The Harm in Trying: The Downside of the Middle East "Peace Process"

(Weekly Standard) Elliott Abrams - Among Israelis and Palestinians, there's little optimism about renewed American efforts to negotiate a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. The Trump administration is operating under the assumption that there is no harm in trying, but that conclusion is wrong, as round after round of terrorism should attest. To begin with, it is always harmful for the U.S. to fail. When a president devotes himself to any project and fails to pull it off, his influence and that of the U.S. are diminished. With U.S. influence on the wane in recent years, devoting significant effort to a goal that is unlikely to be attained looks like a misplaced priority. What's more, the U.S. has been championing the "peace process" since 1991. What this produces is cynicism about peace talks and about peace. Many Israelis see it as a shield protecting Palestinian malfeasance. Moreover, when each successive American administration works for a comprehensive peace deal, it tends to neglect the many opportunities to make less dramatic but still consequential real-world progress. If the goal were instead to leave things better than we found them, every incremental bit of progress would be a victory. That was the "bottom-up" approach taken by former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who thought Palestinian independence required building the institutions of a viable state first. The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, handled Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council from 2001 to 2009.

2017-06-27 00:00:00

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