Summary: Negotiations over a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict have reached a dead end. International efforts should focus on a short-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that can pave the way for a sustainable armistice.
Negotiations over a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict have reached a dead end. International efforts should focus on a short-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that can pave the way for a sustainable armistice argued Carnegie’s Nathan J. Brown in a discussion with Robert Malley, Middle East and North Africa program director at the International Crisis Group; and Ghaith al-Omari, advocacy director at the American Task Force on Palestine.
Brown said the deep split in Palestinian leadership coupled with the Israeli’s election outcome make it impossible to envision a two-state solution. A new diplomatic approach should be based on three steps: first, a properly negotiated cease-fire; second, a medium-term armistice; and finally, addressing the underlying causes of the conflict during the respite.
The speakers discussed four key factors defining the Palestinian-Israeli conflict:
Reconciliation among Palestinians: in the short term Palestinian unity is important for making progress on achieving a lasting ceasefire with Israel. However, a peace deal remains unattainable in the near future. The mediation for such reconciliation need not involve the United States but probably needs at least tacit US support.
Talks with Hamas: Al-Omari warned that engaging Hamas directly in negotiations would mean rewarding it politically for the use of violence. Egypt is best fit to continue pressing Hamas to see where it is willing to make concessions.
Malley advocated for the international contact with Hamas, but observed this could be done through the Europeans and Arab states rather than directly by the US. and work toward renewing the group’s commitment to a durable ceasefire. Malley and Brown did argue, however, that talking with Hamas should not be the main focus of any upcoming policy.
Engage other actors: although the United States remains a critical player in the peace process, other regional actors including neighboring Arab states can achieve meaningful progress in resolving the conflict without it.
An important step would be progress in negotiations between Israel and Syria, which could alter the political climate in favor of improvement on the Palestinian- Israeli track.
The new regional focus characteristic of Obama administration diplomacy should not evolve into an overly strong concentration on Iranian influence, however.
Reevaluate the U.S. approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: There are two notable changes in the current administration’s policy in the Middle East; the adoption of a regional approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the willingness to pressure Israel to halt settlement activity. However, the “West Bank First” approach favoring Fatah over Hamas – which the U.S. promoted since 2007 and Secretary of State Clinton recently supported – sparked some debate. Malley and Brown were more skeptical, but al-Omari saw it as still a promising avenue if pursued more vigorously than occurred in the Bush years.
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About the Middle East Program
The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, sociopolitical, and strategic interests in the Arab world. Through detailed country studies and the exploration of key crosscutting themes, the Carnegie Middle East Program, in coordination with the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, provides analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region. The program has special expertise in political reform and Islamist participation in pluralistic politics.