Wednesday, March 18, 2015

If Bi Bi Loses...

1. In the last year, peace talks with Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority have hit a complete dead end, with relentless mutual attacks in the media between Netanyahu and Abbas. Netanyahu has gone so far as to say Abbas should be blamed for inciting Palestinians to carry out terror attacks in Jerusalem. 
Herzog and Livni will do everything in their power to try and restart the delicate peace talks. Livni has held Abbas's trust in the past, and she even met with the Fatah leader in London, without authorization from Netanyahu. In the past few days, the Palestinians have threatened to cut off security ties with Israel - Abbas himself recently said that a decision won't be made until after the Israeli election. If Herzog wins and becomes the next prime minister, Herzog and Abbas are very likely to work out a deal on security cooperation. Herzog will also reach out to Abbas to kick peace talks back into gear.
2. Herzog will view a mending of relations with the  administration as an essential first step. It is important to note that when Herzog was given the opportunity to travel to Washington with Netanyahu to address the U.S. Congress on Iran, Herzog declined the invitation. Herzog's government is sure to avoid such contentious moves as announcing settlement construction plans while a top U.S. official visits Jerusalem, and Herzog's coalition will go to work immediately to re-establish strong ties with Washington. If Herzog forms a government, an invitation to the White House should soon follow. Netanyahu and Herzog have similar policies toward Iran, but Herzog has said he believes it is important to work with the  administration and other Western countries rather than circumventing the president and speaking directly to the U.S. Congress while slamming the 44th administration through the media. 

3. The Middle East has been profoundly and permanently reshaped by the Arab Spring, and for the first time in Israel's history, the tiny Jewish state finds itself sharing an array of interests with its Arab neighbors. A Herzog-led government is sure to take an interest in working with those countries, and it would not surprise me to see such an administration cooperate quietly with neighbors that share its goals. Opportunities abound: In the past month, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi declared Hamas a terrorist organization and vowed to keep militants in Sinai from attacking Egyptian troops. Security analysts have noted that Israel's security cooperation with Cairo is the closest it has ever been, and it will only get closer so long as Sisi stays in power. Israel's stance on Iran also increasingly dovetails with the views of Arab states. Saudi Arabia doesn't want Iran to acquire nuclear weapons any more than Israel does, and Riyadh could find itself working with Israel to make sure it doesn't happen.