Tom Kutsch is a Program Associate at the New America Foundation/Middle East Task Force.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington on Monday represents the Obama administration’s first opportunity to implement a new American strategy for achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace.
President Obama and many in his administration have already made it clear that its goal is to end the conflict with a peace agreement – not only between Israel and a new independent Palestine – but also with all 22 Arab states (and perhaps every Muslim state as well).
As Netanyahu’s visit approaches (along with the visits of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak), New America Foundation/Middle East Task Force Co-Directors Daniel Levy and Amjad Atallah sat down to discuss some ways in which American policy might realize its stated ambition.
Some points they suggested to keep in mind:
1. Do not expect a show-down between Obama and Netanyahu – but do look for the Obama administration to change its tone and reposition itself among the parties.
2. The U.S. should escape the Annapolis logic of bilateral negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians alone in favor of direct, robust American involvement. The US must be a leader in this process – not a mere facilitator.
3. Refrain from repackaging endless ‘peace processing’ and going after non-implementable solutions (an example of which is the futile attempt to condition de-occupation on Palestinian capacity and institution building).
This conflict will not be solved by simply implementing the old Bush approach with more skill. Obama mustn’t be Obama on the outside and Bush on the inside. The approach itself has to change and change radically.
As Atallah and Levy note above, the alternative to initiating a U-turn vis a vis American efforts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to become trapped in a policy cul-de-sac.
— Tom Kutsch