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Herziliya Conference 2013 (I)

Published on 06 April 2013, by M. Tomazy.

The US, with European support, should reinforce the Sunni Coalition and create incentives for cooperation with the West 
and Israel. They must support the peace process and promote feasible regional change through a grand bargain that 
would address the following goals:
(a) Preventing Iranian military nuclearization and contain its hegemonic ambitions by providing Western strategic
(b) Encouraging rich Middle East countries to allocate sufficient resources toward the economic recovery of
flagging Arab countries, such as Egypt and Jordan;
(c) Reaching an agreement on addressing the security risks of ill-governed regions (Syria and the Sinai Peninsula);
(d) Advancing the Israeli-Palestinian process through a broader Israeli-Arab process;
(e) Stopping the export of radical Islamist indoctrination to the West.
This approach underlines that the Israeli-Palestinian impasse alone is not the primary challenge in the Middle East.
Rather, it places the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in a broader regional context leveraging the commonality of
interests in tackling the regional macro challenges. Such a grand bargain could facilitate a pro-peace coalition where the
regional partners would concretely contribute to Middle East security and benefit from the greater sum than of all parts –
a more benign strategic environment. Constructing a Middle East grand bargain mandates strategic thinking and a
broad regional understanding, emboldened by leadership and statesmanship. This would be a worthy challenge for
President Obama’s second term and it would allow his administration to shift focus to Asia.
A regional grand bargain would allow Israel not only to move ahead in the peace process, but could offer Israel a
constructive regional role. In addressing the emerging regional landscape – against the backdrop of global power shifts –
Israel must develop a broader strategic view combining both military and political resources. Israel must be more engaged
in shaping the regional future and addressing the Middle East socio-economic crisis, even if only in a tacit manner.
Israel’s regional contribution will not be matched with normalization, at least not in the short term. However, Israel has a
vested interest in improving Middle East economic prospects, which are an essential component of regional peace and
Israel ought to be concerned by the US’ diminishing interest in the Middle East, which continues to be a basic pillar of
Israel’s national security and foreign policy. In other words, a ‘strong’ US in the Middle East is of vital interest to Israel. As
American concern moves elsewhere, a regional pro-peace and security coalition seems to be the most relevant
mechanism for maintaining effective US engagement. Furthermore, by enhancing its own global and regional
involvement, Israel could bolster its strategic posture as an asset to the US. This in itself is critical at a time when more
voices (though a minority) in the US policy community question the strategic importance of Israel for the US.