The meeting between President Barak Obama and Egyptian president Hosni
Mubarak Tuesday was the latest in a series of meetings
aimed at exploring new avenues for peace between Israel and its Arab
neighbors, especially the Palestinians. It comes amid a chorus of
proposals from independent groups suggesting ways the U.S. can help
resolve the bloody, decades-old conflict. Recently, four prominent
American statesmen, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter,
joined that chorus. They present their recommendations in a
privately-produced 20-minute film titled New Hope for Peace: What
America Must Do to End the Israel-Palestine Conflict.
Voices of experience in Middle East politics
addition to President Carter, the four men in the film are former
Secretary of State James Baker, and two former national security
advisors, General Brent Scowcroft and Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski. They are
among the most well-known and experienced proponents of the idea that a
U.S.-brokered peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is
key to a wider peace among Israel and its Arab neighbors.
film was produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace, a private
Washington-based group. Retired U.S. Ambassador Philip Wilcox is the
Foundation's president and a 30-year veteran of U.S. diplomatic efforts
in the Middle East. He says without intervention and mediation by a
third party, "there will be no peace and that is the role that these
four statesmen recommend for the President of the U.S."
says negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are difficult,
because "there is no balance between the negotiating powers; one is
vastly more powerful than the other." He notes that both Israel and
Palestine "are dysfunctional when it comes to dealing with security,
territorial and peace issues."
A new U.S. peace initiative?
says he believes President Obama's recent statements on the
Israel-Palestine conflict and his outreach to the Arab world signal the
beginnings of a new American peace initiative in the Middle East.
to former Secretary of State James Baker, that initiative should be
guided by the familiar roadmap of an earlier Israeli-Palestinian
agreement, negotiated at the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, often
called the two-state solution.
"It would be two states living
side by side in peace," Baker says. "There will be many of the
settlements that have been built in the areas immediately surrounding
Jerusalem [that] will be retained by the Israelis. Palestinians will be
given an equal amount of land elsewhere to make up for the loss of that
While Palestinians hope to return to their former
property, now in Israel, Baker says he believes they will instead
receive "compensation for lands that have been taken."
politically charged issues, says former National Security Advisor Brent
Scowcroft, can only be resolved through an American-brokered
negotiation. "The president needs to step up and say 'this is the
American proposal'," Scowcroft says, explaining, that way, the
Palestinian and Israeli leadership could each return to their people
and say, "this is not exactly what we wanted but the Americans made us
President Jimmy Carter, whose Mideast peacemaking
efforts led to the historic 1978 Camp David accords, says he is
encouraged by the Obama Administration's insistence that Israel halt
its construction of Jewish settlements in disputed territories. Those
settlements, the former president says, undermine the two-state
On this issue, Carter offers President Obama some specific
advice, saying he should "let his position be very clear [regarding]
things like settlements and the demolition of homes in East Jerusalem,
the security of Israel, the unity of the Palestinian people in a
government based on fair and free elections, and cooperation with the
Egyptians, who are doing the negotiations between Hamas and the
A historic opportunity for a new president
National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski believes President Obama
must also be personally engaged in Middle East peace negotiations.
"Ultimately, neither side is really prepared to make the necessary
concessions," he says. "It takes a constructive, impartial, and
energetic outside mediator to push the process forward. And there is
only one candidate who can fill these qualifications and that is the
U.S., and more specifically, the president of the U.S."
film presentation, the four American statesmen conclude that they
believe President Obama has a historic opportunity today to broker a
solution to the protracted Arab-Israeli conflict. That solution, they
contend, can give Palestinians the freedom and dignity they seek, and
provide Israelis with the security they need.
Wilcox of the Foundation for Middle East Peace says his organization
has delivered DVD copies of the film to the White House, the State
Department and every member of the U.S. Congress.