News / Middle East

Former US Officials Assess Prospects for Mideast Peace

A Palestinian stone-throwing protester uses a sling to throw back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli security officers (rear) during clashes in the West Bank village of Bilin near Ramallah, January 4, 2013.
A Palestinian stone-throwing protester uses a sling to throw back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli security officers (rear) during clashes in the West Bank village of Bilin near Ramallah, January 4, 2013.
Negotiations for a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled for more than two years.

The key issues are well-known.  They are the geographic outlines of a new Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem, the return of Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements in occupied territories and security arrangements.

Peace talks ground to a halt in September 2010 when Israel resumed the construction of settlements after a moratorium expired.  Palestinian officials say they will not resume negotiations until settlement building is stopped.  Israel refuses to freeze settlements and is calling for talks to begin again without preconditions.

Palestinians must unite

Experts said one stumbling block to the peace process is the division in Palestinian leadership between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  The West Bank is run by Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority while the Gaza Strip is under the control of the militant organization Hamas, considered a terrorist group by Israel and the U.S. State Department.

Former U.S. National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, who served under Presidents Gerald Ford and George Herbert Walker Bush, said the Palestinians must show a united front.

“If Hamas can not be induced, if you will, to join with Fatah, and really pursue the peace process,” said Scowcroft, “then a two-state solution might be given up on and that would be a disaster for everyone.  This notion that the two-state solution is just out there forever, may be a mistake.”

Last November, Hamas and Israel fought a week-long conflict.  The militant group bombarded Israel with hundreds of rockets. Israel responded with air strikes in Gaza.  The fighting eventually stopped after Egypt mediated a cease-fire.

Hamas more dominant

John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, said Hamas actually emerged from the cease-fire in a stronger position. 

"They defied Israel and lived to tell about it.  And Iran also emerges in a stronger position.  They have demonstrated what many long expected or feared, that they could put missiles into the hands of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, that they could reach Israeli population centers like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv," he said.

As for Fatah, the U.N. General Assembly last November gave President Abbas a rare international diplomatic victory by recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer state, the same status as the Vatican.

“It was another exercise in fantasy by the U.N. General Assembly,” said Bolton.  “There is no Palestinian state, so having a majority in the General Assembly say there is one, is not going to create it."

"But despite its disconnect from reality, the resolution will have, could have, significant political effects, given that the Palestinians can take this status as a state in international law, go to the International Court of Justice, go to the International Criminal Court, accede to a number of other treaties and try and use that for political advantage.  I think it will have consequences,” he added.

U.S. role

Experts are divided as to whether Fatah’s diplomatic win and Hamas’s more dominant position will have any effect on the stalled peace process.  They said one thing is certain: the United States must play a more active role in advancing that process.

But William Cohen, former U.S. defense secretary in the Clinton administration, said Washington has a problem.

“The United States, frankly, has not had the perception of being an even-handed broker, because of the United States’ strong commitment to Israel,” said Cohen.  “And I think many of the Palestinians see this as not being fair-handed or even-handed, being an ‘honest broker.’”

Despite that, Cohen said the United States is the only country capable of being an “honest broker.”

“We are the only ones that can, because certainly from the Israeli point of view they have great trust in the United States, which is justified,” said Cohen.  “And I think we have to continue to reach out to the Palestinians to say that we are committed to helping to achieve a two-state solution.  And if we no longer intend to carry out that role, then obviously, we are not going to be able to help bring about a successful negotiation.”

Some experts believe U.S. President Barack Obama will have a unique opportunity during his second term in office to revive the Middle East peace process.  But analysts said any action on that front will wait until after the Israeli parliamentary elections scheduled for January 22.

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs