Aaron David Miller
Politico (Editorial)
February 8, 2011 - 1:00am

The pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace didn’t need another nail in the coffin. But in the wake of political changes sweeping through Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and perhaps elsewhere, you can almost hear the hammer.

Trying to push the peace process in an effort to preempt radical forces or appease newly emergent democratic forces or preempt radical forces is likely to fail in the months ahead. Assuming that either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will see the advantages of taking bold steps during uncertain times when they wouldn’t act in more stable circumstances stretches credulity to the breaking point.

Arab-Israeli peacemaking is less ready for prime time than ever. No bold U.S. peace plan or initiative is likely to change that without stunningly bold actions from the Israelis and Palestinians themselves.”

First the backstory. The Israeli-Palestinian enterprise was in trouble well before the tsunami of democratic reform hit the Arab world. A combination of factors—major differences on core issues, divided Israeli and Palestinian leadership, America’s elusive pursuit of a settlements freeze—had sucked any momentum left in President Barack Obama’s commitment to the issue.

Whatever benefits the Arabs themselves win from democratic reforms, it won’t help Arab-Israeli peacemaking now. Here’s why:

Arab and U.S. interest look likely to be focused on internal changes now underway throughout the Arab world. We are only at the beginning of this process — which could take months and generate periodic crises.

Those in the region and outside are intently following Arab elections, political change and how these developments are likely to reverberate throughout the region. For example, getting a flexible Arab consensus to support a Palestinian position on Jerusalem in the negotiations with Israel is likely to be next to impossible.

Second, there’s the Israeli reaction. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many Israelis do not see these political transformations as a glass half full — but one nearly empty. Israeli fears may eclipse any idea view that these changes are being driven by a non-ideological, non-Islamist opposition

Instead, as Israelis look around the region they are likely to see the following: a re-armed Hezbollah more dominant in Lebanon than ever; Hamas consolidating its power in Gaza and acquiring high trajectory weapons of greater range and precision; unrest in Jordan; and now, in the largest and most important Arab state with which they have a 30-year peace treaty, they see political turmoil.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017