Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Middle East Blame Game and the Truth

After the op-ed writers and foreign policy bloggers began writing their obituaries on Secretary of State John Kerry's Israeli-Palestinian mediation effort, some began assigning blame. The chief culprits demanding on which side of the partisan divide one stood were Israeli settlement activity and Palestinian intransigence. But in this op-ed piece former State Department Middle East negotiator Aaron D. Miller, deputy to Dennis Ross in the Oslo era, dismisses this and simply states that the two sides were too far apart on all the issues. I made the same prediction for the same reason last August during the release of my most recently-published book, Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution, before the Madison chapter of J Street. In fact I made a Venn diagram to illustrate that there was no overlap between the Israeli and Palestinian positions on the aggregate of issues. In fact in the most serious previous negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians in 2008 the two sides never reached agreement on any of the four main issue areas: borders, security, Jerusalem, and refugees.

While it is true that settlements are very harmful to the negotiating process because they demonstrate that the Israeli government is not serious about negotiating a solution to the conflict, no new settlements would not provide a solution to the problems of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees. These issue areas would still remain problematic in spite of settlement activity or Palestinian terrorism. Palestinian terrorism demonstrates to Israel the same thing that settlements demonstrate to the Palestinians--that their negotiating partner is either not serious, not in control of his side, or both. I'm afraid that the sad truth is simply that the conflict must continue for quite some time and probably get much bloodier before the two sides will be ready and the situation will be ripe for settlement. We can only hope that the U.S. government will be ready to mediate when that occurs.

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