Returning to Obama’s Plan
21 Oct 2019 – In the light of recent events concerning the United States’ embroilment in the Middle East, we must ask ourselves: what interest drives US involvement in the area? Being an industrial power, it requires many sources of energy, and because of the huge oil deposits in the Middle East, it has a close interest in maintaining the free flow of oil. Relocating industries to China and other third-world countries, alongside the discovery of huge oil deposits in the North Sea, have caused a fundamental change in American interests in the Middle East.
If I understood his message correctly, during his time in office President Obama, taking into account shifting American interests in the Middle East, urged the Israeli leadership to comply with the Arab peace initiative and end the Israeli-Arab conflict, before the United States lost interest in the area and would no longer need Israel’s cooperation in defending its allies – the oil producers – in the Middle East. Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his zeal for “The Greater Israel”, thought that a Republican president would have a different perception of American interests, and counted on opposition to Obama and the election of a Republican president in the United States who would maintain the status quo. At the beginning of President Trump’s term, it seemed that Netanyahu’s policy had paid off handsomely. And now it is all collapsing. Despite Trump’s pro-Israel gestures, his perception of American interests is now more in line with Obama’s position. He is withdrawing American forces from Syria and making every effort to scale down American military involvement in the area.
Netanyahu is pursuing a policy of intervention in the endless war between Sunni and Shia in the Arab world, by assisting the Sunni against the Shia in an attempt to deflect the Iranian threat away from the oil countries and onto itself. In return he asks that the Sunni states weaken their support for Palestinian and Syrian issues, and from the United States he asks for military and economic aid and that they curb criticism of Israel’s actions against the Palestinians and Syrians.
Three recent events testify to the failure of this policy. First, the attack on oil production in Saudi Arabia – attributed to Iran or a proxy Iran terror organization; and now Trump’s announcement about the withdrawal of American forces from Syria; and prior to that, the firing of Bolton, an advocate of American military intervention in conflict areas around the world, from his job as Trump’s National Security Advisor.
This changing reality exposes the irresponsibility of revealing Israeli involvement in thwarting Iran’s nuclear program, and its efforts to prevent the transfer of advanced ammunition to terrorist organizations supported by Iran in their war against Israel. If America is losing interest in the oil resources of the Middle East, then the policy of deflecting the threat away from oil sources onto us endangers Israel without any security payback. Moreover, Iran is not buying it, as evidenced by its attack on the oil facilities of Saudi Arabia. I fear that before long it will turn to direct attacks on Israeli interests.
In this emerging reality, Israel must change its strategic security conception from one based on serving the interests of the superpower in the area in exchange for security and economic support and turning a blind eye to its policy of territorial expansion, to a conception based on peace and acceptance in the area, as proposed by the Arab League. If Israel wants to survive, then it must return to the Obama plan: to choose the road of peace while we still enjoy the support of the United States, so that we can arrive at a peace agreements that will dramatically reduce the security threat to our existence and our dependence on the superpowers.
The Israeli left has to bring back the issue of peace accords with the Palestinians and the Syrians to the top of its agenda, for Israel’s continued existence depends on achieving peace.
Amos Gvirtz is founder of Israelis and Palestinians for Nonviolence, was chairperson of the Committee against House Demolitions, and a peace and human rights activist. He is a former Israeli representative to the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) and wrote the book, Don’t Say We Did Not Know (working on the translation to English).
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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 28 Oct 2019.
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