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Constructive ideas for the November Conference

The Israel Policy Forum convened several former US officials (Ambassadors Sam Lewis, Tom Pickering, and Ned Walker among them) to develop some ideas for the proposed November summit. The resulting paper has been entitled, “A Guide to a Successful November International Conference” and IPF has sent it to Secretary Rice. The full document can be read here at ProspectsforPeace.com.

The IPF guide touches on many of the issues raised by this ProspectsforPeace post from five weeks ago and comes out, perhaps unsurprisingly with recommendations that push in a very similar direction. Their conclusion is as follows:

We believe that the process outlined here, with a series of conferences, a Declaration of Principles endorsed by the U.N., a Facilitating Agreement for next steps on the ground, and a broad-based regional representation at the first conference would trigger additional international conferences and a new Israeli-Palestinian momentum. The outcome would create a program that would not rise or fall on the success of one meeting this November.

Some of the specifics are interesting and I will get to them in a moment, but the more important question that this paper and other unofficial efforts bring into focus is whether the administration is undertaking a serious planning process for November and then whether it has the diplomatic competence to pull off something meaningful. On the planning side, there is every indication that the State Department is taking its homework seriously. Doubts remain though as to whether the political ideologues elsewhere in the administration food chain will allow good ideas to see the light of day. A case in point would be whether to include or exclude Syria: inside the US government, some favor and some oppose the idea. The decision, so far, is to invite Syria, but not to commit to engaging them. But the time for meaningless and harmful internal administration compromises, rather than tough decisions, has long passed. If the tough decisions are made, the moment will have arrived for heavy diplomatic lifting and this may well be a moment of truth for Secretary Rice.

By December, the words 'Condi' and 'diplomatically adroit' need to be able to coexist happily in one sentence if we are to avoid a summit that does more harm than good. The administration could do worse than listening to the ex-Ambassadors who authored this paper - among them, also, Robert Pelletreau, Frederic Hof, and the initiator of the council, UCLA professor Steven Spiegel.

They describe the issue of Hamas as the most difficult problem in advance of the international meeting: “simply saying no to Hamas without planning for the consequences is a likely ticket to new problems.” Their proposals include working to gain Hamas acceptance of the Arab Peace Initiative, or clarifying to Hamas that they would be an issue for a second follow-up conference. My argument has been that a more effective and realistic first step is to pursue a parallel ceasefire with Gaza. But the IPF paper is right on the money in its attempt to be constructive on this issue. The same applies to its counseling for an inclusive approach to Syria.
The “guide” suggests that the administration be ready with its own bridging proposals for the substance of a November Declaration: “the Bush administration cannot remain on the sidelines for long.” Their “illustrative” proposals for a successful statement make sense and are based on the Ayalon-Nusseibah plan with a little Geneva Initiative thrown in. One novel piece of framing that the IPF guide proposes is what they call a 'facilitating agreement' that would also be produced for November and would sit along side the substantive declaration. This facilitating agreement seems to essentially be a new way to reintroduce Roadmap phase I issues, such as security, settlement freeze, outpost removal, closure and prisoner release. Indeed, the former officials do not mention the Roadmap - not even once - in their guide paper. I think they are right. One of the more useful outcomes in November would be to finally bury the farce known as the Roadmap.
By the way, for a bit of fun (well, not really fun actually), one could compare and contrast the constructive ideas generated by the seasoned pros with the gloriously divorced from reality and meaningless grandstanding of the 79 Senators (including all six presidential candidates serving in the Senate) who just sent their own letter to Secretary Rice about the November Conference. Vive la difference!


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Comments (1)

Joe M.:

Mr. Levy,
There is absolutely no chance to make "peace" based on the IPF formula. It is simply impossible. And while you and the IPF call Hamas "the most difficult problem" in the conflict, this reflects an extreme Zionist, pro-Israeli bias. Hamas is a movement that exists the way it does today as a result of 60 years of violent and extremist policies by Israel. As you obviously know, Israel is an implanted country, living on stolen land, born of massive violence and ethnic cleansing. Every historical record shows this, this is not up for debate. From this very fact, Israel itself is "the most difficult problem", not Hamas.

Given this reality, you might think it is impossible for you and I to ever see eye to eye on matters of peace in the region. I do not think this is true and an semi-optimistic about the prospects for peace. But until Israelis like yourself recognize that Israel itself is the problem, that Israel itself is the reason for the violence, that Israel itself is a crime against humanity... and honestly and reasonably repent for these crimes (not only repent rhetorically, but in practice too), there will not be peace. People will always be willing to fight against injustice, and Palestinians will always recognize their legitimate right to all the land of Palestine. We will continue to fight for our legitimate rights.

How then can you and I come to peace in these issues? As I said, when those like yourself humble yourself to this reality there can be peace. Being Palestinian myself, I have no problem living with Jews who recognize their crimes (just as there are Jews today who live peacefully and happily in Germany). But I will never live in inferiority to you, I will never recognize your right to steal my familial land, to colonize our country and to oppress and dehumanize us. As a human being, you should not accept this either.

So your pathetic "peace plans" with land swaps and tunnels between the West Bank and Gaza and bickering about how refugees are allowed their right to return, or who administers "security" arrangements here or there... these will never accomplish peace. It is simply impossible. Contrary to your opinion, the core issues are not Jerusalem, refugees and security.. blah blah.. there is only one core issue and it is mutual respect. Israel can not continue to force the Palestinians to accept their terms and expect peace. Israel can not force a leadership on the Palestinians and expect to be able to make peace. Israel can not dictate terms of "peace" to Palestinians and expect safety, security and legitimacy... When Israel respects us, when it treats us as humans, when it recognizes our legitimate rights, when is understands our history... then we can talk about peace. All of these proposals and conferences and plans will continue to be a waste of time until that happens. Israel needs to have a reformation like what happened in Germany or South Africa. Until then, there can be as many conferences as you want, but there will not be peace.

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Daniel Levy


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 3, 2007 6:15 PM.

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