With the Arab world in turmoil from the Maghreb to the Gulf, few are paying much
attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict these days.
and Egypt are experimenting with democracy and have new governments just feeling
their way, and no one can be sure which way they will go. Syria is exploding in
civil war, and while the Assad regime appears to be steadily weakening, it still
has the most guns, tanks and planes.
And Russia is running interference
for the Assad regime at the United Nations to block international
Nuclear negotiations with Iran are going nowhere, and
Tehran increasingly appears to be using the talks simply to stall for time while
it accelerates uranium enrichment.
Meanwhile, the regime is threatening
to attack American bases, close the Straits of Hormuz and spread chaos and
violence if faced with military action from its foes.
background, no one is speaking seriously any longer about the centrality of the
Israeli-Palestinian standoff to establishing regional stability. President
Barack Obama came to office with that view and crashed into a stone wall of
reality. Barring a third intifada or dramatic escalation of violence, it is
likely to remain on a back burner well into next year.
Marc Lynch, a
senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said, “I see no
prospect for movement on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking anytime in the near
future or in the medium future.”
Low expectations got a brief bump up
when Shaul Mofaz brought the Kadima party into the government with reviving
peace negotiations with the Palestinians a top item on his agenda, but Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu never really showed much more than rhetorical
interest in the subject, and it was dropped when Mofaz pulled out of the
coalition 70 days later.
Netanyahu demonstrated his disinterest once
again this week with his government’s announcement of plans to demolish eight
Palestinian villages in order to give the IDF more space for training
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked up the peace process
in her recent meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders but all she got was
pious promises to pursue peace, but no action, nor is any likely in the
foreseeable future beyond a feckless effort by Palestinians to revive their bid
for UN membership this fall, a dramatic gesture that will change nothing on the
Real progress requires that both sides sit down with each other,
and neither is seriously interested.
Before anyone can even talk about
talking, much less negotiating, Israel and the Palestinians will have to restore
enough confidence in each other to persuade them it is worth their while,
Ambassador Dennis Ross, the veteran American peace envoy, told a Center for a
New American Security forum last week. For now the top-down lack of trust is
pervasive, and there is a growing belief on both sides that peace is never going
Ross proposed a 12-step plan to get Israelis and Palestinians
back on the (peace) wagon and to begin to restore trust. Twelve steps sounds
like an appropriate metaphor given both sides’ long-term intoxication with the
blame game and the need to sober up about achieving a political settlement. But
they’ve been drinking the nectar of complacency for so long that the status quo
Ross listed six steps for each side.
Provide compensation incentives for settlers to voluntarily begin leaving
2. Build housing for settlers who leave so they will know
there is a place to go that they will want to live in.
construction in areas that Israel is sure to leave; put the new housing in the
major blocks Israel is expected to retain or inside the 1967 Green
4. Open Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank now under full
Israeli security control, to Palestinian economic activity currently barred. It
will demonstrate Israel is serious about leaving.
5. Expand the
Palestinian police presence in Area B, 22% of the territory, to include security
responsibility and lower the Israeli profile.
6. In Area A, the 18% of
the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority has civil and security
responsibility, minimize Israeli incursions to an absolute
1. Put Israel on your maps and in your textbooks,
websites and government documents to demonstrate that you are serious about a
2. If you are so confident about your rights to the
land, acknowledge there is also a historical Jewish connection to the
3. Stop celebrating everyone who kills an Israeli as a martyr if
you want to show you are serious about coexistence.
4. Start conditioning
your public for the difficult decisions and compromises they will have to take
for peace; the more you treat yourself as a victim the more you perpetuate
yourself as a victim.
5. Replace the refugee camps with permanent
6. Build your infrastructure and institutions of your state; it
is good for you and tells the Israelis what kind of state you want to
Before the two sides can resume negotiations they have to begin
speaking seriously to their own people about their responsibilities and show,
not simply tell, the other side that they are ready, able and willing to make
Each side has lost faith in the other’s commitment to peace, and
has a profound sense that it is right, Ross said. “It’s not a question of right
or wrong. There are two rights.”