walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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International Crisis Group: What Peace Process?

“Does anybody still believe in the Middle East Peace Process?” This is the opening question of a hard-hitting new report on the topic by the International Crisis Group, pointedly entitled “The Emperor Has No Clothes: Palestinians and the End of the Peace Process.” From the report’s Executive Summary:

Nineteen years after Oslo and thirteen years after a final settlement was supposed to be reached, prospects for a two-state solution are as dim as ever. The international community mechanically goes through the motions, with as little energy as conviction. The parties most directly concerned, the Israeli and Palestinian people, appear long ago to have lost hope. Substantive gaps are wide, and it has become a challenge to get the sides in the same room.

The ICG seems to have noticed something that the Via Meadia think tank has been pointing out for some time: in light of irreconcilable differences between the principal parties and destabilizing regional realities like the Iranian threat and the Arab Sping, prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace in the near future are vanishingly small. However desirable a resolution to the conflict might be, however certain we are of the contours of a just two-state solution, and however many photo ops the U.S. and the international community force upon Israeli and Palestinian leaders, peace is not at hand.

What is needed to revive any real peace progress, as Via Meadia has noted in the past, is creative thinking coupled with courageous leadership. This will not be easy. But as the ICG notes, it is necessary:

The bad news is the U.S. presidential campaign, Arab Spring, Israel’s focus on Iran and European financial woes portend a peacemaking hiatus. The good news is such a hiatus is badly needed. The expected diplomatic lull is a chance to reconsider basic pillars of the process—not to discard the two-state solution, for no other option can possibly attract mutual assent; nor to give up on negotiations, for no outcome will be imposed from outside. But to incorporate new issues and constituencies; rethink Palestinian strategy to alter the balance of power; and put in place a more effective international architecture.

Check out the report’s full summary for the development of each of these points. While Via Meadia agrees with some and disagrees with others, we are convinced that these are the sorts of conversations that must take place if genuine progress is to replace political theater in the Middle East. And for the sake of all concerned—the sooner, the better.

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  • Luke Lea

    Stating the obvious:

    “. . .in light of irreconcilable differences between the principal parties and destabilizing regional realities like the Iranian threat and the Arab Spring, prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace in the near future are vanishingly small.”

    For the outlook to change two things will have to happen: First, this generation of radical Islamicism will have to burn itself out. And second, Europe will have to come round to accepting its historic responsibility for the Palestinian refugees (aka the Palestinian people), which was the only missing ingredient at the end of Oslo.

  • Steven E

    The idea that a two-state solution can gain mutual assent is a fantasy. The Arabs have consistently opposed a two-state solution for the last 64 years; why would anyone expect them to change their minds now? Has Hamas been overthrown in Gaza and has the Al-Asqa Martyrs’ Brigades been purged by Fatah in the West Bank?

    Irredentists cannot be induced into peace by appeasement; they can only be subdued by military force and exiled.

  • Cunctator

    I have not read the ICG’s report — I am weary of many of their “progressive” positions over the years — and, perhaps, this time will be no different. Why should we worry that the international peace process is dead in the water. Under Obama, it was rather silly to begin with. It might be better just to leave the region to settle its own affairs as best the inhabitants can. It might well lead to a fight now and again, sometime rhetorically, sometimes more violently, but in the end it is likely to reflect better the interests of the regional players than any initiative proposed by a distant leader in the White House that no one really trusts and fewer respect.

  • Corlyss

    “Does anybody still believe in the Middle East Peace Process?”

    No, of course we don’t. Not because it has proven to be such an abysmal flop for 40 years, but because we recognize a top-down imposition that does not reflect the druthers of the masses in the down part of top-down. When the people want peace, there will be peace, regardless of who in the leadership they have to kill to get it.

  • Micha

    I didn’t read the whole thing. but it seems they are still going in the same wrong direction, trying to convince the Israelis and Palestinians to make peace.

    The Palestinians can’t agree to end the conflict, and the Israelis can’t end of conflict risk concessions without end of conflict.

    What we need is to get as close to two states as possible without ending the conflict and with Israel feeling sufficiently secure. What we need is to get the most in practice with as little talking about the principles that neither side can accept.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Obama has done serious damage to the US Israel relationship, and Israel isn’t going to trust him to be a mediator.

    I think this new government is a reaction to the large number of threats Israel is now under, and it’s not just the Iranians which are a threat. Egypt is now threatening Israel in the south with gas pipelines being bombed, and the Muslim Brotherhood making threats. Syria is in turmoil and that situation could turn out badly for Israel. With the rise of Hamas in recent years, the Palestinians have become more violent (if that was even possible) and less likely to make peace. Turkey has broken the good relations they had with Israel, and looks to be maneuvering for greater power in the region. And finally, Lebanon is now controlled by Hezbollah, and has rearmed with long range rockets and could attack at anytime it becomes convenient.

    The pressures on Israel have been rising slowly but steadily for some time now, and they are clearly getting scared. Joining together to present a united face to their enemies is a logical and sane response.

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