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

(page 2 of 3)

Decrying the lack of persistence and focus, the book’s authors state that they are “left to ponder whether that kind of American leadership and diplomatic wisdom can be recaptured.”

Daniel Kurtzer
Daniel Kurtzer

Abrams, who has produced a memoir of his years on Bush’s national security team, offers a different account, one that is more skeptical about America’s need or ability to take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a top priority.

The USIP’s research group consisted of Kurtzer, who served in Middle East-related positions from the Reagan administration through the administration of George W. Bush; William Quandt, a former Middle East adviser for Presidents Nixon and Carter; Scott Lasensky, a researcher currently with the Obama administration, and scholars Steven Spiegel of the University of California, Los Angeles and Shibley Telhami from the University of Maryland, College Park.

In the analysis by these scholars and policymakers, efforts to broker peace by Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama left much to be desired. George W. Bush’s administration is described as having been “at war with itself” over policy as differences surfaced between Secretary of State Colin Powell and his successor Condoleezza Rice on one hand, and the neo-conservative voices within the administration, including Abrams, on the other. Bush’s efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace are described in the book as “a saga of missed opportunities and inadequate preconceptions that left the prospect for peace far weaker when Bush left office.”

Abrams calls this claim “ludicrous.” In an interview with the Forward, he argued that Bush’s tenure brought important advances to the nation’s Middle East policy. He cited in particular Bush’s identification of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat as an obstacle to peace; Bush’s later introduction of the concept of reforming the Palestinian Authority, and his clear statement of support for Palestinian statehood. “It is very convenient for people who don’t like Bush to say he was simply not interested in the peace process,” Abrams said in an interview.

The USIP research group does note some of the achievements reached during the Bush years, and criticizes Obama for not following up on them. Obama, they say, did not try to build on the Annapolis process, an attempt to restart talks based on a November 2007 international conference hosted by Bush. He instead chose a new approach that put an Israeli freeze on Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank front and center.

Abrams, a staunch critic of Obama, believes that fixing the settlement freeze issue should be the president’s main task in his upcoming visit to Jerusalem. According to Abrams, it was Obama’s demand that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu freeze Jewish settlement activity that caused the Palestinians to insist on this point before agreeing to resume negotiations. Beyond the issue of settlements, Abrams argues that Obama should “convey to the Israelis that he really understands emotionally and intellectually how Israelis feel,” though he added that even if successful, Obama will only convince part of the Israeli public.


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!
  • 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.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • 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.