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!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • 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.