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January 10, 2017 7:09 am

Ten Failed State Department Plans for Mideast Peace

avatar by Rafael Medoff /

The signing of the Oslo Accords. Photo: Wikimedia

The signing of the Oslo Accords. Photo: Wikimedia – Writing on the op-ed page of the New York Times on January 5, former Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk argued that dividing control of Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is the key to “moving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward.”

This is the latest in a long series of Foggy Bottom proposals for a Mideast solution that went nowhere. Here are the State Department’s previous major proposals for Israeli-Arab peace:

10. The Byroade Plan

Assistant Secretary of State Henry Byroade was the spokesman for a 1954 US proposal for Israel to severely restrict Jewish immigration from around the world, because the Arab world considered aliyah “threatening.” A Jewish anti-Zionist group, the American Council for Judaism, helped shape Byroade’s plan.

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9. The Rogers Plan

In a December. 9, 1969, policy statement, Secretary of State William Rogers called on Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 armistice lines with only “insubstantial alterations.” The Israeli government under Prime Minister Golda Meir responded that if the Rogers Plan were implemented, “the security and welfare of Israel would be in very grave danger.”

8. The Reagan Plan

In the wake of the war between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Lebanon, the State Department persuaded President Ronald Reagan to put forth a peace plan. In a September 1, 1982, address, Reagan called for a halt to all Jewish settlements and “elections for a self-governing Palestinian authority,” followed by five years of “full autonomy.” He said that the US did not favor “an independent Palestinian state,” but he also said that Israel should “withdraw [from] the West Bank and Gaza.” The Israeli cabinet unanimously rejected the plan as “a serious danger to Israel’s security.”

7. The Arafat First Plan

In 1988, State Department officials Dennis Ross and Daniel Kurtzer convinced outgoing Secretary of State George Shultz that Yasser Arafat was “moving in a moderate direction” and therefore deserved US recognition. The US-Arafat relationship collapsed 17 months later when a PLO faction attempted to massacre Tel Aviv beachgoers.

6. The Clinton Parameters

Drafted by Dennis Ross and other State Department officials, the Clinton Parameters were put forward in US-Israeli-Palestinian talks in December 2000, just before President Bill Clinton left office. The plan called for a Palestinian state in 95 percent of the disputed territories, as well as Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount and other parts of eastern Jerusalem. Arafat rejected those terms.

5. The Road Map

A follow-up to the 1993 Oslo Accords, the “Road Map” was drafted by the State Department in 2002 and put forward by the Middle East Quartet (the United Nations, US, European Union and Russia) the following year. It outlined a three-phase plan leading to creation of an independent Palestinian state. The plan fell apart when the Palestinian Authority (PA) failed to implement its phase one requirement to disarm and outlaw all terrorist groups.

4. The Golan Plan

Beginning in 2009, former State Department official Frederic Hof and Dennis Ross, now an adviser to President Barack Obama, attempted to bring about an Israeli surrender of the Golan Heights to Syria. The effort ended when the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011.

3. The Ross Plans

As an adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama in 2009-2011, Dennis Ross pressured Israel to allow cement into Gaza (which was later used by Hamas to build tunnels); in articles and speeches since then, Ross has called on Israel to halt most construction in its portions of the disputed territories. Israel froze settlement construction for 10 months, but the PA did not reciprocate.

2. The Kerry Plan

Obama’s five year-effort began with his May 19, 2011, call for a Palestinian state “based on the 1967 lines,” and culminated in Secretary of State John Kerry’s Dec. 28, 2016 speech urging “shared” control of Jerusalem and a halt to construction even within existing settlements. Israel’s leaders, joined by Great Britain’s prime minister, said the Kerry Plan was one-sided in its support of Palestinian positions, and only “paid lip service” to the problem of Palestinian terrorism and incitement.

1. The Divided Jerusalem Plan

As US ambassador to Israel in September 2000, Martin Indyk first publicly urged Israel to “share the governance of Jerusalem and its holy sites” with the Palestinians. Now, in his January 2017 New York Times op-ed, Indyk has urged the incoming Trump administration to push for dividing control of Jerusalem between Israel and the PA, which Indyk contends would “open the way to negotiation on other final-status issues like the borders of a Palestinian state.”

Political historian Gil Troy, of McGill University, told that the State Department’s plans regarding Israel often have been driven by appeasement rather than principle. Kerry’s recent warning against moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “wasn’t a principled argument, but was simply based on fear of violence by extremists,” and “is exactly the kind of cowardice that comes from State, and which [incoming President Donald] Trump will abhor,” Troy said. He predicted that “the chance of a clash between a tweet-driven, populist, seat-of-the-pants Trump White House and the striped-pants types at the State Department is huge.”

Professor Troy is the author of a recent book about Ambassador Daniel P. Moynihan’s fight against the UN’s “Zionism-is-racism” resolution, and Moynihan’s clashes with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Moynihan “feared that too many State Department bureaucrats were so concerned about how their actions would be perceived on the cocktail party circuit in Scarsdale, that it inhibited them from acting effectively; true then, true now,” Troy said. “Many State Department officials forget Moynihan’s essential lesson that diplomacy doesn’t just mean being nice, but requires using many different tools — because in a tough world, you can’t always play nice.”

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