Ending the Israeli-Palestinian Stalemate

January 01, 2005

A new statement from the Coalition urges the United States to assist in negotiating a formal end to the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate as a way to improve U.S. national security objectives in the Middle East.

Download PDF version of this statement.

Ending the Israeli-Palestinian Stalemate Will Strengthen U.S. National Security

We, the undersigned, represent varied intellectual and personal backgrounds, but we all agree that current US Middle East policy is not in the U.S. national interest, not morally defensible, and ultimately not beneficial to the inhabitants of the region.

The United States has two major national security objectives in the Middle East:

1. Winning the global war against Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.

2. Ensuring continued access to Persian Gulf oil.

Both objectives are threatened by the continuing Israeli-Palestinian stalemate. Ariel Sharon's policies of continuing Israel's occupation of large parts of the West Bank and the consolidation of Jewish settlements there are harming U.S. interests in the Middle East. The inability of Palestinian residents of those territories to determine their own political future increases anti-American sentiments among Arabs and Muslims and makes it more difficult to pursue the war on terrorism. The late Yasser Arafat's inability or unwillingness to contain anti-Israeli violence and focus on preparing the Palestinians for effective self-government also prolonged the conflict, but his passing provides a new opportunity to end this conflict once and for all. We believe that an end to the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate would help Washington advance its global interests in important ways.

A recent series of polls conducted by Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland and the Brookings Institution makes clear that the United States is deeply unpopular in the Middle East. Even among such traditional U.S. allies as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, between 79 and 95 percent of the public holds unfavorable attitudes about America. Seventy percent of those respondents explain that their negative feelings about the United States are rooted in the belief that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persists because the United States supports Israel without reservation.

President Bush has done much to reinforce this belief. He routinely conflates our war against al Qaeda with Israel's struggle against the Palestinians. He has forged political links with some of the most intransigent proponents of "greater Israel." He has adopted a policy of benign neglect towards the continued expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. And he recently endorsed Sharon's proposal to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank in advance of a comprehensive political settlement.

Americans should be deeply concerned that we are so unpopular in the region inasmuch as it makes it harder, rather than easier, for us to achieve our major national security objectives in the Middle East.

Consider first the global war on terrorism against al Qaeda. While it is true that bin Laden's primary casus belli was not the Israeli occupation but rather the presence of "infidels" in the Muslim holy lands, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict nonetheless undermines our ability to defeat his network. As part of its strategy for winning the global war on terrorism, the United States needs to work together with those Middle Eastern governments that share its geostrategic and geo-economic interests and we also need to discourage individual Arabs and Muslims from answering bin Laden's call to join his global jihad against the United States. The fact that the United States is widely viewed as supporting Israel's continued occupation of Arab lands-including Islam's third-most holy site in Jerusalem-makes it harder for us to find allies in the global war against al Qaeda.

The Israeli-Palestinian stalemate also threatens the West's continued access to the lifeblood of our economy: inexpensive Middle Eastern oil reserves. Recall that it was the Arab-Israeli conflict that first led the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to wield the oil weapon against Western countries thought to be too supportive of Israel. While economic self-interest makes it highly likely that all but the most militant Arab states will continue to sell oil to the rest of the world, the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict hinders the trade of an essential resource with an element of political tension that undermines U.S. interests.

There is also the question of the financial burden of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since 1973, Israel has received directly over $200 billion in 2001 dollars in U.S. foreign aid, and the indirect costs of U.S. support have likely been considerably higher. The United States continues to spend billions of taxpayer dollars in the Middle East every year, yet peace is more remote than ever and America is not seen as an honest broker. For the good of American taxpayers and in order to be a more impartial force in the region, America should thoroughly re-evaluate its foreign-aid spending in the Middle East.

There is much to be said for less U.S. involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The historical record suggests that the parties seem to make better progress without us and that excessive reliance on the United States diminishes their responsibility for their own future and teaches others that America is the world's policeman. But there is also something to be said for an active -though evenhanded-American role in solving the conflict.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration's policies combine the worst features of each approach. Bush has strongly intervened, but only to put pressure on the Palestinians, and he has encouraged Ariel Sharon's Likud government to believe that they will not need to make major concessions on the West Bank.

The signatories recognize that the lingering hostility toward the United States likely will not be resolved by the United States simply washing its hands of the conflict. Therefore, the undersigned urge the United States to assist in negotiating a formal end to the occupation. This negotiated solution should include:

1. A clear and equitable "final status," preferably something along the lines of what the two sides came close to agreeing to at Taba in January 2001, which would have produced an independent Palestinian state on nearly all of the territory of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

2. International support for Israel's efforts to bolster its security in anticipation of the creation of a truly independent Palestinian state through the construction of a security barrier along the 1967 "Green Line" border, rather than the current barrier which in places runs deep into the West Bank.

3. International encouragement of the Palestinian Authority to develop effective and responsible leadership and assistance to rebuild its government institutionsespecially its internal-security forces-so it can take responsibility for governing the territories that will come under its control.


Robert Art, Brandeis University
Andrew J. Bacevich, Boston University
Doug Bandow, Former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan
Nicholas Berry, Director, Foreign Policy Forum
Richard Betts, Columbia University
Michael E. Brown, Georgetown University
Juan R. Cole, University of Michigan
Michael Desch, Texas A&M University
Michael Doyle, Columbia University
Carolyn Eisenberg, Hofstra University
Sumit Ganguly, Indiana University
Paul Gessing, The Free Liberal
Leon Hadar, Author, Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East
David Hendrickson, Colorado College
George Herring, University of Kentucky
Joseph P. Hoar, General, U.S.M.C. (ret.)
Stanley Hoffmann, Harvard University
Samuel Huntington, Harvard University
G. John Ikenberry, Princeton University
Robert Jervis, Columbia University
Miles Kahler, University of California, San Diego
Stuart Kaufman, University of Delaware
Peter F. Krogh, Georgetown University
Christopher Layne, Contributing Editor, The American Conservative
Anatol Lieven, Carnegie Endowment
Ian Lustick, University of Pennsylvania
Scott McConnell, Executive Editor, The American Conservative
John J. Mearsheimer, University of Chicago
Andrew Moravcsik, Princeton University
Augustus Richard Norton, Boston University
Edward L. Peck, Former U.S. Ambassador
John L. Petersen, President, The Arlington Institute
William B. Quandt, University of Virginia
Paul Schroeder, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Tony Smith, Tufts University
Stephen Van Evera, MIT
Jon Basil Utley, Editor, ConservativesForPeace.com
Stephen Walt, Harvard University
Kenneth Waltz, Columbia University
William Wohlforth, Dartmouth College

*This statement reflects the opinions of the individual signatories. Institutions are listed for identification purposes only.


Download PDF version of this statement.

Posted by kraabel at January 1, 2005 11:21 AM

<< The Korean Conundrum 01-12-05 | Main | Rift is Real, but Curable >>


Dear Sirs,
I read your advertisement in the recent issue of The Economist and found it rather flawed. First, it preferred to ignore a sad but pertinent fact. The people of this region are ruled by autocratic regimes rather than governed by democratic republics. These governments look rather askance at criticism and critics especially rulers e.g. Saddam Hussein and Assad. People have found very few ways to express their discontent with events at home except over developments abroad. Now I don?t doubt your claim that the United States is deeply unpopular. It makes sense. Arab governments were obliged to defend themselves and were inclined to blame the United States. After all there was reason for resentment. In spite of all its interests in the region the United States refused to abandon Israel. If America has supported Israel without reservation it should be remembered that there was little else to support there. Indeed the situation is reminiscent of the panic in Europe during the 18th century with the French republic. Like the Ancien Regime the Arab elite is little inclined to share power and has felt more animosity toward the democratic republic than the Jewish state. It was always awkward for an Arab state to come to peace with Israel. With Arab nationalism running rampant at the time few cared to face the charges of betrayal that a peace would bring and must have dreaded the day when their own people would look at the elections in Israel and ask themselves why can?t we do it that way? Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Martin Luther King, Mrs. Aquino, Vaclav Havel, Solidarity just don?t seem to fit in this region of the world. Until the Arabs expect more for themselves a democratic leadership will never emerge in these lands and deal with Israel. With or without American support Israel still calls the shots. America doesn?t own either party to this dispute. Should it abandon Israel? Only if it abandons the democratic values and ideas that it has claimed for itself but this scenario demands a democratic Palestinian opposition that is quite willing to negotiate a one state or two state solution under the right conditions e.g. trade agreements. A cold peace is unacceptable to both parties for various reasons. After the effort that Mr. Clinton made how can the actions of George Bush surprise you? If you pushed all the Jews of Israel back into the sea the troubles would still remain. Another cold peace is no solution. For better or for worse the Palestinians must demand the vote or they will never change the game.

Posted by: DTL at January 1, 2005 10:27 PM

Dear Sirs,
I read your wise advertisement in The Economist and I am very glad indeed that this sensible vision comes from leading American intellectuals; it was about time that prominent people spoke out in such a way. There is one aspect, though, which is not mentioned, while it seems to thwart change more than anything else: the inability of Jewish colonists to look at the subject with a longer view than the next day. Even their man Sharon seems not able to enlighten these fundamentalists and he clearly fears their political clout. Mr Bush might have been able to make us believe that it would be wise Machiavellistic politics to deploy Sharon as (for these colonists) acceptable spearhead to arm twist them into clearing Palestinian territory, but then he seems to have twisted the wrong arms.
Be that as it may,I would like to add a fourth point to your declaration:
4. International military assistance for clearing colonists from Palestinian lands, also to avoid scenes reminiscent of civil war during such an operation.
Probably a point five would do:
5. international PR-aid, to help the plucky Jewish people to show the world that the fundamentalistic jewish settlers are only a minority in the country; most want peace and sensible politicians to achieve it.

Posted by: Hans Vandersmissen at January 2, 2005 06:18 AM


Your advertisement in the Economist was a breath of fresh air on a stale conflict. It takes the rational position that the conflict can only be settled, and our interests advanced by a "just" resolution. Justice has been abandoned as a concept in this conflict. Instead we are asked to support the position that Israel can expand at will into neighboring states based on the religious position that "God gave the Middle East to Abraham". That expansion will be supported by US supplied tanks, helicoptor gunships, missles and money.

The Economist will undoubtedly be attacked as anti-semetic, and urging the US to "abandon Israel", for even allowing the ad in the publication. This of course is nonsense. There are many Israelis that disagree with the government's actions, but it is harder to call an Israeli -"anti semetic". Israel is clearly a theocracy - not a democracy, and thus it is not a model for Middle Eastern governments.

Critics will dredge up memories of the "holocaust" to evoke sympathy. Consider how much the Gaza Strip is coming to resemble the Warsaw Ghetto of WWII Poland. The resistance there were hailed as freedom fighters, not terrorists. Cheap labels are no substitute for thorough examination of the issues with resultant justice.

I hope that someday The Economist will have the courage to stake out a similar position in its editorial page, instead of charging for it as an advertisement.

Posted by: Bruce Campbell at January 2, 2005 07:06 PM

It is refreshing to see good Americans like you who do not fear the JDL, Or the AIPAC, and the massive pro Israeli loby. and care only about our country first and foremost.

Thank you and I will be very glad to contribute once I know who are the people running this organization

Posted by: mike swedan at January 2, 2005 07:49 PM

Dear Sirs: The proposals espoused proposing the "end of the Israeli-Palestinian Stalemate sound reminiscent of the liberal arguments proposed by Sir Nevile Chamberlin when he declared "Peace in our time". You don't seem to appreciate several facts on the ground. 1. The Palastinians and their surrogates do not want peace, they want Isreal DEAD and hurled into the red sea. If they really wanted peace it would have happend long ago. 2. Not only do the Palastinians not want peace, they fervently promote the idea that Isreal is occupying their land.
You all seem to be overlooking one minor but over-riding circumstance: Isreal is not so much an occupying force as the victor in a war launched by a collection of Arab states aimed at eradicating Israel. For Isreal to vacate the territory captured in that war would seem to reward the perpetrators of bold faced agression.
What would make Isreal believe that the presence and efforts of third parties will be of any use. Just look at what a marvelously "impartial"body the UN has been vis a vis the Israel situation.
I believe that you fellows are misguided and unrealistic as die hard liberals are wont to be. You need to get real.
The best place to start for the U.S., and I don't want to go on at length here on that issue, is for America to become energy independent. Atomic Power would be a start. Government encouragement of 40 MPG autos would be another good effort.
Appeasement, as you propose, will never work, it has never worked before.

Posted by: Bob M. at January 3, 2005 07:31 PM

Dear Sirs,

Your initiative is startling in its idiocy. There is a clear and just reason as to why the status quo is as it is in the Middle East. Israel will make peace, has been yearning to do so in forever in fact, but she will only do so on the terms that she deems acceptable, and rightly so, given the trajectory of that conflict. Your text is abhorrent in its misjudgements as to US interests, but as the replies on this site show, the initiative to 'sell' the Jews as an expensive burden, an overly influential one at that will sadly find ample resonance amongst your kind of thinkers. In truth, Israel is americas closest ally and for good reason. Israel will never be forced into action by a misguided scheme like yours, stop waisting your money, and for that matter I sugest the moderator of this site closely watches the slurs coming at AIPAC etc. they will no doubt develop into their true colours with time. Some of my best friends are Israelis... and all that.


Davis Lewin

Posted by: Davis Lewin at January 4, 2005 02:47 AM

In addition to my above comment, I wish to add that the 'giveaway' in your misguided advertisement is the reference to the Temple mount. As you state: -the third holiest site in Islam- you forego to mention that this is the single most holy site in Judaism, that the Israelis (Jews) have given control of the site to the Muslim authorities, and that when the status quo was reverses, Jews could not visit the wailing wall, it was in fact something akin to a rubbish dump. It is sentences like those, inserted to prove your moral point, that expose your ignorance or worse.

Posted by: DL at January 4, 2005 03:17 AM

Gentlemen all

This issue is evidently as divisive as ever, but what we do all agree on is the need for an effective resolution to this age-old dispute. America's staunch support for Israel has served as an effective counterweight to anti-semitic bias elsewhere in the world, but the resultant stand-off is of no real merit.

The coalition is therefore correct to demand an end to tacit support for Israel's border infringements, but should also recognise that Israel did make genuine attempts to clinch a settlement in the recent past, and that in the absence of such a deal Israel has to concentrate on its own security.

Interim brinkmanship will not change the fact that at the end of the day the border will lie essentially along the 1967 Green Line, with Jerusalem shared, and the right of return translated into financial compensation for those displaced, to be provided by the UN as recompense for the atrocious job it did when carving up the land in the first place.

Posted by: Phil, London at January 4, 2005 08:30 AM

Dear Sirs,
I read your page advertisement in the Economist, and I wish you could publish it in every newspaper in the country. How refreshing to find a statement by a cross-section of U.S. academics who are willing to look ahead instead of continuing to be trapped by the traditional and non-productive political bias of the past generation. The administration's lack of will to move constructively and even handedly towards a settlement which the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians want is destroying any remaining credibility we have not only in the Arab world but the world in general. Those who created and signed this document are to be commended for their courage. Abandoning old and comfortable bias is never easy and attracts the self-righteous and vitriolic response of those whose feet will always remain locked in concrete.

Posted by: R.E.Lombardi at January 4, 2005 10:13 AM

Dear Coalition members,
Your advertisement in the recent "Economist" has a terrific headline followed by what seems to be an unbalanced and biased opinion. Not worthy of the term "intellectual". First your oped opinion of current US Middle East policy is flawed and fails to indicate a strong objective of ending the stalemate is evidenced by the Bush roadmap for peace policy. Second, Sharon's policy of withdrawal from Gaza appears to be in conflict with your statements. Third, have you overlooked how the occupation was achieved and its cause? Fourth, US support for Israel has strongly recognized their battle for survival against those who have refused to make peace with them, even after their military defeat. Hamaz and others refuse to respond in a realistic and peaceful fashion. If they were to do so, there would already be a Palestinian state in the region. Fifth, failure to note the largest Islamic nation (Indonesia) has and does support us in the global war against al Queda reflecting strong bias that overlooks realistic facts. Support from Pakistan aand the Phillipines has been a remarkable achievement also. These are only a few of my personal opinions related to your advertisement other than to note with concern about what appears to me as intellectual dishonesty from many in the academic community.
Of course, the oil for food scandal could not be any reason for opposition to the US by others?

Glenn Boom

Posted by: Glenn Boom at January 5, 2005 10:18 AM


Many points well made. Regarding the hazards of US support for a greater Israel policy, you have given a valuable warning.

Johnny Ryan

Posted by: Johnny Ryan at January 5, 2005 07:51 PM

Thank you for further reassurance that there remains intelligent foreign policy debate in the USA and through it, grounds for possible optimism about the global future. You are probably to be disappointed in your hope for a two state solution. No one of less than Arafat's stature would have been able to persuade the Palestinians to accept such an inherently unjust solution as the 22% of their original homeland that finally was not on offer at Camp David. Subsequent and future Israeli Lebensraum grabs will leave them with just 10% and a "state" in name and nothing else. Abu Mazan could never persuade them to swallow this. The choice is either full blown ethnic cleansing or reconciliation between the two equally balanced populations and a single secular state on the South African model. Likud member Uzi Cohen has his proposal for ethnic cleansing "the final solution to the Palestinian problem" being formally debated in the Knesset in the near future. This is an outcome but not a solution. The war between the US/Israeli led crusaders and Islam would then become totally intractable and Israel would be in the front line. For the South African model to work the Palestinians' average income would have to be brought up from its current $700 to the Israelis' current $16000. Without this conflict there would be no Iraq War, no Al Qaeda with robust regenerative powers, no war on Terrorism, no past or future oil shocks, no distractions from mankind's greater problems such as climate change. The $3 billion paid annually by the American taxpayer to support the Israeli military is probably but 1% of this economic iceberg that looks set to sink the World economy.
A stop-loss trillion compensation paid over say ten years would be the most prudent investment ever made by the wealthy nations responsible for this historical traffic accident.

Posted by: Hugh Steadman at January 6, 2005 09:11 PM

Email to a friend

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Featured Articles

Doubting Afghanistan
Should the United States Withdraw from Afghanistan?
The War We Can't Win
United Colors of Democracy
How Dangerous Are the Taliban?
Woodrow Wilson's War
Empire Falls
Another War, Another Defeat
Advice for the SecDef
Pentagon 1, Obama 0