Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer, with whom I’ve previously had the enormous (and very educational) privilege of traveling in Israel and Palestine, has a new piece in the National Interest surveying the decades of U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace process that have led up to the current impasse, and calling for a renewed U.S. push for negotiations. "For the United States," Kurtzer writes, "the policy choice ahead is binary:"
Do we pull the plug on the life-support system of the peace process that we constructed in 1991, let this phase of Arab-Israeli interaction die a peaceful death, and try to develop a different paradigm for resolving the conflict? Or do we persist, maintaining the same goal of a two-state solution and essentially the same process of arriving at peace through bilateral negotiations? I don’t see merit in a third option of waiting it out, living with the status quo, allowing the conflict to “ripen” and choosing a different time for negotiations. There is no such thing as a status quo in conflict situations: things either improve or get worse. This conflict—if left to develop on its own and subject to the machinations of those on both sides who are intent upon disrupting any resolution effort—will get much worse, much faster than anyone can anticipate.
Given that a U.S.-brokered process of negotiation is what got us here, I wondered about the difference between the second and third option. Isn’t continuing such a process likely to simply perpetuate a deteriorating status quo? "You’re right, the status quo could be either static, or just not-very-effective diplomacy," Kurtzer told me over the phone. "Both of those are quite dangerous. All it will lead to is a pressure cooker situation that could explode into another round of violence."
Asked to describe a different paradigm for resolving the conflict, Kurtzer told me, "I don’t think there is another paradigm. If someone has another paradigm, the onus is on them to show how it makes sense." A one-state solution, or a confederation, have been shown to be "unworkable," said Kurtzer, and he believes a two-state solution is still the only one that can work.
Given the domestic political challenges to assertive U.S. leadership in the peace process, what about a larger role for the U.S.’s international partners? "The only international player who can have real influence here is the U.S.," Kurtzer responded. "This isn’t hubris, it’s a recognition of the very obvious fact that the Israelis have a great deal of trouble trusting anyone, and if they do trust anyone it’s the U.S., because we have historically come through with support. At the end of the day that’s going to make the difference for an Israeli leader" when it comes time to make a deal. "The other players are important, they can bring resources and support, but it’s Washington" that will make the difference.
As to the likelihood of a renewed peace push by the Obama administration, "I have no illusions here," said Kurtzer. "The common wisdom is that this is something that won’t be done in an election year, and I’m fighting against that. I’m saying that this is a time when it’s important to do it."
Kurtzer’s piece is very much worth reading in full.