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Sunday, October 03, 2010

On mythology

Now that he's not part of the President's Middle East policy team for the first time in a generation or so, Aaron David Miller has been writing a lot of critiques of Middle East policy. This one was especially significant. While I have not always agreed with him, for the most part, I find him more even-handed since he left the State Department and the White House than I found him while he was on the inside.

Miller has another article in Sunday's Washington Post called Five myths about Middle East peace. For the most part, they are things that Miller has written before, but this one particularly disturbed me.
2. The United States is an honest broker in the peace process.

It has been before and can be again. But in the past 16 years, under both Democratic and Republican presidents, we have failed to be as tough, fair and reassuring as we need to be to broker a solution. Our relationship with the Israelis is special -- and it has to be because of Israel's unique security position and the values that bind us -- but if we intend to be a credible mediator, it cannot become exclusive.

We cannot advocate for one side over another or clear our positions with one party in advance; our client must be the agreement itself. And we need to adopt negotiating positions that reflect the balance of interests between the two sides, not use Israel's position as the point of departure for U.S. policy. The challenge for the Obama administration is to find this balance, one that neither Bill Clinton nor George W. Bush achieved.
This formulation bothered me on several counts. First, it assumes that the United States should be an honest broker in the Middle East peace process. But should it be? Everyone else associated with this process takes a side: The Arab side. Who, if not its greatest ally, is to take Israel's side? If the United States is an 'honest broker,' Israel stands alone against the nations of the world and its 'international organizations.' Is that any way to treat an ally?

But worse than that, Miller implies that the US favored Israel during the Clinton and Bush administrations and perhaps it did. But that favoritism resulted in extremely generous offers for peace made by Ehud Barak (in 2000 and 2001) and by Ehud Olmert in 2008. Both offers were turned down flat by the 'Palestinians' without a counteroffer. Does Miller believe the United States can and should be pressuring Israel to go even further? Especially in light of Miller's myth number 4 (Pressuring the Israelis is the only way to reach an agreement) and myth number 5 (Arab-Israeli peace is critical to securing U.S. interests in the Middle East), maybe what's really needed is to push the 'Palestinian' issue off the front burner for a while, and for the US to tell the 'Palestinians' that it's not going to do anything until they call with a willingness to accept a compromise?


At 10:52 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The US is certainly NOT going to tell the Palestinians to compromise to make a peace agreement happen.

And one predicated on massive unilateral Israeli concessions won't last for long. Incidentally, the reason why Prime Minister Netanyahu hasn't fired Foreign Minister Liberman is because he's right and moreover because most Israelis agree with him.

There is no point in making peace with a party that is not interested in it, something that both Netanyahu and Barak don't want to acknowledge. Israel cannot force the Palestinians to do something they don't want to do.

Its time to leave things alone for now.


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