During more than four decades of occupation, Israeli-Palestinian relations have been replete with intense violence, mutual recrimination and revenge, bringing the two sides on more than one occasion close to the brink of all-out war. Oddly enough, these years have also been characterized by the transformation of the conﬂ ict whereby both sides have edged ever so slowly toward accommodation. But 40 years of occupation and its accompanying violence have created psychological and emotional hang-ups that continue to haunt both sides and hamper major progress on key security and territorial issues that each deems critical to ﬁnalizing an agreement. Moreover, while there is clear evidence that the vision of a two-state solution is gaining greater currency, entrenched extremist groups such as Hamas and radical settlers still continue to seek all of Palestine or greater Israel, respectively.
The recent war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas has made the issue of dealing seriously with violence and retribution more pressing than ever. Operation Cast Lead, provoked by Hamas’s endless rocket ﬁre on Israel, resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 Palestinians, a majority of whom were civilians. If the new U.S. leadership — under the guidance of Middle East envoy George Mitchell — does not deal hastily and directly with the issue of violence, the next war could just as well generate another dismal outcome. If the war on Hamas has produced anything, it is a window of opportunity for Israel, its Arab neighbors and its international allies to confront directly the sources of violence and bring an end to the occupation while Israel still has neighbors willing to cooperate.
Nothing can justify a humiliating occupation in the minds of the Palestinians, and all moral arguments against occupation are readily dismissed in the face of existential threats in the minds of the Israelis. Even a cursory review of the occupation from the Israeli vantage point indicates that for many Israelis, and especially the religiously committed settlers, the occupation of the West Bank is a biblical fulﬁllment that no government has the right to alter and no resistance, however violent, can change. The settlements and their expansion during the 1970s and 1980s became central to government policy in the territories, and the settler movement developed a strong political constituency represented in all Israeli coalition governments. Successive Israeli governments have provided ﬁnancial means and protection to the settlers with near total disregard for the profound impact on Israeli-Palestinian relations. As a result, any Israeli peace overture under these circumstances has been viewed by the Arab states as an empty slogan and a cynical attempt to sway public opinion. Contrary to the facts on the ground, as the occupation becomes less and less tenable, Israeli governments continue to justify it as indispensable to national security in an effort to justify further entrenchment.
Most Palestinians see the land on which they have lived for centuries as theirs, and no ruler or government can compromise this inherent right. From their perspective, regardless of what precipitated the Israeli occupation, Palestine is an Arab patrimony; thus, their right to the land is not only historical, but real and inalienable. Although the occupation may have needlessly been perpetuated by the Arab states and Palestinian leaders, who rejected Israel’s initial offer to exchange all the territories for peace immediately after the 1967 war, the occupation nonetheless has become central to Arab discourse. Everything from national dignity to daily struggle and physical survival are linked to the recovery of the land. More than seven out of 10 Palestinians have been born under occupation, creating two generations of Palestinians bent on ending it at whatever cost. Violent resistance to the occupation is only natural. As former Israeli president Moshe Katzav once said, regardless of who is right or wrong, the occupied have every right to resist. As a consequence, resistance to the occupation has created a vicious cycle of retaliation causing even more pain and suffering to the Palestinian community. The deplorable condition of the Palestinians languishing in refugee camps provided the environment for the birth of radical Islamist groups, including the creation in 1977 of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). Over time, Hamas has begun to mobilize its followers to rally violently against the occupation, linking national redemption to the liberation of the land.
While violent resistance to the occupation has further deepened the settlers’ resolve to ﬁght back, both Israeli and Palestinian radicals see salvation in denying the existence of the other. Absorbed by illusions and false prophesies, these radicals still believe they can defy what history, political reality and changing circumstances have ﬁ nally formulated. Trust hardly exists, and horrifying scenarios are constantly drawn about the other’s ultimate intentions, reinforcing the instinct to ﬁght. The bloody conﬂict has hardly spared a single family the anguish and pain associated with the loss of a loved one or friend. The injuries and losses are more than physical. Every funeral procession for the many thousands who have died on both sides has engendered new vows of revenge, calls for reprisal and ever more painful retribution. A cycle of violence has become the natural order, consuming two generations of youth whose hopes and dreams are lost in a political abyss. The wanton killings, suicide bombings and sweeping retaliations throughout the second Intifada, following the collapse of the Camp David negotiations in the summer of 2000, have stripped away the last semblance of civility, leaving both sides scrambling for answers to one daunting question: Where do we go from here, when all roads seem to point to the precipice?
After six agonizing years, the answer has gradually become clear to a majority of Israelis and Palestinians who believe that neither side can improve its position through the continuation of the conﬂict. There is no alternative but coexistence. Many Israelis admit that, after 40 years of occupation, neither territory nor military power has offered Israel the peace it yearns for, and the country is still facing the same three grim choices. First, the expulsion of Palestinians, which some Israeli radicals have advocated, has been largely rejected on moral grounds and for fear of international condemnation and potentially unimaginable consequences. Second, maintaining the occupation is clearly unsustainable because of the raging violence and the continuation of the state of war with the Arab world. Lastly, annexing the territories has presented Israel with two unacceptable choices: either to deny the Palestinians equal political rights and thereby render Israel an apartheid state, or to grant them equal rights and thereby lose the Jewish national identity of the state almost overnight. The second Intifada provided the Israelis a rude awakening and made the remaining option of a two-state solution the only sane choice. A majority of Palestinians, too, have gone through serious reﬂection and come to accept that the second Intifada was a tragic mistake, as Israel decimated the Palestinian security forces and left their infrastructure in ruins. The violent resistance to Israel’s existence has left most Palestinians despairing, with no prospect for better life. Today, the Israelis and Palestinians are between the mindset and the desire to reconcile. This is what the Obama administration will face as it embarks on its daunting Middle East mission.
The Changing Dynamic
Four dramatic developments have taken shape during the past several years that have changed both the conditions on the ground and the regional geopolitical environment. Those changes appear to have had profound inﬂuence on both the Israeli and Palestinian disposition, making the need for mutual accommodation based on a two-state solution central to their strategies.
First, most Israelis have ﬁ nally come to the conclusion that occupation is not sustainable, if for no reason other than demographic reality. It took more than 35 years for prime minister and Likud party leader Ariel Sharon to concede that the number of Palestinians living in Israel proper, plus those living in the West Bank and Gaza, is already equal to, if not exceeding, the number of Israeli Jews living in Israel. This factor, in and of itself, forced the Israelis to conclude that, in order to prevent the erosion of a Jewish majority in Israel, the two-state solution remains the only viable way to insure the Jewish national identity of the state. Against the objection of many members of the Likud party, Sharon, as part of his plan to end the occupation, withdrew all Israeli settlers and military installations from Gaza. The rift with Likud forced Sharon a few months later, in 2005, to form the Kadima (forward) party. Central to the platform of the new party was Israeli unilateral withdrawal from the vast majority of Palestinian territories. The fact that Sharon, the father of the settlement movements, came to this conclusion represents a sea change in Israeli thinking and has set in motion a process that will continue, regardless of who leads the new Israeli government.
Subsequent to the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, Hamas used the territory as a staging ground for attacks against Israel. While this discredited the premise of unilateral withdrawal, it did not alter the principle of ending the occupation and establishing two states. Israel simply miscalculated Hamas’ strength and popularity in Gaza and the friction between the Palestinian Authority (PA), led by Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas. The fact that Hamas is currently in control of Gaza did not stop the Israelis from continuing peace negotiations with the PA.
Second, after decades of violent resistance that has claimed the lives of thousands and left much of the Palestinian community in despair, a majority of Palestinians have reached the point of exhaustion. In fact, the actual political rapprochement between Israel and the Palestinians began as early as 1988, during the waning days of the Reagan administration. At that time, the late prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, recognized the PLO under the chairmanship of Yasser Arafat as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. In return, Arafat recognized Israel’s right to exist, renounced terrorism and pledged to reach a peaceful solution through negotiations. The 1992 Madrid peace conference further promoted the concept of a two-state solution, and it was followed in 1993 with the Oslo accords. Although intermittent and often intense violence continued to blur the vision of the ultimate solution, even among extremist Palestinians the number of those who believed in Israel’s destruction has diminished substantially. A solid majority of Palestinians have concluded that Israel cannot be defeated militarily in the foreseeable future, and they must now ﬁnd a way to live side by side with it.
Third, the Arab states, too, have come to the same conclusion. Peace with Israel is now viewed as a strategic option, especially in the wake of the Iraq War and reinforced by the Gaza war and Iran’s regional ambitions. The Arab League passed a historic resolution known as the Arab Peace Initiative in Beirut, Lebanon, in March 2002 and reintroduced it in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in March 2007, calling on Israel to return the territories captured in the 1967 War in exchange for a comprehensive peace with all 22 Arab states. Its signiﬁcance is better understood by comparison with the Arab League resolution toward Israel adopted in 1967 in Khartoum, Sudan, which declared a policy of no peace, no recognition and no negotiation. Moreover, the fact that this initiative is Arab in origin and represents the collective Arab will embodies a major departure from past policies toward Israel. Although provisions afﬁrming the Palestinian refugees’ right of return and designating East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state prevented Israel from fully embracing it, the initiative remains far-reaching in its implications. It signaled to all Arab and Muslim extremists that the Arab-Israeli conﬂict is no longer an ideological or religious conﬂ ict but political and territorial in nature, and that it can, and must, be peacefully settled.
Fourth, the prospect of the Obama administration offers another momentous opportunity to change the geopolitical dynamics of the Middle East in a way that can accelerate regional peacemaking. As the United States turns to repair its reputation and its dangerously low esteem in the region, it must ﬁrst make a determined effort to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conﬂict. Unlike the Bush administration, which largely left the Israelis and Palestinians to their own devices, the Obama team seems to be fully cognizant of the need for the United States to insert itself immediately into the peace process as George Mitchell is already preparing his second trip to the region. America is the only nation that has the inﬂuence with both sides to induce the Israeli and Palestinian concessions necessary for a peace agreement. To that end, there are a number of essential strategic steps and requirements that the United States must pursue simultaneously.
A New Strategy
Unlike Presidents Clinton and Bush, who plunged into Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking only during the ﬁnal years of their administrations, President Obama should tackle this conﬂict head-on during his ﬁrst few months in ofﬁce. Although no major breakthrough was achieved by the two previous administrations, signiﬁcant progress on a peace framework based on a two-state solution has nevertheless occurred. The existence of Israeli and Palestinian rejectionist elements hard at work to undermine the peace process makes it doubly urgent not to allow a vacuum in the negotiations. Whether it is the Clinton-Barak parameters or the Road-map, the Obama administration is inheriting a clear way forward that can be pieced together, provided a determined effort is made and momentum is maintained. To succeed, the United States must become actively and directly involved and remain relentless in the pursuit of an agreement both Israelis and Palestinians can accept and build upon.
Appointing a Permanent Envoy
The one element that has constantly been missing in past U.S. mediation between Israel and the Arab states is the permanent presence of a Middle East envoy with the president’s conﬁ dence and a wide mandate to facilitate agreements. More than a dozen envoys or emissaries traveled to the Middle East during the Bush administration alone, including General Anthony Zinni, General James Jones, George Mitchell, George Tenet and William Burns as well as the secretaries of state. Yet none stayed long enough or remained sufﬁciently engaged and resilient to achieve a breakthrough.
President Obama’s appointment of George Mitchell, a trusted envoy with access and leverage, is a positive indicator for progress in this direction. His work in brokering the Good Friday Agreement proves he is a tough negotiator and a strong advocate of direct diplomacy. His 2001 report on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis ensures that he has the background and objectivity to take on such a task. It will require deep understanding of the region’s history and the roots of the conﬂict and an appreciation of the religious convictions and cultural orientations of the people involved. The envoy must be sensitive and fully cognizant of the idiosyncrasies of the conﬂicting parties and their psychological state after 60 years of violent conﬂict. Moreover, the envoy must be clear about the concessions that have to be made by both sides and demonstrate an iron will to follow through. Both the caliber and experience of the envoy will be signiﬁcant in this case, as this person must carry out tough policymaking decisions. He should be accompanied by experienced and knowledgeable deputies who speak the local languages and are sensitive to the emotional divide. Both Israelis and Palestinians need direct and persistent American involvement and pressure to justify to their own publics the concessions they have to make to achieve a just peace.
Applying Tough Love with Israel
Although the U.S. commitment to Israel’s national security must remain unshakable, the Obama administration must be ﬁrm with Israel in addressing the conﬂict with the Palestinians. Blanket support of Israel by successive administrations, failing to push against the building and expansion of settlements, has done more harm to Israel than good. While Israel is a fellow democracy besieged by enemies, and a majority of Americans sympathize with its struggle, this afﬁnity should be viewed in the context of what is truly in Israel’s best interest. This is not merely a question of evenhandedness in dealing with Israel and the Arab states, as Israel’s military needs and requirements for survival are entirely different from those of other nations in the region. It is a matter, rather, of reconciling Israel’s core requirements for peace with the emerging consensus on a two-state solution without compromising Israel’s national security. In this regard, it will be essential that the Obama administration not only endorse the Arab Peace Initiative but persuade Israel to embrace it as well. This must constitute a point of departure, as the only solution to Israel’s ultimate security lies in peace, not territory.
Prodding Both Sides
The United States should bring necessary pressure to bear on both Israelis and Palestinians to change the nature of their daily encounters and overall relationship. Washington must become very active and push hard to reduce their differences by focusing on building trust and conﬁdence to both these ends. The Obama administration must insist that both sides begin with public diplomacy, which is sorely absent in the current atmosphere. To mobilize public opinion in favor of two states, the public must see, hear and feel the beneﬁt of what might one day be realized. Israeli and Palestinian leaders must state and restate openly and unequivocally their commitment to a negotiated settlement under any circumstances. A growing majority in both camps will believe in the inevitability of peace only when their leaders are willing to stake their political futures on peacemaking. Government organs must not only refrain from attacking and condemning each other, they must promote, day in and day out, in print and electronic media, the prospect of coexistence in peace and prosperity. As both sides build the structure of peace, the public will develop a vested interest in the process itself and hold more of a stake in it. Moreover, they must learn to deal tactfully with the difﬁ culties that will inevitably arise from acts of wanton or accidental violence by hard-core Hamas adherents or radical settlers. In the end, winning each other’s public opinion remains central to building a solid majority in support of peace. On that score, the United States must be relentless. This may not stop extremist groups from disrupting the calm, but it will substantially strengthen the camp that seeks a peaceful settlement and minimize the chances of another outbreak like the one in Gaza.
To be effective, all public diplomacy must be supported by irreversible conﬁdence-building measures on the ground. This must include substantially reducing the number of road blocks, ending public incitement by the Palestinian media against Israel and enhancing civil relations. This should also include allowing humanitarian aid, medical supplies and building materials to pass through to aid the citizens of Gaza. To rebuild conﬁdence, both sides must make it possible for a greater number of people-to-people interactions on a variety of levels, for example, including allowing an increasing number of Palestinian workers into Israel while Israelis undertake joint sustainable-development projects in the Palestinian territory. There will always be certain security risks involved when increasing the number of daily interactions. Such risks, however, must be weighed against the enormous advantages resulting from people-to-people bridge building. Another dramatic gesture that Israel must consider is the release of substantial numbers of Palestinian prisoners, in the range of 5,000 or more, to send a loud message that Israel is bent on reconciliation. Why hold more than 10,000 prisoners at a terrible cost, when all that Israel gets in return is more resentment and mistrust?
The one overriding requirement that would foster a real sense of conﬁ dence is an end to all settlement activity until an agreement on the ﬁnal border has been established. The greatest impediment to a two-state solution is the building and expanding of settlements. Israel cannot talk in earnest about peace while continuing its settlement activity, especially around the old city of Jerusalem. To establish real trust in the peace negotiations, Israel must end its expansion of existing settlements, including those that will eventually be incorporated into Israel proper, by mutual agreement with the Palestinians. Since the need to expand some of these settlements to accommodate natural growth could be pressing, the focus in the negotiations must be on the ﬁnal-status agreement. In order not to prejudice, however, either the Israeli or the Palestinian positions (Israel does not want to concede on the status of these settlements, and the Palestinians want to establish the 1967 border as the point of departure for negotiations on ﬁnal borders), a time limit for the ﬁnal-status negotiations will have to be established in advance.
From the Arab perspective the building and expanding of settlements around Jerusalem is intended to prevent the Palestinians from establishing their capital in East Jerusalem. This severely limits any prospect for peace. Most Arab states ﬁnd it extremely difﬁcult to reach out to Israel or put pressure on Arab extremists when illegal settlements are condoned on a daily basis. Moderate Arab states including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, which have been cooperating and have stood up against extremism, are running out of patience. Israel must reach out to those allies by temporarily suspending settlement activity. This may be a small price to pay to maintain their support and keep radical elements at bay. The United States must be clear and unequivocal, as settlement activity has undermined every fragment of conﬁdence-building in the past.
The key to maintaining steady progress in negotiations and conﬁ dence building is to make every effort to end all forms of violence. The Obama administration must pursue three sets of security arrangements: full cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces, augmentation of the PA security forces, and establishment of an all-Arab peacekeeping force under U.S. auspices.
Cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces is fundamental to any future progress in the peace process. Before Israel can relinquish territory in the West Bank, it must be assured that Israelis will not become targets and that the Palestinian security forces will be relentless in foiling plots of violence against Israelis. Israel must reciprocate by ending targeted killing and the practice of home demolition. Full collaboration between the two security forces will send a clear message that Israelis and Palestinians will act decisively in confronting violence. In this regard, Israel must apply and enforce laws against settlers who violate Palestinian rights or safety, a common phenomenon in the recent months. The full cooperation between the two security forces that has been demonstrated aptly in Jenin and Hebron and will be soon in Bethlehem, attests to future possibilities. Trust between the security forces is fundamental to progress on every other level of interaction. It demonstrates more vividly than anything else both sides’ commitment to reduce tension while providing the building blocks for a sustained relationship.
As a part of any future security arrangement, the United States must strengthen the PA security forces by providing the necessary military hardware and facilitating the training of new recruits on a regular basis. Although the United States has done some of this in the past, it will be necessary to augment such a program to ensure that the PA will be in a position to deter and prevail, should violent confrontation with extreme Palestinian elements erupt. The prospect of re-establishing a unity government between the PA and Hamas should not alter the principle of keeping moderate Palestinian forces robust. Although the Israelis remain deeply troubled by what happened during the second Intifada, when Palestinian security forces turned their guns against them, the PA has learned its lesson. They know full well that, while they can inﬂ ict serious loses, they can be destroyed in the process.
As a part of an overall arrangement, the Obama administration must also negotiate the establishment of an all-Arab peacekeeping force with the leading Arab states. Such a force should be drawn from Arab states including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and Syria and be stationed in Gaza and the West Bank. The United States may augment such a force by providing elements of command, control and monitoring. Under the best of circumstances, any Israeli-Palestinian peace accord will take a number of years to become entirely secure and would need the strong presence of other Arab states to stabilize it. Yet, other than its symbolic importance, the presence of such a force will have a tremendous effect on public behavior, as it sends a clear message that the entire Arab body stands behind the peace agreement. As a part of the Arab Peace Initiative, it reassures Israel that the Arab states take Israel’s national security seriously and will be prepared to confront any extremist group that attempts to undermine the peace process. Unlike peacekeeping from outside the region, an Arab peacekeeping force will enjoy far greater latitude in dealing with irredentist Islamic groups that are likely to resist, at least initially, any peace agreement with Israel.
Offering Arab Extremists a Choice
Many people will think that groups such as Hamas are irredeemable and that the only language they understand is the iron ﬁst. President Obama stands a uniquely better chance than any of his predecessors to reach out to some of these groups and persuade them to join the Arab moderates and the peace process. Other than the very hard-core Islamists, given the opportunity and the prospect of living with dignity, the majority of extremists are not ideological and would join the Arab center. To be sure, if the Obama administration wants to change the political dynamic, it cannot exclude any player and must insure that everyone has a stake in the process. Hamas and others should be invited to join, but they will have to know that it is they, not Israel, who need recognition. They must also understand that they ultimately have to choose between political existence and marginalization, at best. This is why it is imperative that all Arab states be fully supportive of the Obama strategy and why these radical groups must also know that in any future confrontation with the Palestinian Authority they will be handily defeated.
Embracing the Arab Peace Initiative
The Obama administration must embrace the Arab Peace Initiative, as it offers a comprehensive approach and induces the Arab states to play a direct and active role in the process. Although the Roadmap was a useful instrument and has provided speciﬁc steps for both sides to undertake to reach an agreement, it has an inherent limitation: it represents another Western design rather than an indigenous Arab formula that might resonate more favorably in the Arab street. In any event, regardless of its shortcomings, the Roadmap and the Arab Peace Initiative are not mutually exclusive and can work well together to enhance a comprehensive peace plan with both the United States and all 22 Arab states. Embracing this initiative will also send a clear signal to the entire Arab and Muslim world that the United States is fully committed to dealing with the whole range of issues in the Arab-Israeli conﬂict, while signaling to the Islamic radicals that they must now face the collective Arab will.
It is important to note that Syria is one of the signatories to the Arab Peace Initiative. It can play a constructive role in the search for solutions to many of the conﬂicts in the region: in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Iraq and Iran. Syria is eager to demonstrate that it is worthy of engagement, and the Obama administration should take the initiative to put Damascus to the test. Ending Syria’s isolation may prove to be critical to Obama’s new Middle East strategy. The Obama administration’s overture toward Syria is an extremely positive move, and the negotiations between Israel and Syria with direct U.S. involvement must now be put on the fast track. Indeed, considering the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conﬂict, Israeli-Syrian negotiations may prove much easier to conclude. An Israeli-Syrian peace deal would provide numerous implications regarding the larger threat of Iran and will have a direct impact on radical Palestinian groups.
Early commitment of the Obama administration to an Israeli-Palestinian solution must be met by a renewed commitment on the part of the Arab states to translate the Arab Peace Initiative into real measures as well as symbolic gestures to reach out to Israel. In return for embracing the initiative, the United States should insist that many Arab leaders, especially from countries that have no formal relations with Israel, initiate public contact with their Israeli counterpart. Nothing will sway Israeli public opinion in favor of making the concessions for peace more than demonstrative public contact. Despite nearly 30 years of peace between Israel and Egypt, President Mubarak has never set foot in Israel, while his Israeli counterparts have visited Egypt numerous times. Imagine the impact of a visit by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to the Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem and to the Israeli parliament or an interfaith conference in Jerusalem. President Obama will be better equipped than any of his predecessors to persuade Arab leaders in the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative to make such gestures. He has created an aura of sincerity around himself, and Arab leaders are more likely to make gestures toward President Obama if he invests real political capital in the peace process.
The United States is in a position to insist that the process of normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab states not be postponed until the conclusion of Israeli-Palestinian peace. It must also demonstrate that it is prepared to exert similar pressure on Israel to exhibit its commitment to peace by ending all settlement activity. In March 2008, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was invited to speak in Doha, Qatar, although Israel and Qatar do not have formal diplomatic relations. That symbolic gesture was most welcome in Israel, precipitating a wave of positive commentary in the Israeli media about the prospect of real peace. The fact that Qatar was very critical of Israel’s war on Hamas and temporarily severed its relations with Israel does not change the fact that these are the kinds of gestures needed to create a momentum toward peace. In the end, the Arab Peace Initiative, historic in its scope and implications, must not be allowed to languish. The Obama administration must make it central to the search for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.
Rarely has the Arab-Israeli conﬂict faced both the prospect of a major breakthrough and a new violent conﬂagration at the same time. Only an immediate and active role by the United States can tip the balance in favor of a peace. The main difﬁculty that has hampered progress in the past is that neither the United States nor the parties to the conﬂict have been able to ensure sustained progress. The Obama administration must be prepared to engage all players simultaneously with the objective of moving them in concert toward the intended goal. It is an awesome task that requires determined effort as well as a clear vision and leadership. For many obvious reasons, President Obama has a rare opportunity to change the narrative about the prospects for lasting peace in the Middle East. His fresh, untainted outlook and his determination might allow him to achieve a breakthrough in a place where, for too many years, breakdowns have been the norm.