Not that he needed any prompting, but according to Jerusalem Post reporting, Britain, France and Germany are urging President Biden to move forward quickly on his reported plans to re-enter the nuclear deal with Iran. And the Biden administration seems to be paying attention.
To be sure the new deal would presumably be an upwardly revised version in terms of the troubling duration and inspections issues, but it would be silent on the issues of Iran’s support for terrorism in the Gulf and Middle East and its development of long-range missiles.
This would mark a return to Obama-era thinking that a nuclear agreement would induce voluntary cessation on both scores, something dismissed by President Trump as being absurd. Trump famously pulled the U.S. out of the original deal over the limited time frame and inspections issues but also over its silence on support for terror and the missiles.
Almost simultaneously with the news about the Biden plan for Iran, a four-page memo leaked from within the Biden administration detailing a planned “reset” in U.S.-Palestinian relations. It described a reversal of Trump’s plan and several other Trump administration initiatives that embraced Israeli positions on the major issues separating Israel and the Palestinian.
Most prominently were the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the legitimacy of Israel’s claims to areas in the West Bank with Israeli population centers.
Both with respect to Iran and the Middle East, these are pivotal times for American decision-makers.
As far as Iran is concerned, if for nothing else than being seen as reversing a major Trump policy, Biden is anxious to return to the Iran deal. Yet he has also indicated that he respects some of the Trump criticisms of it terms.
Of course, how much he is willing to sacrifice in order to get back into the deal is one of the great unknowns. Unfortunately, however, in view of his public statements, he seems unwilling to insist on making Iran’s support for terror a make or break issue in the negotiations. And that would be missing the forest for the trees.
Of course, as a nuclear-weaponized power, Iran would present a far greater threat than if it were only a conventional weapons armed predator. But, plainly, a non-nuclear Iran, if not checked, will also have enormous impact on the international order. Almost perversely, then, it may well be the case that prolonged fixation on when the new deal should end and coming up with a realistic inspections regime will provide cover to Iran, allowing it to go about building its terrorists infrastructure abroad and building a missile delivery arsenal in anticipation of an eventual, pre-determined end to all restrictions.
Getting back to the Palestinian “reset” memo, that document envisions the return to the Obama era goal of a “two state solution based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps and agreements on security and refugees.” And therein lies an important tale.
The “1967 lines” actually refers to the pre-Six Day War military lines that marked the areas controlled respectively by Israel and the Arab countries at the end of the 1948 war. So using those lines as the framework for discussions means to disregard the military results of the 1967 war which wholly upended the 1948 results. Not only is this unrealistic, since it ignores the present military realities, it is also manifestly illogical.
Thus, if the (pre) 1967 lines reflected military conquest, why are they entitled to more respect than the current lines established by the results of the 1967 war? Surely they are not. Yet the significance is manifest. Using the pre 1967 lines would entail “nickel and diming” boundaries for land swaps that would far less favorable to Israel than if the current lines, which mark far greater territory controlled by Israel, were the frame of reference.
The Biden team seems unwilling to take full advantage of the leverage provided by the massive economic sanctions Trump imposed on Iran. While Iranian leaders regularly proclaim they will never bow to economic pressure, the reality, as most observers say, is that time is running out for the mullahs and it is only a matter of time until they capitulate and the U.S. can achieve its security goals.
Biden should also be big enough to acknowledge that Obama was wrong and Trump was right in their respective approaches to Middle East peace. On the Obama watch, there was Palestinian stalling and duplicity as President Abbas recognized that all he had to do was wait until Obama pressured Israel into accepting more and more of the Palestinian agenda – the traditions of international politics and nation-building be damned.
Trump signaled to the Palestinians that for them the geopolitical train had already left the station and their only option was to play catch up with the Israelis from the large expanse of territory that was still available. Sadly, though, despite this incentivization, they opted to bet on a Democratic victory last November and a return to the Obama way of thinking. Yet, that always failed and will yet fail if Biden follows it. Fictive realities cannot be a basis for peace.