Δευτέρα, 20 Ιουλίου 2015

"It is in Israel’s interest that the two-state solution will remain feasible and will be promoted"



Dr. Nimrod Goren is the Founder and Chairman of Mitvim - The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies and a Teaching Fellow in Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He holds a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies and Political Psychology from the Hebrew University, and his dissertation topic was "The role of external incentives in promoting peace: the cases of Israel and Turkey". After completing his doctorate, Nimrod was selected to take part in Public Policy training at Syracuse University as the Israeli participant in the 2009-10 US State Department's Fulbright Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program. Nimrod is the former Executive Director of the Young Israeli Forum for Cooperation (YIFC), and in this capacity he was awarded the 2009 Victor J. Goldberg IIE Prize for Peace in the Middle East. In addition, Nimrod has worked at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, the Nehemia Levtzion Center for Islamic Studies, and the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace. He is a Board Member at MALI – The Center for Enterprising Citizens, and his areas of expertise include the Middle East peace process, Israel’s foreign policy, and modern Turkey. 

In the context of Bridging Dialogue Initiative, Dimitris Rapidis discussed with Dr Goren over Israel and the United States, the outcome of the elections in the country, Iran's nuclear program, cooperation between Israel and Turkey, the energy triangle Israel, Cyprus, Greece, ISIL, and the quest for independence from the Palestinians.
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1. What is the current state of bilateral relations between Israel and the United States?

The special relations between Israel and the US have been suffering from tensions over the past months. These vary in nature – some are related to foreign policy issues regarding which the two countries do not see eye-to-eye; some are related to the cold personal relations between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, and; some are related to domestic affairs in both Israel and the US. The key policy differences relate to the Palestinian issue and to Iran. While the US strongly supports a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the current Israeli government does not see it as a feasible (and for some ministers, even a desired) option. While the US believes it can negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, which will also enhance Israel’s security, the Israeli government opposes the progress made between the P5+1 and Iran. Other bi-lateral tensions relate to American criticism on pre-election statements made by Netanyahu regarding the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to the intervention of Netanyahu in domestic American politics (i.e. the speech in Congress, just before the Israeli election). The special relations with the US are perhaps the single most important foreign policy and national security asset that Israel has, and the Israeli government should handle them with care, prevent further deterioration, and put them back on track. Progress in the peace process with the Palestinians is vital for making this fix, but seems unlikely in the near future.


2. Which are your thoughts on the outcome of the recent elections in Israel?

For the first time in a decade and a half there were actual prospects for the Israeli center-left to come back to power. However, election results eventually led to the formation of a right-wing government, which enjoys the slightest possible majority in the Knesset (61 coalition members vs. 59 opposition members). These results bring more clarity to the Israeli political system. Past right-wing government also included moderate centrist parties, that helped the Prime Minister lessen international pressures and engage in some (futile) negotiations with the Palestinians. The current government does not include such parties. Moreover, it includes members that openly oppose the two-state solution. Prospects for renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are slim, and this may endanger Israel security, identity, and international status. In such a context, the Israeli opposition, which is now stronger than before and which also includes for the first time a joint Arab list, should act together and present a coherent alternative to the government’s policies – an alternative which highlights the necessity of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement and which advocates for increased integration of Israel within its surrounding regions and the international community.


3. Is Israel disappointed with the outcome of the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program?

The Israeli Prime Minister does not see hope in the negotiation process taking place with Iran. His wish, which he presents on multiple international stages, is for the West to impose further sanctions on Iran, and to keep Iran isolated and as far away as possible from developing nuclear capabilities. However, this seems to be a fight for a lost cause. Israel should acknowledge as fait accompli the policy that its allies in the West are pursuing regarding Iran, and should engage more with the P5+1, as to ensure that its interests are represented in the best way possible around the negotiations table.


4. What is the degree of regional cooperation between Israel and Turkey?

There is currently a political deadlock between Israel and Turkey. In early 2014, the two countries came close to signing an agreement that will settle the differences between them regarding the Mavi Marmara flotilla crisis and that will enable the normalization of ties. Eventually, the draft agreement was not endorsed by the political level, and during the Gaza war relations deteriorated further. Nevertheless, in parallel to the political crisis between the countries, their economic ties are blooming. The trade volume between Israel and Turkey is currently at its highest level ever, and Turkish goods are finding their ways to Middle Eastern markets after being shipped through Israel. However, the relations between societies and leaders remain sour, with a lack of mutual trust. Without a political breakthrough, the two countries cannot cooperate regarding the natural gas reservoirs in the eastern Mediterranean, and are missing out on further economic benefits. With no progress in sight between Israel and the Palestinians, it is difficult to see Israel-Turkey relations dramatically improving. Yet, after the general election in Turkey, we may very well see the resumption of talks between the countries, in an attempt to find some mechanism of moving forward. In the meantime, civil society actors – like the Mitvim Institute and the GPoT Center – are carrying out second-track initiatives to promote the mending of bi-lateral ties and to enable experts from both countries to jointly analyze the changes occurring in the Middle East.


5. Do you believe that the cooperation between Israel, Greece and Cyprus in the field of energy will last and be fruitful for all parts involved? What you could consider as geopolitical challenges against this partnership?

The natural gas findings in the eastern Mediterranean have served as a catalyst for new alliances, as well as for new tensions. One visible outcome is the increased cooperation between Israel, Cyprus and Greece, which also evolved as a response to the Arab Spring. Egypt is recently becoming a part of this axis as well. The Israeli decision regarding export destinations of its natural gas has yet to be made, and can eventually involve Israel’s immediate neighbors rather than Cyprus and Greece. When dealing with this issue, Israel should aspire to avoid zero-sum alliances in the eastern Mediterranean (i.e. an anti-Turkey alliance), and seek paths for win-win regional formulas. Israel should become a constructive regional player, that utilizes its new natural resources to build better ties with its neighbors and to assist conflict resolution in the region (i.e. in Cyprus).


6. What is your opinion on the quest of Palestinians for sovereignty and the fact that a growing number of states recognize it?

It is in Israel’s interest that the two-state solution will remain feasible and will be promoted. Therefore, Israel should welcome developments that consolidate a two-state reality. Such was the UN vote in late 2012 on the recognition of a Palestinian state. The growing number of states recognizing a Palestinian state is a counter-reaction to the lack of progress in the peace process, and a sign that the international community is losing patience with Israel. This can lead to further pressures on Israel, but it also leads the international community to seek incentives it can offer the Israeli public, in order to convince that peace is necessary and worthy. Such incentives include the EU’s offer to Israel (and the Palestinians) for a Special Privileged Partnership with the EU, once the two-state solution is achieved, and the Arab Peace Initiative, which has been on the table for over a decade. Apart of this, there is currently a French initiative to promote a UN Security Council Resolution that will spell out parameters for the two-state solution, and will possibly include a timeline for their implementation. These various moves are  all about clarity – what a final-status agreement will look like, what will be the benefits for from a peace agreement, and what will be the costs in the absence of such an agreement.


7.  Could Israel undertake a global initiative against ISIL in order to bring back security and normalization in the Middle East? 

Israel is limited in its ability to lead processes in the Middle East due to its conflict with the Arab world. Nevertheless, the changes in the region do create new opportunities for Israel to engage with some Arab countries, mostly behind the scenes. Such cooperation is often centered on joint concerns regarding Iran. IS does not pose an immediate threat to Israel, except for possible instability in Jordan due to possible further IS advancements in Iraq and Syria. Israel is not a member of the international anti-IS coalition, and thus is not a central actor on this issue, although it does follow the issue closely. The rise of the IS also increase Israeli perceptions of the Middle East as an unstable and dangerous neighborhood.
Interview held by Dimitris Rapidis, Director @BridgingEurope
sourche: http://www.bridgingeurope.net/interview-with-dr-nimrod-goren-founder-and-chairman-of-mitvim.html

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