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The Problem Will Not Be Solved with Adjectives

Laura Rozen reports that the Obama administration is seeking new ideas from outside experts to advance its peace process — one that, in the words of an administration consultant, is “utterly stuck.”

There are apparently two task forces: one headed by Sandy Berger and Stephen Hadley, national security advisers in the Clinton and Bush administrations who know something about failed peace processes; and another one headed by perennial peace processor Martin Indyk, whose last plan involved jumping out a window.

Rozen quotes another veteran peace processor who suggests three options (when someone offers three options, the first two are invariably non-starters and the third is the one he wants):

“There are three options that this administration can adopt,” former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer told POLITICO Thursday. “It can elicit an Israeli initiative. It can elicit a Palestinian initiative. Or it can develop its own initiative.”

“It’s had no success with the first two, and it hasn’t tried the third,” Kurtzer said. “So if it wants to try to develop an initiative, it’s got to come up with a substantive program that says to the parties, ‘When you get to negotiations, here are your terms of reference.’”

It is unclear what happens after the Palestinians reject the term of reference requiring them to give up a “right of return” to Israel, or after the Israelis reject the term of reference requiring them to move back to indefensible borders.

Kurtzer has long been an advocate of the U.S.’s setting forth its own “vision,” with “strong terms of reference,” backed by diplomacy that is “creative, active, sustained, bold and determined.” But in his testimony proposing that last year, Kurtzer acknowledged he did not “understand why, in 2010, the Saudis do not allow normal Israeli civilian air traffic over its territory” — the one step President Obama had requested from them to advance the peace process. He also acknowledged that the Palestinians are divided both geographically and politically, with a terrorist group governing Gaza and a public discourse and public-education system still infused with anti-Semitism.

The peace process has not lacked for plans or processes: the Oslo Process, the Camp David Summit, the Clinton Parameters, the Taba negotiations, the Roadmap, the Gaza disengagement, the Annapolis Process, and two years of non-talks and Palestinian preconditions.

If the United States cannot — even with a presidential visit, a bow, and a personal request — secure from the Saudis the minimal step of permitting Jews to traverse the country once a week, for an hour, at 35,000 feet, and if the Palestinians remain a society half in the grip of terrorists and half in a faux democracy suffused with anti-Semitism, unwilling to recognize a Jewish state, the problem is not one that will be solved by an American plan, even if accompanied by “creative, active, sustained, bold, and determined” diplomacy.


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