Israel Policy Pod

An Ambassador's Perspective

March 09, 2021 Israel Policy Forum
Israel Policy Pod
An Ambassador's Perspective
Chapters
Israel Policy Pod
An Ambassador's Perspective
Mar 09, 2021
Israel Policy Forum

Ambassador Daniel Shapiro shares his insights on the current issues shaping the Biden administration's reorientation of U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Show Notes Transcript

Ambassador Daniel Shapiro shares his insights on the current issues shaping the Biden administration's reorientation of U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Susie Gelman:

Hello, everyone. Thank you very much for joining us today. My name is Susie Gelman and I'm privileged to serve as the board chair of Israel Policy Forum. If you're joining Israel ,Policy Forum for the first time today, I want to welcome you. And if you are a returning viewer, let me welcome you back. As we reflect on the impact of the past four years on our vision of a Jewish, democratic and secure Israel. And as we look ahead to what the next four years may bring, we are seeking to frame our work with a set of policy recommendations for the Biden administration and members of Congress. This package of proposals aims to achieve a realistic reset in us foreign policy in the Middle East, strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship and Israeli security rebuilding us Palestinian ties, expanding Israel's regional integration and preserving a political horizon for a two-state solution. The realistic reset project will define the work of Israel Policy Forum in the months ahead with special podcasts articles and other digital resources, and will inform our work on Capitol Hill. We are excited to further explore some of these topics with you on today's webinar. Today's webinar is made possible by the generous support of our donors for those donors joining us today. Thank you. Your generosity is critical in helping us reach tens of thousands of policymakers , community leaders, journalists, and interested individuals like today's audience members. If you're not yet an Israel Policy Forum donor, please join us and visit Israelpolicyforum.org forward slash giving to make a gift today. Thank you now onto today's program. As I mentioned, one of the pillars of our realistic reset model is strengthening the U S Israel relationship. And today we're most fortunate to be joined by a good friend of Israel Policy Forum, and a good friend of ours, mine who knows that relationship extremely well. Ambassador Dan Shapiro, Dan is a distinguished visiting fellow at the Institute for national security studies in Israel, in Tel Aviv, and served as us ambassador to Israel from 2011 to 2017. He previously served as senior director for the Middle East and North Africa on the U S national security council with that. Dan, thank you so much for joining us. It's great to be with you, Susie . Thank you so much. Um, so to start things off then the Biden administration is, you know, as publicly committed itself to two-state parameters, what is the significance of this given that the administration has also stated that it does not want to see restarting a peace process as an immediate priority? Well, I do think it's that

Ambassador Dan Shapiro:

They have established this very clearly as the strategic objective of us policy, which is different from the near term , effort that they will necessarily be undertaking. but they've stated it very clearly, t hat the goal of us po licy remains, a n d the us i nt e rests rem ains to achieve a two- state sol ution. That is the end of the Isra eli Pal e stinian con flict. And it has been described by secretary of state Blinken and others as the only, co n ceivable end of th is conflict in which Israel can remain a Jewish and democratic state and in which, Pal e stinians can achieve their legitimate, righ t s for statehood in a place of inner s tate o f the ir own. So, first of all, just having that as a, as a , a cle a rly stated objective, I think is very important, but I really want to make su re we think for a minute and emphasize, the, t h e way they talk about democracy. This is not , something that's unique to, the Is raeli-Palestinian c onflict, a mong the, c h allenges that, pr e sident Biden has identified. And secretary Blinken have identified in the world is, cha l lenges to democratic institutions across the democratic world. Obviously, including in the United States, we've had almost a near death experience of our own democracy, culm i nating in a, viol e n t insurrection at the Capitol, just, t wo mon t hs ago. So we're in no position to stake that other s don't have their own challenges and every other democracy in Europe and elsewhere has some version of this. Um, but tha t c oming back to the theme of how will Israel remain a Jewish and democratic state is important because what president B iden is t ousled ta l ked abo ut, is his in t en ti o n t o strengthen the camp of democracies, to have de m ocratic nation stand togeth er, and demonst r ate that that system of government is the one that is most effective in meeting the needs and serving the interests and serving th e r ights of their citizens at a time when I'll talk heresies, Russ ia, Chin a and others are trying to make the opposite case that in fact, their model is the model that should prevail and try to recruit others to their, their SOC. So anything in that context that strengthens Israeli democracy will also strengthen the U S Israel relationship. Anything that would , over time, raise questions is, i s, is, s t ated when, th e worry is of Israel not being a Jewish or de mo cratic state obviously, cou l d pose challenges. So that's the first thing. The second thing I think is important to say is that, they have said, this is thei r clear policy to provide a realistic picture, of wh a t they're working toward. And that's helpful for others, Israelis, Palestinians, other Arab States, Europeans, and others who are int e res ted in, in t hi s part of the world, to adj u st their own expectations and adjust their own policies accordingly but even more importantly, it becomes an organizing principle, an organizing framework, if you will, to meas u re, all of t h e actions that the United States will take and that others take. so I think t hey'll be asking themselves the question as the policy u nfolds in the, in the weeks and months to come, does a given us policy, does i t given us action statement, posture, promote the achievement ultimately of that to s t ate a s olution or not, a re us po licies and programs and diplomatic pos tures co nsistent with achieving that, t o s ta te, ou t come or not. and as I said, it's a tool to assess the actions of other, part i es, as we l l. But as you also stated, they have coupled that very clear principle, with a realistic assessment, that th e time is not right, for, dir e ct ta l ks for negotiations. secretary Blinken was ve ry clea r about that in his confirmation hearing, he doesn't see a near term opportunity. the same leaders are in place for now over a decade Netanyahu and a boss who clearly don't trust each other who clearly have participated in negotiations that didn't succeed. the domestic politics on both sides with elections coming up, certainly in Israeli, m aybe also o n the Palestinian side are extremely complex. The a ttitudes v ery, well measured and , p r ofessional opinion, polls show much more despair, certainly less desire and, and, and bel ief that two States is, is optimal. So, th e y, aren't going to, run full speed at that brick wall. rather they're going to work on improving conditions on the ground and through that, trying to lay the groundwork for some future talks, but in the process, keeping alive, that's really the focus at the moment, keeping alive that strategic objective of a two-state solution.

Susie Gelman:

And how has the Biden administration's work with Israel impacted by the Trump parameters laid out in last year's peace to prosperity plan?

Ambassador Dan Shapiro:

I don't know that it is much , impacted, we haven't heard much about the Trump plan in many months. once it became clear, t h at president Trump was, no t gonna , ser v e a second term, that plan seemed to lose a lot of currency now, and then a and I s r ael i official or think tank, schol a r will suggest a, it st i ll has some residents, but one doesn't hear, very m u ch about it, but it's a huge change. what, the Bide n m ini s trati o n talks abou t when they made a two- stat e s olution f rom what president Trump laid out in that plan. Now, actually it was the first time in his four years. This was at the beginning of year four that he actually used the phrase two-state solution. The, the, t he Tr ump plan does actually use that phrase. Um, but it doe sn't describe actually a two-state solution. Describe something else. It describes , isolated islands o f very limited Palestinian autonomy, nothing that can be called a state o r sovereign in any, measure, s urrounded by, a n ne xed are as of the West Bank. It was of course worked out only in talks with Israel. There was no Palestinian input into it. Um, and so I think it will be important to be clear, ov e r time. It may not be in the first couple of months, but, tha t , that ' s not the model, when t he Obama administration speaks of their goal of two States, that's not the model. And indeed the Trump plan was a real outlier, really aberration, if you will, from what any previous administration of both parties, certainly since negotiations, began, Sydney b ec ame se rious in the Oslo era of the Clinton, Bush, Clinton, and Bush and Obama administrations, all had a different concept of what that two-state solution they were, working t o ward was then, and, and s o mething a lot more in c omm on across them than what, pr esid ent T r ump, laid out. Now there could be some useful concepts within the Trump , plan on regional matters, maybe on economic matters, maybe on some, some, economic development opportunities. And so it's possible that one can find and draw out th e, the useful elements, but as a whole, I don't think it will have much influence on the, B iden approach. Um, an d it wi l l be important to make that clear. At some point, they'll have to decide whether they will in a formal way, discard it, o r just ignore it. but I think, eit h er way, it's becoming clear by the day that that's not the model. And so that plan won't be very relevant going forward.

Susie Gelman:

Let me just ask a follow about this. I don't want to spend a lot of time on the Trump land cause we have a lot of other things to talk about, but in terms of the mindset of Israeli politicians, and as you note, there's an election coming up exactly two weeks from today. And a couple of people who would like to unseat prime minister Netanyahu, you don't stop and Naftali Bennett , certainly have not made any pretense of their commitment to annex the West Bank. As you know, Dan, the Trump plan envisioned annexing 30% of the West Bank Area C, so just from the standpoint of Israeli political figures, and maybe it's not a feature an issue in this election per se, but do you think the Trump plan from an I sraeli standpoint is still relevant? Is this something that has moved the goalposts for h is Israeli elected officials at all? Or can we just sort of toss it onto the dustbin of history?

Ambassador Dan Shapiro:

It's interesting how little discussion there is of it , in t he Israeli election campaign o r r eally o f the Palestinian issue generally, but, anything about annexation, anything about the Trump plan or even expectations for what, p resident Biden will do? it's hardly on the public's agenda now it's true that, at least the two parties you mentioned you don't sorry , new hope party and the t ele Benn e t's Yami na party, are essentially, as we understand it, supp o rtive of, of annexation but they're recall e d, it wa s really taken off the table by prime minister Netanyahu, at th e time of the normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates. it was a commitment made to the UAE for a specific number of years, that th e y would not return to, annexati o n. The UAE has cited, nume rous t imes. In fact, their ambassador in Washington, who was Phil ip t ape . We just said it last week , that this was one of the core reasons they chose that moment to normalize was to take annexation off the table. So it would be quite a reversal of that commitment to at any time in the coming years, go back to that. But it was also said clearly at the time that annexation could only take place with the support of the United States, the Trump administration was somewhat divided on whether that annexation should take place right u p f ront, or only as a later outgrowth of talks. and when it became clear that, t he prevailing view was that it shouldn't happen, u p fr ont, it was on hold, unt i l there was an agreement to do it while there will never be a, in m y judgment. of course I don't speak for the Biden administration, but there would n ever be a moment when a Biden administration will, give a , an American approval or imprimatur to, to ann e xation. So I think , Israelis generally understand that this is not, on the agenda. the Trump plan itself, as I said, doesn't get much, m u ch discussion now, lo o k in four years or in ei gh t years, dep e nding on what's happened on the ground and depending on who returns to office or, or w ho is in office, in t h e United States, one could imagine, some I sraeli leader trying to resurrect the Trump plan or aspect o f it. but it won't have much life in it for the next four years. And I think it's going to be hard to see it returning to releva nc e after th at time, but obviously there's so many unknowns associated with that prediction. You're muted, Susie.

Susie Gelman:

I don't know how I did that. I didn't touch it. Oh, well, it's the Poltergeist in my Mac book. Oon annexation while as you just alluded to Dan, the MRR he's made , abandoning formal annexation, which looked very real last summer. We remember, y ou k now, the July 1st deadline and it looked like it was going to happen. And then as you pointed out, B B pulled back because of the A braham A ccords, particularly with the UAE, but at the same time, there is creeping annexation that's going on. U m, there's, t here a re facts that are changing on the ground, and i t's, it's sort of interesting to me that the M RI, t hese, I don't know if they are paying attention to that aspect of real politic in Israel today, I'm referring to examples like E va tomatoes, which is looking more likely to actually get built, which as, you know, harms of c ontiguity between Bethlehem Ra mallah, Jerusalem, East Jerusalem, u m , a nd other, there are other moves being taken to retroactively recognize illegal outposts and make them settlements. So I do think even th e f ormal annexation is not an issue right now. We do have to maintain a concern about defacto, if not de ssert, annexation, just wondering if you have any further thoughts on that before I move on.

Ambassador Dan Shapiro:

When we talk about , the Biden administration using the commitment, to a two-state solution on the model that we're more accustomed to, a s the measure, f o r how to judge its own posture and own policies, but also how to judge the actions of others. I think that's very relevant here. the s ecr etary Blinken has said repeatedly, tha t , the U nit ed States opposes unilate ral steps by either sock tha t wi ll make it harder to achieve a two-state solution. he specifies, the exp a nsion of settlements, as one o f those, spec ifies discussion of annexation, as one of t hose who, of course, specifies actions by the Palestinians payments to terrorists in prison, other forms of dealer generalization and incitement to violence. and so there's a clear expectation that, the parties w i ll not take those actions, which are fundamentally at odds with, that two state outcome an d a cr eeping annexation is different from a formal all at once annexation, but it certainly is inconsistent. And I think , that will be a discussion. And I think it is already a discussion, between Israel and the UAE, a nd perhaps some of the other Arab States who have either already normalized or are co nsidering normalizing. I work with, so m e wonderful colleagues at ISS who have traveled to, Abu Dhabi since the, sinc e the agreement was reached and are in reg u la r touch now with co coll ea gues there. Um, and it is indeed a subject that comes up, that t h e UAE expectations of what, how, how this relationship will unfold, are now hitting some interesting, confront a tions with the reality. they were told annexation was off the table, but they can see some other things are happening. Um, there's o f c ourse, Israeli politics going on, which makes it a little hard to sometimes proceed with certain, other aspec t s of the relationship prime minister Netanyahu's intended visit to the UAE has been postponed a number of times. It appears it won't happen before the election. So the UAE is figuring out how this , reality, c omports with what their expectations were. And it's not just about them. Of course, if we look over the horizon to other Arab States who hopefully will also take a big step toward normalization, and ev eryone asks about the Saudis, t h ere is, a r easonable expectation that those Arab States also will come with expectations requests, som e , desi r e not to be embarrassed if they move forward with annexation and, want t o not see, action s taken by Israel that really undercut the prospects of two State s.

Susie Gelman:

Broadly speaking, Dan, how are Israelis responding to a new U.S. Administration after four years of high levels of public support in Israel for president Trump

Ambassador Dan Shapiro:

Discussions with Israelis and, you know, my , close following of the Israeli media a nd public discourse. I think there's a broad understanding that, Joe Biden, i s a, i s a friendly president. he has a history and a, a ki n d of a deeply personal, a co m mitment that he is, re a lly carried out throughout his, h is long career in politics to the U S Is r a e l partnership, Israel security to defending Israel anywhere its le git imacy is cal le d the qu est ion. There's actually a lot of appreciation, the very strong from us res po nse to the international criminal core, decl a ring that it would open an inve st igation of the alleged Israeli war crimes. so I think there is, a lot o f appreciation and understanding of that. I think there's also an understanding that he's not Donald Trump, and one , you know, from an Israeli perspective might say for better or worse, they may see that he won't be, supportiv e and on every i ssu e in any every w ay . that president Trump was on the other hand, there's no small measure of relief being expressed quietly, maybe. but that the end of the Trump area, Trump era, especially after the way it ended, a t the Capitol, um , is producing a more normal, more stable, ki n d of U.S. Politics and, and U .S. Administration. but I'll have to be honest, there really isn't all that much coverage, and a ll that discussion of U.S. Middle East policy so far, parti c ularly relating to the Palestinians, which is mostl y been done sort of quietly, maybe a little bit more on Iran, which I guess we'll talk about in a bit. Um, and I'd say for two reasons, one is because it is clear to everybody who observes this, t hat, the Mi d dle East is not as high a priority. It's not unimportant, but it is not of the same level of importance, as the u rgent pressing matters, that pre s ident Biden inherited, crises th a t really probably no presidents s ince Frank lin Delano Roosevelt has inherited and that his total focus on COVID relief and economic recovery and racial justice and climate change. And in the international arena restoring the alliances with NATO and the Asian partners, reestablishing American leadership in multilateral forums and on big transnational issues , dealing with the, now global strategic rivalry with China and dealing with an aggressive Russia. When you put all of those issues on table first as this administration has consistently from day one, it's clear that the Middle East is going to get, n ot the same level, urgent attention, right up fr o nt an d from the highest levels, a s it maybe has in the past. But the other reason there isn't all that much discussion of is t hi s bec ause Israelis quite understandably are caught up in their own, ma t ters. There's an election in two weeks, as you said, and it's the fourth election in, jus t over a year. Um, pe op l e are, are o ve r t wo years, I should say. Um, and so people are following that very closely. There's the, fairl y successful Israeli vaccine distribution and the excitement that that brings a possible, reopen i ng of the country as, they ma y be will get on top of the coronavirus , but with some lingering, anxiety a b out the rather chaotic decision-making around other aspects of managing the pandemic. so I was really a s are, as you'd ex pect focused on what's happening in Israel a lot more than one, than what's happening in Washington

Susie Gelman:

Makes sense. Um, in its final months, the Trump administration instituted a number of policies, reshaping the American approach to its relationship with Israel and these really Palestinian conflict. For instance, there was the new product labeling policy for West bank settlement exports, and the lifting of geographic restrictions barring us taxpayer funding for scientific and commercial projects in the settlements. Where did these stand now?

Ambassador Dan Shapiro:

I don't want to speak obviously for the Biden administration and can't make a specific prediction about actions. I assume those specific, Trump decisions that you mentioned, r elating to settlements are under review, a n d they, wi l l be reviewed. Um, b ut I do look, I do believe over time, as t hey conduct these reviews, they will reverse, or a t least modify in significant ways th e nu mber of, steps that president Trump took, that t h ey will assess. And I would probably agree with that. Assessment are inconsistent, with, t h e, the , the g oal of a, of a, to state of a t wo-st ate outcome. you mentioned settlement labeling, um, or per s e ttl ement pr o duct label ing, well, you kn o w, to l abel products coming from, areas, see in t he West B ank , which has always been an area that is still to be negotiated, most of it anyw a y, and hasn't been a nnexed actually, Israel walked away from t he opportunity to an exit last year, an d is not techni c ally Israel, not legally Israel in that sense. It's not accurate to label , products coming from those areas as, as, maybe in Israel. Um , a nd so I think that's, y ou know, to be consistent with the posture of promoting two Sta tes, I think, th e re' d be a, a strong logic to, to , to c hange or reverse that one. You mentioned funding for scientific and commercial projects, in, W est B ank settlements. Um, agai n, one can look at that and see if it, it can be modified or sustained, but, you know , supportin g , activities that, are inconsis t ent with the goal of limiting settlement expansion by providing some kind of encouragement, economic or scientific cooperation, encouragement to it is incons is tent with that goal that they have stated, of the two st a te, outco mes . So w h il e they'r e trying to discourage the one, it wouldn't make a great deal of sense, to, encourage t h e ot h er. As I said, there are , clear, lines they've drawn to di scourage P alestinian actions as well. there's assistance that the Trump administration canceled, f o r the Palestinian authority under the Taylor force act, be c ause of the payments that the Palestinian authority makes to terrorists, who've committed acts of violence and are i n I s ra eli prisons, um, t ha t president Biden has expressed support for that, rest r iction, but there i s als o , there are als o s treams of assista nce that d on't go to the Palestinian authority that go to Palestinian hospitals, to the Palestinian people, humanitarian organizations, to pr o vide, you know , t h e ba si c e conomic, and hu m anitarian relief, that ar e permitted under the Taylor force act. And so, I could c ertainly imagine, the Biden administration reversing some of that, restrictio n , but keeping others of that in pl ac e in order to keep, clear to th e Palestinians that, that action of paying Southern salar ies, to those pri s oners is not consistent, with that goa l of, of a two-sta te solution. Um, and then of course, there's the , closure, of t he U S consulate, i n, c o ns ole gen eral cons ulate gen eral in Jerusalem. what president Biden has said very clearly, and secretary Blinken has repeated is that the U S e m b a ssy will remain, in J erusalem, that Jerusalem is recognized as Israel's capital. And those are now, not g oing to be reversed, as pr e sident Trump changed them, but, the ac c ompanying closure and, and sub mersion of the U S counc i l general into the embassy, may ver y well be reversed because, the U S d iploma t i c posture of having two separate missions, that can s peak separately to these two separate entities, the state of Israel and the Palestinian authority, would be c o nsistent with the ultimate goal of a two-state solution. And frankly, right now, we don't have the ability to conduct normal diplomatic discourse with the Palestinian authority, because they don't speak to the U S embassy i n J erusalem. They only call directly to Washington. So, there's a n u mb er of s teps that I think will be reversed. Some may be modified rather than reversed, but again, I think they're all gonna be subject to that test of, does this ac t ion, does this us program, doe s this us diplomatic p os ture, is it consist e nt with our, our longstandi n g goal , and now re estab l ished goal of two? And if it is, it can be sustai n ed and if it's not, it will probably have to be changed.

Susie Gelman:

And some of these steps that we're talking about , um, as you alluded to the fact that the Biden administration has expressed its intention to re-engage with the Palestinians who of course were really completely left out of , the lead up to the p eace t o prosperity unveiling. U m, so the Biden ministration i s signaled. It w ill r e-engage with the Palestinians, both diplomatically and by resuming humanitarian aid, which again was cut off by the Trump administration. How will these moves play in Israel?

Ambassador Dan Shapiro:

Well , um, I think that , um, there are actually a lot of Israelis who understand that it , also serves Israel's interests for the United States to be able to talk to the Palestinians. now of course, the Palestinians bore some responsibility for that cu toff o f connection. They made that decision after the, r ecognition of Jerusalem as the capital and after the transfer of the U S e m bassy to Jerusalem. I frankly think that was a mistake on their part. Um, so , you know, they have some, so m e role to play here as well. but ultimately when the United States can't speak, in a n y authoritative way and has no dis course, of an y quality to at the P al estinians, it's hard to deliver any outcomes for Israel as well. I don't think that in that sense, the Trump administration didn't deliver very much. They delivered a plan that couldn't be implemented, which, you kno w , maybe some Israelis found appealing, but ultimately didn't go anywhere because it was really a very, it was p r oduced in a very one-sided, faction f a sh ion. Um, you know, we mentioned, I think earlier the , so there is a n understanding of a need to d o to engage the Palestinians, but their problems, the ICC, decision, t o open this investigation is very problematic. Not only because, t h e U S p o s es, it, it's kind of an echo of something that happened five years ago. That was when the Palestinians first turned to the ICC. And this proposal has been kicking around in the Hague for years. And only now DACA , yo u coul d say at the beginning of the Biden administration, does it kind of land, wi t h a thud on the table? And it, unf o rtunately has been praised by the Palestinians as a, as a piece of good news. Well, not surprisingly given that they were the ones who initiated it, but not, not helpfully in any way. there may be a chance to, um, p u s h t hat to the side as a new prosecutor comes into office later this year. but we'll see, that's, that's a problem. An d, and it has come back, t o kind of, h a unt and bite all of us who care about this issue right at, an inopp ortune time . Um, b ut then again, if the administration through this dialogue with the Palestinians can produce results, and there's real p rogr ess that Israelis, can s ee if in fact the Palestinians are serious, as some say they are, and there's clearly some interesting internal discourse around changing the law, so th a t there will not be, paymen t s made to prisoners based on the number of years they serve, therefore , seeming to incent ivize, you know , acts of v i olence. if, the Palesti n ians through the discourse with the United States will come to take a different attitude about the normalization agreements with the Arab States, which they originally rejected later, returned their ambassadors to the UAE and Bahrain, and now are at least toying with the idea that maybe they can be participants in this process. I think Israelis will be quite open to the fact that they may find some benefit to that, American, Pal e stinian, dialogue.

Susie Gelman:

So let's turn briefly now the subject of Iran, the Biden campaign pledge to seek, to reenter the JCP nuclear deal, but his move more slowly than some observers expected it to on this front. How does this, and will it impact the U S relations U S Israel relationship?

Ambassador Dan Shapiro:

The U S I think has been very clear really going back, into the letter months of the campaign, the byte administration and campaign transition and administration of its intention, t o, t r y to return to the, JC P A the Iran nuclear deal in the context of mutual compliance, in w hich, Iran obviously would have to resume, livin g up to all of its obligations. And it's in violation of many of them, which o f course has meant that it's much closer to the threshold of a nuclear breakout than it was when it was, under th e deal. I can't say that's a widely popular position in Israel. many people in Israel, shared the c riticisms of the JCPO at the ti me, that it was s igned and the prime minister Netanyahu voiced them, including in speech in Congress. no t everybody, there are a range of views on it. Some who found it , more, p ositive, let's say at least in its ear ly years than the prime minister did, no w say, well, it's five or six years in, and it's much closer to the sunset caused us to going back into the deal, wou l d be problematic. So, you know, there's no question that there is a disagreement or a diff e rence of opinion on that approach. I want t o sa y , you know, unanimously across the Israeli system. In fact, just in recent days, we've heard some Israeli voices, from the security establishment say, actually going back into the JC grade m ight not be such a terrible thing. Um, but a criti c al mass probably runs the other way at the same time. I think there i s som e a ppreciation, that t he vitamin station is show ing some patients, is not rushing back into this deal. in fact, has said very clearly and consistently from the beginning that Iran will have to reach, c ompliance, w i th its, re q uirements under the deal in order to get the sanctions relief that the deal requires it's not going to go in the, in the reverse order. there was, cert a inly a very, a lot of note-tak ing, in the , strike c onducted on the Shia militia, in Syria following a attack on , base with us forces, probably ot h er Shia militia in Iraq. Um, in all cas es almost certainly, backed by Ir a n. Um, there's als o c oncerned because Iran continues to kind of go crazy in the region with strikes in the Gulf and strikes on ships and strikes so that he had another strike on a US-based. So, th ere's a lot o f concern about that. but, there is, I thin k an understanding of the demonstratio n, even if they disagree on the, on this first step, is try ing to do t h is in a, in a smart way. Again, it's not the highest item on the agenda , with the elections and with the Corona, even though you would think that Iran always dominates it really, it really doesn't dominate. U m, what I do think, many Israelis do understand, however, is that, a replay, even if there is a disagreement and let's stipulate that there probably is one, o n returning to the JC B ay , a re p lay of a public, cl a sh, tha t would, comp r omise the ability to have the intimate, shari n g of intelligence and planning for the next phase of this policy. wouldn't really serve Israel's interest. And so there's a lot of discussion really across a wide range of the political spectrum that stipulating the disagreement. the goal should absolutely be to have a very professional, very qui e t, very closed, discussio n with the United States, because ev e n if you disagree on JC POA return , t her e's the next phase, what the bio ministrat ion has talked ab out consistently as well, is its desire to achieve a longer and stronger agreement that extends the deadlines that covers more technologies that has tougher inspections, that deals in some way with missiles and Ron's regional activities as well. And on that, I think there's a great deal, more convergence between Israeli and us positions and probably a lot of others golf and European positions as well. And so there's an opportunity if that , if that d ialogue can get, going, t o, c o ordinate and inf luence and, re a lly make that a joint project, loo k ing past the, disa g reement on the first step.

Susie Gelman:

One more question on Iran, and then I'm going to turn to audience questions. Cause we have several Israeli officials like defense minister, Benny Gantz last week, or idea of chief of staff of eco hobby in January have indicated that Israel is updating its plans to unilaterally strike Iranian nuclear infrastructure. How do you think such statements have landed with the Biden administration?

Ambassador Dan Shapiro:

Well, probably won't speak for the Biden ministration, but I'll just say this. I mean, look, there are different views , within the Israeli system, you've cited some of those statements, b y the, t h e IDF chi ef of staff and by some other officials, bu t there's also been criticism voice about the speech he gave in which he, in w hich he stated that, re r e reviewing and refreshing the military options, um, from , wit hin the system, of, of I s rael i , security o f ficials. Um, but look, in a way it ' s not that surprising, Israel, woul d have ev e ry reason and every interest to establish at the beginning of this new administration, for the whole w orld's consideration, it's a sovereign decis i on-making, that it has, it s own, it w ill make its o wn d ecisions when it perceives it security. And certainly when it perceives its facing an existential threat , o ur, o ur in question, that's a k ind of message to send certainly to the United States, to Iran, to others in the region, those who stand with Israel, perhaps some of the Gulf States, m aybe the Eu ropean, a c tors as well, so that they bear in mind, tha t , how s eriously is real T exas, you know, whether or not the speech was fully authorized, whether or not this is a strategy or just the different voices in the Israeli system, kind of making themselves heard. it's understandable, that, t hat would, that wo u ld be, a kind o f a re-establ i shing of a basic principle that they have the right and they do as a sovereign nation, to act wh e n they, feel, that the ne e d requires it. you know, when there was a lot of discussion about a possible Israeli strike in an earlier period in the 2010, 11, 12 period, um, there wer e as p ects of that there were actu ally quite useful, to the United States, as it was going to other countries and urging them to join a very tough sanctions regime against Iran. And one of the arguments, and this is a little bit crude, but it was essentially, you know, it's much better that we all together pressure Iran , to, contain its nuclear program that way, then leave it to, yo u k n ow, other actors, Israelis among them who may feel that they just have to take matters into their own hands. An d, and, you know, one could understand that they might, in certain circumstances, of course, the United States has its own military option. That's something else that was, d eveloped during the Obama administration. I haven't been seeing the intelligence or the military planning in four years, but I'm sure it's still, it's still there and if it needs updating and that's something else that us in Is rael can, can talk about and co ordinate about, t h ere's plenty of opportunity to do that, but even having laid out that principle, an d estab lish that , tha t idea in people's minds, it d o esn't replace the need to have that intimate, us Is r ae li consultated mechanism, which I think is getti ng underway really in these days. so that, you know, each side is contributing what it can in terms of intelligence, in terms of analysis, a s much as possible, we' re ch arting a common course toward the pressures and sanctions and incentives and negotiations that could draw Iran toward a much better deal over time, k n owing that, to g ether or separately, there are other options available, to m ake sure that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon on that there's total agreement. as a, as a fundamental strategic objective, ensuring Iran never gets a nuclear weapon. And so all of these different aspects are relevant, to en s uring that that doesn't ever happen much, much better. Of course, when the United States and Israel are in a, in a very, very coordinated approach.

Susie Gelman:

Cool . Okay. So I'm going to get to some audience questions. We have a question from John Allen, the former Canadian ambassador to Israel who asks, why do you in the U S oppose the decision by the ICC? Do you agree as BB suggests that it's antisemitism at heart?

Ambassador Dan Shapiro:

well, of course in the first instance, the ICC has no jurisdiction. Israel is not a member state of the ICC did not sign, t he Rom e st atute or at least have a r a tified. It not ju st as the United States is not a member of the ICC. And, i t 's very clear now tha t the ICC does not have jurisdiction, to conduct these investigations, unl e ss, thei r m ember States or it's au thor ized by the UN security council. So that's an overstepping of the bounds of ICC jurisdiction. The other, reaso n , that a n ICC investigation can, be, kin d of a uth oriz e o r defended , is if the s tate in question does not have, a credible m eans and judicial process to do its own investigations and, and, and loo k into its own content conduct. and that does not in my judgment, fairly describ e Israel, which ha s a long record of conducting investigations of, actions of its o wn, military. obviously not everybody agrees with the outcome of every investigation, but it's quite professional. I know it pretty well from the inside, from, cases that were, l ooked into while I was ambassador, i t 's quite serious. Um, and it, I certainly think it meets the standards, th a t, don ' t require an external investigator. And we, you know, generally know that these investigations come in with an agenda. just as one example, the d a te set for, the ev e nts that the ICC would be investigating is, I want t o sa y Ju n e 13th, 2014 and events fr om June, June 13th forward, which obviously takes us into the period of, operatio n sukkah, Ato n oper at ion, pillar of defenses, no t pillar defense, edge, protec t ive ed g e, thank you, opera tion p rot ective edge, of 2014, but w h at happened the day before was the date that Hamas t erro rists in the West Bank kidnapped three, Israeli, teenag e rs. One of them was also an American citizen , and them, and somehow, even though they say, well, we'll also investigate Ha mas a ctions. They, you know, th e, the event that actually was the triggering event for all of the, t errible and violent, e v ents of that summer, wa s n't even defined into the mandate of this investigation. So, the r e's other reasons to suspect that there's, othe r agendas at work h ere. so this is going to be the U S posi t i o n, and, h o peful l y as the new prosecutor comes into office, he comes in in June, I believe. he, can, decid e toge t her with perhaps his outgoing p red ecessor and, and other professionals in the system that, this is not s omething that really needs to be pursued. It's, it's stil l in a ver y preliminary stage and it doesn't have t o be taken to its a natural t o i t s full extent.

Susie Gelman:

We have a couple of questions that are related. So I'm going to ask both of them , and then ask you to respond. So Sam Bahaour, hi, Sam a sks, given all who are aligned with two States, what or who prohibits the U S to recognize the state of Palestine without fully defined borders, just as in the United States recognition of Israel that was done in 1948. I know that this would not be groundbreaking since over 70% of the world's countries have already recognized Palestine as such and then S usie B ecerra. And I hope I pronounce your last name correctly. S usie asks, I'd like to hear Dan's views on recognition of the state of Palestine now rather than as an outcome of negotiations and whether he thinks there's any possibility that Biden administration supporting such a move by France, for example, Ilan Goldenberg, w ho's an advisor for Israel Policy Forum wrote about recognition as an option a couple of months ago. So it's not entirely off the wall.

Ambassador Dan Shapiro:

Yeah. well, I'm not anticipating that that's going to be part of the b yte administration's approach t he, t he l ong-standing u s position again, through many administrations that have supported, a two-state outcome. That looks a lot like what I think this administration supports, h ave felt that it needs to be the result of direct negotiations and, t h at, Pa l estinians, far too often have stayed out of those negotiations, when it would have been in their interest to be in them. And when American illustr ations have a ctually been motivated to try to help them achieve, chief their objective. So cutting to the end before that a decisi o n is reached through negotiations, I think is, is, is not, the appr o ach that I'm most comfortable with. you know, what's interesting is there are some new ideas circulating in the Israeli, discourse a s well. Uh [inaudible] who heads the issue of tea party , a nd i s running sort of second in terms of the size of the party a nd most polls, u m, is , p erhaps the, we l l, certainly the leader of the largest party that says he is for a two-s tate solu tion. And he said some thing very interesting. He says, yeah, we don't actually need to settle everything to have two States. We could have two States, tha t disagree on their border, whic h of course occurs in between many neighboring States. We could have two States that di sagr ee on the status of Jerusalem. we could have two stakes a nd dis agree on the issues of right of retur n, um, an d yet be two Stat es t hat re cognize one another, and, n e gotia t e and deal with those disputes between two sovereign States. That's an interesting model. I can't say it's, been end o rsed or adopted by the vast majority of, of the Isr a elis, but it's on the table and in the discourse, to the exte n t that issue is being discussed in this election. And, you know, look, obviously we're right before in Israeli election , the United States w ill want to, have a, a s erious conversation with whoever's the next prime minister and, a nd taking into account what that coalition looks like there, of course may be a Palestinian election later this year. That's, m a ybe a little less certain, but it is certainly a possibility and there are cer tainly Palestinian leadership changes in the, in the air. Um, and so, you know, there's going to be a need since we're only now re engaging the Palestinian, lea d ership after four, thre e years of, of ver y little us Palestinian, disc o urse, to he a r their views and, and ta ke them into account. So I don't rule out any, possib l e, you kno w , arrangem e nt, as those c onversations unfold, depe nding on what they produce. and it may be that we have to be creative and look at new options, but, you know, I start from the principle that these things are best decided through direct negotiations. Um, and then, le t's see h o w the conversations go with these leaders, in the month s ahead,

Susie Gelman:

Alison Cipriani asks the Biden in administration has emphasized his determination to push governments toward democracy. Why has there been no discussion about the apparent lack of democracy in the Palestinian authority?

Ambassador Dan Shapiro:

The Biden administration is as focused on this issue as I think on almost any other in their foreign policy , secretary Blinken and president Biden have both spoken to it, rather extensively. you can see it in the engagements they're having with foreign leaders, p r es ent by. An d I guess by now has spoken besides Russia and China, and the global strategic rivals are goi n g to h av e to deal with for things like arms control and pandemic and climate change. almost all of his calls, to f oreign leaders have been to democratically elected foreig n leade r s. Last few days, there've been a couple of others, King s alon of Saudi Arabia before the, Jama l a showed you a decis i on and maybe one or two others, but, you k n ow, he has talked a law fo r a long time about a summit of democracies. he's now talking very firmly about strengthening our own democracy at home, and we've seen how fragile it is, as a mo d el and then working with other countries to strengthen their democracies, and to r e sist this push from the autocratic, the club o f autocracies about their, the v alue of their system. Um, and so look, this is going to be a discourse, and you could perhaps say a source of tension , with, Arab States who ar e u s partners, t he UAE, Saudi Arabia, others, Egypt, b u t clearly are not democracies aren't anyt hing clo se to demo cracy, ha v e serious, fla w s and their hu man rights, conduct , and, it' s goin g to affect those relationships to some degree. And the same may be true with the Palestinians as well, that, ther e shoul d be an expectation that as Palestinians move toward independence as we, hopefully they, hopefully they can during, this adminis t ration and perhaps beyond, and a two-state solution really becomes a viable that the Palestinian state that emerges will be democratic. Now, there's a nea r term test of that, of course, with these elections that have been called. Um, and we all k now the history that sometimes elections have been called, and the Palest i nian leadership has a split, fought t o Hanna h , Hamas have decid ed it's a ni che of their own interests for it n ot to hap pen. So they find a reason not to do it, or one of them decides that it's in their interest and they find an excuse or Israel , doesn't permit, voting in East Jerusalem. And that becomes a reason not to have it. and we know that the United States has struggled with this as well. An election that the United States pus hed fo r in 2006, brought Hamas a foreign terrorist organization designated under us law, i n to a leadership role in the Palestinian authority and really compromised the U S a b i lity to, to , to work with Palestinians. It's cert ainly raise ques tions for Israelis about, whe t her they would have a terrorist state, next to them if a two-state solution happened. So, these are all tough issues, but, o n the p rinciple of should the Palestinian people have the right to choose their leaders and live in a society where the people have a voice, their righ ts ar e respected, democrac y rains. I do n't t hink it's any different for Palestinians than for anybody else. and I believe that will be the Biden administration, approach, w h ich may mean some tension, at times, on how electi o ns are conducted when they are, other aspects o f Palestinian governance, just as it may, with some of th e se other Arab States,

Susie Gelman:

A followup from , an anonymous questioner about Palestinian elections in view of the hopefully presidential elections i n Palestine, what should and would be the policy of the U S to the election of, Barghouti who of course is serving I think, five life terms for murder in Israeli prison. Um , s o what, what would be the reaction to the election of Barghouti who will get the most votes according to all surveys, wi ll o u r h e 's e lection help the us goal of tw o S t ates?

Ambassador Dan Shapiro:

that's a great question. And I don't know, what the st ructure i s t o a nswer would be I've seen these po lls a nd, t here's no question. He, h e is a serious, fa c tor, in P alestinian politics until of course votes happen on can't really be sure. Um, an d I think it would occasion a very serious, conv e rsation with Palestinian leaders, with Israeli leaders, to tr y to understand, what, i t mean s , what opp o rtunity it presents, what challenges it presents on, on prin ci ples on, on his re c ord, which does in clude , terrorist a t tacks that, took, took th e l ives of innocent people. Um, we also know tha t in various, conflicts in his t ory, leaders have moved from that status of, having conducted th e ir, their struggle viole n tly into a different status. and, there is some history a b out that in other conflicts. Um, bu t I don't want to pr edi ct, it's very problematic. a s I said, he's, he is a relevant figure. h e has influence, he has importance. he also h as a reco rd, and he is serving those sente n ces because of that recor d. Um, but, I don't want to think, I d on't t hink I can pre d ic t exactly what the outcome or the meaning of, of him winning that election would be.

Susie Gelman:

We have a question from , our friend Fred l ane from your hometown, Fred asks, given the extensive intermixing of isolated or non-contiguous settlements in the West Bank, isn't it unrealistic to think that there can be a successful two-state solution without Israel abandoning those isolated settlements?

Ambassador Dan Shapiro:

The , the Obama administration did some very significant mapping, o f settlements, and it's con tinued in t hi nk tanks, af t er, tha t administration. and it certainly, if you look at the footprint of all the different settlements, it's h ard to see a contiguous Palestinian state being viable. If Israel retains a contro l of those. Now, that was sort of envisioned in the Trump plan, which is one o f the reasons I didn't think the Trump plan represented anything like a viable, two-st a te solution . Um, there 's all kinds of questions about what could be the disposition of settlements, in a Pa l estinian state, whether the people who live there, the Israelis who live there cou ld stay there, whether they would leave, whether Israel would bring them out, as it di d , when it l e ft Gaza, all, issue s that , that have to be negotiated. But look , it's clear that, the more settlements expand, d eeper in the West Bank, certainly East of the security barrier, o u tside main blocks that have often been considered candidates for territorial swaps and where the vast majority of Israeli settlers live, an d would have much, much less impact on the, on the total territory and the, and the, the visibility or the contiguity of the remaining territory. Um, it 's clear that the more of tho se expand, the h arder this becomes, I, I ca n recall many, discu s sions, with p r ime minister Netanyahu in an earlier period in the period of George Mitchell and John Kerry's, peace e f forts in which he very freely acknowledged, that, se t tlemen t s in the blocks represented one thing, but settlements beyond the barrier and beyond the blocks, were thing s that he understood, if one was s erious about keeping a two-state solution alive would have to be, have to be d e alt with differently, constrained, in their grow t h and, you know, deal t with differently in the negotiations on their disposition. so it's a serious issue. It's why it's one of the reasons there are many, but one of the reasons people have said, t wo St ates is getting harder and some have said, it's now impossible. There wer e ot her reasons, h a ving to do with attitudes and having to do with leadership and having to do with, um , th i ngs that have happened on both sides. So I don't want to say that's the only issue, but certainly, if e v en test ta king that i ssue in isolation, it's one of the reasons people say, two s t at es may not be possible. I personally think it is possible, but some hard decisions will need to be made around those settlements and certainly nothing should be done now that makes that harder. That expands them further, that, makes t he, the territory that's, availab l e for a Palestinian state, less contiguous, than it a lready is. So I, I acknowl e dge that that's a major, major hurdle.

Susie Gelman:

I have a question from our good friend Abner Goldstein on the West coast, who asks is a Confederation, a potential more practical and realistic arrangement than a two-state solution. And I would just note , um, we, we should put in the chat a link to Israel Policy Forums , study from last year, which you wrote a wonderful forward f our called in search of a viable option, which does look at Confederation among other, not really alternatives, but other options that have been bandied about and Confederation certainly is getting talked about a lot, even as we speak. So yo u w a nt t o a ddress that please?

Ambassador Dan Shapiro:

Yeah. first of all, I think the, is t h ere a p olicy fo rum s tudy that, S usi e ref erences is the best that I have seen in evaluating, th e different non to st at e, alt e rnatives or, or pathways? all of them in my judgment are much worse than I think that the stu dy amendme nt demons trates that than tw o St a tes for us interes ts for Is raeli interes ts, for P alestinian interests, for regional interests. Um, and , a nd s o I commend everyon e to take a look at that study. Um, one of the problems they're trying to evaluate Confederation is that dif fere nt people mean different things, when t h ey say it. Um, and, the ver s ion studied in that IPF, document , is a part i cular version, that sort o f merges, the concept s of, of, of, of t w o States separate, but also as kind of in one overriding entity, there's a different, and it doesn't work very well. There's a different version of Confederation of which actually two States are firmly established as fully independent, and then freely choose to have a kind of an association , which allows them to share resources and, have some joint economic, s tructures. that's a little bit different and perhaps a little bit easier to imagine. Um, I d on't think, th e version that' s stud ied in the, in the IDF doc IPF document, rea l ly, really answers the needs. it calls too much into question. Does Israel still retain its Jewish should democr atic character, two Pal est i nians still have, their , f undam e ntal, rights o f, of indep e ndence and a state of t heir own. and it, it blurs into the sort of one state, models tha t also are being bandied about a bit, and which I think are totally unworkable and on which there's almost no support among either Israelis are Palestinians for. So it seems to me that, a Confederat i on is, is potentia ll y kind of a second order question. If you can get to something that is really a viable, actual two-st a te solution, and then allow those two States to Confederate in a way that, that serves both it's both sides, int erests, um, but to sor t of skip that first step and go to some blurred, a model of not t w o States, not one state, but just to sort of, I have overlapping entities, to me is a lot less workable.

Susie Gelman:

We have time for one more question. since we just have a couple of minutes left, this is from Je an B erger, the Jewish national fund, Karen Kayemet LeYisrael, otherwise known as Kakal board announcement of a desire to buy Palestinian land. Actually, I think it was not desire. I think it was a change in policy about being able to buy private Palestinian land in A rea C s hould it be adopted in t he upcoming vote, which I understand is go ing t o b e held after the elections would clearly ha ndicap e fforts towards a two-state solution. Meanwhile, donations to JN F a re are tax deductible. Do you know if the Biden ministration is examining the contradiction that these ta x e xempt donations are working against us policy, do you think they would, or should review JNF tax exempt charitable status? I just would add very quickly, Dan, as I understand it, JNF in the United States, doesn't, p r imarily fund the activities of Karen Kayemet LeYisrael, although there is money, I think maybe a million dollars a year that goes into the West Bank from JNF in the U.S. I could be wrong about that, but that's my, co ul d you just quickly address this issue?

Ambassador Dan Shapiro:

I don't know what the Biden administration might be , looking at internally on this. U m, I think at the time that first announcement was, was made, I tweeted, t his doesn't seem like this does not seem like a good idea and it's not. and it's for the reason I stated earlier that, that anything that, wo r ks incons istent with the goal of a two- s tate solution, obviously buying up additional for the purpose of expanding settlements, is, i s inconsistent with that is not, n ot, not very helpful now. you, you you've c orrect ly stated Susie, although the details are more technical than I'm thin k I 'm able to describe. There is a distinction between the JNF, in the United States and the KKL/JNF organization in Israel. There's s ome rel ationship, but it's much looser than it used to be. So I can't really address the question of whether contributions to the American organization that are texts el ectable, fall in t o this category. Or I have no idea if the donation, if any, donations to the Israeli entity are tax deductible. so I really can't get to the question of whether the vitamin station w e'll look at that question, I think. but, b ut when, when I said that, u m , t h e organizing principle and the framework of judging us actions, Israeli Palestinian, Arab state, European actions, and outside organizations, w o uld be, does it, is it consistent with, does it help contribute to, or does it harm, pro s pe cts for a two-state solution? This would clearly fall into the harm category,

Susie Gelman:

Unfortunately, that's all the time we have today. Dan, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. once again, I want to thank our supporters who are with us on today's call. Your generosity makes programs like this one possible, and again, if you have not yet done, so please consider making a contribution today@wwwdotisraelpolicyforum.org forward slash giving. Thank you all for joining us today. Once more, I encourage you to subscribe to our podcast, I srael Policy Pod, sign up to receive the weekly Koplow column i n your email inbox and visit our website to access recordings of our previous briefings and a host of digital resources. Stay tuned for an announcement regarding our next video briefing, which will take place next Tuesday, March 16th at 2:00 PM, Eastern 11:00 AM Pacific. Remember if it's Tuesday, it's an IPF webinar. Dan, thank you so much. It's good to see you. I hope to get to see you in person one on one side of the ocean or the other in the near future. Thanks Susie. Thank you so much to that, Dan. Bye .