Israel should support the negotiations between Washington and Tehran. A belated Iranian compliance with the requirements of the international community is preferable to a premature war.
The relations between re-elected US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is quite likely to be re-elected [in the upcoming parliamentary elections] are in need of prompt and thorough mending. It is not going to be easy, not at all, but it is not beyond reach. The relations between the two leaders may be mended by dealing with two issues of major importance: the political process vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the Iranian nuclear program. There may be some logic in a barter transaction — “Palestine in return for the nuke.” That is, Netanyahu will at least make an overture of peace and try to revive the stalemated negotiations with the Palestinians, while Obama, for his part, will act to solve the Iranian nuke issue. Each of them will thus facilitate fulfilling the other’s part of the deal.
The problem, however, is that any solution of the Palestinian issue, even partial or gradual, is contingent on factors that are not exclusively linked to Israel — for instance, the instability and uncertainty brought on by the so-called “Arab Spring”, as well as the deep rift between the Gaza Hamas and the Fatah in the West Bank. As to the Iranian nuclear program, in this case too, not everything is in the hands of Israel and the United States. Thus, for example, in the matter of tightening the sanctions imposed [on Iran] or applying the sanctions already decided on, other countries, some of them members of the UN Security Council, also have a say.
Even so, Israel can contribute to the efforts to solve the Iranian issue [via diplomacy] by reaching an understanding with the United States on the time frame for direct negotiations between Washington and Tehran, if indeed the opportunity arises for conducting such direct talks, as well as on the political elements of any agreement reached and on the room for maneuver allowed with respect to any of these constituent elements. Above all, Israel should come to an understanding with the United States on the implications of failure to reach an agreement with Iran. The course of action suggested above is consistent with President Obama’s statements prior to and during his [televised] confrontations with his rival in the race for the White House Mitt Romney, whereby he negated over again the possibility of living side by side with a nuclear Iran and rejected the notion of containment. The outlined approach is also in harmony with the strategic view prevalent in the security establishment in Israel.
A belated Iranian compliance with the requirements of the international community is preferable to a premature war. Unlike the Israeli attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor [in 1981] (and, according to foreign sources, the Israeli air strike on a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007), the Iranian case, for all its complexity, requires close collaboration between Israel and the United States. Considering the potential regional repercussions of an Israeli assault on the nuclear facilities in Iran, an Israeli-American agreement would be preferable to an Israeli attack carried out contrary to Washington’s explicit position.
If there is indeed any truth in the reports in the American press on imminent contacts between the United States and Iran; if the reports that Iran has transferred enriched uranium to its research reactor in Tehran, thus removing itself, even slightly, from the nuclear threshold, are based on reliable intelligence; and if the gloomy economic situation in Iran is in fact likely to shake the stability of the regime there — then Israel should give it a chance and openly support direct negotiations between Washington and Tehran.
Oded Eran, a senior research associate at the Tel Aviv University Institute for National Security Studies (INSS ), served in the past [2002-2007] as Israel’s ambassador to the European Union.
Yoel Guzansky, a research fellow at the Tel Aviv University Institute for National Security Studies, served in the past [until 2009] as head of the Iran desk at the National Security Council in the Prime Minister's Office.