Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Ahead of Obama Visit, Significant Obstacles Keep Peace Process on Back Burner

March 14, 2013 12:51 am 0 comments

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left), U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the Peace Conference in Washington, DC, September 2, 2010. Photo: Moshe Milner/GPO/FLASH90.

WASHINGTON, DC – Leading up to President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel next week, speculation abounds about what the trip will mean for the currently dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The recent history of that process, however, indicates that the buzz might be unfounded.

Though the White House has denied that the peace process is at the center of Obama’s trip, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference that the peace process would be among his top three priorities when he meets with Obama (the other two, Netanyahu said, are Iran and Syria).

Yet there are significant obstacles for either leader if they want to move the peace process—which has taken a backseat on the Israeli agenda of late to issues such as the Iranian nuclear threat, Syria’s civil war and chemical weapons arsenal, and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt—from the back burner to the fore.

“It’s just on a slower track, because the gaps between Israelis and Palestinians are huge,” Aaron David Miller—the former Middle East peace negotiator under President Bill Clinton and an advisor to six Secretaries of State—said of the peace process in an interview with at the AIPAC conference.

President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA) for the last two years has staged unilateral statehood bids at the United Nations, attaining nonmember observer state status last fall. The Palestinians’ unilateral moves have been widely viewed as a serious setback for the peace process.

Internal issues for both the Palestinians and the Israelis also contribute to the slow movement of the process, according to Miller.

“The Palestinian national movement is fundamentally divided,” he told “You see how much difficulty the [Israeli] prime minister is having trying to form a coalition.”

“[The peace process is] a back burner issue because we can’t resolve it now,” Miller said. “It doesn’t mean that people forgot about it, or that it’s off the burners. It’s just for now going to move forward at a much slower pace. Iran and Syria [are] much more kinetic and dynamic issues.”

Both American and Israeli leaders expressed similar sentiments at the AIPAC conference regarding the timetable for a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.

“I know a fully fledged agreement is probably not feasible today,” outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said at a March 3 plenary session.

“We are under no illusions about how difficult it will be to achieve,” U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said of peace at a March 4 plenary.

At an AIPAC breakout session, Miller, who currently works at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said a conflict-ending agreement is almost “unimaginable” right now. Despite the obstacles to peace, Bill Clinton had the attitude of “trying and failing is better than not having tried at all,” Miller recalled, proceeding to explain the pitfalls of that attitude for the U.S.

“But we’re not a high school football team,” Miller said. “This is not a strategy for the most consequential nation on earth.” He added that failure “has costs.”

Biden also quoted Clinton at the AIPAC conference, saying the U.S. needs to “get caught trying.”

“We make no apologies for continuing to pursue that goal [of Israeli-Palestinian peace], for pursuing a better future,” the vice president said.

David Makovsky, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Project on the Middle East Peace Process, spoke at the same AIPAC session as Miller and said the tough sledding of the peace process partially arises from the fact that the Middle East is “a rough part of the world that doesn’t lend itself to law books.” Yet the peace process is not a futile exercise because of its upside, Makovsky said. He noted the 3,000 soldiers Israel lost in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and the “peace dividend” resulting from an accord with Egypt preventing such conflicts.

“It has saved lives—Jewish lives, Arab lives—and it has saved a lot of money that can be used to raise the standard of living of people in Israel,” Makovsky said of peace.

Miller agreed, telling the breakout session crowd that despite the difficulty associated with the peace process, it is “too critical to abandon as well.”

The role America plays in the peace process will be determined by the decision Obama makes, specifically whether or not he chooses to use that process as part of his attempt to carve a “transformational legacy,” Miller said.

“Governing is about choosing, and Barack Obama has to decide, right now, where he wants to put his eggs, into which basket,” he said.

Obama is being pulled in two different directions, according to Miller. While he cannot afford to, on his watch, see the two-state solution expire, Obama also “looks at the [Israeli-Palestinian] war the way it is, not just the way he wants it to be.”

Biden told the AIPAC crowd that the U.S. will continue to oppose unilateral Palestinian actions that circumvent the peace process.

“There is no shortcut to peace, there is no shortcut to face to face negotiations,” he said.

Netanyahu, who like Obama did not appear in person at the AIPAC conference because of their upcoming meeting in Israel, told the crowd in a live satellite message that the U.S. and Israel have a “common quest” for “a peace that will end [the Israeli-Palestinian] conflict once and for all.” But Netanyahu stressed that peace must be “based in reality.”

“As Israel’s prime minister, I will never compromise on our security,” he said.

Barak said, “A two-state solution is the only viable solution.” He said Israel has a “compelling imperative” to maintain a democratic Jewish identity as a state, meaning a two-state solution would not just be “a favor for the Palestinians.” Barak praised Netanyahu’s “courageous steps” such as an unprecedented construction freeze in the West Bank, and said the Palestinians “still bear most of the responsibility for past failures” of peace efforts.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told the AIPAC crowd that the biggest obstacle to peace is “the lack of a credible negotiating partner on the Palestinian side.” While Abbas “continues to posture as a moderate,” the PA president has published a doctoral dissertation denying the Holocaust, Cornyn noted.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Blogs Sports Dodgers Power-Hitter Could Break Stereotype of Jews in Sports

    Dodgers Power-Hitter Could Break Stereotype of Jews in Sports

    Rookie player for the Dodgers Joc Pederson may boost the image of Jewish athletes if he can prove he has both brains and brawn, according to an article in the Daily Beast on Sunday. The piece pointed out a longstanding stereotype of Jews as more brainy than brawny, and asserted that Pederson could break the stereotype. Indeed, the 23-year-old’s “power-hitting” performance thus far has been considered rare among Jewish athletes. “If Pederson sustains his performance for any length of time, he could be the first respected, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Jerry Seinfeld to Make Comedy Debut in Israel

    Jerry Seinfeld to Make Comedy Debut in Israel – Famed Jewish-American comedian and actor Jerry Seinfeld is slated to make his comedic debut in Israel later this year. Seinfeld, who was born in Brooklyn to Jewish parents from the Ukraine and Syria, will perform in Tel Aviv’s Mitvtachim Menorah Arena on Dec. 19 as part of a world tour. The comedian is most known for his enormously popular NBC sitcom Seinfeld, which ran from 1989-1998 and is widely considered one of the greatest TV series of all time. […]

    Read more →
  • Food Israel New Video Shows American Kids Reviewing Israeli Food After Tasting Dishes for First Time (VIDEO)

    New Video Shows American Kids Reviewing Israeli Food After Tasting Dishes for First Time (VIDEO)

    A new video circulating online shows eight American children reacting — mostly positively — to their first taste of the famed Israeli eggplant salad/dip, known in Hebrew as “salat hatzilim” and in other parts of the Levant as baba ganoush. The clip, created by, features the youngsters trying a variety of exotic dishes from other countries as well, such as Hawaiian poi, Colombian pork belly and Russian borscht. The Israeli delicacies served include schnitzel, slices of pita, hummus and the baba ganoush salad. “If someone […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Pioneers/Philanthropists ‘Start-Up Nation’ Israel to Host Forbes Magazine Young Entrepreneurs Summit

    ‘Start-Up Nation’ Israel to Host Forbes Magazine Young Entrepreneurs Summit – Forbes magazine announced Tuesday that it will host its Under 30 EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) Summit in Israel for the first time in April 2016. The conference is expected to bring together some 600 young entrepreneurs, with 200 from Europe, 200 from the U.S., and 200 from Israel. The summit has been hosted in Philadelphia for the past two years. It will include presentations, speeches, a pitch competition, and cultural immersion opportunities in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Beliefs and concepts What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David?

    What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David? –  “What’s that huge white bridal dress floating over the Tower of David?” That’s what visitors to Jerusalem’s Old City asked last week. The wedding gown, created by leading Israeli artist Motti Mizrachi, is part of the 2nd Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, an event that blew into town as the Sukkot holiday got underway. Mizrachi, who lives and works in Tel Aviv, created the dress that floats majestically over the Tower of David, the main exhibition site […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    Israel is a holiday destination on many travelers’ bucket lists. No matter the style of holiday you are after, Israel has the answer. Whether you prefer to relax by the beach, hike up mountains in the desert, visit religious and historical sites, eat your way through the country or just enjoy some retail therapy, your journey through Israel will be one to remember. While there are obviously so many things to see and do, here is a list of 10 of […]

    Read more →
  • Pioneers/Philanthropists US & Canada Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO

    Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO – Jewish American fashion mogul Ralph Lauren announced his plan to step down as chief executive officer of the renowned fashion brand. The head of Gap Inc’s Old Navy brand will take over the position. The 75-year-old Lauren, who founded Ralph Lauren Corp. in 1967, will continue to serve as executive chairman and will continue leading the fashion house’s design team, according to a statement by the company. After the announcement, Ralph Lauren shares rose 3.79 percent while Gap shares […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Sports US & Canada Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish boxer Dustin Fleischer, who said his quest is to become the first world champion descended from a Holocaust survivor, stayed unbeaten with a first-round knockout. Fleischer, nicknamed “The White Tiger,” moved to 4-0 with the defeat of Ira Frank on Saturday night in Beach Haven, New Jersey, near his home, he reported after the fight on his Facebook page. The 26-year-old welterweight has won all his bouts by knockout. Read full story at JTA.

    Read more →