Commentary Magazine


Everyone Knows

Amid continuing indications that the Obama administration plans to tackle Middle East peace as a priority, Aaron David Miller warns “experts, politicians and would be mediators to keep their enthusiasm for quick or easy solutions under control.”

There is a myth out there driven by the Clinton parameters of December 2000, the Taba talks in 2001, the Geneva accord a year later, and the hundreds of hours of post Annapolis talks between Israelis and Palestinians that the two sides are “this close” (thumb and index finger a sixteenth of an inch apart) to an agreement.

Not only are they not “this close” — the “current situation on the ground between Israelis and Palestinians makes it impossible” to reach an agreement:

That everyone knows what the ultimate solution will look like (an intriguing notion that is supposed to make people feel better) is irrelevant if the circumstances for an agreement don’t exist.

The circumstances include a dysfunctional Palestinian Authority and the existence of political parties with their own armies, who will continue their war from any vacated land.

National security experts Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski suggest the “major elements of an agreement are well known” and urge Obama simply to “declare” the “basic parameters of a fair and enduring peace” and deal with Israeli security concerns with an “international peacekeeping force.” But this merely papers over disagreements with adjectives (a “fair” and “enduring” peace) and disregards the abject history of international Middle East peacekeeping forces (including the one that failed to prevent the Six Day War and the one currently preserving peace in Lebanon by watching Hezbollah rearm).

What everyone should know by now – one year after the parties “agreed” to reach a peace agreement within a year (presumably on the basis of what “everyone knows” is the solution) but could not, even with the assistance of a Secretary of State making umpteen trips to the region – is that the circumstances for an agreement do not currently exist. A new Obama Process, featuring an imposed agreement and an ineffective enforcement mechanism, is not a solution.