What’s Next for the Peace Process?

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Last night, President Obama said in his remarks to a joint meeting of Congress:

To seek progress toward a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbours, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort.

I dislike the word “sustain” here. I’d rather have seen “reinvent”, “revitalize”, “accomplish results” — something other than a commitment to keeping the “Middle East Peace Business” sustained. But perhaps I’m too cynical and should read less into the President’s words.
hillary clinton twn agenda.jpgSecretary of State Hillary Clinton will be traveling next to the Middle East — and we look forward to what framing she will give our challenges there. Given Condoleezza Rice’s many trips to Israel and the region, Secretary Clinton will no doubt be there often. She set a great pace and framed things just right (for the most part) in Asia — and I expect she’ll do well in the Middle East as well.
To help discuss various scenarios on the future of the Middle East peace process, I have been asked by a new meetings forum called “The Agenda” to moderate a meeting at the City Club of Washington at 555, 13th St. NW in Washington, D.C.
Please note that at the time I write this, I don’t see the venue listed on the website — but it is CITY CLUB OF WASHINGTON. The event is free and open to the public — and TWN readers are invited to join the interesting session.
You must RSVP at this page.
This is taking place on Monday, 2 March from 3 to 5 pm.
Panelists will be Boston Globe foreign policy correspondent Farah Stockman, New America Foundation Middle East Task Force Director Amjad Atallah, Israel Policy Forum Policy Analysis Director M.J. Rosenberg, and Al Jazeera Washington Bureau Chief Abderrahim Foukara (check out Foukara on The Daily Show)
Join us if you are able. I don’t know if this will be recorded — but if it is I will get it posted on TWN.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

23 comments on “What’s Next for the Peace Process?

  1. Colindale says:

    The deadly hand of AIPAC is apparent again on the
    shoulder of President Obama as he approves further
    massive aid to Israel as that state denies access
    to humanitarian aid for Gaza from countries around
    the world.
    The food and medical supply convoys wait outside
    the border crossings as men, women and children
    starve inside. The international community is
    powerless because they wait for the US to deal
    with the Israeli government, but the White House
    is unable to move because they await a green light
    from AIPAC.
    The world thought erroneously that the elected
    administration in Washington controlled foreign
    policy. Meanwhile people continue to die in Gaza –
    people just like you and me. Children just like
    ours.
    Since when did America support the killing of
    innocents and the starving of a whole people in
    the pursuit of the failed political agenda of a
    foreign government?

    Reply

  2. varanasi says:

    but wait a minute, everyone, this just in:
    natalie portman AND whitney houston support israel in their plight against palestinian militancy.

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  3. varanasi says:

    oh, arthur, you’re such a crotchety old guy.
    “bombast, conceit and outright stupidity” for pointing out that vanessa redgrave is an actor and not an expert on anything having to do with geopolitics, the ME or american foreign policy?!
    ohhhh kayyyyy.
    but go ahead guys, follow the international relations lead of a washed up actress if you want. seems about right for the comment threads at TWN.

    Reply

  4. arthurdecco says:

    Kathleen,
    Good to see you back in the fray.
    It’s always nice to see sanity prevail over bombast, conceit and outright stupidity like that evidenced by varanasi and DavidT here on this thread.
    There’s still no replacement for experience and it’s attendant wisdom, is there? (wink)

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  5. DavidT says:

    Come on Kathleen G.,
    Whether you like what Wolfowitz, Hadley, Rice, Cheney (or Rumsfeld, Feith, …) or not, are you really arguing that that Redgrave is any more an expert on our public policy than John Wayne or Charleton Heston was?

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  6. Kathleen G says:

    Varanasasi you mean the type of “expertise” in diplomacy, international, relations, conflict resolution that Wolfowitz, Hadley, Rice, Cheney etc exhibited?

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  7. Cee says:

    Kathleen,
    She’s in one of my favorite movies that I mentioned before.
    Playing for Time.

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  8. Varanasi says:

    Redgrave may have stepped up to your proverbial “plate,” but I
    certainly she has no expertise in diplomacy, international
    relations, conflict resolutions, history or the ME

    Reply

  9. Kathleen G says:

    http://articles.latimes.com/2008/feb/22/entertainment/et-cause22
    Usually the audience reacts with applause. But not always.
    Vanessa Redgrave, who funded and narrated a documentary film called “The Palestinian” in 1977, was aware that members of the Jewish Defense League were protesting outside the auditorium when she won best supporting actress for “Julia” a year later. She told the audience she was proud of them for not being “intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression.” Her remarks received boos and hisses.
    *****at those awards it seems to be acceptable to bring up the oppression of gays, the war in Iraq etc…but to bring up the oppression and violence perpetrated by radical and violent Jews is a big no no.
    Vanessa stepped up to the plate

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  10. Kathleen G says:

    varansai Vanessa Redgrave was one of the first people to stick her neck out and bring up this issue in the mid 70’s. She was basically run out of Hollywood
    “AMY GOODMAN: Vanessa Redgrave, an excerpt of The Fever. It’s based on the play by Wally Shaun and directed by Carlo Nero, Vanessa Redgrave’s son. Its co-stars include Angelina Jolie and Michael Moore. The Fever debuts tonight on HBO at 9:30 p.m. EST.
    Today, the film’s star, Vanessa Redgrave, and it’s director, Carlo Nero join us for the hour. Vanessa Redgrave is one of the most famous of the Redgrave acting dynasty with a career that spans nearly 50 years. She served as a U.N. Goodwill ambassador, and was a founding member of International Artists Against Racism. In 1977, Vanessa Redgrave funded and narrated a documentary film on the plight of the Palestinian people. That same year she starred in the film Julia, about a woman murdered by the Nazi regime in the years prior to World War Two for her anti-fascist activism. She won on Oscar for her performance. At the awards ceremony she spoke out on behalf of Palestinians, an Oscar acceptance speech that is referred to, to this day. Vanessa Redgrave is currently starring in a one-woman show on Broadway called The Year of Magical Thinking. It’s based on the book by Joan Didion. Carlo Nero, Vanessa Redgrave’s son, has written and directed a number of award-winning short films and documentaries. They both join us today in our firehouse studio. We welcome you both to Democracy Now!”
    http://www.democracynow.org/2007/6/13/vanessa_redgrave_combines_lifelong_devotion_to

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  11. Dan Kervick says:

    “Not believing in Keynes is alot like not believing in Darwin. The only people who don’t believe in it are crack pots and I don’t think you’re a crack pot. If you don’t like the Keynesian model which one do you endorse; Marx’s Labor Theory of Value (I could have some sympathy for this); Laffer’s Supply Side Economics? Something else?”
    Oh, c’mon WigWag. This is a fairly off-the-wall comment. I specifically said I didn’t buy the “textbook Keynesian model you were applying,” and indicated which aspect of that model I thought was inadequate. It’s not a question of “believing in Keynes”. Economics aspires to be an empirical science, and economists aren’t like prophets where you have to follow one of them religiously, or else follow another one.
    The questionable model I referred to assumes a world of firms, each operating plants. These plants each have a capacity, as does the economy as a whole, and one can speak in more or less precise terms about the degree to which capacity is utilized. When demand flags, utilization goes down and unemployment increases. The goal of government policy, on this picture, is to create additional demand, and fill up those plants up again with workers.
    Personally, I don’t know how much this is in Keynes and how much is just the boilerplate “Keynesianism” of policy makers working with a standard repertoire of policy prescription. But it is a much oversimplified conception of economic activity in a modern economy. Although the model allows for cyclical change in levels of production, it depicts what is ultimately a steady-state economic world.
    I think this model needs at least to be supplemented at least by a combination of Schumpeter’s understanding of the processes of creative destruction in a modern economy, and by contemporary thinking on low information and behavioral rationality, some from neo-Keynesians themselves.
    Not just levels of demand, but the forms of demand are constantly changing; and the forms of investment, innovation and production change along with the changes in demand. This dynamic process involves much more that changes in mere levels of production in existing plants. The installed capacity in the present world of firms might itself be sub-optimal in various ways, so returning that capacity to full utilization is not necessarily progressive.
    Again, I don’t know what Keynes himself thought about this, and where he understood the limits of these models to lie. But policy makers sometimes gravitate toward crudely oversimplified models, because it provides an illusion of technique.

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  12. WigWag says:

    “WigWag, I suppose the I just don’t buy the textbook Keynesian model you are applying, which I take it recommends that the role of government in this situation is to pump the economy all the way back up to some stipulated level of full “capacity”, capacity that is underutilized due to a drop in demand.”
    Not believing in Keynes is alot like not believing in Darwin. The only people who don’t believe in it are crack pots and I don’t think you’re a crack pot. If you don’t like the Keynesian model which one do you endorse; Marx’s Labor Theory of Value (I could have some sympathy for this); Laffer’s Supply Side Economics? Something else?

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  13. Dan Kervick says:

    WigWag, I suppose the I just don’t buy the textbook Keynesian model you are applying, which I take it recommends that the role of government in this situation is to pump the economy all the way back up to some stipulated level of full “capacity”, capacity that is underutilized due to a drop in demand. That picture, insofar as I understand it, assumes a kind of oscillating steady-state picture of the economy that doesn’t bear much resemblance to the contemporary national economy – if it ever did.
    I think economies are much more dynamic than that in any case, but that the situation we are in today is particularly more dynamic than the Keynesian model seems to comprehend. There are certain kinds of currently existing capacity, for example, that are underutilized but which we don’t want to restore. The financial services sector, by most accounts, was extraordinarily bloated and needs to shrink. That sector is now experiencing all lots of underutilized capacity. Good. The unemployed people from that sector will need to find work in other industries. Good again.
    The point of the stimulus, as I see it, is to change perceptions of the landscape of the economic horizon, and restore some measure of confidence and trust in a way that will restore healthy levels of risk: the risk people take when they make or take a loan, or when they just spend some of their money rather than hoard it all.
    People already have plenty of ideas about the new forms of production they want to engage in, the new types of capacity they want to build, the new kinds of work they want to do and the new things they want to buy. The goal of the stimulus and the banking measures is to get things moving again in enough of a positive direction, to get enough goods and services flowing, and to restore enough confidence and trust that the natural forces of innovation and entrepreneurship can take over. We also want to liberate the pent up demand for investment opportunities by laying some of the foundation for the infrastructure of the next economy so that people will see more profitable opportunities for investing in it, and put people and capital to work in new endeavors. This is not a process that can be captured by a tidy formula, and their is no measurable sweet spot.
    We don’t *want* to re-energize all of the old economy that is passing away. We *want* parts of that economy to decay and go away. But we want soft-landings rather than hard landings where possible. There is going to be much dislocation and unemployment. We want the unemployment as temporary as possible, and we want to facilitate the re-training and career-changing that is bound to occur, and must occur. We want a strong safety net to protect and support people during the dynamic transition.
    The Keynsian model seems to picture a fixed, mainly industrial economy with people filling various slots in an established industrial infrastructure, at least when the economy is running at full “capacity”. For some reason, demand then flags, and production follows, with people falling out of their slots and built-up productive capacity underutilized. Government then comes in to purchase the goods that consumers can’t, and help ramp production back up to where it was before. This restores something like full employment, and the newly re-emplyoyed are then able to pick up the consumption slack, so the government can stop doing it. There is some truth in this; but does it really resemble economic life as we know it?

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  14. WigWag says:

    Dan Kervick says,
    “WigWag, nobody knows what will be adequate, do they? Adequate for what?”
    Actually that’s not true; we do have a good idea what size stimulus is necessary.
    According to the non partisan Congressional Budget Office the economy is likely to under perform its capacity by $2.9 trillion (which is about 7 percent of GDP). The economy operating at full capacity implies an unemployment rate of about 4 percent. Considering a multiplier effect of 1.5 (which most economists think is about right for government spending) the stimulus bill should have been about $1.3 trillion. This is nearly twice the size of the bill Obama originally requested.
    By the way, with the stimulus bill that Congress passed, federal government spending will still only account for about 22 percent of GDP (if you count spending by state governments the figure increases to 35 percent). By comparison national government spending in France is 61 percent of GDP; in Denmark it’s 58 percent of GDP; in Germany it’s 49 percent of GDP; in Canada it’s 48 percent of GDP; and in Japan it’s 35 percent of GDP.
    Compared to virtually every other developed country, federal spending in the United States as a percent of GDP is remarkably small. Obama had plenty of room for a more robust stimulus; he just chickened out. He cared more about kissing up to Republicans than helping destitute Americans.
    And it’s not like a larger stimulus bill would have burdened the United States with onerous debt levels. After all an increase in federal debt would be offset by a decrease in private debt as Americans deleverage. Even after the trillion dollar deficits that we are likely to face, the United States is much less indebted than other nations. For FY 2010 total US debt as a percent of GDP will probably be about 72 percent; in 1945 the U.S. debt to GDP ratio was 118 percent. Most other countries are far more indebted than we are. Total Japanese debt as a percent of GDP is approaching 200 percent; Italian debt as a percent of GDP is almost 100 percent.
    The point of all of this is that a larger stimulus bill was needed and a larger stimulus bill was affordable. The only reason we don’t have a better stimulus bill is because President Obama failed his first test of leadership.
    Perhaps with experience he will improve but in the mean time millions of unemployed Americans will pay the price for his timidity.
    Let’s hope President Obama leaves the negotiating in the Middle East and elsewhere to those who know what they’re doing. So far at least, he clearly doesn’t

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  15. varanasi says:

    or better yet, an expert!

    Reply

  16. varanasi says:

    ya’ gotta love a thread that posits vanessa redgrave as a student of ME geopolitics!

    Reply

  17. Dan Kervick says:

    WigWag, nobody knows what will be adequate, do they? Adequate for what? To save how many jobs, and over what time frame? To move GDP numbers by what percentage? What dollar figure and what precise combination of expenditures is needed to draw enough private capital back to the banks to get them lending again, and at what pace? What is your estimate based on?
    My guess is that nobody honestly knows the answers to these questions, since we are not talking about a pure numerical calculation, but an imprecise psychological calculation concerning what degree of oomph and perceived oomph will be necessary to stop the panic-driven bleeding and restore consumer confidence. And we still haven’t even got the real numbers on the banking and lending side of the economic plan, which is half the current battle.
    Maybe I’m wrong, but I find it hard to believe that there is $800 billion or a trillion dollars worth of shovel ready infrastructure construction projects lying around, or that such a vast number of projects could be supervised and carried out with any degree of consistent professionalism, safety or accountability in the short time frame that is necessary to stimulate the economy out of crisis.
    The whole idea of a stimulus in the current environment is to inject demand rapidly into the economy. Either the government can generate that demand by spending the money itself, or it can give money to people who can be relied up to spend it quickly. While there are loads of excellent spending programs packed into this bill, there are all kinds of things that I might prefer the government spend money on. But the time frame for urgent action is measured in months, not years.
    I suspect we are going to see that it is actually a challenge to spend this money quickly enough, and in a way that does not provide a target-rich environment for Republicans looking for examples of waste, corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency or skimming.
    Obama has an economic team. These are not just people who have some general level of competence in economics, but people who spent their first month on the job poring over the actual numbers. In late December, as I recall, the number they were telling Obama he needed was between $500 trillion and $700 trillion. He got close to $800 trillion.
    No matter what he got, people would have said he could have and should have gotten more. The package is utterly massive, and it is somewhat amazing that it was passed so quickly. Not least among the factors in the quick passage is the fact that when Obama tells the country we are in a crisis and such gargantuan sums are needed, most people believe him.

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  18. lp says:

    isn’t the meeting at City Club of Washington

    Reply

  19. WigWag says:

    Dan Kervick is certainly correct when he says,
    “Obama appears to have made a strategic decision on how he wants to shepherd his plans though Congress. Rather than lay out the details of ten and fifteen point programs, it looks he wants to focus on a few very major targets, and leave it to the subsequent debate and process to determine the shape. This isn’t a matter of talking down to people. It is one particular kind of well-respected management style. And it is a management style Obama told us to expect in his campaign. Many of the details of the agenda are supposed to come from a bottom-up, participatory, consensus-building process, with the president’s role being to keep the focus on the bottom-line targets, and to promote accountability.”
    The problem is that this strategy is likely to fail; in fact it’s already failed once.
    Obama’s stimulus bill is a pale shadow of what was needed to provide adequate stimulus to the economy. Rather than developing his own bill, he foolishly relied on House Democrats to write the bill and to make things worse, Obama started negotiating with himself before he even started to negotiate with Republicans. Instead of asking for a $1 trillion bill (which would have barely been enough) he came in asking for $300 billion less. Instead of demanding that the entire bill be made up of infrastructure spending he quickly acquiesced to including tens of billions on a patch for the alternative minimum tax. The AMT patch would have been enacted anyway and in any case it provides little to no fiscal stimulus.
    The evidence so far is that Obama is a terrible negotiator. Let’s hope he gets better quickly. Of course no one should be surprised at his terrible negotiating skills; he’s far to concerned with being adored to ask anyone to make serious sacrifices. Given his inadequacy we can only hope leaves the negotiating in the Middle East to Clinton and Mitchell. Fortunately Obama’s narcissism seems to be absent in both the Secretary of State and the Mid East envoy.
    The more Obama involves himself in direct negotiations the less likely progress is to be made. After all, if he can’t handle a negotiation with an emasculated Republican Party you have to believe that the Israelis and Palestinians will cut him to pieces.

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  20. Kathleen G says:

    Let’s hope Secretary of State Clinton understands that millions of Americans want U.S. policy towards the Palestinians to change and change now. Hell yesterday. 10 , 20 years ago.
    the lid is off the information that the public has access to in regard to this issue. The internet has liberated the conversations, folks are accessing facts, articles from around the world, reading documents at the UN and at the IAEA’s website about the conflict and concerns.
    Americans have become aware of the disproportionate and sometimes harmful influence that the I lobby has had on U.S. foreign policy.
    Edward Said, Vanessa Redgrave, Jimmy Carter, Norman Finkelstein, Mearsheimer, Walt, Norman Finkelstein, Archbishop Tutu have been helping take the lid off this issue for all to look and see what is really going on in the middle east
    folks realize that Israel has been expanding illegal settlements from the get go. Hell even 43 said that Israel needed to stop building and expanding illegal settlements.
    Hopefully Hillary will realize the the scales are tipping for justice.

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  21. Dan Kervick says:

    I guess the idea was supposed to be that while Middle East peace efforts are frequently administered in large jolts with high level meetings and summits, state visits, major speeches etc., they also require someone to be on the ground sustaining those efforts and giving shape to the initiatives on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis.
    But no matter, because nobody listening to that speech would come away with the idea that Middle East peace was a major agenda item for the first year of the Obama administration. Now it could be that Obama really is planning to do something serious, and just thinks it’s a bad idea to raise expectations with a lot of SOTU fanfare. But in any case, right now he is emphasizing process and holding his policy cards close to the vest.
    I would say the watchwords for last night’s speech were “ambition”, “focus” and “generality”. There were many, many topics that Obama did not address less night. Foreign policy was largely absent except to the extent that it impinges on the national economy. So were all of the social themes and rights themes that have been staples of American political debate for decades. The focus was instead on pushing clear, major themes for an ambitious domestic agenda on health, energy and education, and highlighting the top line bullet points without fussing in public about all the subsidiary line items. Those will no doubt come in the budget to be submitted.
    I think this is a sound political strategy, because Obama is attempting to build a legion of popular support and bank of political capital that will sustain him in the battle ahead. Rather than give ten-point lists, where every listener is sure to be turned off by at least 2 or 3 points, he stuck to larger goals – for example the goal of making the US the leader in college graduation rates by 2020 – that people will enthusiastically support. This was a speech directed at ordinary Americans, who are 90% zeroed in on the US economy. I’m suspecting that Obama will give a major foreign policy address later this year, perhaps in some foreign capital, which lays out his “state of the global union” assessment and agenda.
    Obama appears to have made a strategic decision on how he wants to shepherd his plans though Congress. Rather than lay out the details of ten and fifteen point programs, it looks he wants to focus on a few very major targets, and leave it to the subsequent debate and process to determine the shape. This isn’t a matter of talking down to people. It is one particular kind of well-respected management style. And it is a management style Obama told us to expect in his campaign. Many of the details of the agenda are supposed to come from a bottom-up, participatory, consensus-building process, with the president’s role being to keep the focus on the bottom-line targets, and to promote accountability. Accountability measures figured strongly in his speech last night.

    Reply

  22. dave says:

    I agree with you Steve that we need to reinvent our efforts. I did note that Se. Clinton was the first Cabinet secretary to enter and sat in the lead chair, further reinforcing Pres. Obama’s placing diplomacy at the head of his international relations strategy.

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  23. JohnH says:

    First, political leaders need to stop calling for a “peace process.” Such talk is nothing more than a ringing endorsement of the failed policies of the past! Endorsing the “peace process” has become synonymous with promoting Israeli stonewalling, kicking the can down the road while the Occupation becomes a defacto Annexation and ethnic cleansing.
    So could we please start anew and call it something like a major effort to instill a just peace? The final outlines of the settlement have been known for a decade, so enough of peace processism. Just do it!

    Reply

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