As Washington, Riyadh, and Jerusalem Scramble To Cobble Together a Peace Deal, the Times Warns That Israel’s Government Is Not ‘Normal’
Iran, meanwhile, has an atomic ace up its sleeve.
TEL AVIV — As Washington, Jerusalem, Riyadh, and Ramallah chase an elusive Saudi-Israeli peace treaty, Iran and its Mideast proxies quietly — though increasingly less so — are preparing for the next war.
Peace with Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s most powerful country, could be beneficial to Israel. It could also make the Mideast and much of Asia more stable, give an oomph to fledgling economies, and create a pro-American alliance that could become a buffer against Communist China, Russia, and their Brics allies.
It will be hard to achieve such a treaty, though, as long as the Islamic Republic arms itself to the teeth and works to realize its dream of erasing the Jewish state off the earth. In the latest of its periodic reports, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency this week documents increased Iranian violations of its obligations and agreements.
The IAEA reports major violations, including Iran’s refusal to mount cameras that would allow the agency’s inspectors to monitor the nuclear program. Yet, official Washington and press headlines stress a seeming positive: “Iran has slowed the pace at which it is enriching uranium to nearly weapons-grade levels.”
Is that a Tehran concession? “Applauding a diminishment in the pace of enriched uranium output is akin to rewarding a neighbor who plays loud music constantly but briefly decided to turn it down,” an Iran watcher at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Behnam Ben Taleblu, tells the Sun. “In both scenarios, no fundamental change in the capability and intent of either actor is evident.”
Since President Biden came into office, Iran has significantly accelerated its pursuit of nuclear arms. It has amassed enough uranium enriched to near bomb-level purity to build a weapon at the time of its choosing. No wonder the top demand of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is that America would help him enrich uranium on Saudi soil. His reason: If your enemy, Iran, can do it, why can’t I?
A top Israeli opposition leader, Yair Lapid, was at Washington this week to reissue a traditional Israeli warning against a regional nuclear race. “I will find it difficult to support an agreement that would include uranium enrichment on Saudi soil,” he told top White House advisers.
Beyond that long-established Israeli position, Mr. Lapid no doubt fears that his political rival, Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is under pressure at home and abroad, would score a victory in the form of Saudi-Israeli peace. “Strong democracies do not endanger security interests to solve political problems,” he said.
He is not alone. “You Can’t Normalize Relations With a Government That Isn’t Normal,” a supporter of Mr. Biden, Thomas Friedman, writes in the New York Times. The government he reckons isn’t normal is Israel’s.
“A key pillar” of Israel’s alliance with America is support of a Palestinian state, Mr. Friedman writes. In reality, America and Israel are currently almost alone among United Nations members who do not recognize one. A previous supporter of a Saudi-Israeli deal, Mr. Friedman now warns Mr. Biden and MbS against any deal with a Jeruslaem government that, he claims, would blow up the whole thing.
Much to the columnist’s chagrin, the Palestinians figure low among the Saudi interests in a deal. The Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, knows that. This week he sent a delegation to Riyadh, hoping to, at least, increase Saudi contributions to his dwindling coffers. Afterward, Mr. Abbas said, according to a Lebanese newspaper, that in the framework of a Saudi-Israeli deal, he would comply with whatever MbS agrees.
Far from Riyadh, Mr. Abbas is increasingly a non-entity in the West Bank, as well. The real power there is in the hands of terrorist organizations, which increasingly are financed, armed, and trained by Iran. On Tehran’s command these organizations, alongside their partners in Hamas-controlled Gaza, and Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, have the capacity to launch a major war that would embroil the entire region in conflict and end any peace hope.
The Islamic Republic, a country that professes its desire to put an end to any Jewish sovereignty in the Mideast, hides an ace up its sleeve: At the same time that a Saudi ambassador arrived at Tehran Tuesday, officially re-establishing diplomatic relations, the mullahs can blow up a Riyadh-Jerusalem deal whenever they choose to do so.
Beyond the Arab world, a Saudi-Israeli peace treaty “could open avenues for diplomatic and commercial relations with Muslim countries, including the biggest one, Indonesia,” a Jerusalem University researcher of the Gulf states, Michal Yaari, told public broadcaster Kan.
Mr. Friedman’s protestations aside, such a deal would also be a major diplomatic achievement for Mr. Biden as he amps up his re-election campaign. Yet, as long as Washington coddles America-hating Iran, a Saudi-Israeli deal is unlikely. Rather than attempting to influence Jerusalem politics, Mr. Biden’s best option is to amp up pressure on the Islamic Republic.