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

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora