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Reviving the Peace Process

Reviving the Peace Process

Mini Teaser: Obama can take credit for several foreign-policy triumphs, but he has failed to revive the moribund Mideast peace process. Arguments for why it can’t be done crumble against the imperative of American presidential leadership.

by Author(s): Daniel Kurtzer

Last, Washington should press Arabs to activate the Arab Peace Initiative now. It is not enough for the Arabs to promise recognition, security and peace for Israel at the conclusion of the peace process; Arabs should be asked to start processes of reconciliation in parallel with peace negotiations. This is not far-fetched. In 1992, most Arab states agreed to participate with Israel in multilateral negotiations. Subsequently, most Arab states participated with Israel in four regional economic summits, designed to build private-public business and trade partnerships. As Israelis and Palestinians commit to the challenging work of negotiating peace, Arabs should be expected to play an affirmative role in demonstrating that peace yields tangible rewards for everyone in the region.

Even if elements of this strategy are not accepted by both parties, it remains a sustainable one that need not and should not be abandoned at the first sign of opposition. Until now, our diplomats have been working with discrete tactical approaches—a settlements freeze, proximity talks, direct talks—but without terms of reference, and the administration has backed away early when the tactics have not worked. But the strength of a comprehensive strategy should give the United States the confidence not to accept “no” as an answer. Even if the strategy does not work immediately, it will give Washington significant diplomatic maneuvering space for a long period ahead, as well as significant political benefits in our international diplomacy.

A report card on the administration’s handling of the peace process until today would probably say: “Too many erratic beginnings; lacked a definitive outcome.” It is unrealistic to believe that a definitive outcome can be achieved before our next election, but it is not too late to craft a wise beginning—a strong, reasonable and sustainable peace strategy that forms the basis of the next phase of Middle East peacemaking.

Daniel Kurtzer is the S. Daniel Abraham Professor in Middle Eastern Policy Studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He is a former United States ambassador to Egypt and Israel.

Image: Pullquote: The Arab-Israeli conflict has become a chronic, enduring and open wound, susceptible to dangerous infection that generates fever throughout the region.Essay Types: Essay