Two Books Offer Dueling Peace Roadmaps as Obama Prepares for Trip to Middle East

Elliot Abrams and Daniel Kurtzer Give Divergent Advice

Impending Visit: President Obama insists he’s going to the Mideast to listen, not bring prepackaged solutions. Two policy pros lay out suggested courses of action for the president, but their ideas couldn’t clash more.
getty images
Impending Visit: President Obama insists he’s going to the Mideast to listen, not bring prepackaged solutions. Two policy pros lay out suggested courses of action for the president, but their ideas couldn’t clash more.

By Nathan Guttman

Published February 27, 2013, issue of March 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

As President Obama prepares for his first presidential visit to Israel and the West Bank, he can choose from two books, both just out, to read on the plane ride over. Each is produced by veteran presidential advisors on the Middle East. But each offers a starkly different perspective.

One book, a product of five scholars and former administration officials and six years of research, documents the failure of U.S. peacemaking and scolds all recent administrations for lack of focus in bringing Israel and its Palestinian adversaries closer to resolving their long conflict. The other, by one of former President George W. Bush’s top Middle East advisers, warns precisely against doing too much and overemphasizing the conflict’s importance.

With speculation rife over the possibility that Obama may invest political capital once again in the stymied Middle East peace process, which book resonates more with him could matter a lot.

The White House itself has gone to great lengths to make clear that Obama will not present a new peace initiative during his visit, which will begin on March 20. Indeed, many observers consider the prospects of getting the sides to restart negotiations less likely than ever. But Middle East watchers are debating whether staying on the sidelines is a valid option for this administration, and if not, just how much involvement is too much.

“If we’re serious about being real friends of Israel, it means we have to be serious about peace,” said Daniel Kurtzer, a former ambassador to Israel and Egypt and co-author of “The Peace Puzzle: America’s Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace 1989-2011.” ”It is time to give this our best shot.”

But Elliott Abrams, President Bush’s deputy national security adviser in charge of the Middle East, said he does not know of anyone who thinks there’s a chance for a peace agreement in the near future. Abrams, whose book “Tested by Zion” details the Bush administration’s approach to the Middle East, argued against the notion that time is running out. “The window is always closing. How long have we been hearing this? Twenty years?” he asked rhetorically. The two-state solution to the conflict is not about to become impossible, he said, “because there is no better idea.”

Kurtzer’s “The Peace Puzzle,” which opposes Abrams’ lack of urgency, is the result of a research project sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Peace that tries to draw lessons from more than two decades of American peacemaking attempts in the region. It paints a gloomy picture of missed opportunities and lack of sustained U.S. efforts, which led to what the authors describe as a decline in American diplomatic power.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.