Aaron David Miller, a former high-ranking State Department official and an expert on the Israel-Palestine conflict, is about ready to give up on Middle-East peace. For the cover story in Foreign Policy magazine, he writes of experiences on the eve of President Bush's failed 1991 peace meetings, "America had used its power to make war, and now, perhaps, it could use that power to make peace. I'd become a believer. I'm not anymore." Though a key figure in "America's commitment to Arab-Israeli peacemaking over the past 40 years," Miller says it's time to move on.
The peace-process creed has endured so long because to a large degree it has made sense and accorded with U.S. interests. The question is, does it still? Does the old thinking about peacemaking apply to new realities? Is the Arab-Israeli conflict still the core issue? And after two decades of inflated hopes followed by violence and terror, and now by directionless stagnation, can we still believe that negotiations will deliver? Sadly, the answers to these questions seem to be all too obvious these days.
The United States needs to do what it can, including working with Israelis and Palestinians on negotiating core final-status issues (particularly on borders, where the gaps are narrowest), helping Palestinians develop their institutions, getting the Israelis to assist by allowing Palestinians to breathe economically and expand their authority, and keeping Gaza calm, even as it tries to relieve the desperation and sense of siege through economic assistance. But America should also be aware of what it cannot do, as much as what it can.
Miller has a lot of company. In the past year, some U.S. pundits have argued that we should disengage from the Israel-Palestine peace process, that we should back away from Israel, and that the U.S.-Israel alliance is fraying.