Shlomo Ben-Ami, as Israel’s Foreign Minister, led peace negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization under Prime Minister Ehud Barak, culminating in the Camp David Summit. And ever since he’s maintained an active profile and is utilized as a source of fresh thinking on various informal security policy planning exercises.
The former Foreign Minister recently penned an op-ed in the Lebanon Star making the controversial case for what Israel needs to do to revive the Annapolis process:
Israel must change its strategic objective in Gaza from toppling Hamas to rescuing the Annapolis process, and with it the last chance for a two-state solution. This requires not only a cease-fire with Hamas, but also a return to a Palestinian national unity government that alone can offer the peace process the vital legitimacy that it lacks today. Without the resurrection of the Mecca agreement, which put Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization in a coalition government, Hamas cannot expect to secure its control of Gaza and the PLO cannot deliver a peace settlement with Israel.
The notion, dear to the architects of the Annapolis process, that peace can be achieved only when a wedge is driven between Palestinian “moderates” and “extremists” is a misconception. A Palestinian national-unity government would not impede a settlement for the simple reason that the moderates now negotiating with Israel must in any case strive for an agreement that the extremists could not label as a treacherous sell-out. Hence, the difference between the Palestinian positions in the current negotiations and those they may hold when a unity government is restored would only be very minor.
I think Ben-Ami is on to something but the crucial factors that can derail such an approach constantly loom large — sequencing, coordination, synchronicity, and spoilers — some of which Hussein Agha and Robert Malley wrote about in the Washington Post back in January.
Ben-Ami will discuss a number of these issues he raises in the article — as well as the broader regional dimensions and the role of the United States — tomorrow ay 9:30am at the New America Foundation at 1630 Connecticut Ave, NW 7th Floor. Further details can be found here and if you’d like to attend, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .