Originally published under the headline "The US Foreign Policy Establishment Doesn't Have the Answers on Mideast Peace"
At a September 18 Washington, DC panel discussion hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Lebanese journalist Joyce Karam enthusiastically deemed a report on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process "honest and out of the box" and "refreshing." However, only attendees with long-standing hostility towards Israel, such as Tom Getman, Edmund Ghareeb, and Benjamin Tua could have shared her unfounded euphoria over the report's hackneyed contents.
Karam gushed about the document in the company of the Carnegie report's authors, Marwan Muasher and Nathan Brown. Muasher is a former Jordanian foreign minister and deputy prime minister, while Brown (a George Washington University professor) is a Hamas apologist.
Panelist and former American ambassador Edward P. Djerejian represented the institution that served as the Carnegie report's co-author — the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. Fellow panelists included report contributor Gilead Sher, the former chief of staff to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and New America Foundation Middle East Fellow Zaha Hassan, a former Palestinian negotiator.
Brown and Muasher declared that the report breaks "taboos," with Muasher effusing that it is "an attempt to face reality" and confront "what was considered taboo until now." The report "challenges many assumptions that you may have had being in this city for so long," Karam concurred.
Yet Hassan merely voiced familiar anti-Israel tropes in the report. Israeli settlements in the disputed West Bank "are all war crimes," she ranted, as if Israel had no historic and legal claims to this part of the ancestral Jewish homeland. She also promoted the Palestinian "refugee" canard by asserting that millions of Palestinian "refugees" are "outside of historic Palestine" in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.
Echoing Hassan's bias, Djerejian wrote vaguely in the report of a "comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem." Djerejian also wrote that any Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement "will be based on the June 4, 1967 borders" (i.e. the 1949 armistice lines). He even advanced the hoary linkage theory that the "Israeli-Palestinian peace process will be an integral part in the promotion of a wider, comprehensive peace between Israel and all Arab and Islamic nations."
Djerejian's additional fantasies include the unworkable suggestion that Jerusalem's "Old City within the walls will come under a special regime." Likewise, a "multinational force in the Jordan Valley" will supposedly ensure Israel's security in a "non-militarized Palestinian state," Israel's disastrous history with international peacekeepers notwithstanding.
Brown and Muasher's whitewash of Palestinian objectives and history filled out the document. For example, the pair wrote that the conflict "originated … in 1948, with the denial of Palestinian nationalist aspirations," as though Palestine's Arabs had not responded at the time to a United Nations offer of an Arab state by attacking Israel.
Brown's report contribution reflects his eternally-optimistic assessment of Hamas. "Hamas may be backing away" from its "traditional formula — an Islamic state in all of Palestine," he and Muasher credulously wrote, despite Hamas' continuing desire to destroy Israel. Brown announced that the "world that we are describing in this report is a world that still will have a place for Hamas."
Regarding the Trump administration, Muasher complained that Trump wants to "basically force a solution at the Palestinians' expense, arguing that the Palestinians have lost and they need to accept their loss," which he said was a form of "very narrow and short-term thinking." Sher concurred, asserting that the Trump administration should not have a "series of blows to one side and a series of hugs to the other." Hassan worried that "things are being taken off the table and at this point what's left is cutting off the legs of the table." Djerejian argued that "imposed solutions simply do not work."
Nonetheless, Sher admitted that the Palestinians were the recalcitrant conflict party. In the past, "when really we arrived into the final phases of negotiating the two-state solution, the Palestinians took always one step backwards," he stated, and this obstinacy seemed to have religious roots. "The territorial issue is not the most contentious issue between Israelis and Palestinians," he said, because the "sticking point was always Jerusalem and the holy sites in the Old City," the "epicenter of this problem."
Djerejian offered one of the panel's few intriguing insights, proffering that some young Palestinians were more inclined to live in a successful Israeli state rather than under corrupt and authoritarian Palestinian parties. According to him, these youth were asking "why does the world need yet another autocratic Arab state? Let's go for a one-state solution where we are part of Israel as citizens and we have equal rights." This somewhat parallels the recommendations of The Israeli Solution, a book by Israeli analyst Caroline Glick, in which Israel would annex as much of the disputed territories and their Arab populations as possible, while maintaining Israel's Jewish majority.
Although Brown lamented that the Palestinians have lived without peace since the 1967 war, his flawed analysis exemplified how little the panelists and report authors have learned from their repeated, decades-long policy failures. "If you were a school child when the Israeli occupation began, you are quite possibly, even likely a grandparent today," he stated, reflecting the staleness of the entire proceeding. The report and the panelists' refusal to consider the just concept of an Israeli victory typifies the diplomatic establishment's atrophied thinking. This will only prolong the conflict and consign future Palestinian generations to more misery.
Andrew E. Harrod is a Campus Watch Fellow, freelance researcher, and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project. Follow him on Twitter @AEHarrod.