Syria is devastated by civil war. Egypt is immersed in violent turmoil by Islamist insurgents. Iran continues to work on advanced centrifuges at an alarming pace. And al-Qaida and affiliated groups continue to threaten traditional Arab regimes and Western interests throughout the area.
With the region aflame, with so many crises demanding attention, the US has made a baffling decision to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and make it the crux of its Middle East policy.
US Secretary of State Kerry has made nearly a dozen visits to the region in the past year in an unceasing effort to broker an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. He is expected to announce a framework for a peace deal in the coming weeks.
While everyone wishes for peace, many of us in Congress are troubled that the Obama administration is unduly pressuring Israel into making far-reaching concessions in peace talks with the Palestinians. These are concessions which will be detrimental to its long-term security, and which are likely to backfire.
It is our firm belief that bilateral negotiations between the two sides are the only viable path to a true peace accord. Past history has repeatedly shown that outside pressure – however well intended – is a recipe for failure.
Peace will be made from the ground up – not in the meeting rooms of five-star hotels.
Moreover, our concern over the administration’s heavy-handed tactics is only heightened by the fact that this pressure is coming under the shadow of a nuclear-armed Iran. Indeed, Iran is continuing to spin its centrifuges – and work on more advanced ones – and top Iranian officials have said they will never dismantle them.
We should be putting pressure on our enemies not on our friends.
Especially at this time, Israel must not be coerced into any moves that could endanger its security. It is my belief that a strong majority in Congress share this view.
Israel has legal, moral, historical and security claims to this land. Giving up any of these claims has not brought peace in the past, but has only strengthened those who want to destroy Israel.
A viable peace can only be worked out in direct bilateral negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
In the meantime, continued economic progress in the West Bank will do more to bring about the kind of solution the US administration wants.
Progress will improve the quality of life of Palestinians, and thereby indirectly weaken Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
A true peace will only be decided in bilateral peace talks that both sides freely agree on. It will certainly not come from unilateral concessions that the US forces upon Israel.
The author, a member of Congress from Colorado, is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and co-chairs the bipartisan Congressional Israel Allies Caucus.