Israel America Academic Exchange (IAAE) is a new organization that sponsors educational missions to Israel for American scholars in the fields of political science, international relations, international law, international economic development, modern history, and Middle East studies. By special arrangement, participants in the inaugural mission (June 22-29) have been invited to guest-post their impressions and assessments. Stephen Krasner is the Graham H. Stuart Professor of International Relations at Stanford University, where he is also a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Freeman Spogli Institute. He was director of policy planning at the Department of State from 2005 to 2007.
From Stephen Krasner
There are at least three paths that Israeli-Palestinian relations might follow. The most likely, but not the most attractive from an American perspective, would be a continuation of the status quo in which Israel achieves security as best it can through the iron fist. The least likely would be an agreement reached through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. More likely, albeit not very likely, would be an agreement between Israel and a third party and the Palestinian Authority and that same third party. De facto or de jure, this would be a tripartite agreement. A strategy in which a third party plays a principal and not a mediating role offers the best hope for peace in the Middle East.
Path One: The status quo supported by the iron fist. Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon and was rewarded with rockets and kidnapping. Israel basically accepted the Clinton parameters in 2000 and the result was the second intifada. Israel withdrew from Gaza and got 8,000 rockets. After the second intifada, Israeli adopted a much more aggressive strategy to suppress violence from the West Bank including an active military presence and the construction of the security fence. There has not been a terrorist attack in Israel for a year and a half. Israel sent its army into Lebanon in 2006; incursions and rockets stopped. Israel sent its army into Gaza in 2008; rocket attacks almost completely stopped. Many Israelis have concluded that force works and concessions fail. The empirical evidence supports this conclusion. Israelis realize that force is a tactic not a strategy. In the absence of a strategy, however, tactics are all that remain.
Path Two: A negotiated settlement between the parties. The international community, including the United States, has supported direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian authorities that would create two separate states. Given that the parameters of such a settlement have been clear for a decade or more why have efforts failed? Pick your favorite (or favorites) from the following list:
- There is a disjunction between the interests of Palestinian leaders and the Palestinian population. The PLO, despite its revolutionary nationalistic rhetoric, is most easily understood as a typical rent-seeking aid-dependent political entity. The present situation has served the leaders of Fatah well enough, probably better than they would be served in an independent Palestinian state.
- The Israeli political system is so fragmented that it will be impossible for any Israeli government to take the hard steps that would be necessary to remove settlers from the non-contiguous settlements in the West Bank.
- The division between Fatah and Hamas makes it impossible to move forward with a comprehensive settlement.
- The level of cynicism and distrust is now so high among both Palestinians and Israelis that neither party has confidence that any agreement that were reached would be honored.
- The Palestinian Authority has never prepared the population for the fact that there will not be a right of return.
- The Palestinians believe that demography will make them winners in the long run.
- The Israelis believe that they can always withdraw from parts of the West Bank if demography becomes too problematic.
- Add your own favorite impediment.
Regardless of judgments about the reasons for failure, the following stark fact remains. The parameters of a settlement are clear–modest border adjustments, the dismantlement of Jewish settlement outside these borders, no right of return, some kind of shared or international authority over Jerusalem–but there has been no settlement.
Path Three: A negotiated settlement signed separately or jointly by Israel and the Palestinian Authority with a third party. A process in which both the Israelis and the Palestinians separately signed an agreement with a third party would have the following advantages:
- A third party principal would have explicit agenda-setting status.
- A process with a third party as a principal rather than a mediator would eliminate the mutual veto that both parties have over the conclusion of a bilateral settlement.
- An agreement reached between the third party and either Israel or the Palestinian Authority would create a highly salient focal point; it would limit the options open to the non-signatory. Anxiety about being the second mover would provide an incentive for engagement and compromise rather than rejection.
- A third party process would make it easier to propose the kind of unconventional supra- or shared-sovereignty solutions that are imperative for any agreement. Such solutions will be necessary in two areas: (1) Palestinian security: A third-party security force with executive authority within the Palestinian state will be necessary if Israel is to sign an agreement; and (2) Jerusalem: Jerusalem will have to be governed through some kind of shared or supra-national arrangement.
- Direct third party involvement would reassure the Israelis, and possibly also the Palestinians, that the terms of an agreement would be implemented.
To be effective, the third party would have to be:
- internationally legitimate so that neither of the two principals could appeal to outside actors if an agreement were concluded between one of the principals and the third party;
- sufficiently credible so that neither party could refuse to participate in the process; and
- in a position to credibly threaten to conclude an agreement first with either Israel or the PA; such a threat would end the mutual veto power that the two principal parties now exercise.
The ideal participants in the third party would be the United States, the European Union, the UN, Egypt and Jordan. Russia would only be an impediment. Saudi participation would preclude an initial agreement with the Israelis because this would mean formal recognition before a final peace agreement.
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