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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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