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 US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

Euro falls after European Central Bank announces a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program More

Saudi King’s Death Clears Succession Route

Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef is Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince-in-waiting More

Cloud Hangs Over US Counterterrorism Efforts in Yemen

Sources say resignations of Yemen's president, government has left US anti-terror operations 'paralyzed,' yet an American military 'footprint' remains More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid