Writing in this week’s Newsweek, ex-peace processor Aaron David Miller says the Obama administration will have to be “much tougher than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush were, if it’s serious about Arab-Israeli peacemaking.”
The article sets forth the standard peace-processor recommendations (push Israel to improve life in Gaza, stop settlement expansion on the West Bank), as well as the generic admonition that we should be “prepared to be tough with the Arabs as well.” On that latter point, however, Miller has no specific suggestions to make.
The “peace process,” as it has existed over the last 15 years, has in fact depended on not being “tough” (much less tougher) on the Palestinian “peace partners.” They always need to be “strengthened” with new concessions. Their shaky “confidence” must continually be rebuilt, with new “confidence-building” measures. They cannot be asked to affirm recognition of a Jewish state as a goal of the process – it would weaken them. They cannot be asked to educate their public on the concessions (starting with the “right of return”) necessary for the process to succeed – ditto. They cannot be held to the three-phase “performance-based” process to which they agreed: if they don’t perform Phase I and II, they go to Phase III anyway. If they cannot reach agreement, even on borders, even after a year-long process, even with the most pliant prime minister in Israeli history, they can rely on a peace processor to suggest the solution is to be tougher on Israel.
As the IDF continues its efforts to implement Phase I of the peace process in Gaza, by dismantling the terrorist organization that currently controls it, the most significant contribution the new administration can make to the process is to firmly support Israel in those efforts, to reiterate the commitments made by both the Clinton and Bush administrations to “defensible borders” for Israel, and to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in compliance with the Jerusalem Embassy Act.
Israel — having withdrawn every IDF soldier from Gaza, dismantled every settlement, and removed all 8,000 “obstacles to peace,” and having then seen the Palestinians immediately destroy the greenhouse economy, burn the buildings that could have been used for housing and schools, turn the settlement areas into rocket launching sites, elect their premier terrorist group to control their government, and force a new war on Israel — could stand to have its own confidence rebuilt too.