US ambassador rejects talk of Iran-Palestinian ‘linkage’

While some Israeli officials endorse the connection, Dan Shapiro says peace process has no bearing on efforts to deny Iran the bomb

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro speaks at the Jewish Federations' General Assembly (GA) in Jerusalem on November 11, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)
US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro speaks at the Jewish Federations' General Assembly (GA) in Jerusalem on November 11, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)

The United States hasn’t tied progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the US ambassador to Israel said Monday morning, playing down recent chatter regarding a possible “linkage” between the two diplomatic processes.

“There is no connection between these two issues,” Dan Shapiro told Army Radio. “These two issues are connected to Israel’s security, our security, and the security of the entire Middle East, for a quieter and more stable region. But we do not see in this any connection in which we are required to give in one and receive in the other.”

Shapiro’s comments came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly linked the two subjects, something Israeli leaders have tried to steer clear of in the past.

Shapiro stressed that there is “total agreement on the strategic goals in the Middle East, in connection both with Iran and with the Palestinian peace talks.”

“We are truly getting past the disagreement over the first-stage deal” with Iran, reached in November in Geneva, he explained, “and are beginning the process of coordinating our positions regarding the permanent solution.”

Netanyahu, addressing the Saban Forum in Washington, DC, on Sunday, said, “Our best efforts to reach Palestinian-Israeli peace will come to nothing if Iran succeeds in building atomic bombs. A nuclear-armed Iran would give even greater backing to the radical and terrorist elements in the region. It would undermine the chances of arriving at a negotiated peace.”

Since the early years of the Obama administration, Israel has pushed back against attempts by American policy-makers to forge a link between the Iranian nuclear threat and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, it appears that with the US under pressure to be tough on Iran as it negotiates a long-term nuclear deal, Israeli officials have become more amenable to the idea of a connection between the two issues.

Linkage, one official said, could be more than just acknowledging — as US Secretary of State John Kerry did — that Israel’s overall sense of security impacts on its willingness to participate in the peace process. Rather, linkage could — and should — the official argued, be a powerful Israeli strategy to survive the coming months.

“We come in from a perspective of maybe we give a little on this one, in exchange for perhaps a few concessions on that one,” said the official, a veteran negotiator.

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