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 3 of 3)

Members of the USIP group, though not discussing the president’s upcoming trip in their book, call for Obama to take steps that will reassert America’s role in leading Israelis and Palestinians toward peace.

William Quandt suggested that based on the group’s research, it is important for the president to make sure he is pursuing Middle East peace because he believes it is a crucial U.S. national security interest. “If our attitude is that we cannot want peace more than the parties, it will not work,” he said. Another lesson Quandt put forth was the need to act quickly instead of waiting for the last months in office, when presidential political power wanes.

Elliot Abrams
Elliot Abrams

According to Kurtzer, while the United States cannot impose an agreement, it can use its diplomatic strength and make clear to both sides that the president is putting his weight behind the issue. “The parties have a way of knowing when America is not serious,” he said. The research found that special envoys, for example, were rarely useful in pushing the sides closer. Progress has come only in cases in which the president and secretary of state showed they care personally, he said. The appointment of John Kerry to run the State Department and his reported interest in the Arab-Israeli conflict could move the U.S. closer to taking the kind of role authors of the USIP report discussed.

The researchers did not agree among themselves regarding the usefulness of “daylight” between Israeli and American positions. Critics of Obama point to his own admission early on in his first term about the need to create some daylight between Washington and Jerusalem in order to maintain an evenhanded appearance and to be able to pressure both sides. For Abrams, Bush’s “no daylight” policy was not only an important show of support to the government of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the time, it also allowed the administration some leverage on Israel when needed.

One point agreed on by all is that Obama will face greater political obstacles on the domestic front than his predecessors did if he pushes for a peace process that will require pressure on Israel. Republican criticism has grown fiercer and Congress has become less willing to accommodate disagreements with Israel. The research group’s book wonders “whether congressional and public support for Israel has limited administration options and thus changed the very nature of the American role in the peace process.”

“The Republican Party,” said Spiegel, “switched membership and leadership” since the days of George H. W. Bush and now holds the view that “Israel can do no wrong,” a view that he sees as “not helping Israel.”

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or follow on Twitter @nathanguttman


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!
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • 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.