The False Religion of Mideast Peace
Aaron David Miller
Foreign Policy, May/June 2010
Edited by Andy Ross
America's commitment to Arab-Israeli peacemaking over the past 40 years
rests on three assumptions:
1. Pursuit of a comprehensive peace was a
core U.S. interest in the region, and achieving it offered the only sure way
to protect U.S. interests.
2. Peace could be achieved, but only
through a serious negotiating process based on trading land for peace.
3. Only America could help the Arabs and Israelis bring that peace to
President Obama came out louder, harder, and faster on the
Arab-Israeli issue than any of his predecessors.
issue seemed perfectly suited to Obama's transformational objectives and his
transactional style. If Obama wanted to begin "remaking America," why not
try to remake the troubled politics of peace, too?
In 2009, the
president pushed the Israelis, the Arabs, and the Palestinians to get
negotiations going and was rebuffed by all three. He later told Time
magazine ruefully that "we overestimated our ability to persuade."
The unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict is still a big problem for America and
1. It stokes a white-hot anger toward the United States.
2. It has already demonstrated the danger of confrontation and war.
3. It confronts Israel with a demographic nightmare.
other issues have emerged to compete for center stage:
1. There are
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the dangerous situation in Pakistan.
2. The 9/11 attacks were a fundamental turning point for an America.
3. Iran's nuclear aspirations are clearly a more urgent U.S. priority
Governing is about setting priorities, managing your
politics, thinking strategically, not tilting at windmills. Arab-Israeli
peacemaking is a pretty big windmill.
Obama's Mideast envoy George
Mitchell ended his first foray into Arab-Israeli diplomacy with three
1. From Israel on a comprehensive settlement freeze
2. From Saudi Arabia on partial normalization
3. From the
Palestinians on returning to negotiations
Looking ahead, that process
looks much, much tougher for three reasons:
peacemaking is politically risky and life-threatening. Today's Middle East
leaders aren't suicidal.
2. Big decisions require strong leaders with
the legitimacy, authority, and command of their politics to make a deal
stick. But the current crop are more prisoners of their constituencies than
masters of them.
3. Even with strong leaders, you still need a
project that doesn't exceed the carrying capacity of either side. Issues
such as Jerusalem, borders, and refugees present gigantic political and
security challenges for Arabs and Israelis.
Bottom line: Negotiations
can work, but both Arabs and Israelis need to be willing and able to pay the
price. And they are not.
The refrain from many quarters is that
America must save the day.
America cannot impose and deliver a
solution through tough forceful diplomacy for three reasons:
Unless the Arabs and Israelis want political agreements and peace and can
invest enough in them to give them a chance to succeed, we certainly can't.
2. When Americans succeeded in Arab-Israeli diplomacy, it was because
they were respected, admired, even feared. U.S. power and influence were
taken seriously. Today, much of the magic is gone.
3. The pro-Israel
community in the United States does not have a veto over U.S. foreign
policy. The last thing Obama needs now is an ongoing fight with the Israelis
or a major foreign-policy failure.
Obama has made America the focal
point of action and responsibility for the Arab-Israeli issue at a time when
the country may be least able to do much about it.
AR I found this article
boiled down to bullet points. Must have been a PowerPoint once.