As America Withdraws from the Middle East, Israel Needs to Resolve Conflict with Palestinians—or Face Iran Alone | Opinion

President Trump's feeble response to last month's attack on Saudi oil installations and his abandoning of the Kurds in Northern Syria proved once and for all that United States under his presidency is withdrawing from the Middle East.

One phone call from Turkish President Erdogan was enough for Trump to give Turkey a green light to invade Syria and smash the Kurds. US allies in the region are asking themselves when the phone call from Iran's President Rouhani to Trump would arrive—the one that will be followed by a deal with Iran at the expense of US allies. Trump's desire to obtain such a deal is obvious. It can happen, and the Iranian regime will outsmart America again. Tehran has patience and a long-term approach: Give up nuclear weapon production in exchange for preserving the regime, its economic assets and its quest for regional hegemony.

Iran was not punished for its attack on Saudi Arabia. To the contrary—it was rewarded by US recent moves and can now expand its military entrenchment into northeast Syria.

Consequently, the non-Islamist states in the region, those who are not ready to be in the sphere of influence of fanatic Shiite Islam or the Muslim Brotherhood, are left without a strategic ally to rely on. And not only against Iran. Erdogan is revealed as a ruler with imperial ambitions, without inhibitions. We must take very seriously Erdogan's statement on September 4th at his AK party rally about Turkey's right to have a nuclear weapon.

The countries I refer to have no choice but to rely on themselves and cement their alliance. Only the combination of the economic and political strength of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and more countries, together with Israel's technologic and military capabilities, can build a regional deterrence.

But why isn't such a new alliance being created?

The reason is an issue everyone prefers to ignore, to forget, to sweep under the rug: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Israel a quiet, invisible change is under way. Netanyahu is losing the magic touch that enabled him to rule for more than a decade. His intimate alliance with Trump and his entourage, not with America, is exposed as a colossal strategic failure.

These factors create a situation in which a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue would be possible. But it can't happen via an amateurish plan of Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who just announced a visit to Israel on the 27th that will "focus" on this plan. Rather, a different platform should serve as the basis for these negotiations, and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Integrating several plans, understandings and ideas that were proposed in the past and gained even partial acceptance by the parties is all that is required.

This platform stands on four of these pillars (in chronological order): President Clinton's Parameters announced in 2000; The Arab Peace Initiative first proposed in 2002, with a new annex about a regional defense and security cooperation; the understandings achieved by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in 2008; and General John Allen's plan for security cooperation developed in 2013-2014.

The Arab Peace Initiative (API) is still supported by most of the Arab states, 17 years after the late Saudi King Fahd proposed it. It would provide Israel with full normal relations with the Arab states when it stops its occupation of Palestinian territories and a Palestinian state is established. To make this normalization more tangible and attractive for the Israeli people, a security and defense annex should be added to the original text of API, spelling out the cooperation between Israel and the Arab states, primarily to confront the common threats posed by the Iranian regime and radical organizations.

President Clinton offered his "Parameters" in the last days of his presidency in December 2000—his final effort to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian agreement for which he worked diligently. These "Clinton Parameters" include practical principles on thorny core issues like Jerusalem and refugees.

General Allen's security plan, part of a broader Obama administration effort, sought to meet Israel's requirements for security and Palestinians' need for sovereignty. The highly regarded general authored a detailed and highly professional blueprint and held comprehensive, constructive discussions with senior IDF generals. But then-Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon refused to officially respond. Allen's plan is still accepted by the Palestinian Authority.

The most important pillar of the renewed negotiations platform is the understandings reached by Abbas and Olmert during the summer and autumn of 2008. Contrary to a mistaken common understanding, these were not rejected by Abbas. They were not implemented because Olmert was at the end of his term after his own party prevented him from remaining in power. They are the closest thing to a comprehensive agreement ever achieved, as the remaining gaps in all the issues, including core issues, are minimal and bridgable. They form the best basis for restarting negotiations.

Those seeking a new regional balance of power can use a combination of these four documents. This amalgam enjoys broad Arab endorsement, includes serious initiatives of former US administrations, and comprises Israeli-Palestinian understandings achieved at the highest official levels.

With a storm gathering over the Middle East, it is time to act.

Ephraim Sneh is a former Israel Deputy Minister of Defense, retired Israel Defense Forces general and Chairman of S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue at Netanya Academic College.

As America Withdraws from the Middle East, Israel Needs to Resolve Conflict with Palestinians—or Face Iran Alone | Opinion | Opinion