The Edmond Sun


November 28, 2012

Renew the Mideast peace process? Not now

LOS ANGELES — Israelis cynically refer to the repeated rounds of violence with the Arabs as “happiness,” as in “it’s happy today.” Before the cease-fire, as Hamas fired 1,000 rockets at Israel, it was indeed very “happy.”

A diplomatic push put an end to the fighting, with intensive mediation efforts by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. If the truce holds, happiness will be behind us, for now.

It is standard diplomatic practice to view crises as an opportunity to seek fundamental change in the situation. Well before Operation Pillar of Defense started, strategists and pundits were calling on President Obama to devote his second term to a renewed effort to promote the long-moribund peace process. They are wrong.

The last thing the Middle East needs today — especially Israelis and Palestinians — and the last thing the U.S. needs is another failed American-led peace process. And it would fail. What Bill Clinton and George W. Bush could not achieve on the basis of Israel’s dramatic proposals in 2000 and 2008, Obama will not be able to do today. Regional conditions are far less propitious.

Hamas, which was not in power when Clinton was in office, is a fundamentalist Islamist organization whose charter refers to Jews as donkeys and dogs and calls for Israel’s destruction. It is not a partner for negotiations.

The “moderate” president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has refused even to negotiate for the last three years and has announced his determination to pursue U.N. recognition of Palestine as a non-state member later this month, despite repeated American, international and Israeli remonstrations.

U.N. recognition will not bring the Palestinians one inch closer to actual statehood. Establishing a state will require compromise, and it is so much easier for Abbas to play to the automatic Third World choir in the United Nations and receive support for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders than to negotiate seriously with Israel. Doing that would mean agreeing to some territorial changes and forgoing the fanciful dream of a return of refugees.

On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to sweep the January elections and to continue his hard-line approach. He will be further buoyed by an electorate that has long despaired of any Palestinian willingness to compromise and will be further hardened by recent events.

Egypt, which was firmly at peace with Israel for the last 30 years, is now governed by the radical Muslim Brotherhood, and the future of its peace treaty with Israel is far from guaranteed. In his speeches, Morsi has consistently found ways to avoid even saying the word “Israel.” He finally let it slip in the last few days. Leaders of his party call for Israel’s destruction. Self-interest forced Egypt to play a moderating role in this round, but its future direction is deeply worrying.

The entire Mideast is in an equally worrying state of transformation. The Arab Spring is becoming a nightmare. The slaughter in Syria continues unabated. It may result in an Islamist regime, and it is spilling over into Lebanon. Unrest threatens the regime in Jordan, Iraq is in shambles, illiberal winds are blowing in Tunisia and Morocco. Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia are failed states. Change is inevitable in Saudi Arabia too.

The United States’ stature in the region is at its lowest in decades, and when Obama tried to restart peace negotiations during his first year in office, he got nowhere. Attempting and falling short again could prove more dangerous than not trying at all.

Repeated failures have led both Israelis and Palestinians to despair of the prospects of peace, and we will need whatever residual hopes remain if and when circumstances for a breakthrough arise. We cannot afford to undermine these hopes.

Moreover, failure strengthens and emboldens hard-liners on both sides, “proving” their case that peace is not possible and risking further outbreaks of the violence, such as the bloody intifada in 2000. Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran successfully derailed past negotiations with spasms of terrorism. Nothing has done more to undermine Israeli faith in the peace process than ongoing terrorism.

The United States too cannot afford a further blow to its regional status. One aspect of American power is the perception that it can force the sides to reach agreement — and succeed in brokering a deal. Another aborted attempt would merely reinforce the Arab image of the U.S. as a weak, declining power, making it that much harder for the U.S. to play an effective role when the time is right.

Despite what has become a mantra, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict actually has little to do with the primary challenges facing the Mideast today, and resolving it will not significantly enhance other American interests in the region or its relations with Arab states. This is not to argue that the United States should only intervene when success is guaranteed — some risk is inherent and warranted — but the prospects for peace must be significant, and they are not now.

The Mideast peace process is too important for Israel, the Palestinians, the region and for U.S. interests to allow well-meaning but unrealistic hopes to propel precipitous action. If Abbas signals a willingness to conduct substantive negotiations, if the next Israeli government is more forthcoming than predicted, the U.S. should cautiously explore the possibilities.

The next time the U.S. engages, it must succeed. In the meantime, the Iranian nuclear program and the slaughter in Syria are far more pressing matters, and they are situations in which the U.S. can make a difference.

CHUCK FREILICH, a senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, was a deputy national security adviser in Israel under Labor and Likud governments. He is the author of “Zion’s Dilemmas: How Israel Makes National Security Policy.” He wrote this for the Los Angeles Times. This column was distributed by MCT Information Services.

Text Only
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Why poverty across the world matters to Americans

    A child starving in South Sudan should matter to Americans. That was the message delivered last week by Nancy Lindborg, whose job at the U.S. Agency for International Development is to lead a federal bureau spreading democracy and humanitarian assistance across the world.
    That world has reached a critical danger zone, with three high-level crises combining military conflict with humanitarian catastrophes affecting millions of innocents in Syria, the South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
    But back to that child.

    April 18, 2014

  • Government leadership complicit in overfilling prisons

    One of the thorniest problems facing any society is the question of what to do with transgressors. Obviously, the more complicated a culture becomes, the more factors come into play in trying to figure out what to do with those who choose not to “play by the rules.”

    April 18, 2014

  • My best days are ones normal people take for granted

    It is a weekend for working around the house. My fiancee, Erin, and I have the baby’s room to paint and some IKEA furniture to assemble. I roll out of bed early — 10:30 — and get into my wheelchair. Erin is already making coffee in the kitchen.
    “I started the first wall,” she says. “I love that gray.” Erin never bugs me about sleeping late. For a few months after I was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, I often slept 15 hours a day. The doctors said my body needed to heal. It must still be healing because I hardly ever see 8 a.m. anymore.

    April 18, 2014

  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014


Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

     View Results