The following is an edited transcript of the twelfth in a series of Capitol Hill conferences convened by the Middle East Policy Council over the past four years. The meeting was held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on November 21, 1996. Council president George McGovern was the moderator.
AARON DAVID MILLER, deputy special Middle East coordinator in the U.S. Department of State
Before we turn to any serious discussion of second-term imperatives for the next administration, it is essential to know where we've been, to understand what has been achieved and what remains to be done. I'm going to offer some observations in an effort to place this discussion in some sort of perspective. And I will touch on the current status of negotiations, particularly between Israelis and Palestinians.
First. let me begin with an observation which is intensely personal. I am not an objective observer when it comes to the question of whether a lasting peace can be achieved. I've been involved for over ten years through four administrations, and I have come to develop a profound belief and faith in both the logic and power of diplomacy and negotiations to resolve problems-not all problems and not all conflicts, but clearly the Arab-Israeli conflict This faith comes not from academics; or from reading books or from having theoretical discussions. It comes from being privileged to have played a part in what I would view as the beginning of the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict
Over the last decade, we have seen a profound change in the Arab-Israeli landscape. We've also seen the possibility-not inevitability necessarily-of the beginning of the end of this conflict A structure of negotiations has been created which has survived extreme rhetoric, terror and even some of the negotiating positions advanced by the parties themselves. With the exceptions of Iraq and Libya, every Arab state in the Levant, North Africa and the Gulf has participated in some aspect of this process, whether political or economic.
At the same time, the negotiating structure over the last year has confronted a series of developments: the assassination of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, an upsurge of terrorism earlier this year, elections in Israel and last September perhaps the worst confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians since the process began. The negotiating structure that we have now inherited is going to have to become reconciled with developments over the last year.
Second, the Arab-Israeli conflict is probably one of the great conflicts of this century in terms of its volatility, its durability and its complexity. I believe that only with this perspective is it possible to understand how it is going to be ultimately resolved. The conflict evolved in phases over time and it can only be resolved in phases over time. To assume that you can have a series of victories and successes in trying to resolve this complex conflict with out the possibility or probability of setbacks and disappointments profoundly underestimates just how difficult a conflict this is.
Third, what is so remarkable, however, about the nature of this conflict and the process that it has created is the resiliency of the process--its capacity to withstand and accommodate the inevitable setbacks and disappointments and threats posed to its viability. If someone had told me on September 12, 1993, the day before Rabin and Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn, that within three years an Israeli prime minister would have been murdered, that an Israeli settler would have killed 29 Palestinians within the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, that you would have had the upsurge of terrorism and catastrophes inflicted on this process, and yet that the process would have survived to see another handshake between Yasser Arafat and a new prime minister of Israel , Benjamin Netanyahu, I never would have believed it possible.
I say this not to take for granted the viability of the process or to take cheer in the fact that these tragedies have occurred, but in order to make my fourth observation: Why has this process been so resilient? Why has it demonstrated this kind of capacity to survive? In answering this question, I think we should begin to understand exactly what has transpired in the nature of this conflict.
The process survives not because of some artificial effort to keep it alive, but because at some point in the last five to seven years, Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians made a decision to choose an alternative to a protracted conflict They did not necessarily choose to resolve that conflict quickly or effortlessly, but they chose an alternative pathway, a pathway through negotiations. In short, the process survives because it is profoundly in the self-interest of Israel, key Arab states and the Palestinians to see it resolved.
I would attribute this change to the Madrid conference. After Madrid, regardless of what justification or pretext any of the parties wanted to use in order to argue that there could not be negotiations or there could not be peace, the one argument that they could no longer use is that there was no one at the other end of the table to talk to. The notion that there were no partners in this process formed mythologies and national images for years. That is no longer possible. There are partners. They may not like what they hear from one another, and the issues on the table may be extremely difficult, but they're willing to talk. And if the last several years is any indication, they're also willing to reach agreements.
Fifth, keeping what I believe to be this historic transition alive really defines the agenda for the future. It defined the agenda over the last two American administrations. It will define the agenda for as long as this country and this government seek to play a meaningful role in the resolution of this conflict. Keeping the historic transition alive, first and foremost, means keeping the Israeli Palestinian negotiations moving forward. And I would argue that despite the conflict in September, a historic transition has occurred within that negotiation.
The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is no longer a conflict between the mainstreams in Israeli and Palestinian society. It has been become a conflict, in large part, between the extremes. The notion that there are now centers in each political community willing to negotiate and reach agreements is something quite remarkable. I believe we've passed the point of no return with respect to this negotiation. Oslo may be an imperfect but I think there are no alternatives. Too much has happened on the ground to change the reality and even to break the cycle of confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians to develop a fundamentally or profoundly different model for Israeli Palestinian negotiations. In order to keep the Israeli-Palestinian negotiation moving forward, several things are necessary. Number one is implementation of the agreements already reached. It is absolutely essential that an agreement be reached not only with respect to redeployment from Hebron, but also on a variety of interim issues. Without straining the bounds of credulity, I think an agreement will be reached, and I believe a bridge will be created also to resolve a variety of other interim issues, which will allow, at some point, permanent-status negotiations to be joined.
Second, economics. If we cannot translate peace into more than an abstraction in the daily lives of not only Israelis but also Palestinians, then we will not succeed. And this essentially means free movement of people and goods in an effort to create jobs and infrastructure and to broaden the economic horizons of people.
Third, security. There has to be enhanced and continuous security cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, because the kind of violence we saw in September or any of the terror that preceded it will not allow the process to move forward. Finally, psychology. There has to be a sense of partnership at the highest levels between Israelis and Palestinians. A sense that they are both involved in a historic enterprise together and that they are committed to working out problems in order to lay a basis for I believe it is possible to accomplish all of these objectives and to keep the Israeli Palestinian track not only viable on interim issues but even to approach what now may seem to be the intractable issues of permanent status.
Two final points. Israeli-Palestinian peace cannot exist in a vacuum. The Arab Israeli conflict, historically and politically, was never just about Israelis and Palestinians. It has informed the political culture of both Arabs and Israelis. There is an interstate dimension to this conflict that also needs to be addressed.
Great progress has been made over the past decade. We have a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. We have a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. We have a disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria It's clear that comprehensiveness is a critical component of completing the historic transition. We have to find a basis for resuming Israeli-Syrian negotiations and to pursue those negotiations in an effort to conclude an agreement There have to be arrangements and an agreement between Israel and Lebanon, which will complete the orbit of agreements between Israel and those states with which it shares contiguous borders.
Secondly, there is going to have to be further elaboration of contacts and ties between Israel and second-tier Arab states. They are obviously not of the same character as those with what used to be described as the confrontation states, but if peace is to be regional in character to allow regional cooperation and development, then the orbit the peace is going to have to expand.
Finally, I will close with an editorial comment on our role. The United States has to find a balance-and it has struggled to find it--between doing too much with respect to Arab-Israeli peace and not doing enough. On the one hand, we are not a party to the conflict. We are the only outside party involved in Arab-Israeli peace that has managed to acquire the trust and confidence of both sides. We are not perfect, and we cannot have a perfect policy, but we are the only party that has managed to achieve this role. and it carries an enormous responsibility.
We've got to find a way to calibrate our role and to find that balance, and I think we have to bear in mind two final points. U.S. policy has one role when there are no negotiations between Arabs and Israelis and a different role when there are such negotiations. This is a critical distinction; the nature of the U.S. role inevitably must change when there is a self-sustaining negotiation between parties and when some of the most sensitive issues in that negotiation are being discussed and negotiated by the parties themselves. Secondly, we have played a variety of different roles in this negotiation. We have marshaled economic and political support for the We have helped to defuse and insulate the process from crisis, as we have demonstrated repeatedly during this administration, from the Israeli-Lebanese confrontations of 1993-1996 to our response to a variety of terrorist attacks over the course of the last two years.
And we also play a role in the negotiations themselves. The last month has witnessed American presence in the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to a degree that was not evident before, in terms of being in the room with the parties. So I urge you to see the American role on a continuum. It is not just a question of being in the room or not in the room. It's more complicated, and we play a multiplicity of roles.
We will continue to make Arab-Israeli peace a top priority. I've had the privilege of working with three secretaries of state in 10 years, and every single one of them has gotten involved in an intensive way with this problem. There's no alternative. But I urge you to keep one thing in mind. We are not a party to this conflict Every decision with respect to peace and war in this conflict has been initially made by the people who live in the neighborhood. And I would argue-without abdicating responsibility, because I am an activist and believe American policy has an obligation to continue to be involved in this problem as long as the parties want us involved-that it ultimately will be up to the Arabs, the Israelis and the Palestinians to determine whether the future they want for their children is a future based on unending confrontation and violence or-and I believe this is possible-a future based on accommodation, trust and, ultimately, real peace.
DAVID L MACK, senior counselor, C&O Resources; former deputy assistant secretary of state for the Near East and South Asia and former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (1986-89)
The term "vital U.S. national interest" is one of the most abused and trivialized terms in the foreign-policy lexicon, but one interest that really deserves this description is access to the oil of the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf at reasonable market prices. The states of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council plus Iraq and Iran control roughly two-thirds of the world's oil reserves. That is an unblinkable fact established not by the White House or by the State Department or by some think tank. It was established by geology and global economics. Hegemony over that area by a state unfriendly to the United States could split away many of our allies in both the industrialized and developing worlds. The current disagreement between the United States and other OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) states over policy toward Iran, for example, is only a foretaste of what might result if states had to choose between essential energy supplies and their alliance with the United States. Aside from such scenarios, prolonged political instability in the countries of the area could even lead to a devastating reduction in the flow of strategic commodities.
The threats to this vital U.S. national interest are many. They include the quest for weapons of mass destruction by Iran and the fortunately interrupted aspirations of Iraq for the same tools to establish its dominance. There are also potentially destabilizing internal trends, ranging from demographic change to subversive movements against traditional political systems. Failure of the Arab-Israeli peace process will bring all of these threats much closer to the point of crisis.
On the day of the recent U.S. elections, I was in the United Arab Emirates. Both the government leaders and the private businessmen to whom I spoke were very concerned about the outcome of these elections and their implications for the Middle East It was difficult to convince them that foreign policy issues had played almost no role in the campaign between Bob Dole and Bill Clinton, but they easily convinced me that the foreign policy of the United States could make a critical difference to the security of their own countries. As we discussed the internal problems of the countries of the region and the threats to their security from Iraq and Iran, it became apparent that continued stalemate in the peace process between Israel and its neighbors, including the Palestinian Authority, was certain to be a catalyst for threats closer to home.
Prior to the October 1973 war, many U.S. officials believed that it should be possible to deal with the security of the petroleum reserves of the area as a matter separate from the Israeli dispute. The subsequent Arab oil embargo, while notoriously ineffective, was a strong warning of the close relationship between U.S. strategic interests in the Gulf and the hostility between Israel and its neighbors.
By 1990, however, U.S. efforts to advance the peace process had sputtered out We were in one of those periods without the kind of framework that Aaron Miller talked about The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, whatever the reaction of most Arab and Muslim governments, had a very different effect on the Arab street The seemingly irrational attraction that a secular and despotic regime in Baghdad offered to many Palestinians and other aggrieved elements throughout the Muslim world was a wakeup call in Washington and in many Middle East capitals as well.
Fortunately, by doing the right thing in the Gulf, U.S. diplomacy emerged in a vastly stronger position to do the right thing in the Arab-Israeli peace process. The Madrid conference maneuvered a reluctant Yitzhak Shamir into a structure of peacemaking that offered hope throughout the Arab world. Madrid also led to the eventual inclusion of the Gulf Arab states and a multilateral process that supported the bilateral negotiations. It took some persuasion on the part of U.S. diplomats to explain to people in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa why they should be part of this process.
U.S. Policy toward Israel is an emotional issue for the GCC governments. It comes up often in our dealings with them. There's always an edge to it. It can be very difficult to have candid conversations on the subject But at the time of the Madrid conference, the GCC leaders welcomed evidence that the United States understood that the security of the Gulf cannot be sealed off from the Arab-Israeli issue. The blatant ease with which Saddam Hussein had posed as a champion of both Palestine and Islam was a wake-up call in many capitals. It was a graphic example of how the Arab-Israeli conflict affects the strategic interests we share with the GCC states.
The worry today is that the United States will once again radicalize Arab and Muslim opinion by allowing Israel to dictate the terms of a settlement or simply defer a settlement indefinitely. We should understand that our success in persuading the GCC states that the peace process is good for Gulf security means they become more fearful when that process breaks down. Exploitation of these fears by Baghdad. Tehran or radical Islamists is all too easy.
To some extent, the leaders in the GCC states are resigned to the idea that U.S. leadership in the peace process is the only realistic road open to Israel's neighbors and the Palestinians. GCC officials desperately hope that the United States will take positions that are independent of Israel. They support a peace process based on land for peace, not what they fear may be the outcome of an Israeli-dictated settlement. On a recent visit to Riyadh, I heard that even a successful conclusion of Israeli-Syrian negotiations would not reach the Saudi bottom line: a solution to the Jerusalem issue that meets minimal Arab and Muslim ideas of honor. It is on Jerusalem that there is a convergence of the Iranian threat to Gulf security and domestic discontent by Saudi Islamists. Other countries on the Arabian Peninsula are more likely to listen to Saudi views on this point than to U.S. diplomats.
Even before the electoral victory of Prime Minister Netanyahu, U.S. handling of the conflict in southern Lebanon had raised the level of GCC fears. Sympathy with Israel as a victim of terrorism was clear at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit The fact that all these governments sent representatives to the conference was a good indication of this. In private conversations, however, it was counterbalanced by indignation at what Gulf Arabs perceived as Israel's collective punishment of Palestinians and Lebanese. Initially prepared to accept tough measures against Hezbollah, the GCC states did not at first react strongly to Israel's Operation Grapes of Wrath. When it became apparent that it was Lebanese civilians rather than terrorists who bore the brunt of the aerial attacks and the shelling, and particularly when the U.S. response seemed so one-sided, the reaction of the GCC states turned to anger. Moreover, this attitude toward the Arab-Israeli dispute affects U.S. diplomatic and military activities involved more directly with Gulf security. GCC officials have complained that U.S. diplomats sometimes appear to press Israeli interests in the peace process more than U.S. interests in our bilateral relationships. The problem is not that the GCC states view Israel as a direct threat to their security. In part, they are concerned that a closer relationship with the United States gives rise to internal dissent and thereby undermines the very security we aim to ensure. It is simply not enough for the United States to offer military relationships if the political framework makes those relationships unpopular and potentially destabilizing.
Secondly, there is concern that Israeli influence on U.S. policies toward the Gulf will cause the United States to be an erratic and undependable ally. Historical memories in this town are very short; we are lucky if they go beyond the two-year electoral cycle. Historical memories out there are very long, too long perhaps for the good of the people in the area, both Israelis and Arabs. While the Irangate arms-for-hostages scandal may be nearly forgotten in Washington, it is a fresh memory in the Gulf. From the perspective of GCC fears, if Israeli influence is one reason the United States took a hard line in this election year toward Baghdad and Tehran, that same influence could cause a fundamental shift in U.S. policy toward appeasement if there were changes in Iraq or Iran that elicited a favorable response from the Israeli government One GCC official told me they understood the dominant influence of Israel on U.S. policy toward the peace process, even if they did not like it What they did not accept was Israeli influence on U.S. policy toward the Gulf.
As we reconsider our policies toward Iraq and Iran, we must be aware of this perception-the idea that somehow Israel can tilt our policy on security issues absolutely vital to the people of the Gulf. Aside from the merits of the dual containment policy, Arab governments are keenly aware that it was first enunciated before a pro-Israeli audience. The same was true of the decision to tighten the executive orders on trade with Iran. There is also a perception that the so-called D'Amato bill became law not as a result of strategic considerations but because of U.S. domestic politics and the influence of the pro-Israel lobby. As a foundation for defending a vital U.S. national interest, this is the policy equivalent of sand. We are better advised to build our strategy toward the Gulf on the rock of shared interests with the GCC states. That implies closer consultation with them and determined efforts to reach a just Arab-Israeli settlement
JAMES ZOGBY, president, Arab American Institute
It has been three years now since the signing of agreements that were thought to be the beginning of the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and five years since the beginning of the peace process itself. Yet the facts on the ground speak to a reality very disturbing and very different from the one that we hoped we would be addressing at this time. The simple reality is that this process is not working-to the detriment not only of the Palestinian and the Israeli people but of the interests of the broader Arab region and of the United States.
I want to make two different observations about the process when it began. First, the current peace process grew out of the end of the Cold War and the Gulf War. I don't think any of us will forget the dramatic presentation President Bush made before Congress at the end of the Gulf War, when he said in effect that the lessons of that war made it clear that the time had come to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. It was a lesson for America. We had a two-track policy in the Middle East, partly as a result of the Cold War, but also partly the result of domestic pressures on U.S. policy. The fact that we had a U.S.-Israel policy and a U.S.-Arab policy needed, as we saw during the Gulf War, to be reconciled. We had to make certain assumptions about what needed to.be done. First, the U.N. resolutions needed to be implemented, and the president explained in his address what those U.N. resolutions were.
One was security and the other was land for peace and the legitimate rights of the Palestinians. That formula. I believe, was carefully chosen to be as far down the line as the administration would come towards recognizing Palestinian rights as equal to Israeli security interests, but not crossing over the line, for domestic political considerations. Yet, at the same time, the president said that he defined it very clearly and, I think, in a unique way: twin tests that must be passed and that must be passed together. Failure to move on either, he said, would ultimately bring the process down. President Bush said, land is not the measure of security; arms are not the measure of security. He was preparing the ground for people to understand that it was peace that created security and not security that created peace.
It was clear that, despite the fact the U.N. secretary-general was quite successful in creating conditions that brought the parties together at Madrid, strategic decisions had not been made in every Arab capital to move down that path. They were ready to sit and talk, but they were not ready to move forward.
Clearly this was true on the Israeli side, and one began to see in the Israeli press, comments that indicated that a serious debate was taking place about whether to move or not The government that was in power at the time was ready to sit but not ready to move, and so there was a direct challenge to the United States. One of the forms that this challenge took was the issue of loan guarantees. "$10 billion in loan guarantees without condition, and so on, and we'll move." It was quite humorous. You could have written a comic strip about it, but it was real. $10 billion; it will all be paid back, but don't ask any questions. The Bush administration decided that questions would be asked and conditions would be attached.
It was over the placing of those conditions that a crisis developed, a crisis that ultimately had to do with reshaping internal Israeli politics. It threatened the relationship with the United States in a serious way and became a factor in the Israeli elections. It created a new condition in Israel a sense that Israel had to rethink how it was going to deal with its relationship with the United States and the approach to peace.
At the same time, there were other problems. The Madrid talks had dragged on. We went through eight or nine rounds with people sitting in one room and having to go back and forth through another room because of a commitment that we had made with Israel not to talk to the Palestinian leadership. So the Israelis and Palestinians decided to move on their own, and they went to Oslo.
I believe that Oslo was a cry for help, not a solution. If you read the Oslo agreement, it is a document in which Israeli positions and Palestinian positions are wedded into what ultimately becomes a series of contradictory positions.
But the most myth-shattering and trailblazing part of Oslo was the opening few sentences in which the two sides mutually recognized each other's rights. It is no small point It was Yitzhak Rabin who came to Washington in 1985 and said, at the Press Club, "We do not approve of the United States talking to the PLO. Not because they're terrorists," he said, "but because talking to the PLO means you recognize the right of the Palestinians to self-determination, and this we can never agree to."
Saying-by talking to the PLO-that Palestinians have the right to self-determination is something that Israel had never been able to deal with. And in Oslo, they did But the rest they didn't know how to deal with, partly because of internal Israeli pressures. We did not have a situation in Israel where enough of the politicians were ready for a two-state solution. And so, the Palestinians scaled down their demands, the Israelis put some of their positions on hold, and the result was Oslo, which said to the United States, ''This is as far as we can go. We can go no further, but we've at least come this far."
In a sense, the U.S. response was similar to that of a marriage counselor for a husband and wife who have been fighting with each other for 27 years. They say, "We realize we need help." The marriage counselor says, "Great I'm going to leave you alone while you work things out" They needed more than that. The result was that we went through more rounds, without helping to alter the conditions on the ground, to make the Israeli political scene more conducive to the kinds of changes that would have to take place for peace to occur. This resulted in a very skewed and distorted implementation of the Oslo agreement.
Shimon Peres himself at one point said quite plainly, "We're not negotiating with the Palestinians. Let's be clear that we're negotiating with ourselves. The question is how much are we willing to give them. They have no leverage over us. We're negotiating with ourselves." And Yossi Beilin, who served as his deputy for a period of time, added, "It's true we're twisting their arms. But we have to be careful not to twist their arms too hard or else we'll break them, and then there won't be anybody left to shake hands with."
I believe that the Israelis twisted too hard and broke a Palestinian arm here and there, and this resulted in the rather distorted Oslo agreement Certainly the Palestinians of Hebron found it difficult to accept It literally places one-third of the civilian Palestinian population on the West Bank in abnormal circumstances, out of deference to 400 extremists hell-bent on destroying the entire process, and it also circumscribes Palestinian freedom of movement in a very significant way.
In all of this period, there were two asymmetries, one an asymmetry of power. Israel has the power and the Palestinians don't, and therefore the leverage they have is limited. The Palestinians only have the power to say no. They are given terms, and they say no to them, and they try to whittle them down or change them. But they have no other cards in their hands. The second asymmetry is one of pressure. There has been American pressure in this process, and the pressure has been almost exclusively on the Palestinians, regarding security.
The Palestinians have responded by going a bit over the line. There are human-rights problems now as a result of the way the Palestinians are implementing the security arrangements to protect the peace agreement They have, in fact, cracked down and dismantled, to some extent, those groups that have been disruptive of the process. But they've done so at the cost of human-rights. Palestinians are now being detained in the way they were detained by Israel. Palestinians are now using physical abuse in the way that the Israelis were using it We find ourselves now protesting to the Palestinian authorities about the same policies that we were once protesting to the Israelis about
There has not been pressure of Israel. Even if one takes the limited definition of those rights as economic rights versus the issue of Israeli security, there has not been an equal amount of pressure on the Israelis to create better economic conditions for Palestinians. Palestinians are poorer today than they were when the agreement was initially signed three years ago. Gaza is a desperate mess. And the West Bank is dramatically worse now than it was, because what we would call a major business on the West Bank is in no way comparable to what a business is anywhere else in the world. The major businesses are now ruined, and exports are down 50 percent The ability to import is limited. There is no internal market to speak of. There is no opportunity to create human vestment because, if you can’t import or export, you simply can't invest And that economy has been crippled by policies destructive to its growth.
We were going to help the Palestinians grow economically; we have not All the good intentions have not been translated into reality. We need to take an honest look at that and deal with it There has been an asymmetry of compassion. The recent gesture by the U.S. consul general to visit the family of the young Palestinians who were beaten to death was very important But overall there has simply not been recognition of the fact that, since this peace agreement was signed, as many if not more Palestinians and Israelis have been killed.
We now have a spotlight on it, but settler violence in Hebron is an old story going back to the '70s. The number of Palestinians actually killed in Hebron over the last several years is far greater than the number that Baruch Goldstein killed in the massacre in the mosque. In fact, more Palestinians were killed afterward, many by settlers, than were killed during the Baruch Goldstein outrage. The Washington Times yesterday, for the first time in the American press, reported on the existence of a monument built to Goldstein.
But how many other stories have appeared in American press? How many expressions of outrage have there been from the administration or from Congress or from anyone in this country about the existence of a monument to Baruch Goldstein? None. If a similar monument had been built to a Palestinian guilty of the same crime, would we not have heard about it? There has been an asymmetry of power, an asymmetry of pressure and an asymmetry of compassion. It has not served the process well.
When this process began at the signing on the White House lawn, building peace was like constructing an inverted pyramid. The point of it was in the sands of Gaza or the rocky hills of the West Bank. No sooner did the ink get put on paper than people began thinking about the sixth and seventh story of the building. So we went off to [the economic summits at] Casablanca and Amman and we began to see the vistas of peace and what was possible in the trade relations with the broader region. and the Europeans got excited. But this vista was only possible if the foundation was firm in Gaza and the West Bank; everyone in the region understood that. If the foundation was not secure, then the entire edifice would collapse. And the repercussions would be devastating in the broader region.
I think that David laid out well the conditions that pertained during the Gulf War. I'll never forget when Secretary of State James A. Baker, ill, speaking in Congress on September 4, 1990, made a connection that no one else in the administration was willing to make at the time. Saddam Hussein was the measure of Arab alienation from the existing order, the more you beat on him the more popular he became. In the congressional hearings, one of the members said, "You see the Palestinians in the street coming out and supporting this guy. Shouldn't this say to us that we have to give up on the effort to deal with the Palestinians?" Secretary Baker said, ''No, Saddam is playing off this alienation.
This should encourage us to move the ball even faster to deal with the Palestinian question." This was an important recognition of the connection between alienation and the resolution of the Palestinian situation. The ability of our friends and allies to pursue a moderate agenda will be threatened by the radicalization that will take place if hope for a peaceful transformation of the region collapses.
There is a need for a reassessment of how we apply pressure. Some creative approach needs to be found to alter the political discourse within Israel to move this situation forward by making it more clear that some sacrifices are necessary. We've come to the point with this new government in Israel where the interim steps are now becoming intractable. You can twist Arafat's arm further, but if you do, it will break.
ALON BEN-MEIR adjunct professor, New York University; author and columnist
Some 20 years ago, when I did my Ph.D., I tried to consider the realities in the Middle East that were probably not subject to major change, short of a catastrophe. In 1975, when my dissertation was published, and I suggested in it that the Israelis would eventually have to speak to the PLO, it was an idea no one could apprehend. Today, rather than wasting time developing further theories, we must ask ourselves, what are these enduring realities, and how must we deal with them?
We have a situation in Israel, in the West Bank and even in Gaza, where the population is interspersed. There is absolutely no possibility of separating these populations from one another under almost any circumstances. Any effort to expel Palestinians in order to clear the area is entirely out of the question. Expulsion will never take place; it runs against the grain of the Israelis' morality. Incorporating the West Bank into Israel proper was not a viable option either, because that would produce a binational state, and to most Israelis, Israel was created for the Jews as a last refuge.
Ruling indefinitely over the Palestinians has also been ruled out. The intifada spoke loudly enough, and those in the current government who continue to think in terms of indefinite Israeli rule over the West Bank or Gaza are dealing more with illusion than reality. So if we rule out indefinite Israeli control, and expulsion, and incorporation of the territories, we end up with what Oslo I and II have created.
I disagree with Dr. Zogby's thinking that Oslo I and II were more theory than reality, they provided a necessary beginning. The question is this: How do we move from there to a more final settlement? The Hebron negotiation exemplifies the core issue that separates the current Israeli government from the Palestinian position. It appears on the surface as if this is a security matter. And it may have some security implications-that is, the issue of hot pursuit But from the Israeli government's viewpoint, it is indeed an effort to limit, if not stifle, the emergence of the Palestinian state. Hot pursuit nullifies the idea of Palestinian sovereignty. That is why the Palestinians, as a matter of principle, are not able to accept it
There is no question that Israel has serious security requirements. The Palestinians recognize that, the Syrians recognize that-perhaps more so than before. And those security requirements will have to be met one way or the other under any circumstances. That is, if the Palestinians hope to eventually achieve some sort of independent entity, they will have to recognize these security needs and address them in earnest.
If the process is collapsing now, it is because Arafat and, to a lesser degree. the Syrians have not taken seriously the issue of Israel's security. And probably Rabin and Peres themselves did not either. For they subscribed to the notion that they could deal with terrorism as if there were no negotiations and with negotiations as if there were no terrorism. The Israeli public rejected that notion out of hand. The spate of suicide bombing in February and March 1996 were seen not just as more incidents; they were a turning point, bringing the peace process to the verge of collapse.
Before we speak about the Clinton administration's second-term imperatives, we have to ask ourselves a question: What is it that the Israelis and the Palestinians must first recognize? I spoke of Palestinian dispersement as a reality. I also spoke of Israeli security as a reality that must be dealt with. We also have to mention Jewish rights--that is, Israeli rights-in some part of the West Bank. I believe that there will be no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if it's going to call for the dismantling and uprooting by the Israeli government of all the settlements in the West Bank. That simply will not happen. So the Palestinians will have to accept the reality that there are going to be Israelis present within any future Palestinian entity.
The other reality that must be accepted is that U.N. Resolution 242, in the context of this particular case, was just not another resolution. The Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement has been based on that resolution, the Israel-Jordanian peace agreement has been based on that resolution, and I don't see any possibility whatsoever of an Israeli-Syrian agreement ever being based on anything less. That, too, will call upon Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights. Whether withdrawal will be to the international border or to the June 4 border is something that might be negotiable.
Finally, whether we like it or not, we are witnessing the restraining of the emergence of the Palestinian entity. This government, or any other government in Israel, is going to have to face that reality and ask itself a question: Do we want to continue to oppose the emergence of such an entity-and thereby create for an indefinite time, from within Israel and outside, a fifth column of militant Palestinians with the single goal of undermining the state of Israel? Or do we want to help shape the emergence of such an entity so that Israel and the new Palestinian state will have solid relations from the very beginning, enabling Israel to influence the political structure of such an entity?
Creating a democratic Palestinian state is critically important; its being demilitarized is also critically important, and these are the things that the Israelis must now begin to learn to accept as another reality which is not going to change, short of a major catastrophe in the region. What do the Palestinians need to do? This is the big question today. The present government is not responsive to these realities as I have stated them. The Palestinians, therefore, have two options. One is, of course, resumption of violence, whether by choice or chance. That will do nothing but play into the hands of the current Israeli government, serving to justify any action that it may take in order to deal with the violence. But, if there is no violence whatsoever, then probably the government would lack any compelling reason to move as quickly as necessary to reach a solution.
Nevertheless, under no circumstances should violence be an option for the Palestinians if their dream of statehood is to be realized now. Rather, they must lean on the very large Israeli constituency, better than 60 percent, that is willing to listen to Palestinian national aspirations and support them. They must make their case to the Israeli public with demonstrations, hunger strikes and any other means except violence. And they must lean on the United States to take the necessary steps to bring the Israelis to understand the conditions that exist now and the conditions that might exist otherwise if things are not properly dealt with at this time.
The Palestinians could obtain further support from Jordan and Egypt. Egypt, too, will have to play a major role, a greater role than it has been playing in this respect. And the Palestinians would have to deliver, in real terms, changes in the PLO charter, amending it on paper where it calls for the destruction of Israel.
The United States, which has objected to or at least has never formally stated its willingness to Support the emergence of the Palestinian entity, would also have to reconsider that view. In the final analysis, the United States must accept the inevitable. President Clinton, in his second term, may be able to look at these realities from a slightly different angle and suggest changes to occur immediately.
On the Syrian front, the situation is just as menacing. The Golan Heights is truly an important strategic asset to whoever controls it But the Golan Heights will lose its strategic significance if peace exists: peace with true security and the normalization of relations, peace that recognizes Syrian sovereignty over the Golan as well as Israeli security concerns.
I have visited Syria and Israel time and again. I have spoken to the people who have been negotiating. Only yesterday I spent nearly three hours talking to the Syrian ambassador and others, trying to find out what it will take to change the equation there. I don't believe that Peres or Rabin came to the conclusion that it is necessary to return the Golan to achieve peace with Syria, only because Syria insists on it They came to that conclusion because they knew that, for the Syrians themselves, there is indeed no other option. No Syrian president can retain his power for even one day if, by agreement or otherwise, he relinquishes any part of the Golan to Israel. The symbolism of occupation would be there, and that is simply unacceptable to the Syrian people. On the other hand, it would be equally unacceptable to the Israeli people if the Syrian president were to regain the Golan Heights without providing ironclad security for the Israelis and without in time providing a true normalization extending through the whole spectrum of relationship - tourism, trade, diplomacy and other ties.
In Israel the Golan is synonymous with national security, while in Syria it is synonymous with national pride. The Israeli public and the Syrian public have been living with these psychological realities for the last 30 years. Based on these realities, Peres and Rabin came to the conclusion that a solution to the Israeli-Syrian conflict would require return of the Golan.
Later Peres also came to the conclusion there is no solution to the Palestinian problem unless Israel recognizes the Palestinians' right to self-determination. If both Peres and Rabin could speak about the Palestinian right to self-determination, certainly the United Stat.es can speak about it too.
In looking at what the United States should be doing in the second Clinton term, I believe it must recognize that American interests in the region, as stated so eloquently here by the three panelists, depend primarily on regional stability. That regional stability cannot be attained unless there is a comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace agreement Many Israelis obviously continue to have some illusions as to the requirements of such an agreement But the requirements have not changed for 10 to 15 years. Full resolution of the Israeli-Syrian conflict will have to be based on U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, but Syria also will have to accept that Israel is not seeking mere cessation of hostility, but true peace. In Arabic, there are two words for peace: sulh, which means reconciliation, and salaam, which is sort of a cease-fire. Israel wants true sulh. So far, the Syrians have offered a cease-fire. But in talking to the Israeli representatives, I have come to the conclusion that in recent years they have understood that reconciliation with Syria also has to be consistent with an Israeli phased withdrawal. This cannot happen overnight And if you go to Syria, you probably would understand why the Syrian government cannot open their border overnight to Israeli tourism and commerce. It would simply unravel their revolution. ·
This is a process. Israel must learn to respect the process of normalization as much as Syria must learn to respect the process of phased withdrawal, because Israelis, too, have a serious psychological national hang-up about giving up something that every child has been taught is synonymous with Israeli national security.
Returning to the Palestinians, the Jews who believe in Greater Israel are a minority and can be dealt with in a democratic form of government, provided the Palestinians understand the Israelis' two requirements for a solution to the Palestinian problem. As I said, there is going to be no separation of people. There will be an eventual emergence of a Palestinian state right beside the state of Israel, with people coming in and going out as they choose. The only distinction will be one of citizenship and residency. Many Israeli residents will be able to live in the Palestinian entity as Israeli nationals. And many Palestinian nationals will be living in Israel as residents, as I do today.
This will provide, eventually, the solution to the problem of what to do with the largest concentration of Israelis and Palestinians, those living in Jerusalem itself. In this manner, Israel will be able to maintain its national Jewish identity, and the Palestinians will maintain their Palestinian identity, even though the communities will continue to be interspersed. This is the reality today on the ground. It will simply become institutionalized.
Finally, yes indeed, the administration can and should be playing a larger role. The administration ought to make clear, as have so many successive administrations in the past, that all agreements will have to be based on Resolution 242, on the condition of the exchange of territory for real peace, not simply cessation of fire.
The Middle East is in a state of transition. Although I believe that a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace is inevitable, whether we can avoid another war or catastrophe before we reach that point is a question. The present coalition in the Netanyahu government does not lend itself to finding a comprehensive solution either to the Palestinian problem or to the Syrian problem. There, time wilt have to play its role. Perhaps Netanyahu as the elected prime minister will be compelled to invite into power Labor and other parties that will support a more comprehensive approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. If the Palestinians and the Syrians would do their level best to contain violence under any and all circumstances, perhaps the United States would have greater leverage to use with Israel in persuading the government to make the necessary concessions for peace. A concerted effort will have to be made by the United States in particular to persuade, to cajole, to pressure all parties to give in on issues vital to making peace happen. I trust that in the end there will be a recognition by the Palestinians and the Israelis that they have to coexist and that both have political rights in the same biblical land.
Q: Dr. Miller, to what extent is the effectiveness of the American position as an intermediary in this process subverted or at least diluted by American, domestic, ethnic and conservative politics?
DR. MILLER: I have long believed that American foreign policy must reflect a broad consensus. And that our approach with the Arab-Israeli peace process does substantially reflect our national interest. While our policy is not perfect, the continued effort of the parties to solicit our assistance for so many years reflects the reality that we remain the single most effective mediator with respect to the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. We have a role to play. The Arab states recognize what the role is. Israel, under many governments, has also recognized it. And the Palestinians, with whom we have a deepened, broadening relationship, also recognize it. So I believe that American domestic and foreign policy can coexist in a way that reflects the national interest.
Q: Dr. Ben-Meir, what might the attitudes be of the American-Jewish community to the issues that were raised here?
DR. BEN-MEIR: The American Jewish community has always supported the state of Israel whatever the government. The community here, however, moved somewhat to the right during the long period when the Likud government was in power. Efforts were made in both directions to establish an even closer relationship. And the community, by and large, became more and more conservative. I remember delivering a presentation just before the Oslo agreement Two thousand people were there, and when I spoke of the need to have a dialogue with the PLO, some 100 or more people converged into the center aisle. They wanted to tear me apart. literally, and take me down from the stage. To them, it was simply inconceivable to think of speaking to the PLO. Now it's an entirely different story. There is no question that the American Jewish community supports the official Israeli position whenever possible, but they have, in many respects, an independent mind. Many Jewish leaders speak openly to Israelis, more in private than in public, and tell them what they think about various issues.
But I want to make another point about Israeli influence on U.S. policy. I think it's exaggerated. The U.S. commitment to Israel is moral, it is strategic, and it is open. I don't believe that Israel has been able to unduly influence American policy in the Middle East, especially on the relationship with Iran. The policy of dual containment may have been talked about to a Jewish audience initially, but it is really an American policy that goes back to the Iran hostage crisis.
Q: It seems to me that the number-one problem in regard to peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis is the settlements that the state of Israel continues to build. Neither of you mentioned that at all in your statements, which is surprising. But it seems that this is a great impediment to any land-for-peace option because such a great number of people would have to be moved. That contributes to the economic isolation of Palestinian people. The United States gives about $8 billion a year in aid to the state of Israel. How could we use that $8 billion to effectively cajole the Israeli government into ceasing settlements and maybe even giving them back to the Palestinians?
DR. MILLER: It's $3 billion a year, first of all. Secondly, the economic assistance provided to Israel was designed in the wake of the Camp David accords to support Israel's and Egypt’s economic well-being and security.
You're quite right that the settlements are a problem. They complicate the negotiations and will ultimately pose a problem for permanent status negotiations. They're not the only problem, nor, in terms of priorities at this stage, are they the number-one problem. The answer here lies in continuing to pursue a negotiating process that gets at the root causes of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Without that negotiating process, it is virtually impossible to imagine that any of the permanent-status issues that are currently on the table but not yet discussed will be joined, let alone resolved. So, at the moment, despite the complications the settlement activity poses, it is absolutely essential that Hebron redeployment and the other interim issues from the September 1995 agreement be addressed and resolved and that permanent-status negotiations be joined.
Q: Prime Minister Shamir, after he lost the '92 election, said that his intention was to draw out the negotiations for IO years, during which time he would put 500,000 settlers in the territories. That perspective allows you to make a distinction, it seems to me, between settlements as a short-term problem and a long-term problem, especially if you believe, as I do, that it is quite possible that Netanyahu will be reelected. If we may be talking about eight years, then to what extent does the settlement issue change from being a complication to something that will tum out to be a fundamental obstacle to resolving the conflict?
DR. MILLER: The developments at the moment are very clear, as are our priorities. We need to demonstrate that the process of Israeli-Palestinian negotiation is working. to do everything we can to energize the process. At the moment, the priority is on a limited, but extremely important, set of issues that have to do with Hebron redeployment and a number of other matters related to the Oslo agreement We have to focus our attention and energy on this fact: No agreement has yet been reached between this government and the Palestinian Authority. When a Hebron agreement is reached, it will represent the first agreement between the Palestinian authority and the new Israeli government And we need to test the proposition that both sides will develop an additional stake not only in protecting that agreement but in moving the process forward.
DR ZOGBY: Creating a first agreement between this government and the Palestinians is critical, but I also believe that there are other areas that can erode any future possibility for peace. Settlements is not just a building issue. It is a statement of the fact that Palestinian national rights will be circumscribed by these buildings. Go into the Palestinian villages and understand how many have lost land to the settlements, how many have lost the ability to farm. The West Bank land today is being physically raped. Hills of olive trees are being bulldozed. It happened during Labor and it's happening now.
The graffiti on the walls in Hebron remind one of graffiti in Nazi Germany. The extremist Israelis paint stars of David and reduce them to the level of a swastika You will see, on an Islamic holy place, a star of David with the statement, "Hebron belongs to the Jews. Goldstein lives. Arabs must go." Children wear T-shirts printed with "Goldstein lives."
Security roads have carved the West Bank and Gaza into little tiny areas so that one cannot easily pass from one to the other. There is daily provocation and harassment of Palestinians as they go by these roads through internal checkpoints between settlements and security roads and the Palestinian counties and villages. The roads around, not just through, Hebron are cut Palestinian women have to go from their villages into the central market. (This is necessary because they couldn't develop markets in the towns. U.S. government efforts to assist these towns to develop an internal market were thwarted by the Israelis.) The Palestinians have to park their cars at a roadblock, get out and walk 100 meters to pick up a taxicab to come into town and then repeat the process on the way out-because of security for the settlement
We have used behavioral modification techniques with the Arabs; we have cajoled and pushed and pressured them quite successfully. The Arabs made a deal: "If Israel doesn't build settlements, we'll end the secondary and tertiary boycotts." Now they've turned to the primary boycott; several Arab countries have engaged in discussions with the Israelis on direct trade. And yet new settlements are being announced and built.
Not only that; just the other day, the United States rescinded any punishment on the loan guarantees for the building of settlements. We just used the waiver and rescinded the condition we had established that we would subtract from the money given---50 any leverage we might have had is gone. But could we take some of the steps that that Dr. Ben-Meir suggested to enhance the internal Israeli debate? The handshake between Netanyahu and Arafat did not take place in a vacuum. Netanyahu did it because there was a combination of Arab and American pressure. The president took a bold and risky step, against tremendous partisan opposition. We need to do what Secretary Brown did on his trip to Israel-despite the fact that he was advised not to do it----and that is to say openly that the closure is wrong and that to block business opportunities and make people hungry is wrong.
This is not just an issue for the Israelis and Palestinians. America has a fundamental national-security interest in the success of this process. We have sent to that region more money, more weapons, more troops, and lost more lives there than any other place in the world in the last 20 years. We have more direct material and political interests at stake there than in most other places in the world.
Q: Mr. Mack. we are now faced with an Israeli regime founded on ethnic cleansing and apartheid, and we are doing nothing about it The ethnic cleansing is now compounded by bringing in Romanian and Filipino and even Nigerian temporary workers. Gaza is another Soweto. We grumble about it but are afraid to speak up forcefully.
MR. MACK: There has been some useful discussion here among the panelists about how you try to shape the dialogue within Israel. One has to credit the last administration with a very successful use of pressures and inducements to shape that dialogue. The Clinton administration can do equally well.
There are some tools out there that could be used, such as the Housing-Guarantee Program for Israel, for example. What if the Housing Guarantee Program were to be changed so that it would apply only to Israeli settlers choosing to relocate within pre-June-1967 Israel?
Q: Still better, why don't we subsidize apartments for Palestinians in the new settlements? Why are they reserved for Jews only?
MR. MACK: You're certainly speaking at the right place, here in the Congress, where every single bill to spend American money originates. It is no accident that the restrictions placed on the Housing Guarantees at the time of the Bush administration came from Republican and Democratic congressional leaders. It was a congressional initiative. However, it might have been engineered by discussions between the administration and Congress. This is not the sort of thing that can be done by the State Department alone or the White House alone. There is going to have to be a lot of cooperation between the two branches of government
Q: I noted David Mack's statement that for the Saudi government, an honorable settlement on Jerusalem is the bottom line. I'm wondering if the panelists think that is applicable to other Arab governments and the Arab street. If so, how might the U.S. government put forward that it does not fully accept Israel's exclusive claim to the sovereignty of Jerusalem?
MR. MACK: It would be useful if the administration reiterated the position taken by previous administrations that Resolution 242 does refer to Jerusalem and that the territories-for-peace provisions refer to Jerusalem. That is not to say that Jerusalem should ever be re-divided, or that there needs to be a change in the status of Jerusalem that cancels Israeli rights and rights of Jews to worship at their holy places. There need to be imaginative changes in the status of Jerusalem that would guarantee the rights of Palestinians, whether Muslims or Christians, and of Muslims and Christians of other nations to worship there. There's going to have to be an understanding that sovereignty can't be absolute in this case. There may be functional areas of Jerusalem that would be under Israeli control, but there will be others under the control of different boroughs, perhaps, and certain areas would be shared between the Palestinian Authority and others.
Q: Two days ago, The Jerusalem Post stated that Syria, with the help of Russia, was developing chemical weapons that would be aimed at Israel. I was wondering if Dr. Ben-Meir could validate those claims and, if they are true, if Mr. Mack can describe the administration's policy towards chemical weapons in the Middle East.
DR. BEN-MEIR: I don't have any independent source to verify whether or not Syria is now seeking such weapons. However, it is known that most of the countries in Middle East have weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological ones. This is one of the main issues to be addressed in any peace negotiations. That is part of the security arrangement-to make sure that the Middle East is free of such weapons, be they chemical, biological or nuclear. This is a very serious issue that has not really been addressed adequately. Certainly the negotiations so far between Israel and Syria have not reached the point of what to do in terms of these types of weapons. But it has to be addressed in the context of a comprehensive peace.
MR. MACK: I can't speak for the administration since I've been out of government for a year and a half, but my understanding is that the U.S. government has called on all governments in the area-Israel and Syria included-to join in an effort to prevent the proliferation of chemical weapons. I think that the ultimate goal ought to be to see the region free from all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear devices and long-range missiles. I think Professor Ben-Meir is correct Realistically, they're not going to get the agreement of governments, especially the Israeli government, to any such schemes until there's a peace in place among the states.
Q: In America there is a focus on the conflict, when there is a huge countervailing grass-roots peace movement in Israel among both Israelis and Palestinians. How can we disseminate that information and get it into the process of opinion formation?
DR. BEN-MEIR: If you look at the makeup of the Israeli government today, you will see a number of parties who are far right of center. You may call them extremists or religious ideologues, but this is the core of the Likud party, and it is everyone in some other parties. These groups are not marginal, though they may not constitute a majority. And they exert a tremendous amount of influence today in this government That is why I said earlier that Netanyahu will not be able to make major moves vis-a-vis the Palestinians or Syria unless he modifies the makeup of his government first I'm not sure, however, that they do capitalize on the media here or in Israel. If you look at the Israeli media, you see many more papers, the "liberal" papers, that speak about the other side, and the various points I tried to enumerate earlier.
DR. ZOGBY: Extremism is driving the political debate, and there are supporters of the peace process whom we largely ignore. I've been attacked by a number of American-Jewish organizations, but I haven't said a third of what Shimon Peres has said or a fourth of what Leah Rabin has said, not to speak of people like Yossi Sarid and others.
There is a very sharp political debate in Israel. When we allow a settlement to be built or announced and then tum around and say, "We're going to rescind sanctions on loan guarantees," we are feeding those who are building it and those who are destroying the process. And we're ignoring allies that we ought to be lifting up. There is an internal debate, and we ought to be encouraging the moderates and those in Israel who want peace. There was an article written a number of years ago by Michael Mandelbaum, who in '92 was an adviser to the president., about the role of pressure. He said that in Israel fear is always a better organizing force than hope. It's easier to mobilize people aggressively about a threat than to say, "We have a vision," and move forward. He said that the right in Israel is strong, and that the peace movement, no matter how large it becomes, never becomes a countervailing force. It always needs support from the outside to grow. He made the observation that at critical points in Israeli history it was pressure from the United States that helped tilt the balance toward the peace movement over evacuation from the Sinai, over the bombing of Lebanon. The moment today requires precisely such a gesture, a cultivation of those who want what we want One of the problems is that there are some in the administration who view any criticism as a rejection, and it's not
Q: Dr. Ben-Meir, Israeli generals in September suggested that Israel should unilaterally move out of Lebanon without a peace treaty and get that border quiet as a beginning gambit I'd like you to comment on that Dr. Zogby, could you comment on the fault line between the Jewish and Arab-American communities as a result of Netanyahu's election?
DR. BEN-MEIR; The security z.one in southern Lebanon has probably outlived its usefulness. And there were some military experts who looked at the situation and said that they could attempt a unilateral withdrawal whether or not Hezbollah or the Lebanese government guarantees the security of that particular border. I think that still could and should be done. After all if this is what Hezbollah has been wanting all along and has been getting. with the tacit support of both the Lebanese and Syrian governments, then perhaps the Netanyahu government should feel strong enough to make such a move and see what happens. In the worst of circumstances, if Hezbollah does not stop attacking. Israel could always move in and take it over again. probably with no major effort or risk. I support that, and I think this is one kind of justice that can and should take place.
DR. ZOGBY: Organizationally, there is a problem between some of the Arab-American and American-Jewish organizations. We're back to the level of relationship we had before peace. But when the recent summit took place here in Washington, Project Nishma and American Friends of Peace Now and a few Arab-American groups were able to come together. On a personal level, there is dialogue and there have been relationships formed that I don't think are going to go away between business people and political activists in both communities.
Q: Ambassador Mack. Professor Ben-Meir mentioned the existence of what are perceived to be irreversible facts on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza and perhaps also Lebanon, and yet there is a need to establish a lasting and secure peace. What do you think American policy should be towards reconciling these two somewhat contradictory objectives?
MR. MACK: I would differ from Professor Ben-Meir. I don't think it's true that all the settlers are there because they intend to stay there for the rest of their lives. In many cases, they came to these settlements because of economic inducements. The Israeli government made it possible for people who couldn't get decent housing within pre-June 1967 Israel to get into these settlements. I don't see that there's any reason that the size and substance of some of these settlements couldn't be reduced at the end of the day. At the same time, I take his point that there will be Israelis living in the West Bank for the foreseeable future, just as there are Palestinians living in Israel. I think he's onto what could be a very, very good idea-two separate states or entities in which the citizens of one are present in each of them, with certain provisions, protections and rights.
Q: Professor Ben--Meir, recently the Israelis have raised a red flag about Syrian troop movements in the Golan Heights. And since the United States continues to consider Syria a sponsor of terrorism, we've heard some talk about the possibility of expanding dual containment of Iran and Iraq to Syria Could you comment on that and on what you think would be the impact on the peace process?
DR. BEN-MEIR: As to the concentration of Syrian troops, I pointedly asked this question yesterday of [Syria's] Ambassador Moualem. I don't think Syria has any intention of attacking Israel. I don't want to call it suicidal, but it probably would not yield the result that Syria might contemplate. Netanyahu was in the north, and he made the statement about Syrian support for Hezbollah. He said that if Israel has to, it will even attack Syria to ensure security in the north. Syria, having no experience with the new government, probably felt compelled to show some kind of force. If the situation gets hopeless and the Syrians come to the conclusion that they cannot gain the land through negotiation, they may initiate some kind of Yom Kippur war, to introduce major instability into the region in order to get the United States to re-intervene to find a solution. That is only after everything else has been exhausted. Syria knows very well, as do the rest of the Arabs, that, in terms of military power, they are not in a position now to wage a war that could end up in any type of victory.
DR. ZOGBY: I don't even think that a limited Yom Kippur war is in the cards. What the troop movements did was spur an internal debate in Israel over whether or not the Syrian track was moving, and that was successful. This shows how something very limited can create an internal debate that is not negative. There were as many voices in Israel saying, "For God's sake, move on this track," as there were those saying, "They want war and we ought to give it to them." But it creates a greater urgency for the United States to recognize how volatile this situation can be.
DR. BEN-MEIR: I think Syria sent a clear message that Israel doesn't hold all the cards.