The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Has the U.S. Failed?
Oct 15 2014
520 North Capitol Street, NW,
Washington, DC 20001
WASHINGTON, October 15, 2014 – The Middle East Policy Council’s 78th Capitol Hill Conference convened four experts with in-depth experience in U.S. government and the Middle East to evaluate whether the recent collapse of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians represents a U.S. failure.
The answer, according to the panel, depends on how you define the goals of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. The diverse panel presented a variety of viewpoints: U.S. foreign policy values regional stability and the survival of Israel over achieving a two-state solution; the U.S. genuinely has been attempting to promote a two-state solution; and domestic pressures in the United States constrain Washington from acting as an honest broker, regardless of its stated foreign-policy goals. The panelists generally agreed that political pressures, a history of mistrust, and a lack of monitoring and accountability contribute to the ongoing impasse.
The panelists included Daniel Kurtzer (Princeton University, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Egypt); Natan Sachs (Brookings Institution Center for Middle East Policy); Matt Duss (Foundation for Middle East Peace); and Yousef Munayyer (The Jerusalem Fund). Omar Kader, chairman of the board of the Middle East Policy Council, moderated the event. Thomas Mattair, executive director, was a discussant. More specific remarks from the panelists:
Daniel Kurtzer advocated for better application of lessons learned from prior attempts at forging a peace settlement, with an emphasis on monitoring the performance of both parties against clearly defined terms of reference to the negotiations, with associated penalties.
Natan Sachs cited mistrust as the primary reason for the latest breakdown in talks, with both sides deserving equal blame. He also described an Israeli “malaise” associated with the peace process, despite public opinion polls there suggesting greater support for a two-state solution among Israelis than Palestinians.
Matt Duss suggested that the current Israeli government believes the status quo is sustainable and that it is an American responsibility to help maintain it. If this belief is in fact embraced by the United States, then Washington has no ability to impose real costs on Israel for its intransigence.
Yousef Munayyer argued that the U.S. has two goals in the Middle East: to secure resources related to the global economy and ensure Israel’s survival, not to forge a two-state solution. This reality suggests that any change to the status quo must come from international efforts, including further isolation of the Israeli state.