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Palestine after the Iran deal

Jul 16,2015 - Last updated at Jul 16,2015

The Palestinian Israeli conflict might get an unexpected shot in the arm as a result of the recently concluded Iran nuclear agreement.

While the P5+1 talks in Vienna focused only on the issue of Iran’s nuclear capability, many are looking at how this agreement will affect regional conflicts. Some of the harshest critics of the deal accuse the Obama administration of reaching an agreement with what is described as the world’s leading supporter of terrorism without dealing with many of the region’s issues.

Although those making these accusations have no interest in increasing the pressure on Israel, this might be exactly what will happen.

Political posturing has consequences and the possible success of US President Barack Obama’s dovish foreign policies over warmongering hawks will not be lost on anyone in Washington. 

In March, the US capital witnessed a rare and unusual event. The prime minister of a foreign country took the podium at the US Congress and bad mouthed a sitting president in cooperation with his domestic political opponents. This act by Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu will certainly have consequences if and when Obama signs the Iran nuclear deal despite the objections of his Republican opponents and right wing Israelis.

The $64,000 question is how the White House will respond to Netanyahu after the dust settles. While the US will continue to support Israel militarily (Obama has done more in this regard than any previous president), the political trail will certainly be different. 

In Israel, Netanyahu’s actions and demeanour are coming under questioning. Knesset member Yair Lapid from the Yesh Atid Party has called on the Israeli prime minister to resign for his role in causing a rift in relations between Israel and its main remaining ally, the United States.

The successful resolution of the negotiations with Iran will most likely free up the US and many of its Western allies to pursue the Palestine issue more vigorously. The diplomatic success in Vienna and the unity that was witnessed in the talks will no doubt be revisited as the world community looks at ways to try and resolve one of the most difficult conflicts remaining in the world. The fact that the pro Israel lobby has been weakened by exposing American Jewry to accusations of dual loyalty will no doubt weaken this lobby’s attempts to restrain the US government from pushing for a solution to the Palestinian issue.

It is still too early to predict if the nuclear deal will also bring some positive change in Iran’s regional and international policies, especially in Syria and Yemen. Also, many will be looking to see if Iran will have a moderating effect on its supporters in the region, including Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

But perhaps the most important capital to keep an eye on will continue to be Washington. A rejuvenated US president who is witnessing an increase in his favourability rating will want to leave a strong impression in history books as to his legacy. He has yet to close down the Guantanamo prison and help bring about peace in the Middle East.

Will America’s 44th president, whose ratings are on the rise due to supreme court wins and a better economy, use this historic foreign policy success to push for peace in the Middle East or will he be in a mood to appease Israel and his domestic opponents?

In a case dealing with the US State Department’s insistence not to define Israelis and Palestinians born in Jerusalem as being born in Israel, the president won a clear mandate for America’s executive branch. 

The US Supreme Court ruled this summer that the president as head of the executive branch has the sole power to recognise states. 

It is highly unlikely that Obama, even in the last year and a half of his second term, will surprise the world by recognising Palestine. But the US president can simply refrain from vetoing pro -Palestinian statehood resolutions in the UN Security Council that have worldwide consensus. The French continue to insist that they are working on the language of a draft resolution they plan to submit to the Security Council. Worldwide support with a possible US abstention could possibly be a game changer in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

 

The Iran deal is specifically about the nuclear capacity of the Islamic republic, but the reverberation of this agreement can go a long way in changing the dark paradigm in the Middle East. If this positive step can be built on with goodwill it is not impossible to see that the deal worked out in Vienna can help kick start and possibly even resolve the decades old Palestine issue. 

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