Aaron David Miller, the veteran (now retired) State Department Mideast specialist, authored an article in Foreign Policy in April that came across as a renunciation of the peace process: “The False Religion of Mideast Peace And why I’m no longer a believer.” But upon a closer reading than most people have given it, I see that it’s not a blanket argument against peacemaking as such.
Miller’s frustrations are clear, and he’s not wrong in most of what he wrote, but his piece will have a bad impact if it is taken as a decisive argument against diplomacy. I take heed in this as his key point:
“… the 1990s [was] the only decade in the last half of the 20th century in which there was no major Arab-Israeli war. Instead, this was the decade of the Madrid conference, the Oslo accords, the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, regional accords on economic issues, and a historic bid in the final year of the Clinton administration to negotiate peace agreements between Israel, Syria, and the Palestinians. But for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the Arab, Palestinian, Israeli (and American) unwillingness to recognize what price each side would have to pay to achieve those agreements, the decade ended badly, leaving the pursuit of peace bloody, battered, and broken. Perhaps the most serious casualty was the loss of hope that negotiations could actually get the Arabs and Israelis what they wanted. ….
“Bottom line: Negotiations can work, but both Arabs and Israelis (and American leaders) need to be willing and able to pay the price. And they are not.”
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