Aaron Miller writes an extremely pessimistic piece of advice for President elect Obama on the impossibility of Israeli/Palestinian peace right now. I think that it is a very well written piece, and that anything Aaron writes should be studied carefully. But there are two responses that should soften his pessimism.
There is a myth out there driven by the Clinton parameters of December 2000, the Taba talks in 2001, the Geneva accord a year later, and the hundreds of hours of post Annapolis talks between Israelis and Palestinians that the two sides are “this close” (thumb and index finger a sixteenth of an inch apart) to an agreement. The gaps have now narrowed, perhaps impressively, but closing them, particularly on the identity issues such as Jerusalem and refugees, is still beyond the reach of negotiators and leaders.
The dysfunction and confusion in Palestine make a conflict-ending agreement almost impossible. The
Sami Moubayed, one of the most important Syrian commentators, is proposing a last chance for the White House to come to the table of Syrian/Israeli peacemaking. Sami writes:
Everybody is worried about progress on the indirect Syrian-Israeli talks, currently underway in Turkey. According to Syria commentator, Joshua Landis, they have either reached a breakthrough, or a dead end.
Contrary to what some media sources are saying, however, the talks are going well. Already 85 per cent of critical issues had been solved since the 1990s. The talks are going too well in fact and there is worry on both sides that an agreement can be reached within what remains of 2008.
The radical contrast between Washington’s attitude, and that of Iran, is striking. The Americans still refuse to endorse these talks, writing them off as a hoax by the Syrians to end the US-imposed isolation that started in 2003.
Note this extremely well-argued realist piece from Robert Pelletreau and Ed Walker in the Boston Globe. All of my experience in Syria suggests to me that most of their points are accurate and should be appealing to the more rational side of the Bush team in its last months. It can only help the reputation of the Republicans to aggressively pursue a new approach to Syria right now. It could be the foreign policy success that has eluded them for eight years. Here is an excerpt:
Dr. Sami Taki, a close associate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said in late July that Syria might change its alliance with Iran if Syria achieves peace with Israel.
The United States stands to gain a great deal from an Israeli-Syrian agreement. Having served as US ambassadors to five Middle East countries, we are convinced that a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace is essential to
IT IS WHAT YOU DO THAT DEFINES YOU: A RE-ASSESSMENT OF DIPLOMACY IN THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT
There is a desperation at work in the sad excuse for negotiations underway between Israel and Palestine. This is the latest:
PA rejects Olmert’s offer to withdraw from 93% of West BankBy Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent, and Reuters
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday rejected an Israeli peace proposal, which included withdrawal from 93 percent of the West Bank, because it does not provide for a contiguous Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, Abbas’s spokesman, told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan showed a “lack of seriousness.”
Under the proposal, Israel would return to the Palestinians 93 percent of the West Bank, plus all of the Gaza Strip, when the Palestinian Authority regains control over the Gaza Strip, which the militant group Hamas seized from forces loyal to Abbas in June 2006.
Olmert presented Abbas with the