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How should the U.S. handle Israeli-Palestinian relations? Two different views


In this week's Opinion pages, we've had two experts weigh in on how the U.S. should handle Israeli-Palestinian relations. Thursday, Aaron David Miller, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, wrote that the U.S. could make things worse for the Israelis and Palestinians. From Roadblocks to Mideast peace:

Giving up is not an option, but neither is giving in to the illusion that America holds the key to Mideast peace. It doesn't. Only the Israelis and Palestinians do, and right now neither is invested enough in these talks to allow the effort to succeed. Until they are, there's likely to be more wheel-spinning than real progress.

The good news is that the administration has finally focused on the right issue: how to get Israelis and Palestinians to the end game. But that's also the bad news. The gaps on the core issues are wide, and even on the two least hopeless ones -- borders and security -- there are fundamental divisions.


A breakthrough between Israelis and Palestinians requires them to own and invest in their negotiations in a way they currently don't. Real ownership is usually driven by local factors involving prospects of pain or gain, not by Washington's pleadings or desires.


What should the administration do? Abandon the field, as some have suggested? Withdrawal isn't in our interest, and in any event, our "If it's broke, we can fix it" mentality makes that all but impossible.

Instead, the administration must walk the fine line between doing too much and not enough. The current approach — supporting state-building from the bottom up and engaging Israelis and Palestinians quietly on all the core issues from the top -- is worth a try as long as the president doesn't get overly ambitious, as he did on the settlements issue.

Wednesday, in The U.S. needs to get tough with Israel, Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Palestine Center in Washington, argued:

No legitimate Palestinian leader can negotiate with Israel while it continues to colonize Palestinian land.

The U.S. strategy began to fail when it expected the Israelis to freeze settlements upon request. What the Obama administration apparently didn't realize was that Israel would not change its behavior without an incentive. When that finally became clear, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made an offer that amounted to a bribe.

Generally, the incentive to rectify bad behavior in the international community -- behavior like expanding settlements despite road map obligations and international law -- is delivered by sticks, not carrots. But the deal offered to Israel, which included billions of dollars' worth of advanced F-35s in exchange for a 90-day freeze, was all carrot and no stick.

And it didn't work. 


The biggest mistake the United States has made in the last two years was not its focus on settlements but its failure to use leverage to get the Israelis to stop building them.

Has Washington learned the lesson? Perhaps the answer came earlier this month when Clinton delivered a major policy speech at the Brookings Institution. Though she expressed her frustration with the peace process, she didn't signal any change in the U.S. approach. Clinton's message can be summed up succinctly: We will keep doing what we have done and hope for a better outcome.

At a moment when the world needed to hear a change in direction, we instead were told that the United States is committed to repeating the same failed policies of the past.


If there is no change in the U.S. approach to Israeli violations, no one will take this administration seriously: not the Israelis, certainly not the Palestinians, and presumably not the international community. Who can blame them?


Who's stopping the peace process?

Israeli actions jeopardize two-state solution

Blowback: Israel leaves us no choice but to boycott

Blowback: How the Carmel fire further exposes the misplaced policy priorities of Israel

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy's seventh annual forum Dec. 10 in Washington. Credit: Jose Luis Magana / Reuters


Comments () | Archives (7)

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Mitchell Young

Wow, that picture is something else. The traditional way to represent two countries is two distinct flags, usually with their flagstaffs crossed. Maybe its just a function of technology like Photoshop and Powerpoint, but the amateur semiotician in me says having the two flags merge gradually, with Israel's more prominent visually, sends a powerful message.


The annually billions in foreign aid to Israel needs to be brought to an end. It isn't in our best interest or theirs. We can support Israel and remain allies without giving them $20,000 for every man, woman and child every year. We can no longer continue these policies while our nation goes bankrupt. We tout our neutrality by giving billions to arab countries. ENOUGH! Cut off the flow of cash that encourages conflict instead of peace.

Mike, Brentwood

The country's facing an unemployment crisis yet giving away billions a year to finance Israel. And for what, to maintain Israel's Quantative Military Edge, as its called in military parlence. But, hey, that's alright, after all Israel and the US have the same foreign policy goals, right? Well there happens to be this little nugget in Wikileaks that says otherwise:

"Amos Gilad [MFA Director of Policy] acknowledged the difficult position the U.S. finds itself in given its global interests, and conceded that Israel's security focus is so narrow that its QME concerns often clash with broader American security interests in the region..."

Israel's concerns clash with American concerns yet America continues to fund and equip her army?! Something else is going on here, which I feel is adequately demonstrated by the photo chosen for this article, at least until the photo is replaced by a less controversial bland one of Bibi looking pensive.

Paul Winter

The best way for the USA, the EU, the UN and all of the other cynucal self-serving busybodies to have the Israeli/Arab-mohammedan conflict resolved is to butt out and thus force the so-called "Palestinians" to take responsibility for their corruption, aggression, deceit and religious fanaticism. Israel has made too many concession and taken too many risks for peace, to exchange land and security for further insincere Arab promises. The very notion, that a people seeking statehood condition their participation in peace talks on issues that must be negotiated, is outrageous. Instead of dealing with the reification of the Arab narrative, truth, law and history must be addressed. The "Palestinians" were created as a political tool to be used in the same way as the career refugees who justify UNWRA's existence. There is no occupation, as a Palestinian polity never existed. The 1.8% of Judea and Samaria (from which the Palestinians propose to expel Jews) are not colonies but villages on lands which had been state land under its pre-Mandate ruler, the Ottoman empire. The Israelis are the successors of the Ottomans and the Arabs rejected every resolution for an equitable resolution of the conflict. It is counterproductive to try to coerce Israel to accept Arab demands of unconditional surrender. And please bear in mind, as it goes for Israel, so too will it go for the West.


What is vital to the Israeli`s are security, recognition and trusting the Arabs to abide by a negotiated settlement. There was a 10 month settlement freeze where the Arabs did nothing to take advantage of that freeze. If Abbas continues to demand conditions prior to entering discussions, it would be politically impossible for any Israeli government to agree since Israeli`s parliament is made up of several political parties with different interests in their co-alition government. The issue of settlements must be a negotiated item. Too many Arabs regard Israel as a colonial establishment that in time will disappear, and while Israel insists on being regarded as a Jewish state, it is not necessary to impress this on the Israeli`s but it is a must to get the Arabs to recognize that this is something they must take seriously. On top of this, as long as Hamas and the Fatah are at war with each other, Israel has no one to trust in any search for a negotiated settlement. The U.S. needs to put more emphasis on attempting to force a more tolerant attitude amongst these Palestinian Arabs to enter talks rather than on Israel who cannot trust either of the parties that the U.S. is attempting to get them to negotiate with in the first place.

Onboard Skeptic

@Paul Winter.......

What "concessions" has Israel really made? I'll concede that they ceded Gaza to the Palestinians and "allegedly" put a moratorium on expanding the Settlements in the West Bank(though certainly did NOT refrain from adding on to existing Settlements which a number of settlers even boasted they were gonna do anyway). So Israel is in no way bending over backwards to accommodate the Palestinians. If anything maintaining the checkpoints, roadblocks, and denial of needed goods into Gaza point to the never ending inequality in that State.

And please don't bring up that asinine 97% figure that Barak gave to Arafat at the Oslo meeting in 2000. Granted Arafat wasn't the best negotiator but this certainly wasn't what it "appeared" to be in the way of making a "concession"
to the Palestinians.

Jonathan Stuart-Brown

A lot of people deeply care for The USA, California and Los Angeles. Very many are extremely grateful to your contribution to the nations, communities, families, homes, businesses you have influenced.
These people do not want to see the Californian and US economy collapse nor see it returned to an uninhabitable inhospitable lawless desert.
We would wish you wisdom, common sense and self-preservation decision-making.
The USA became the dominany global, economic, military and cultural power for one reason and one reason alone. Genesis 12 verse 3. God has blessed you because you blessed Israel. If you reverse your policy, God will reverse His. Please, please, please do not be morons in a hurry.
Increase your blessing for Israel and Jerusalem. Move the US Embassy there. Donate to the poor and homeless and orphans and widows in Israel. Then God will bless you even more than ever. Outdo every other State and City and precinct in blessing and giving to Israel.
If you do, your blessings will break new records.
If not and if you stupidly pressure Israel to give up any part of Jerusalem or land promised by God to Abraham, THEN expect God to divide your nation and your state.
People who really love you, urge you to be wise and be brave. Then you will be free and again a magnet to the world.
If you refuse this wisdom, then watch out as be it an economic collapse, earthquake, nuclear strike, meteor hitting you...whatever...God will curse as surely as He has blessed and if you choose His Option, He will bless you again more than ever.
Watch the Titanic and imagine it happening to every home in California, suddenly ! Choose to bless and honour the Apple of God's Eye...Israel.
Bless Jerusalem more than your own home...then God really will deliver and bless you.
God Bless America, California and LA...God bless Hollywood..
Jonathan Stuart-Brown



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