Daniel Kurtzer said that if Democrat Hillary Clinton is elected president, she would be more likely than any of her Republican rivals to work for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Given her experience and engagement in this issue, [Clinton] is a little more likely to understand its importance and not let it wane than the Republican candidates, who seem to be arguing on emotional grounds about Obama and Israel rather than on the rational grounds of what’s good for Israel and the peace process or what’s good for the United States’ interests in the region,” said Kurtzer, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt
Kurtzer spoke with reporters on an hour-long conference call March 2.
The call, sponsored by the left-of-center Americans for Peace Now, was entitled “Two States: The Only Solution.”
Kurtzer is currently the S. Daniel Abraham Professor of Middle East Policy Studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Kurtzer told callers the only viable plan was “partition of the land into two states to satisfy at least the minimum requirements of both peoples for self-determination.”
He said obstacles include a Palestinian “Intifada of individuals taking it upon themselves to inflict pain and death on Israelis without being told to do so,” referring to a recent spate of stabbings and car-rammings.
He also criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, he said, “gives lip service to the peace process but acts in ways that entirely conflict with that lip service.”
He also noted that “President Obama’s very full agenda” makes it unlikely the peace process will be given much attention during the remainder of his time in office.
As for a way out of the current stalemate, Kurtzer said, “People should take a fresh look” at the 2002 Arab League peace initiative, which includes recognition of Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from the West Bank and a mutually “agreed” upon compromise solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.
Kurtzer said that after 2002, the Arab League shifted its focus away from challenging Israel’s right to exist to “Israel’s occupation of Arab territories.”
“Since Israel today is at least enjoying a de facto relationship with a number of Arab states, having that Arab peace initiative refracted in a peace process would also ensure some of Israel’s security requirements,” he said. “The world is saying to Israel, ‘You have occupied territory as a result of a war you didn’t choose, but there is now a pathway to end that occupation with some different outcome.’
“That is a matter of choice, not a matter of necessity.”
He said Netanyahu’s opponents on the Left “have got to realize they are very well regarded for their social welfare platform but they didn’t have the security presence in the Israel political system that gave them enough credibility…. If the [opposition] Zionist Union does get a security face that is credible, all bets are off.”
He said Palestinian leaders “have their own leadership crisis, which now is taking the form of a succession crisis.”
As Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas moves toward retirement, said Kurtzer, “many of us have said, ‘Let’s take advantage of his being in power.’ This man has been an advocate for the peace process for as many years as he has been influential in the Palestinian movement, and he is getting old enough now where he is looking to retirement….” If time slips by with no movement in the peace process, said Kurtzer, “we will look back on this as a missed opportunity to work with a Palestinian committed to peace.”