America Must Reinvent the Peace Process

For peace talks this time to work, Kerry and Indyk must demonstrate pragmatism and creativity.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

Looking for optimism? John Kerry is probably the only statesman in the world who is willing to risk a lot and do everything it takes to save the two-state solution at the last moment. Benjamin Netanyahu is the only right-wing Israeli leader who is declaratively committed to the two-state solution and the only Israeli prime minister who signed strategic agreements with the Palestinians since Yitzhak Rabin's murder. Mahmoud Abbas is the only Palestinian leader identified with the two-state solution for the past 25 years and even he knows time is running out. Martin Indyk is the only peace professional who has served twice as the United States' ambassador in Israel, and has an excellent knowledge of both Israelis and Palestinians and the deep conflict between them, which he wishes to end.

So the combination of Kerry, Netanyahu, Abbas and Indyk is a one-time conjunction that will not happen again. The next nine months hold out a certain cautious, last hope.

Looking for pessimism? Kerry was preceded by Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. All the American secretaries of state tried to make peace here over the last 20 years and failed. The Netanyahu of 2013 was preceded by the Netanyahu of 2009-2012. All the attempts made so far to make the Israeli prime minister cross the political Rubicon ended in dismal failure. The current Abbas was preceded by the Camp David Abbas and the Annapolis Abbas. To this day nobody has managed to milk peace out of the obstinate goat of Palestinian nationalism.

So the chance of Indyk succeeding where Dennis Ross, Daniel Kurtzer, Aaron David Miller, Elliott Abrams, George Mitchell and countless other peace brokers failed is a faint one. On the face of it, the outlines of the Israeli-Palestinian permanent status arrangement are known. On the face of it, both sides have known for a long time what they're supposed to sign. But in reality, experience has proven that the ability to sign is non-existent. Time and again peace emerges, eludes and slips away.

There are quite a few reasons to believe that this time the opportunity is serious. Kerry is not aspiring to be president, but to make a true historic achievement. This is why he is investing in achieving a peace agreement all his resources and the resources of the nation he represents. Netanyahu's strength enables him to deliver the goods, and he has weighty strategic (Iran) and political (Likud) motives to deliver it. Abbas' weakness makes him completely dependent on the West, which will cease to support him if he fails this time too.

But there are also quite a few reasons to believe that the risk is especially high. The United States is withdrawing from the Middle East, most of whose inhabitants see it as a sinking power. As a result of the regional chaos, no Arab leader has the required legitimacy to sign an official, final peace agreement with the Zionist entity. The Israelis and Palestinians, who have proved in the past their artistry at creating empty spectacles in the name of peace, are now acting as though they're being forced to take part in a futile move they have no intention of implementing.

So Kerry and Indyk's only hope is resourcefulness. If their attempts amount to repetitions of past formulas that they try to impose on the two sides – they will fail. There is no chance Netanyahu will offer more than Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert offered in their time, as there is no chance of Abbas accepting what Arafat and he himself have rejected.

But if, while Tzipi Livni and Saeb Ereqat discuss the unsolvable ideological issues of the conflict, Indyk concocts a creative, ground-breaking proposal for them - then there's hope. Optimism will only triumph over pessimism if the Americans now demonstrate their outstanding qualities – pragmatism and creativity.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, accompanied by former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, launched the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Washington, July 29, 2013.Credit: AP

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