Aaron David Miller, to whom I have been grateful since his thoughtful review of The Tragedy of Zionism in 1985 (more narcissism, I suppose), knows a great deal about peacemaking, but has in recent months positioned himself against the Obama administration taking any new initiative. Now he has published a rejoinder in the IHT to my op-ed in last week's IHT calling for just such an initiative. Here is mine, here is his.
What am I missing?
If I get this right, he is now agreeing that Obama should do something bold, but not articulate "another set of sterile American policy positions." So far so good (wait, is that what he is suggesting I am calling for?). He wants, "not bridging proposals," but "key American principles on core issues...On refugees and security, the president would have to be especially sensitive to Israeli needs; on Jerusalem and borders, to the Palestinians." Oh, okay.
Miller then suggests a different way of selling the proposal. Not a Quartet-Group of 20-Arab League effort, followed by a trip to Israel and Palestine, but a trip to Israel and Palestine "flanked by Arab leaders." (Miller admits that Netanyahu and Abbas are not "remotely" open to this kind of theater, so I am not sure what is gained by leaving out pressure from the rest of the world, but never mind.)
Aaron, how about this:
1) an Obama initiative is critical, and before the election of 2012,
2) the basis for a US proposal would be principles that suggest how to close obvious gaps in past negotiations,
3) any proposal would make sense of what it means to have a Palestinian state "in the 1967 border," anticipating a resolution to this effect in the UN in the fall, and
4) it should be sold through dramatic diplomatic theater over time, and sold directly to the people, knowing the chances that current leaders will immediately sign on are small.
By the way, the indefatigable Ethan Bronner reports that there is a new proposal by eminent Israelis in the works:
"The document calls for the 1967 lines to be a basis for borders, with agreed modifications based on swaps that would not exceed 7 percent of the West Bank.
Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods would go to Israel, and Arab neighborhoods to Palestine; the Temple Mount, known as the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims, would be under no sovereignty, although the Western Wall and Jewish Quarter of the Old City would be under Israel. On Palestinian refugees, the plan suggests financial compensation and return to the state of Palestine, not Israel, with “mutually agreed-upon symbolic exceptions” allowed into Israel."
Again, am I missing something?
This new proposal is exactly like the one Ehud Olmert put before Abbas two years ago and Abbas finally rejected, for all the reasons I outlined in the Times Magazine: Ariel, Maale Adumin, and Efrat, for starters. (Bronner, who helped me with the piece, knows this, of course, but he is just reporting here.)
Obviously, Israelis are going to have to get used to the idea that they are not just talking to themselves. They will not simply be able to dictate a border or ignore long-standing Palestinian objections to the creation of facts.
Which is why we need an American initiative.