Mideast Peace Plan Gets Surprising Push

Elliott Abrams Urges Acceptance of ‘Road Map’ Despite Reservations

By Ori Nir

Published May 30, 2003, issue of May 30, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

WASHINGTON — As Israel debated in recent weeks whether to endorse the American-led “road map” peace initiative, Jerusalem and its allies in the United States received a surprising push — from Elliott Abrams, the National Security Council’s senior director for Near East and North African affairs.

Before joining the security council six months ago, Abrams, a prominent neoconservative, was an outspoken critic of the Oslo peace process. But in recent weeks, sources say, he has been urging Israel to accept the road map, despite his own reservations about the plan.

Abrams, who received a presidential pardon for withholding information from Congress about the Iran-Contra affair as a Reagan administration official, has been warning Jewish activists that a failure by Jerusalem to act on the road map would spark a major crisis in American-Israel relations.

“Elliott is of the view that the road map isn’t the best vehicle but it is the vehicle that is out there,” said one of Abrams’s many friends among Washington’s pro-Israel activists. “And that’s the message he has delivered to the Israelis.”

The activist added: Abrams “represents the administration and is loyal to it. Besides, as a realist and a pragmatist, he knows the road map is the only tool available for the administration to get traction on the peace process, and can generate progress with some tweaking.”

Coming from Abrams, such arguments appear to reflect a sincere desire on the part of the administration to kick-start the peace process. As a result of this newfound effort to advance negotiations, American Jewish activists say they will be working to ensure that the Bush administration follows through on promises made to Israel regarding implementation of the road map.

In an effort to secure a formal Israeli endorsement of the plan, which envisions the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005, the White House said that a set of 14 Israeli concerns about the plan would be addressed “fully and seriously” throughout the implementation process.

The Israeli concerns, some of which appear to be at odds with the text and the spirit of the road map, focus mostly on the issue of Palestinian compliance with security requirements.

“We will certainly monitor it, and insist on the implementation [of the road map] in accordance with the concerns that Israel raised,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Hoenlein emphasized that the organized Jewish community will take its cues on this issue from the Israeli government. “These things are really done on a state-to-state level,” said Hoenlein, who returned Tuesday from a short visit to Israel.

Despite his recent attempts to nail down Israeli support for the road map, Abrams is still likely to serve as a sympathetic contact for Jewish groups concerned about implementation of the road map. According to one source, Abrams has told several pro-Israel lobbyists that the road map should not be “viewed as a bible” and that its text is not “carved in stone.”

While establishing himself as the White House’s chief authority on Middle East policy, Abrams appointed an ideological diverse professional staff to work with him. Robert Danin, who Abrams appointed as his deputy, is a State Department veteran with moderate views.

Many Washington insiders who know Abrams say that he brought to the job a wealth of organizational and networking skills, as well as a strong analytical ability. This package, observers say, helps his boss, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, generate a White House-driven Middle East peace policy, with a degree of independence from the State Department and the Pentagon.

“Such an ability is very valuable for a president who is becoming personally committed to driving an Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” said a former administration official who has known Abrams for years.

Abrams also received a ringing endorsement from Jason Isaacson, the American Jewish Committee’s director of governmental affairs.

“I hear the critics,” Isaacson said. “But if you ask me, he is exactly the person you’d want advising the president in a situation that’s as fluid and combustible as the one in the Middle East.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • How did Tariq Abu Khdeir go from fun-loving Palestinian-American teen to international icon in just a few short weeks? http://jd.fo/d4kkV
  • 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.