention is focused now on the upcoming implementation process of the Iran deal, many more diplomatic efforts and agreements will be required for the Middle East to stabilize. Regional stability will depend on how fundamentalist terrorism is dealt with, no less so by a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Strategic policy analysts in the State Department are dealing these days with the ramifications of the Iran deal on regional stability.
A senior State Department official, who is part of Middle East policy planning, told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the US administration intends to use the Iran deal for policy initiatives on regional issues: "We plan to exert pressure on the Iranians to halt inflaming the region through their assistance to Hezbollah and Hamas. In parallel, the US will strengthen its cooperation with pragmatic Sunni countries — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, perhaps also other Gulf countries, and Jordan. This has to be viewed as an incremental process, as we view the relationship with Tehran. We have given the Iran agreement at least 10 years; a parallel time frame may be necessary to stabilize the region and to implement the two-state solution."
This may sound like a long time, but it is probably a realistic way to look at future developments, definitely when it comes to the Palestinian issue. Without a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, there will always be a latent time bomb threatening the peace of the region.
A decade to implement a two-state solution for the enhancement of regional stability is necessary for a multitude of reasons:
First, fundamentalist terrorist forces pose a common enemy to the pragmatic countries in the region. The creation of a regional anti-terror coalition demands also progress on the Palestinian track, based on the Saudi Peace Initiative of 2002.
A second reason would be that an Israeli-Palestinian permanent status agreement requires a change of policies on all sides and a dramatic intervention by the United States for the prevention of a violent conflict.
An extended period will also allow for a gradual implementation process of a permanent status agreement, which will facilitate the achievement of a deal. In addition, both Israeli and Palestinian public opinions need time to reconcile with the inevitability of a two-state solution and better neighborly relations.
Finally, broader regional cooperation, also on the anti-terror and economic fronts, demands many taboos to be broken in relation to Arab attitudes toward Israel.
Such a 10-year peace plan should address all relevant realities that could bring about, over time, a more pacified and stable Middle East. At the core of such a plan should be a two-state solution that is a condition for broader regional cooperation. A demilitarized Palestinian state should be negotiated and established within three years. Its borders should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed parallel land swaps. Its capital should be in East Jerusalem while the city remains united — and West Jerusalem becomes Israel's internationally recognized capital.
In the seven following years, one should allow for a parallel stabilization process in areas of security, economy and regional relations.
On the security front, Israel should be allowed to maintain a military presence for seven years along the Jordan River and at the border crossings with Jordan.
A regional anti-terror cooperation framework should be put in place to combat fundamentalist terrorism, enabling the exchange of intelligence and the monitoring of military and security arrangements.
On the diplomatic front, in the seven years following the establishment of the Palestinian state, the Arab countries should establish full diplomatic and trade relationships with Israel.
The economic front is critical to the success of such a 10-year peace plan. Within a decade, the countries of the region should create a regional free trade zone as well as cooperation on basic infrastructure such as water, energy, transportation and telecommunications. For the purpose of international and regional public and private investments, a regional Middle East development bank should be established (like other regional development banks) with headquarters possibly based in Cairo.
The Iran deal clearly has advantages and flaws but, more than anything, it should be considered as an opportunity to stabilize one of the most important strategic areas of the world.