To Achieve Peace between Israel and the Palestinians, First Set Aside the Oslo Model

While remaining committed to the long-term goal of “political separation” from the Palestinians, the former Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon urges policymakers to avoid repeating the mistakes of the Oslo Accords and instead take a “bottom-up” approach. (Free registration required.)

The conventional wisdom attributes the failure [of the peace process] to a lack of willingness by the parties to make some relatively small concessions. If only this behavior were adjusted or that policy paused, the argument runs, things could have worked out in the past—and might still work out in the future, even absent dramatic movement on either side.

I think this conventional reading of recent history is naïve, and that the real reason for the failure of negotiations has been Palestinian reluctance to recognize Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people—in any boundaries. When that reluctance dissipates, peace will be possible; until then, it will not be. Israeli policy, and that of the international community, should thus be focused on trying to help Palestinians realize that the choice for peace lies in their hands.

What then is the alternative?

I favor a policy of bottom-up change and incremental progress, trying to build a durable structure of peace on solid foundations rather than sand. . . . The first component of such an approach would be the promotion of Palestinian economic growth and infrastructure development. . . . At the same time, Israel should do what it can—both directly and by enabling the efforts of others—to help improve Palestinian governance, anticorruption efforts, and institution-building in general. At all times, however, Israel should be mindful to avoid patronizing the Palestinians; it is not Israel’s business to impose its way of governing on the PA or to choose leaders for it; rather, the goal is to provide opportunities for the Palestinians to determine their own future. All of this should be done against the backdrop of Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation. . . . .

Such a bottom-up approach should have a diplomatic component as well, ideally a regional initiative that would bring in Arab states interested in helping to manage and eventually solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—whether or not those states have formal relations with Israel.

Over time, these efforts could lay the groundwork for a true peace rooted in mutual recognition and responsible cooperation. . . . The Palestinians can, should, and eventually will have their own political entity, but at least for the foreseeable future, it will lack certain attributes of full sovereignty, such as armed forces. . . . Achieving even this result will take patience, persistence, and years of practical effort. But it offers the chance for a real peace somewhere down the road, something that the conventional top-down approach will never produce. Any attempt by the new administration in Washington to plow the old furrows once again is destined to fail.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Moshe Yaalon, Oslo Accords, Two-State Solution

How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy