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Politics : War

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To: LV who wrote (2957)8/29/2001 5:12:00 AM
From: GUSTAVE JAEGER   of 23264
NAAA-ADC Panel: Middle East Peace-Making in a Post Clinton Era

"The Centrality of Jerusalem to an End of Conflict Agreement"

Rashid Khalidi
President, American Committee on Jerusalem
Director, Center for International Studies, University of Chicago


During the Clinton administration, when in my view opportunities for real progress in peace-making were allowed to slip away, U.S. diplomatic activity in the Middle East was essentially circumscribed not by vital U.S. interests, nor by the interests of all the regional parties, but rather by the preferences of one party: Israel.

Throughout those eight years, the ceiling of the negotiations brokered by the U.S. was what American policy-makers - often mistakenly - claimed were the outer limits of what Israel would accept. Thus, they argued that Israel would never negotiate with the PLO, would never accept the idea of a Palestinian state, would never withdraw from Lebanon, would never accept a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights, and would never accept Palestinian sovereignty over parts of East Jerusalem. They therefore tried to keep negotiations under these very low ceilings. Over time, of course, the past three Israeli governments - those of Rabin, Netanyahu and Barak - came to accept the possibility, and in some cases the reality, of all of these options that American "experts" claimed were unthinkable to Israel.

Beyond this, there was limited attention by American policy-makers during the Clinton era to what Arab parties could accept. The Palestinians in particular complained bitterly about disdainful treatment by American policy-makers, who seemed to ignore that there were limits to the concessions they could make, given the strength of Palestinian opinion on crucial issues. Instead, there appeared to be an almost unlimited American willingness to squeeze the Palestinians, always in the name of "realism." And there seemed to be little concern for the impact of such an Israel-based policy on the broader interests of the U.S. in the Middle East.

I would suggest strongly that at the end of the Clinton era, and under the ongoing impact of the "al-Aqsa intifada," whose daily scenes of brutality by Israeli troops using American weapons are broadcast throughout the region by a plethora of satellite TV stations beyond the control of any Arab regime, U.S. interests in the Arab world are in more jeopardy today than they have been for decades. This is largely a result of U.S. policy-makers ignoring the clearly expressed views of the Palestinians and other Arab parties for eight long years.

It is to be hoped that with the Clinton era behind us, the new Bush administration will pay due regard to the interests of all parties, not just Israel, and in particular to the constraints on the actions of all. Hopefully, the new administration will also free itself from an excessive preoccupation with domestic considerations which overwhelmingly favor Israel, and will pay much overdue attention to U.S. interests in the Middle East, and how they have been affected by eight years of blatant bias in favor of Israel.

This brings me back to Jerusalem. This is an issue, more than any other, with deep resonance for all the parties. There exists a school of thought - I should call it a line of argument rather than dignifying it by calling it a school of thought - that Jerusalem is only really important to one religious tradition, the Jewish one; and that it is only really important to one people, the Israelis. This intolerant and ignorant thesis is essentially aimed at keeping treatment of the Jerusalem issue in U.S. policy where it has been for the past eight years: it means considering that the only important question regarding Jerusalem is what Israel will accept.

But peace in the Middle East does not have to be made -- as some appear to believe -- between Israel's Likud and Labor parties. It has to be made between Palestinians and Israelis, and between Arabs and Israelis, and it must take into account the concerns of Muslims, Christians and Jews everywhere. Indeed, where Jerusalem is concerned, the need to consider the concerns of a broad range of constituencies is more urgent than with any other issue in the Arab-Israeli conflict, because of Jerusalem's profound resonance for so many people.
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