- Pathways to Peace: America and the Arab-Israeli Conflict ed. by Daniel C. Kurtzer, and: Brokers of Deceit: How the US Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East by Rashid Khalidi
Twenty years ago this summer, Israeli and Palestinian leaders meeting secretly in the land of the midnight sun hammered out the parameters for a two-state solution based on the principle of peace for land. In September 1993, Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasir ‘Arafat shook hands in the Rose Garden and, with US President Bill Clinton’s blessing, unveiled the Oslo Peace Process that was supposed to produce a final agreement ending three generations of conflict in the Holy Land. Two decades later, however, the two sides are farther apart than ever, hundreds of Israelis and thousands of Palestinians have died at each other’s hands, and US policy-makers seem to regard the conflict as insoluble. The two books under review here offer radically different explanations of what went wrong and what must be done to secure a just and lasting peace.
Daniel Kurtzer’s Pathways to Peace is a collection of essays by veteran American, Israeli, and Palestinian “peace processors” who remain convinced that a two-state solution is still the only way to end the conflict. Three experienced US negotiators — Kurtzer, William Quandt, and Aaron David Miller — all of whom began their careers during the 1970s, point out that the Arab-Israeli conflict has always seemed unripe for resolution, even on the eve of major breakthroughs like the 1978 Camp David Accords and the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference. All three now feel a great sense of urgency because if the United States cannot jump-start the stalled peace process very soon, the steady expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank and growing cynicism among the Palestinian people and their leaders will make the dream of two states, one Jewish and the other Arab, living side by side in the Holy Land, impossible.
The Arab contributors to this volume insist that despite Israeli claims to the contrary, the PLO remains a reliable partner for peace. Marwan Muasher, a Jordanian diplomat who served as King ‘Abdullah II’s foreign minister for two years, argues that the key to keeping the Palestinians on board is to breathe new life into the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, a Saudi-backed proposal that promised unconditional Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for Israel withdrawing to “the Green Line” that demarcated its pre-1967 borders. Samih al-Abid and Samir Hileleh, who held positions in the Palestinian Authority throughout the Oslo era, contend that the biggest obstacle to the resumption of peace negotiations is Israel’s knee-jerk bashing of the PLO to score debating points with American Jews. And Ghassan Khatib, who served on the PLO’s negotiating team during the 1990s, blasts the United [End Page 476] States for failing to condemn Israeli foes of the two-state solution such as Michael Freund, an aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who brazenly remarked in 2011 that “the Green Line is dead and buried” because “it is no longer of any relevance, politically or otherwise” (p. 77).
The Israeli contributors to Pathways to Peace support the two-state solution not merely as a matter of simple justice but also as the only way to avoid a binational one-state solution that would eventually make Jews a minority and Palestinians a majority in a single political entity west of the Jordan River. Avi Gil, the director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Ariel Sharon, says it all in the subtitle of his essay: “Don’t Wait for the Dust to Settle; Act Now.” Yossi Alpher, a special adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Barak at the abortive 2000 Camp David II Summit, says that American officials must walk a diplomatic...