A nine month peace process between Israel and Palestine came to an unsuccessful close on Tuesday. Each side has predictably levied blame on the other for this latest failure, as well as directing blame at the United States and Secretary of State John Kerry, who acted as mediator for the discussions.
The abandonment of negotiations has naturally given rise to interpretation and debate among policymakers and political commentators. And while most of that conversation has remained narrowly focused on Israeli or Palestinian intransigence, the Iranian regime has also come up in assessments both of the cause of the failure and its likely consequences.
Although there has not been universal agreement on the exact reason for the talks breaking down, it is well recognized that Israel elected to cancel meetings after the announcement of a Palestinian unity deal that would have included Hamas as part of a new Palestinian government. Naturally, this potential inclusion of what it considers a terrorist organization helped to put Israel off of additional negotiations.
Writing for The Atlantic, David Rohde points out that Iran may have had a more oblique influence on the derailment of the peace talks by way of its general influence in the Middle East. “Regional powers Saudi Arabia and Egypt are… distracted by their struggles with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood and less likely to give political cover to the Palestinians,” he writes.
Rohde goes on to say that a number of policy experts have expressed concern that Secretary Kerry’s failure to broker peace after these long talks may further diminish US harm in the region, which some say has already been hampered by an excessively soft approach to nuclear negotiations and economic sanctions. Experts say that the potential loss of credibility could actually unseat Kerry as Secretary of State.
As long as he remains in his position, however, Kerry seems to remain subject to criticisms of his approach to Middle Eastern issues, which certain commentators in both the US and Israel have described as excessively broad or incorrectly focused. Rohde quotes George Perkovich, a nonproliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, as making just such a claim. Meanwhile, the Washington Post highlights the more specific criticisms of Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, who believes that with his own nation’s peace talks concluded, the US should be turning its attention more directly on Iran:
On Sunday, Netanyahu marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with a speech that did not mention the peace talks but instead warned that 2014 reminded him of the 1930s and the rise of Hitler in a Nazi Germany that he compared to Iran.
Netanyahu takes a particularly strong view of the possibility of Iranian nuclear weapons development, and has made clear that he believes Iran to be a much greater threat to Middle East and global peace than the longstanding conflict between Israel and Palestine.