News / Middle East

Scholar: Chances of Mideast Peace 'Slim' for Now

Aaron David Miller, Public Policy Scholar at Washington DC's Woodrow Wilson Center, says Mideast leaders not ready to make choices.

US Mideast envoy George Mitchell leaves following his meeting about Mideast peace talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, not pictured, in Cairo, Egypt, Oct 3, 2010
US Mideast envoy George Mitchell leaves following his meeting about Mideast peace talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, not pictured, in Cairo, Egypt, Oct 3, 2010

Multimedia

Audio
  • Full interview with Aaron David Miller, Woodrow Wilson Center for Public Policy

Cecily Hilleary

The failure of the latest round of Middle East talks has left politicians and analysts grappling over whether a peace agreement achievable in the near future.  U.S. negotiator George Mitchell met separately with Israeli and Palestinian leaders this past week, saying the US remained committed to pursuing substantive talks.

Aaron David Miller, Public Policy Scholar at the Washington D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Public Policy, is a former State Department analyst and negotiator and the author of The Much Too Promised Land:  America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace.  He told VOA reporter Cecily Hilleary that no matter what strategy the U.S. will attempt in coming months, the chances of "quick and easy progress" remain slim.

Aaron David Miller
Aaron David Miller

Miller:  You have two basic problems.  The first is an ownership problem.  Neither the Israeli nor Palestinian leadership owns their own process.  And until they do, until they are driven by prospects of pain and/or gain, to a situation where on the core issues - Jerusalem, borders, security and refugees - they’re prepared to make the kinds of decisions, choices and concessions, it strikes me that we’re going to be wheel-spinning.

The second problem is the absence or lack of American credibility.  I mean, these days, over the last several years, it seems that everybody says “no” to the United States without much cost and without much consequence, and a mediator really - an effective mediator - needs “street credibility,” needs the respect and even the fear, at some point, of the powers with which it deals.

So I think that this is going to be a very long “movie.”  I think that the [U.S.] administration’s approach is worth the effort right now, which is to conduct parallel talks on these big issues to see where the gaps are, what each side may be willing to do, and then consider if the gaps can be bridged.  That’s our assessment.  But all of that, it strikes me, is going to be very, very hard.

Houses under construction are seen in a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem known to Israelis as Har Homa and to Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim, 08 Dec 2010
Houses under construction are seen in a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem known to Israelis as Har Homa and to Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim, 08 Dec 2010

And in the meantime, the Israelis will continue to pursue their settlement policies, and the Palestinians are involved in another major distraction, which is the effort to create the basis for what might be – although it’s highly inadvisable - a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood.

Hilleary:  Let me jump back.  You say that the United States isn’t credible, that it needs to be tough and inspire fear.   What could it have done in this latest round of talks that it did not do?

Miller: Well, let’s first of all determine what it shouldn’t have done.  It shouldn’t have identified a goal - a comprehensive freeze on settlements, including Jerusalem - that no Israeli government could ever have accepted.   And then when it became quite clear that no Israeli government was going to accept it, then either threaten and/or try to bribe the Israelis into delivering a freeze.  The whole policy of focusing on a settlement freeze is doomed.

Hilleary: From the Palestinian perspective, though, that was the condition for resuming direct talks.

Miller: That’s true, but direct talks, frankly, are of limited utility.  If you went back and looked at the record of American mediation over the last 40 years, what you’d find is that our successes - and there have only been three:  Kissinger’s disengagement diplomacy in the '70s, Jimmy Carter’s Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, Jim Baker’s efforts to put together a Madrid Peace Conference - these all came as a consequence not of direct negotiations, but of U.S. mediation - indirect talks.

So, the issue is not direct or indirect.  The issue is whether or not the parties, the Israelis and the Palestinians, Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, are prepared to make the kinds of choices that narrow the gaps sufficiently on the four core issues, which would allow a determined and smart American mediator to bridge those gaps.

And the answer to the first question so far, after 20 months, is “No, they’re not.”

The answer to the second question on the issue of U.S. mediation is a question mark.

But given the performance over the course of the last 20 months, a case can be made that the Americans aren’t up to it.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid