Should America Step Away From the Israel-Palestine Conflict?

Some think we should leave both sides to their own devices

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Has the U.S. exhausted its options in the decades-long effort to mend the Israel-Palestine conflict? The fate of Israeli settlements in the West Bank is unresolved, and both Israeli and Palestinian politics are stuck in turmoil. Moreover, a handful of commentators say that American diplomacy, long viewed as sympathetic to Israel, has run its course after years of failing to secure a compromise. Should we cut our losses and leave them to their devices?

  • Enough  The New York Times's Thomas Friedman writes, "The only thing driving the peace process today is inertia and diplomatic habit."

If we are still begging Israel to stop building settlements, which is so manifestly idiotic, and the Palestinians to come to negotiations, which is so manifestly in their interest, and the Saudis to just give Israel a wink, which is so manifestly pathetic, we are in the wrong place. It's time to call a halt to this dysfunctional "peace process," which is only damaging the Obama team's credibility.

If the status quo is this tolerable for the parties, then I say, let them enjoy it. I just don’t want to subsidize it or anesthetize it anymore. We need to fix America. If and when they get serious, they'll find us. And when they do, we should put a detailed U.S. plan for a two-state solution, with borders, on the table. Let’s fight about something big.

  • Cut Off Israel's Aid  Time's Joe Klein insists "the Netanyahu government isn't at all interested in peace," so why support them?
The Obama Administration may have to be a bit less "grandiose" in dealing with Netanyahu's irredentist government. It should start by putting a hold on all economic and military aid to Israel; the aid should not be discontinued, just held, for a nice long review until the Netanyahu government comes to understand that Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and Palestine, and that if you actually want peace, you don't build illegal settlement colonies in the Palestinian capital.
We insist on getting involved by cutting huge aid checks to Israel and inserting ourselves in between the combatants to broker a deal, but ultimately, who lives where in the West Bank has absolutely no strategic bearing on the security of the United States. In theory at least, this understanding would liberate us from this counter-productive morass.
  • Why That's Impossible  Foreign Policy's Stephen Walt agrees the peace process is a mess, but thinks it's too late to get out:
I have a certain sympathy for this position (and even wrote similar things myself before I wised up), but there are two problems with this specific idea. The first is that it is a meaningless prescription: There's no way to cut the aid package (or even put a hold on it, which is what Klein recommends) so long as Congress is in hock to AIPAC and the other groups in the status quo lobby. And unless I've missed something, I doubt groups like J Street would support it either. [...]

The second problem, I fear, is that it is too little, too late. Having dithered, delayed and dissembled ever since the Oslo Accords -- while the number of settlers more than doubled -- we are about to face an entirely different problem. The sun is now setting on the "two-state solution" -- if it is not already well below the horizon -- and pretty soon everyone will have to admit that they are sitting around in the dark and pretending they see daylight.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.