Prospects of Middle East peace remain dim



Hardly had the excitement over President Obama’s visit subsided when Secretary of State John Kerry followed up with what seems here as a surge of fresh energy. If the president talked in general terms about the need to move forward toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kerry, already on his second visit to the Middle East and Israel, seems anxious to turn words into actions.

Like many secretaries of state before him, Kerry brings to the region the all too familiar American blend of vision with pragmatism, idealism with can-do resolution. Except that most of his predecessors wore out their shoes in their countless shuttles to the region, and have accomplished very little. Will he succeed where they have failed?

The skepticism about Kerry’s chances of success stem in part from the belief of many of us here that Americans are basically naïve in their perspectives of the Middle East. Pundits here like to quote the American senator, who, in his frustration, once complained: “Why can’t those Arabs and Jews just sit down, and like good Christians settle their differences?”

But seriously, think about the Great Middle East initiative of the Bush administration or President Obama’s “Engaging Islam” initiative and compare them to the situation of the Middle East today. Shouldn’t that instill some modesty into any aspiring American official who comes here determined to solve the conflict once and for all?

Another reason why people might doubt Sec. Kerry’s prospects of success is that they are not sure his president is fully behind him on this matter. It seems more likely that Obama came to the region to tell Israelis and Palestinians that if and when they get serious, America will be there for them. Then he went home, and in a paraphrase on Winston Churchill’s standing order to his staff during World War Two (not to ever wake him up at night unless the Germans invade Britain), he sort of told his secretary of state: “If you wish to spend your time in the Middle East with these people, it’s fine with me. But do me a favor, call me only when they’re truly ready to sign a real peace accord. Then I’ll make time for a photo op at Camp David.”

Looking at American involvement in the Middle East in the last seven decades through the prism of the President-Secretary of State duo brings up interesting insights. In 1948, for example, President Harry S. Truman was very much in favor of recognizing the Jewish state while his secretary of State, the venerated Gen. George Marshall, as well as the most high-ranking officials at the State Department, were vehemently opposed. Clark Clifford, then a young advisor of Truman, recounted in his memoirs, which he had published with Richard Holbrooke in the New Yorker in 1991, how the torn-apart president had to maneuver the recognition without making his angry secretary of State resign over it.

John Foster Dulles, secretary of State between 1953 and 1959, was given by President Eisenhower a free hand to deal with the Middle East. Dulles used that leverage to shift the American approach from what he believed had been a too pro-Israeli stance toward a more even-handed one. In a major speech on August 26, 1955, before the Council of Foreign Relations in New York, he listed the obstacles to peace: Palestinian refugees; the Arab fear of Israeli expansionism; and a lack of fixed borders (an issue Kerry was still raising with Prime Minister Netanyahu this week, six decades later).

While Dulles, one of the most powerful secretaries of State America ever had, was entertaining ideas about the resettlement of the Palestinian refugees, the Israelis, weary of Egyptian President Gamal Abd al-Nasser’s intransigence, schemed together with the British and the French in the Suez Affair of late October, 1956, which highly embarrassed President Eisenhower, then campaigning to get reelected. Not to mention the fact that under the watch of the same Dulles, architect of the Eisenhower Doctrine, which promised “to use armed force to support any Middle Eastern country that asked for help against Communist aggression,” Nasser’s Egypt fell into the hands of the Soviets. So much for U.S. accomplishments in the Middle East in the 1950s.

I could go on and list the other able, well-wishing people like William Rogers, Henry Kissinger, Warren Christopher, George Schultz, James Baker and the others, who, with or without their respective presidents’ involvement, have been since trying their best to resolve the conflict. Their memoirs reveal how great their efforts were, as well as their frustration.

Having said all that, the lack of results doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be admiring the American persistence and determination. Peace, however, will only come when Arabs and Jews realize that the status quo is bad, and that war is worse. Once they reach that conclusion, the United States can step in to alleviate the difficulties, soothe the fears and help shoulder the economic burden involved. This is how it worked in the cases of the Egyptian-Israeli and the Jordanian-Israeli peace processes. This is how it should work in the Palestinian-Israeli track as well. I truly hope it happens in the Obama-Kerry term.

Read more Uri Dromi stories from the Miami Herald



    Release Jonathan Pollard

    In a last, desperate, attempt to save the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks from failure, a tripartite deal was hurriedly cooked: Israel would reportedly freeze settlements and release Palestinian prisoners, the Palestinians would stay at the negotiating table, and the Americans would release Jonathan Pollard, the former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, who was jailed for life in 1987 for passing secret documents to Israel.

Israeli soldiers unload bags from a seized cargo ship’s container in the port of Eilat. Israeli officials say the ship was carrying weapons en route from Iran to Gaza.


    Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Cuban missile precedent

    In light of a ship caught carrying aggressive weapons, aimed at terrorizing his fellow countrymen, the leader delivered a firm message, warning that neither his country “nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small. We no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum peril”.



    Israel can’t turn its back on the world

    Recently, at the Jerusalem Press Club, I hosted Marcella Rosen, the author of Tiny Dynamo: How One of the Smallest Countries Is Producing Some of Our Most Important Inventions. Amazon advertises this book as a “fascinating collection of 21 stories detailing Israel's inventions that benefit all of mankind. From desalting the ocean to the tiny PillCam that videos your insides, the Flash Drive to spinal surgery robots, watering the desert with drip irrigation, blasting breast tumors and curing major diseases: Israel is a hotbed of start-ups and idea incubation wildly disproportionate to its tiny size.”

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category