Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

To Peace Plan or Not to Peace Plan?

Reports earlier this month that President Barack Obama may present a comprehensive U.S. peace plan for resolving the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict have spurred a growing public debate over its wisdom and timing.

Inter Press Service

Reports earlier this month that President Barack Obama may present a comprehensive U.S. peace plan for resolving the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict have spurred a growing public debate over its wisdom and timing.

While relatively few voices are calling for Washington to table such a plan immediately, some experts argue that Washington should be preparing the ground now, if it is not doing so already, for unveiling possibly as early as the end of the year.

“I do think there is a point where it’s very important to lay out a plan,” according to Martin Indyk, former President Bill Clinton’s top Mideast adviser and currently vice president of the Brookings Institution. He stressed that such a step should, however, be preceded by close consultation with both parties, preferably in the context of their own negotiations.

Others, most of them closely associated with the so-called “Israel Lobby” clustered around the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), strongly oppose the idea. They argue that any peace accord covering key final-status issues, including security arrangements, borders, the Palestinian “right of return”, and, perhaps most controversially, the fate of Jerusalem, can and should be resolved as part of an incremental process of confidence building between the parties themselves.

These voices, as well as others, also argue that Washington should be focused far more on Iran and stopping its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons than on resolving what has proved to be the chimera of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“A protracted disagreement over … the contours of a final settlement is a distraction that would benefit neither the U.S. nor Israel, given an Iranian threat that is close at hand and a promise of peace that is distant,” wrote Richard Haass, president of the influential Council of Foreign Relations in Monday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal, whose editorial views on the Middle East are closely aligned to those of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

The controversy over a possible U.S. peace plan comes as both the Obama administration and Netanyahu appear to have worked out a “gentleman’s agreement” to resolve last month’s contretemps over Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem that effectively prevented the launch of U.S.-mediated “proximity talks” between the PA and Israel.

Although he will publicly deny it, Netanyahu has reportedly pledged to enforce a de facto freeze on new construction in the city and prevent other provocations that Abbas has cited as sabotaging a credible peace process and his own political position.

Washington is hoping that that understanding, as well as additional Israeli steps – among them, the release of some long-held Palestinian prisoners, easing the blockade on Hamas-controlled Gaza, expanding the area under PA control on the West Bank, and including future borders and the status of Jerusalem on the agenda of direct or indirect discussions – will be sufficient to induce Abbas to join the proximity talks.

The deal is expected to be sealed after Abbas consults with other Arab League leaders later this week, followed by a visit by Obama’s special envoy for Mideast peace, Sen. George Mitchell, to the region a few days later.

Assuming the proximity talks do indeed get underway, the Obama administration, which since its first days in office has pledged to make a final peace settlement a top priority, is expected to press both sides to quickly engage in direct negotiations on final-status issues. It has already suggested that it will offer “bridging proposals” in the event of an impasse.

Even with bridging proposals, however, many analysts here believe that the two sides will prove unable to agree on the most sensitive issues, notably the “right of return” and Jerusalem’s status. They argue that the articulation of a U.S. plan, largely based on the so-called “Clinton parameters” that were worked out in U.S.-mediated talks between July 2000 and January 2001, will be necessary sooner rather than later if Obama is to realise his ambition of ending the conflict.

The urgency of that goal has been underlined in recent weeks both by Obama, who last week referred to the resolution of the conflict as “a vital national interest of the United States”, and other top U.S. officials. They include the chief of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, who stated explicitly that the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle has made his work, including weakening Islamist groups like al Qaeda and isolating Iran, much more difficult.

“Enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its Arab neighbours present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the area of responsibility,” he told Congress last month. “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples.”

Such assertions have been strongly rejected by AIPAC and its allies. They have argued that Israeli policies toward Palestinians have little or nothing to do with ongoing wars in Iraq or Afghanistan and that achieving a peace accord would, in Haass’s words, fail both to resolve questions of political stability in the “largely authoritarian Arab world” and “weaken Iran’s nuclear aspirations”.

They also argue current circumstances – including the division on the Palestinian side between Fatah and Hamas, the strong rightward shift in Israeli public opinion since the Gaza withdrawal, and the loss of U.S. influence in the region – make prospects for success particularly dim and that failure could be catastrophic to what remains of Washington’s credibility on the issue.

“To say conditions are not ripe for a U.S. initiative does not mean waiting for them to ripen,” according to Robert Malley, Middle East director for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), which first called for Washington to present its own plan eight years ago. “It means taking deliberate, sustained steps to make them so.”

In a new report, Malley, who worked on the Middle East for Clinton and advised Obama early in his presidential campaign, calls for Obama to repair strained relations with Tel Aviv without backing down from core U.S. principles; engage key constituencies, including Palestinian refugees and Israeli settlers, that have been ignored in previous peace efforts; adopt a more flexible policy on reconciliation between Abbas and Hamas; and encourage the resumption of peace talks between Syria and Israel.

Once such a plan is articulated, according to the report, Washington will need to marshal strong international support, particularly among Arab states that can provide political backing to the Palestinians and regional recognition to Israel.

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to IPS Right Web (http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/). He blogs at http://www.lobelog.com/.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Update was slow, but still no lag in the editor window, and footnotes are intact.     This has been updated – Bernard Lewis, who passed away in May 2018, was a renowned British-American historian of Islam and the Middle East. A former British intelligence officer, Foreign Office staffer, and Princeton University professor, Lewis was…


Bernard Lewis was a renowned historian of Islam and the Middle East who stirred controversy with his often chauvinistic attitude towards the Muslim world and his associations with high-profile neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks.


John Bolton, the controversial former U.S. ambassador to the UN and dyed-in the-wool foreign policy hawk, is President Trump’s National Security Adviser McMaster, reflecting a sharp move to the hawkish extreme by the administration.


Michael Joyce, who passed away in 2006, was once described by neoconservative guru Irving Kristol as the “godfather of modern philanthropy.”


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Michael Flynn is a former Trump administration National Security Advisor who was forced to step down only weeks on the job because of his controversial contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Trump is not the problem. Think of him instead as a summons to address the real problem, which in a nation ostensibly of, by, and for the people is the collective responsibility of the people themselves. For Americans to shirk that responsibility further will almost surely pave the way for more Trumps — or someone worse — to come.


The United Nations has once again turn into a battleground between the United States and Iran, which are experiencing one of the darkest moments in their bilateral relations.


In many ways, Donald Trump’s bellicosity, his militarism, his hectoring cant about American exceptionalism and national greatness, his bullying of allies—all of it makes him not an opponent of neoconservatism but its apotheosis. Trump is a logical culmination of the Bush era as consolidated by Obama.


For the past few decades the vast majority of private security companies like Blackwater and DynCorp operating internationally have come from a relatively small number of countries: the United States, Great Britain and other European countries, and Russia. But that seeming monopoly is opening up to new players, like DeWe Group, China Security and Protection Group, and Huaxin Zhongan Group. What they all have in common is that they are from China.


The Trump administration’s massive sales of tanks, helicopters, and fighter aircraft are indeed a grim wonder of the modern world and never receive the attention they truly deserve. However, a potentially deadlier aspect of the U.S. weapons trade receives even less attention than the sale of big-ticket items: the export of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment.


Soon after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a bus killed 40 children on August 9, a CENTCOM spokesperson stated to Vox, “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the U.S. sold to them.”


The West has dominated the post-war narrative with its doctrine of liberal values, arguing that not only were they right in themselves but that economic success itself depended on their application. Two developments have challenged those claims. The first was the West’s own betrayal of its principles: on too many occasions the self interest of the powerful, and disdain for the victims of collateral damage, has showed through. The second dates from more recently: the growth of Chinese capitalism owes nothing to a democratic system of government, let alone liberal values.


RightWeb
share