There have been few more dogged proponents of and participants in the “peace process” than Aaron David Miller. So when he now hops off the bandwagon and declares the “peace process” to be the equivalent of a false religion, it’s worth taking note. He explains:
Like all religions, the peace process has developed a dogmatic creed, with immutable first principles. Over the last two decades, I wrote them hundreds of times to my bosses in the upper echelons of the State Department and the White House; they were a catechism we all could recite by heart. First, pursuit of a comprehensive peace was a core, if not the core, U.S. interest in the region, and achieving it offered the only sure way to protect U.S. interests; second, peace could be achieved, but only through a serious negotiating process based on trading land for peace; and third, only America could help the Arabs and Israelis bring that peace to fruition.
He notes that he wrote his share of memos reciting the same catechism, but he couldn’t do it again today:
Today, I couldn’t write those same memos or anything like them with a clear conscience or a straight face. Although many experts’ beliefs haven’t changed, the region has, and dramatically, becoming nastier and more complex. U.S. priorities and interests, too, have changed. The notion that there’s a single or simple fix to protecting those interests, let alone that Arab-Israeli peace would, like some magic potion, bullet, or elixir, make it all better, is just flat wrong. In a broken, angry region with so many problems — from stagnant, inequitable economies to extractive and authoritarian governments that abuse human rights and deny rule of law, to a popular culture mired in conspiracy and denial — it stretches the bounds of credulity to the breaking point to argue that settling the Arab-Israeli conflict is the most critical issue, or that its resolution would somehow guarantee Middle East stability.
And of course, we have the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran (which should rank, but plainly doesn’t, with this administration as a higher concern). And the likelihood of a successful negotiation is now nil given, among other factors, the experience of Palestinian rejectionism over the last 60 years and the Fatah-Hamas divide. And he takes exception to the notion gaining traction in the Obama administration that the answer is to impose an American agreement. That, he says, is simply not going to happen given the reality on the ground.
One can take exception to some of Miller’s argument, but the core of it is indisputable: the peace-process believers “need to re-examine their faith.” The peace process is not merely, as Miller argues, unproductive; it has proven counterproductive, at least in the hands of the Obami. We have reinforced Palestinian rejectionism, weakened the U.S.-Israel relationship that has been a stabilizing and peace-keeping alliance for decades, rattled other Arab leaders (whose main concern is a nuclear-armed Iran), and proven our own fecklessness. You want to promote peace in the Middle East? Stop the peace process.