The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

A Last Chance For A Two-State Israel-Palestine Agreement

From the Executive Summary of a new report [PDF] advising the Obama administration to seize the opportunity for a two-state solution before it's too late, written by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Chuck Hagel, Lee Hamilton, Thomas Pickering, Brent Scowcroft, Paul Volcker, James Wolfensohn and others:

We urge the next U.S. administration to engage in prompt, sustained and determined efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Previous initiatives having failed, the incoming administration will no doubt be urged to defer or avoid renewed engagement for three reasons:

1. Prioritizing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would distract the new president from efforts to address critical challenges to the nation’s security: Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, and threats from terror organizations.

2. Peace cannot be imposed by the U.S.A. or any outside party. The only enduring solution will be one conceived by the parties themselves.

3. Pressing both sides to reach agreement may risk angering domestic constituencies.

We believe all three arguments are invalid.

Today, when our enemies avoid America’s military superiority by waging information warfare and terror, an early Arab-Israeli peace is indispensable. Although a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace would not erase Al Qaeda, it would help drain the swamp in which it and other violent and terrorist movements thrive, and eliminate a major source of global Muslim anti-Americanism. Iran would find the strategic advantages it recently gained in the Arab world greatly reduced. Far from being a distraction from other Middle Eastern crises, an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement would significantly facilitate their amelioration.

Conversely, for the U.S. to avoid effective facilitation and mediation is to cede the field to America’s enemies who are counting on the Arab-Israeli dispute as the gift that keeps on giving.

According to polls, most Israeli and Palestinian public opinions back a fair settlement, and Arab countries now offer unprecedented support for the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, spurred by the twin threats posed by Iran and radical Islamist movements, and see substantial strategic value in a comprehensive peace accord. In Europe and elsewhere, a strong U.S. initiative would be warmly welcomed.

A new U.S. effort to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement may anger certain domestic constituencies. We do not, however, believe it is beyond the capability of any American President to explain to the American people why this long-running dispute must at long last be ended and why it will take much diplomatic heavy lifting and public expenditure to make it work. In the end the stakes are too high to pursue a hands-off or arm’s-length approach.

Unless the president tackles this problem early it is unlikely to be done at all. Political capital will erode; domestic obstacles will grow; other issues will dominate; and the warring parties will play for time and run the clock.

Failure to act would prove extremely costly. It would not only undermine current efforts to weaken extremist groups, bolster our moderate allies and rally regional support to stabilize Iraq and contain Iran, but would also risk permanent loss of the two-state solution as settlements expand and become entrenched and extremists on both sides consolidate their hold. In short, the next six to twelve months may well represent the last chance for a fair, viable and lasting solution.

It calls for, among other things, engaging Hamas and Palestinian reconciliation (not what Obama is doing now since so far we've only heard more West Bank First). I only find this recommendation hard to swallow:

A non-militarized Palestinian state, together with security mechanisms that address Israeli concerns while respecting Palestinian sovereignty, and a U.S.- led multinational force to ensure a peaceful transitional security period. This coalition peacekeeping structure, under UN mandate, would feature American leadership of a NATO force supplemented by Jordanians, Egyptians and Israelis. We can envision a five-year, renewable mandate with the objective of achieving full Palestinian domination of security affairs on the Palestine side of the line within 15 years.

Israeli troops should definitely not be involved in any peacekeeping structure - its job should be keeping the Israelis away from the Palestinians, and vice-versa! Not to mention that a non-militarized state is a rather serious breach of sovereignty, especially unless it is backed by a mutual defense guarantee by the peacekeeping forces against any Israeli attack, incursion or overflight.