The U.S. administration should disregard the lull created by the Israeli election campaign and formally lay down its vision of a future peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, according to Dan Kurtzer, a former American ambassador to both Egypt and Israel.
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Writing in the American Interest, Kurtzer also recommends that the U.S. should not make do with verbal condemnations but “act” against Israeli and Palestinian policies that it disagrees with, such as settlements or incitement; that the Americans develop a strategy to “deconstruct the occupation” by fostering “independent Palestinian capacities”; and that it persuade Arab states to take steps that would “signal Israel about the tangible benefits of peace.”
Kurtzer, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University, was one of Obama’s top foreign policy advisers in the 2008 elections campaign, but contrary to widespread expectations at the time, was not appointed as the president’s special envoy to the Middle East. In the past six years he has often criticized the administration’s mishandling of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, calling for a more robust and activist American policy.
Kurtzer, whose article is entitled “The Middle East Peace Process – Deep In A Hole”, writes that despite the paralysis in the bilateral diplomacy brought on by the Israeli elections and the Palestinian initiatives at the United Nations, Washington can ill afford sit on the sidelines and do nothing. “Life goes on in the meantime, and the bad behaviors of both Palestinians and Israelis (terrorism, incitement, settlements, onerous occupation practices) continue during a period of inactivity in peacemaking,” Kurtzer writes.
He also dismisses various alternatives being proposed by various sides to the conflict, including unilateralism, autonomy, annexation, one-state etc. “Thus far, none of the Plan B’s has gotten much traction, and they are likely to take their place on the library shelf alongside the scores of other plans that have been advocated over the decades,” Kurtzer writes. The only “common sense outcome of the Arab-Israeli conflict has been known ever since it was first surfaced in the 1930’s by the British Peel Commission: namely, portioning the land between the two national movements that claim exclusive control over all the territory.”
Kurtzer acknowledges that his proposals would garner the administration significant pushback and criticism in both Israel and in Congress. At the same time, he notes, a publication of an American blueprint for peace would give Washington more justification and legitimacy to veto any Palestinian proposal to the Security Council.
Kurtzer also dismisses claims – advocated by this writer, among others – that Washington should stay silent for the duration of the Israeli election campaign. “U.S. silence at this stage will be represented by some in Israel as acceptance of the status quo. However, having an American strategy on the table will also help inform the debate in Israel over the critical issues involved in peace making. On balance, it is far wiser to be upfront about our policy—if we decide to go in this direction—than to unveil it only after the Israelis go to the polls.”