Middle East stability depends on dialogue at the negotiating table

Different leaders in the region agree that they must focus their efforts on negotiating if they want to reach a situation of stability.
Anwar Gargash, Foreign Advisor to the President of the United Arab Emirates

AFP/KARIM SAHIB  -   Anwar Gargash, Foreign Advisor to the President of the United Arab Emirates

It may seem logical, but looking back, dialogue between countries in the Middle East region has been conspicuous by its absence when most needed. But there has been no shortage of armed conflict. From Yemen to Iran to the seemingly incombustible terrorist threat. Far from sitting down to reconcile positions, the focus has been on confrontation and dispute, which has not - and never will - put an end to the differences between the countries that share the geographical area stretching from the Red Sea to the Gulf. 

One of the conflicts that has generated, and still does, most controversy, is the one involving Israel and Palestine. During this week of lectures organised by Brookings Foreign Affairs under the title "The Middle East and the New US Administration", it has been one of the most recurrent themes since it began on Monday 22 February. As former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on that first day of meetings: "Biden's goal must be to restore the trust that Trump swept away". And this is a task that the new US administration is convinced it can accomplish. Of course, it will not be easy, but the vision of the countries surrounding Israel is clear: the situation is untenable and change must be imminent.  

Abdullah Il ibn al-Hussein, King of Jordan, has been the first to refer to a conflict that could not be closer to home. He has done so with a more critical than optimistic outlook. The Jordanian people's weariness is clear: “So you can only imagine the frustration of the people still living in the midst of this protracted conflict, unable to move forward,” the king said. On the other hand, he wanted to make his country's position on the conflict clear at all times. He believes that one must be clear, especially on an issue that has been shaking the stability of the Middle East for so many years, such as that of Palestine. He expressed his firm support for the Palestinian people: “The Palestinian people have a right to an independent, viable and sovereign state on the June 4, 1967, lines, to live alongside Israel in peace and security”, and added that the path of dialogue must be found not only for their own stability, but also because “we owe this to our world”.  

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Dina Kawar, Jordan's ambassador to the United States, has a very similar perception to that of Al-Hussein, and is even clearer about her country's position, believing that "Palestine suffers from an Israeli occupation". She adds that it is up to the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make an initial rapprochement and to do its part to find the path of dialogue: "It is Israel that must take a step forward". Despite Israel's support from the United States, Jordan is grateful for the new position adopted by the White House after the arrival of Joe Biden to power, as, they say, "they are very happy with the Biden Administration's position on the Middle East". Moreover, they believe that the path followed by Donald Trump over the past four years was unsustainable and that the arrival of the Democrats brings "a breath of fresh air for everyone".  

The vision put forward by the Jordanian representatives was not the only one present on this third day of presentations in reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Anwar bin Mohamed Gargash, diplomatic advisor to Emirati President Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, also spoke of the importance that Jordan can play in this matter: "We believe that we can be a great help in the Israel-Palestine conflict. He is not the first, nor is he likely to be the last, to lend a hand in this conflict. If one thing is clear, it is that the stakes in this part of the map are high, and any country that can take advantage of a third party's problem will do so. However, he agrees with the views of Jordan's King Abdullah Il ibn al-Hussein and the Jordanian ambassador to the US: "Palestine has a legitimate right to be independent".  

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Gargash admits that they are not a major player in this conflict, but at the same time shows the double side of the coin. On the one hand, they openly express support for what they consider to be the legitimate independence of the Palestinian people, but on the other, they talk about the bridges they have been building over the years with Israel and the support they "will always show for it". It is here that UAE, a country on the rise, comes in as a mediator and wants to show the fruits of its good diplomatic relations with neighbouring Israel.  

The UAE president's advisor did not want to stop there and expressed his concern regarding another major international conflict, that of the Iran nuclear deal. He stresses that "The Biden administration is doing the right thing with Iran in terms of prioritising diplomacy", since the positions seem immovable and he does not rule out the possibility that the tense situation could lead to more serious consequences. He therefore stresses the vital importance that "the solution that is found must be a stable one". They cannot and do not want to continue to put up with moments of tension or temporary patches that only prolong a situation of "false stability".  And that we must look beyond finding it. Iran must have a prosperous future, although it is clear that this cannot be a short-term objective, but it must always be present when implementing policies such as the ones at hand.  

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A good example of this is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Amos Yadlin, executive director of the National Security Institute at Tel Aviv University, was highly critical: "Diplomacy with Iran will fail, sanctions must be applied". Already since Barack Obama's presidency there has been a tension that has grown over the years to the point where it is today - Israel feels threatened. It is not Europe or the United States that should be concerned about Iran's possible nuclear actions; it is on Israel, says Yadlin, that they have their sights set.  

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"It's the number one concern for Israel right now," said the executive director of Tel Aviv University's National Security Institute. He even went a step further: "The option of military action would be an absolute disaster, which, on the other hand, we should not rule out". A warning not only for his country but for the whole world community, which, in order to begin to see the light of day in the Middle East, can only opt for dialogue and understanding.