Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak or Yitzhak Rabin could have authored much of Stephen Walt's piece

In a nutshell, Walt is arguing that without an attainable two-state solution Israel's survival in its present form is in jeopardy. This is precisely the point that the late Yitzhak Rabin acknowledged, and the argument that the two Ehud's have both made explicitly. It is in Israel's enlightened interest to pursue a two-solution that the Palestinian Arabs living under occupation will accept. This is the major claim of the Walt Oped.

Nonetheless, the ghost of Ze'ev Jabotinksky still haunts Israel, and his Revisionist Zionist vision of a territorially extensive Israel, in which Arabs must accept Jewish rule still inspires the right in Israel, including the current Prime Minister. This leaves an unaddressed question, namely whether or not Netanyahu will ever accept an attainable peace (in contrast to his sardonic description of a two-state solution). See Efraim Inbar's recent essay to sample the vision that inspires Netanyahu's constituency.

Appropriately, Walt also invokes U.S. interests, which require a two-state solution, as noted on March 16, 2010, by General David Petraeus in his Senate testimony. The U.S. and Israel have many overlapping interests, but this does not mean that their interests always coincide. (See the predictable dissent of Abraham Foxman, who illustrates the contorted the U.S. debate.) If Israel persists on a path that leads away from an attainable two-state solution, then the U.S. President would be negligent to simply stand by and watch. In the Boston Study Group on Middle East Peace, in which Walt and I participated, this is why we argued:
It must make clear that [the U.S. will] have to act in line with those interests and values and will not support actions and policies by either side that are inconsistent with them. The United States must be willing to use the leverage at its disposal to encourage both sides to come to an agreement. The most important aspect of U.S. leverage is the use of positive incentives in the form of economic, security and diplomatic support to the two parties as they move toward a negotiated agreement. There are times, however, when the use of negative incentives may be necessary and appropriate. Thus, the United States should be prepared to condemn unequivocally actions by either side that violate previous agreements, that are inconsistent with human-rights principles or that present obstacles to productive negotiations for a two-state solution. On occasion, the United States may need to exert pressure by making its support for one or the other party in a given domain conditional on that party’s refraining from actions that undermine the peace process and/or U.S. interests and values. For example, U.S. votes in the UN Security Council, its public statements and its bilateral contacts should all reflect the U.S. national interest in a two-state solution.

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