Iran to enter Jerusalem through Arab neighbourhoods?

The strange fears of the Israeli prime minister.

This from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz today:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is amenable to an interim agreement in the West Bank that would include the establishment of a Palestinian state within temporary borders.

Netanyahu considers such an interim step a possible way to unfreeze the stalled political process that was created because of the Palestinian leadership's refusal to resume talks on a final settlement.

On the face of it this is an interesting, if not entirely promising report on the ongoing talks in Jerusalem between Netanyahu and US envoy George Mitchell -- of course, the article goes on to list the usual red lines, such as the refusal to freeze settlement-building in East Jerusalem. However, later on lies a hidden gem:

Netanyahu warned that if Israel withdraws from Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem, "Iran will be able to enter there," as it did in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, "but this will be as part of a final settlement. Meanwhile they tell me that I cannot build and plan on French Hill."

Iran to enter Israel through the Arab neighbourhoods? This is a great insight into the conflation of domestic and regional security issues on the Israeli right. The idea that Iran's influence on Shia militia in Lebanon points logically to a foothold in Sunni neighbourhoods of Jerusalem is just another example of the siege mentality of the Netanyahu government.

As Medhi Hasan pointed out about Gordon Brown's remarks at last night's leaders' debate, the idea that the answer to terrorism is to be absolutely everywhere in the Middle East is as out-dated as it is unrealistic. It is the worst result of the liberal interventionist consensus, and the reason why Israel can maintain its lock on the occupied territories.

Still, there are two levels here. As the article makes clear, it remains for Israel a strong option to exploit the peace process to move the US further from negotiation to aggression on Iran. It is up to the US to distinguish between the peace process and the war machine.

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