Middle East Debate: Should Washington Actively Promote an Israeli-Palestinian Peace Settlement?
Council on Foreign Relations
Presider: Charlie Rose, Executive Producer and Host, Charlie Rose Show
Charlie Rose [CR]: I hope you had a nice lunch, and we're indeed pleased to have you here to talk about the cutting edge of where the news is, as well as one of the more profound issues that we have all been dealing with, and that the Council has been focusing on in a variety of forum and with a variety of guests for a long number of years. We are pleased to have two people with experience of thinking and writing, and in one case being there. Let me introduce the speakers. And what we're going to do in this debate format is I'll introduce them, they will have an opening statement. We will begin with Daniel Pipes, and then Martin Indyk will follow with his opening statement, then we'll have a rebuttal for five minutes for each. They will have in their vision yellow lights and red lights, and I will push them where necessary. At about 1:40 we will bring all of you in and have as lively a continuation as we can.
Let me begin by introducing Daniel Pipes. He is a Director of the Middle East Forum, writes for the Jerusalem Post and the New York Post. Please welcome Mr. Daniel Pipes. Also here Martin Indyk, former Ambassador of the United States to Israel, serving in a variety of ways with a variety of Prime Ministers. Also the Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. We begin at this lunch with Mr. Pipes, and he has an opening statement of ten minutes. Mr. Pipes.
Daniel Pipes [DP]: Thank you so much, and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
As you can see by the title, this was the work of negotiations, "Should Washington Actively Promote an Israeli-Palestinian Settlement?" We had our own road map to get there. We have obviously very good timing in that the Road Map was just made public, but I won't actually address it specifically. What I'd like to do is address four questions: American interests, the past record, the future, and my own policy recommendation.
To begin with, US interests. This is a bit obvious, but it is probably always something worth saying. I think that both Ambassador Indyk and myself would agree, and probably almost everyone in this room, that our primary interest in the Arab-Israeli conflict is that there be no all-out war. There have been a number of rounds of such war. We want to avoid that from happening from both the strategic and the humanitarian points of view. This implies that diplomacy is useful insofar as it achieves that end. Diplomacy is not a goal in itself, we are not trying to get signatures on fancy pieces of paper. Therefore the answer to the question in the title, "Should Washington Actively Promote an Arab-Israeli Settlement?" would be yes if it helps, and no if it doesn't. I am open minded about diplomacy, and "Does it work?" is my question.
So, second point, the record. I would argue hat 1993 was a happier time in Arab-Israeli issues than 2003. The seven years of diplomacy between 1993 and 2000, the Oslo diplomacy, actually worsened the situation. This is I believe an objective fact. In terms of violence, heightened emotions and general danger, things are worse than they were a decade ago.
Why this should be the case is however a matter where we'll probably disagree. My own explanation for this degeneration is that while the concept of Oslo was valid, the timing was wrong, it was premature. It expected, it demanded, and the Palestinians offered an abjuration of violence. The Palestinians would recognize this role and no longer use violence. They would use other means, but not violence to get their way.
Why did the Palestinians not deliver? Well, in part it's because of the leadership. But I think more deeply it is due to the fact that in the Palestinian body politic there was a deeply entrenched desire not to accept Israel. There is a widespread ... to put it positively ... a widespread Palestinian rejection of Israel's existence. Oslo assumed Palestinian acceptance of Israel. This was a fact, or at least was a fact with the beginning of Oslo, this is what Arafat offered. Wrong. It did not happen.
In fact, there was a terrible logic in the course of those seven years. That as the Israelis made concessions, gave autonomy, turned over tax revenues, permitted various developments in the Palestinian Authority to take place, Palestinian ambitions against Israel, rather than being tamped down by finding their own satisfaction in their own autonomy and economy and culture and politics, in fact what happened is the Palestinians became more displeased with the continuing existence of Israel.
So there was this terrible logic, in that the more that Israel gave the more anger it found directed against it. If there was a cycle of violence, this was it. Israeli concessions led to more rejectionism on the Palestinian part.
Turning to the future, my third point, I ask myself, do we want to resume the failure of Oslo. It didn't work for those seven years, do we want to try this again. No, I think we should learn from past mistakes. Indeed, I would suggest to the State Department that it open a Bureau of Lessons Learned, such as the Defense Department has. (Laughter) And I think one lesson learned would be that you don't go back and repeat the old mistakes. Pressing Israel for concessions did not work; it fed Palestinian ambitions against Israel. Indeed, if we were to resume diplomacy of the sort that was enshrined in Oslo, we would find it counter productive, and the possibility of war would be yet greater.
Finally to conclude with my policy recommendation. I think we need to rethink our understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The general assumption is that this is a conventional conflict, it's about borders, religious sanctities, who lives where, armaments, water, and the like. I would argue to you in reality that this is not a conventional conflict, it is a conflict in which today, as in 1948, the existence of Israel is at stake. The goal therefore of the United States must be to win Palestinian acceptance of Israel.
When that is achieved, diplomacy should rightfully begin. In other words, I would answer "yes" to a somewhat altered title: Yes, Washington should actively promote Palestinian acceptance of Israel's existence as an immutable fact. That I believe is what our policy should be devoted to, to ending the violence, and then afterwards beginning negotiations. Something like Oslo can at that time begin.
In other words, my argument is not against the Road Map as such or the goals of the Road Map or Oslo; it is against the concept that asking the Israelis to make concessions in order to win Palestinian acceptance is not going to work. In terms of today's debate, Martin and I would specifically disagree on this point.
He wrote in his article in the current Foreign Affairs on page 52, "A remarkable consensus has formed around President Bush's vision of a two-state solution to the conflict." I would respectfully disagree and say that whereas, yes, the most Israelis have accepted a two-state solution, in fact most Palestinians still want a one-state solution.
CR: Thank you. Mr. Pipes, you still had some more time there. I'm not sure exactly what, but I will ...
Martin Indyk [MI]: I'll take it. (Laughter)
CR: Martin Indyk.
MI: Thank you very much, Charlie, and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you to the Council on Foreign Relations for this opportunity to engage with Daniel on a subject of great relevance to American national interests, and that's where I wanted to start today in making my case. The reason why Washington should actively promote Israeli-Palestinian peace, and more generally Arab-Israeli peace, is because it is a vital national interest of the United States. And that essentially comes down to two issues, a national interest instability in the region and a national interest in the survival and well being of Israel.
I don't think Daniel and I disagree about the first, he himself made the point that we do have an interest in preventing an Arab-Israeli war from breaking out because of the impact that would have on our interests. We have an interest in the free flow of oil at reasonable prices, we have an interest in containing ... at a minimum containing, and in the best case overthrowing, removing or reforming rogue regimes, particularly those that have weapons of mass destruction, like Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or Mullah's Iran, and of course Bashar Assad's Syria. And we have an interest in ensuring that this part of the world not continue to be a terrorist breeding ground, because of the impact that we see that has on our direct national security here at home.
Promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace can't solve all of those problems, but it can certainly help in every case. It can have a calming effect in terms of reducing the threats that moderate regimes in the region, particularly oil rich moderate regimes, reducing the threats that confront them that they identify. It can help in reducing the danger of escalation to an all out Israeli war, it can help in reducing opportunities for rogue regimes to fish in troubled waters. An example of that is the way the Iranians and the Iraqis both intervened in the Intifada to fuel it, actually the Iranians far more aggressively than the Iraqis, and far more effectively as well. Actively promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace can also reduce the anger factor in the Arab world, which helps also to generate stability. And it can remove the excuses that Arab regimes have for long used to avoid the political and economic reform that is so essential to dealing with this challenge of drying up the swamp and breeding ground for terrorists, and free up resources that are otherwise spent in pursuing the conflict to meeting the needs of their people.
The second vital interest, as I said, lies in Israel, it is the bipartisan historic commitment of the United States to the survival and well being of the Jewish state. We have provided massive economic, military and political support in the furtherance of that objective. But we have also reached the judgment over many years that Israel can only be truly safe if it enjoyed lasting peace with its neighbors, especially with the Palestinians. And this coincides with the aspirations of Israelis too. Their highest aspiration is to enjoy peace with their neighbors. Their very viability of the Jewish State of Israel depends on hope, on the hope of peace, Tikvala (?) Shalom. And as Israel's ally and friend, we have an obligation to help it in that way to achieve peace, not only just for Israel, but because it's good for our interests as well.
So if it's manifesting in our vital national interests, the second order of question is how to promote it, and the third one is when to promote it. I think that that's where our disagreement arises. In terms of how to promote it, it's very important ... and I would agree with Daniel ... that we have to create the context for a successful intervention to promote peace. And that means in the first instance maintaining a balance of power in favor of Israel, and those Arabs that would make peace. And that is essential, because for peace making to work it must be clear that there is no viable military option.
But by the same token, it also has to be clear, and here Daniel I think would disagree, but I believe strongly that it's not enough to maintain the balance of power in favor of Israel and those who would make peace in the Arab world. There has to be a viable political option when the military option is no longer identified as a viable way for Arabs and Palestinians to achieve their legitimate objectives. When they decide to make peace, there has to be a willingness to paint a future that can meet their legitimate objectives, and there has to be the incentive of active US mediation to help them achieve that.
Thirdly, the rules of the game have to be clear too. The objective must be to end the conflict, not to seek a truce from which the Arabs or the Palestinians can continue the conflict from a better position. And there has to be a commitment to pursing objectives through negotiations, not violence. Here Daniel is right, that the Oslo process failed in that regard, but it didn't fail for the reasons he suggested. There was a commitment, a solemn commitment made by Yasir Arafat himself in writing with his signature to eschew violence, to oppose the terrorists, to pursue his objectives through negotiations. He did not keep that commitment, and that is why he is no longer a possible partner for an Israeli-Palestinian process.
And that's the key here to an effective process, both sides have to be kept to their commitments, have to be held to their commitments. If Oslo failed, it wasn't just because the Palestinians saw that the more Israel gave the more they could gain through pursuing violence. It was rather that there was not a commitment, an honest commitment on Arafat's part to give up violence. He maintained it as a tactic. And the interim process itself did not work. It didn't work because neither side got what they expected to get through the process, what they had been promised to get. Israelis expected security, and they didn't get that. The Palestinians expected through the agreement that they would receive more territory in three tranches. That was part of the agreement, that the Israeli army would withdraw of a specific period of time, and that didn't happen either. And instead, settlements grew and grew. And so both sides were disappointed. The Israeli disappointment led them to want to jump over the interim process to a final status negotiation. That was an Israeli driven process that led us to Camp David in the last year.
And here I move quickly to the question of timing. Here the issue is whether active intervention is right, whether the conditions are right for active intervention. And the question of rightness is ultimately a question of judgment. Is it better to try and risk failure, or better not to try at all? Failure obviously impairs the credibility of the United States as the mediator, and by disappointing expectations, can make matters worse. And one can see how that happened in 2000 as the result of the failure at Camp David and subsequently. But not to try at all can result in missed opportunities. It can exacerbate the conflict and damage our interests, and it doesn't help Israel either. And that's what we've witnessed in the last two years, the wrong lesson has been learned. Maybe it's because there isn't a Lessons Learned Bureau in the State Department. But the reality is that the ...
CR: One minute.
MI: Thank you. That the lesson that was learned is that we shouldn't engage at all. And as a result, I believe of that decision not to engage, many more Israelis and Palestinians lost their lives than was necessary. I don't have time to go into the opportunities that existed, you'll have to take my word for it at the moment, but there were opportunities to get out of this crisis. Is the time right now? Yes, I believe it is. The impact of the war, the shift in the balance of power in our favor, in the favor of moderates who would make peace in the Arab world in favor of Israel in the balance of power, with the evaporation of the Iraqi army in any potential eastern front coalition against Israel, has created a context that improves the situation. And in the Palestinian arena, an exhaustion factor now exists. A new Prime Minister has come forward who has said "There is no military option," and he has been endorsed, his Cabinet has been endorsed by the Legislative Council. And that's why I believe there is an opportunity to actively engage and give the parties an opportunity to resolve their differences through negotiations, not through violence. Thank you.
CR: Thank you, Mr. Indyk. A five-minute rebuttal from Mr. Pipes.
DP: I think the key difference in analysis is about what went wrong in Oslo. Martin uses the term "disappointed," and I would use the term "exhilarated." It's a very different reading of what happened on the Palestinian side. His view is that the increased Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and I would presume other factors such as the checkpoints and the general economic problems were part of the disappointment.
I note those, but I see those as secondary to a growing sense that Israel was vulnerable. I believe that the Israelis worked on the assumption, and I believe that it's one that Martin shares, that a magnanimity, that handing over land and tax monies and other benefits to the Palestinians would lead to an assuaging of the Palestinian sense of grievance, and a turning towards development of political institutions, the economy, culture and the like.
The assumption was that if the Palestinians have their grievances met, they will turn away from violence, and more or less turn away from their grievances with Israel. I think the record shows precisely the opposite, that the rejection of Israel, which had become rather remote and non-operational by 1993, after 45 years of battling Israel ... by 1993 no one on the Arab side really knew what to do about Israel. And destroying it had become a dream, but a distant one, and one that no one was doing much about.
In the course of Oslo, because of Israeli actions, some of it directly vis-à-vis the Palestinians, but some of it having to do with the development of post-Zionist thinking in the academy and through much of the culture, because of the things the Israelis did, the Palestinian sense that Israel was vulnerable grew and grew.
There were many such instances, but my Exhibit A would be the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon three years ago this month, when, after having been hammered for something like two decades, the Israelis body politic said, "Enough, we want out. We don't want to have 25 or so fatalities a year. Time to leave." And despite the objection of the military, the Israeli forces did leave overnight on the 23rd of May 2000. This was perceived by the Israelis as a rather clever thing to do. It was endorsed by the entire world except for Syria and some factions in Lebanon. The United States, the United Nations, everyone said, "Great job. You've got back to the international border, just as you should have." And the Israelis thought that this would do the trick. Well, it didn't. In the first place, there is Hezbollah on the border now.
But more importantly for these purposes, the Palestinians looked at this and said, "Hmm, Hezbollah, by hitting the Israelis over and over again, hammering them for two decades, got what they wanted without any conditions, without anybody left there, with the Israelis lock, stock and barrel gone overnight, betraying their allies. What are we doing negotiating with them? Why are we discussing these things? Why are we trucking with our enemy? Why don't we do something similar?"
Two months later came Camp David, at which the Palestinians did not even respond to these extraordinary offers they were being given by the Israelis, and two months hence began the violence that still continues, a violence I believe was inspired by the vision of what Hezbollah had achieved in Lebanon. So my point here is that it was a sense of expanding ambition.
Now, that ambition has since 2001 definitely gone down. The use of violence has not achieved what the Palestinians had hoped. It has not brought them closer to a state, it has harmed their economy, it has eroded their institutions, life is not good in the P.A., and so there is a rethinking.
But let me close by saying that the rethinking is a tactical rethinking. What Abu Mazen is saying is "Violence hasn't worked." I don't hear anything, or even if I hear it, I don't believe it, that there is a true willingness to give up on violence on a permanent basis against Israel. That requires not a few statements but a protracted pattern of non-violent interaction with Israel in a consistent way, and that I believe is the precursor to negotiations, not some statements.
CR: Thank you, Mr. Pipes. Rebuttal, five minutes. Mr. Indyk?
MI: Thank you, Charlie. I think Daniel has part of the story right. There is no question that the Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon inspired those on the Palestinian side who believed that using force was the way to get Israel to withdraw from the West Bank. But they were able to prevail in their argument in circumstances where the political process designed for an Israeli withdrawal in the context of reaching a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians had failed. As I said already, had failed to meet the expectations of both sides. And that was the condition precedent for the impact of Hezbollah. The Hezbollah example of using force to get Israel to withdraw. But it came in a broader context, which is important to understand as well.
Our whole strategy, and indeed, the Israeli strategy of Ehud Barak was to achieve an Israeli/Syrian deal in which an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon would be in the context of an Israeli/Lebanese agreement, which would have then put the Palestinians in the situation where Arafat, who is a tactician rather than a strategist, would have been placed in a situation where he would have had no choice, with all the other states having made peace with Israel, but to accept the offer that ... the generous offer that was made at Camp David and subsequently. The failure to get the Syrian deal actually led to the collapse of strategy. And created a situation where the effort to get Arafat to agree to a generous offer failed because he had another option: to return to using violence. And he was placed in the corner and he was blamed for the breakdown. He sought a way out. And that's when those who were arguing we should use violence to get Israel to withdraw were given effectively the green light from Yasir Arafat.
So what is the lesson here? I don't accept that the lesson is that we now need a protracted pattern of nonviolent interaction before anything can usefully be done by the United States.
The lesson is that so much of our policy during those years was driven by a fundamental assumption that the best way to make peace was to get behind Israeli governments who wanted to make peace. And here is the problem with Daniel's argument; is that the Israelis cannot abide by the prescription that he puts forth. They are not prepared to wait all of this time until the Palestinians finally come to the realization, or the Israeli staff would say "It's seared in their conscience that they cannot use violence to promote their objectives."
Israelis are not going to simply try to bear it. Their economic situation is very bad and they now, again, are looking for a way out. And so, the question becomes what do we do in those situations? Does the United States stand up and say "Sorry, Ehud Barak" or even Ariel Sharon in these circumstances, "we're not going to get behind you and help you move forward. We are going to simply sit back and leave you to your own devices, even though that will damage Israel's own interests dramatically, as we can see now."
I think there is another way. I'm sure there is another way. That is, to craft a process based on the principles of I think Daniel and I agree on: that there has to be an end to the violence. That there can be no place for violence in the peace process. That was the case with the Egyptians. That was the case with the Jordanians. And it must be the case with the Palestinians. That's why we need a process that will ensure that a Palestinian leadership emerges that is responsible and capable of confronting the terrorists and stopping the violence. Then in order to do that, they have to have American engagement and they have to have something to point to in terms of the hope of a better future for their people.
CR: Let me jump in now. Mr. Pipes...this particular question: is there a level of active encouragement? Active promotion that would be acceptable to you by the United States government?
DP: Well, I agree with Martin's analysis that it was the Israeli Government that was behind Oslo. They did it in Norway and the last moments of it were done at the very end of the Clinton Administration when President Clinton had no of powers left; the Israelis were pushing it. So if they want to do it, we can't stop it. I accept that they're impatient and that they're frustrated and they want to have something happen. But I don't think they can get it and I don't think we should be behind something that has the, not only trappings of failure to it, but is going to be, in my estimation, counterproductive. So no, if I assess it as counterproductive and you agree with me, then why should we do it?
CR: Go ahead.
MI: Well, it's a question of what? I agree that simply buying onto what the Israelis want to do is not necessarily a wise policy. But taking an Israeli desire to make peace, to take as Rubin said, "calculated risks for peace" and shaping that will to a viable process is what we need to do. I'll give you an example, Daniel. Ariel Sharon wanted us to intervene in the first year-and-a-half of the Intifada. I was working with him for his first six months. So you have to take my word for it. But in those first six months, Ariel Sharon wanted active American intervention. Now, he's not going to come to the leadership of the Jewish community and tell them that.
But everything about his behavior, as well as what he told me as the Ambassador at the time, indicated what he wanted. Let me give you an example. The...discotheque bombing in June of 2000 killed 21 Israeli youngsters on the pavement on the Tel Aviv boardwalk. Ariel Sharon did not retaliate for that horrendous event. He stood back and he told his public "there is wisdom in restraint." And he came, he sent the defense minister and the foreign minister to meet with me, to tell the United States that he was going to wait for us to intervene to get Arafat to stop the violence.
That was his policy throughout the first year-and-a-half of the Intifada ... sorry, it was a year that he was Prime Minister, up until Passover last year and the Passover massacre, when he chose to go in and use military force to take care of the problem. But up to that point, he needed our intervention to press the Palestinians to stop, to press Arafat to stop. And he was willing to agree to a full settlement freeze, including natural growth, in order to achieve that.
In other words, he was prepared to make political concessions in order to stop the violence. This is Ariel Sharon, not Ehud Barak. Our unwillingness to engage meant that he in the end had no option but to send this Israeli Army back into the territories where they remain to this day.
And that's the critical challenge for us. It's a question ... the Israelis cannot achieve their objectives in terms of peace without our help and intervention. And we can shape the calculus of the Palestinians by our intervention to achieve the objectives that we both agree on. To convince them that violence does not work and that they will not be rewarded for that but they will be rewarded for pursuing a political course.
DP: To which I say yes, I want the United States involved as I said before, actively promote Palestinian acceptance of Israel's existence as an immutable fact. In other words, merely having a conversation with Yasir Arafat doesn't work anyway. Engaging with a P.A. two years ago I don't think would've done the trick. I look at this as a much deeper problem, one that is in the body politic of Palestinian society. I haven't given any evidence in this discussion, but the survey research confirms, the anecdotal evidence confirms, the street demonstrations confirm, that there's widespread enthusiasm at this time, and especially three years ago even more so, for the use of force against Israel.
So I don't think that can be addressed by having American diplomats meet with the Palestinian leadership. I think that can be addressed, as I suggested earlier, by changing our focus to getting the Palestinians to realize that they lost in 1948. Israeli is there. It's a thriving country of six million. And we are urgent to see them set this reality and then we can start making progress diplomatically.
CR: But suppose there is something that we can do, that the government can do, to get them to make that ... to come to that conclusion? That is, that comes within the notion of active promotion? You would be in favor of that because it would be leading the Palestinians to make the choices we want them to make.
DP: I want us involved. I just don't want us pushing negotiations now. I mean, the title of this debate is about promoting a settlement – in other words, diplomacy, negotiations and the like. And I'm saying in 1993 it was too early, 2003 is too early. We first must lay the groundwork for it. And yes, I would like us actively involved in that.
MI: Well, I really think it comes down to this proposition of how do you shape the calculations of the players? The Israeli players and the Arab players? And Arab leaders have come to the conclusion that Daniel would like them to reach. Anwar Sadat was the first. I would argue that Hafez al-Assad reached that conclusion just before the end of his lifetime. You'll probably disagree with me on that. But there was ample evidence at that time. Palestinians is a more complicated problem. I agree completely. And Oslo did complicate it more because it gave those who still wanted to pursue the military option in some ways greater opportunities since there was now Palestinian controlled territory adjacent to Israel. And that was a big problem. But we had the ability to affect that calculation.
For instance, we moved in and we help build a Palestinian capability to confront terrorism. There is actually a period in 1996 where Arafat was fighting the terrorists and it's worth examining why that was the case. It was partly because he had the capability. We built the capability through the CIA and Mohammed Dahlan, who's now the Deputy Minister of the Interior, working with him and others. They had the capability to crack down and they confronted Hamas at that time. But it was also the time of hope for peace, first of all when Perez was around, and then when Netanyahu came in, even though Netanyahu wanted to put the breaks on the peace process. There was still hope for the Palestinians because of our active engagement with Netanyahu working the interim process to achieve the Wye Agreement. And those are the critical ingredients.
Yes, an insistence on the principle, but an engagement to shape Palestinian capabilities and Palestinian options. To give them an alternative to using force.
DP: Well, I think the key difference here is over the intentions on the Arab side, be it Hafez al-Assad – who I don't think, the evidence is pretty clear, he didn't accept Israel's existence. Anwar Sadat did accept it but his countrymen did not, as 25 years later is fairly clear. And the Palestinians don't accept it. This takes us back to my quote from page 52 of Foreign Affairs, where you assert a "remarkable consensus has formed around a two-state solution. I don't see that consensus. I see that the Israelis have reached that conclusion and not all that easily, but they've certainly reached it.
But I don't see it on the other side. I see powerful forces, popular forces, emotional forces among the Palestinians that call on great support arguing against this. Whether it be the preachers in the mosque, the radical leaders, the terrorists in their final pre-martyrdom tapings, the textbook writers, the journalists and the academics … all those with a public voice are generally against a two-state solution. So that's why I think our work must be focused on getting a Palestinian change of heart.
CR: Yes, please.
MI: First of all, I think that's a selective presentation of the evidence. Yes, the Egyptians made peace, the Egyptian people don't much like Israelis. It is a cold peace but it is a peace nevertheless that has held. And whenever a minority of Egyptians, a small minority, comes out in the streets and starts to demand that Mubarak go back to war, the government of Egypt, the President of Egypt, stands up and says "War is not in Egypt's interests. We're not going to back to war. And that is the end of it." There's the end of the demonstrations. The end of the argument in Egypt. And it's not just in Egypt. We have an Arab League proposal, it's known as the Crown Prince Abdullah Saudi Proposal. And a lot of people disparage it because it's got some reference to the right of return, although even there its reference is to an agreed solution, which means that Israel would have to agree. And Israel's not going to agree to a...But it says explicitly and all the Arab League states have signed onto this, that there should be an end to the conflict with Israel. There should be normalization of relations with Israel. And that is a far cry from the positions of Arab states took, for instance, back after the '67 war when they said "No negotiations with Israel, no recognition with Israel, no peace with Israel."
So that's the leaders. You're talking about the people. But we know these are authoritarian regimes. Definitely they need to do more to educate their people to stop the incitement, to control the horrendous anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, anti-American diatribes that come out in their press. They do have a responsibility for that. But to say simply that the whole Arab world doesn't want a two-state solution, they want the destruction of Israel, is I think ... overlooks the distance that it's come and I would add to that that the removal of the Saddam Hussein regime, the evaporation of the Iraqi Army has dealt a blow, a decisive blow, to those who believe somehow that the Intifada and 9/11 would combine to create a new military option. And that's why I say again there is now a ripeness that didn't exist before our intervention in Iraq. That can give us the ability working with those Arab leaders who say they want to end the conflict and recognize Israel. And Abu Mazen who commits to not pursuing an agreement without ... excuse me. That he says there's no military option. To work with him and with the Israeli government to try to seize the advantage of an opportunity which now exists.
CR: All right. Before I turn it to you, and I want to get the audience involved, as you all know, it's on the record and make your questions short, identify yourself, and the microphone will find you. Let me ask each of you this question. Not whether you think the Administration should actively promote Israeli/Palestinian settlement, do you think that it will? And what do you think they're prepared to do?
DP: I think that the contending forces around the current plan are very powerful and I do expect that they will blunt the Administration's efforts to pursue the roadmap.
CR: And who are those forces?
DP: Well, it's the core constituency of the President's Republican Party and especially conservative Republicans.
CR: Do you think ... ?
MI: No. No, I don't think that's right. No doubt there are core constituencies of the President who don't think the Road Map is a particularly good idea, but they don't have anybody else to vote for. They're hardly going to vote for the Democrats over this situation. I think that the President himself is interested in trying to do something. He is intrigued by the appointment of Abu Mazen. And he sees that as a vindication of his call for new leadership on the Palestinian side. And he is listening, at least for the time being, to Tony Blair who makes the argument that this would be good for post-war reconstruction in Iraq and American and Western interests in the region more generally. So I think there is a change in the President. He didn't want to have anything to do with Yasir Arafat and would not intervene because he didn't think there was anything possible before, now, he wants to engage with Abu Mazen and he thinks that something is possible. He's in fact told his advisers, I understand it, that he wants to do something big. They're all scratching their heads to try to figure out what exactly that should be. But it's not the Road Map. He's thinking about something more than that. Some way of getting into negotiations, perhaps on an interim step to establish a provisional Palestinian state with provisional borders.
I think where the rubber will hit the road, and there's a real question mark about what happens then, whether the President will sustain this interest, is when he discovers that it's much, much harder than just declaring a Road Map. And that is going to happen because the terrorists are going to do everything they can to blow up this process. And because Yasir Arafat is going to do everything he can to subvert Abu Mazen. Some of you may have seen the news today that he, Arafat, has announced that he's forming a National Security Council which will in effect put him back in charge of security and subordinate Abu Mazen and Mohammed Dahlan to his control.
And so, there's a bit question mark about whether this effort by Abu Mazen to change the course of Palestinian strategy will be able to succeed, given that Arafat sees Abu Mazen's success as leading to his failure and greater irrelevance.
CR: All right, let's go to a question here. Right at the back there, yes, sir? Do remember, state your name, affiliation, a concise question.
KB: My name is Kenneth Bialkin. I'd like to ask Ambassador Indyk whether he thinks that the United States achieves their force and pressure on Israel to negotiate within the framework of the Road Map or otherwise before elemental forces in the Palestinian community, notably the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, the Hezbollah are continuing daily, so it seems, suicide bombing, the killing of innocent Israeli citizens under the circumstance where the Prime Minister has said we're prepared to negotiate but not until the Palestinians settle among themselves the issue of whether they will tolerate continued suicide bombings... Should we force them to negotiate while the bombing goes on?
MI: As I used to say...I'm sure that pressure has no place in the lexicon of American diplomacy, vis-à-vis, the Arabs and Israelis. Where there's a cute way of avoiding the question when I...viable solution and an effective American intervention is by working with Israel and not against it. And sometimes that can mean putting your arm around the Prime Minister. It's not so easy with Ariel but putting your arm around him and helping him to move forward. That is very much an arm-around-Sharon strategy that we have to employ. Which means sitting down with him, not working out what the next steps will be on the Road Map - I'll come back to that in a moment - but sitting down with him and figuring out where he and we want to end up. What is the objective here? Is it a final status agreement? Two state solution? Or is it an interim arrangement in which the Palestinians get a state with provisional borders in some 50 percent to 55 percent of the West Bank that would involve evacuating some settlements that the Prime Minister himself has already said he's willing to do and most of Gaza. And if we reach an agreement with Sharon on that, I think a lot can be done. It doesn't involve pressure but involves Israel taking steps that help Abu Mazen.
Sharon and Bush have a great interest in seeing Abu Mazen succeed against all those forces that are running against him that you detailed. And Israel can effect that, as we can too. Israeli actions on the ground can help him or make his task more difficult. And I believe the channels are open between Abu Mazen and Sharon. They need to coordinate the steps that will be generally consist with a roadmap. But those steps that are coordinated between them are critical. Which checkpoints will be removed? Where Israel will move the army and the Palestinians will move their security forces in to maintain control. How much money and how quickly will be handed over to Abu Mazen and his credible finance minister so that the Palestinians can see an improvement in their lives that's delivered by Abu Mazen.
It's those kinds of confidence-building steps that can be developed. And because there's confidence between Abu Mazen and Sharon, Sharon can take some risks, and he's willing to do that.
He has said what he's looking for is a 100 percent effort - that's a code word. The Middle Eastern aficionados understand the code word. It means he's ready to tolerate a certain degree of terrorism as long as he sees that there's a serious effort on Abu Mazen's part. We have to be engaged directly in that effort, working with those two prime ministers. And that's the key. That's what's been missing for so long now is our willingness to get involved in that effort.
CR: Okay, please, one second. What do we mean by Ken's word, "pressure" in the subject of this debate actively promote? What are we talking about the United States doing with respect to Israel?
MI: Do you want me to answer it, Charlie?
MI: I thought I did answer it, Charlie, I thought I said that what we're made to do is sit down with the Israelis, work out where we're going, where their red lines are, what we need if we think that's a credible objective. What we need from them to be able to get there and the kind of steps that they're going to take in the meantime to help Abu Mazen deal with the terrorist threat to the whole process.
KB: But that's not pressure or that's not even promotion, that's basically saying "What's the issue here and ... "
MI: That's deal-making.
CR: That's deal-making?
MI: That's deal-making. But it comes in the context of the Prime Minister of Israel understanding that the President wants this for American interests. That this is important to him for American interests. And I know from my experience with Sharon that he will be prepared to go a long way to accommodate the President if he sees that he is serious. So it's the seriousness that matters much more than the pressure.
CR: Let me come here. Do you believe there is a line beyond which Ariel Sharon would go no matter what the pressure is that he thought was harmful to the interests of Israel?
DP: Yes, I do think that's so.
CR: And what would that be?
DP: I can't specify it for you but it would conceptually be the defense that he is endangering the state which is the head of. Where exactly he would draw that, I couldn't tell you.
But let me make a broader point, which is to say that when I look at this conflict I draw the conclusion that the decisive decisions of war and peace are made in Cairo, Amman, Damascus, and ... I used to say "Baghdad." I'm not so sure these days. Let's say Tehran. In any case, they are not made in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The key decisions – whether this conflict will go on, whether it will escalate, whether it will be resolved – are to be made in the Arab capitals and in the Palestinian Authority areas and elsewhere. It is the Arabs and particularly the Palestinians who are going to decide the future course of this conflict. It is not up to the Israelis, as we saw in the 1990s. The Israelis cannot stop it, cannot end it. Just as we could not have the end of the Cold War; it took the Soviets to end it.
CR: All right. Lots of questions. Here, I think saw first and then we'll go back there. Let me start here. Here's the microphone. I beg you for conciseness.
NR: I'll try. Nina Rosenwald, American Securities. This is to Professor Pipes. Okay, fast forwarding perhaps unfairly, there's an independent Palestinian state, there's a Port of Gaza. Is there any way, for example, when Indyk was telling you about treaties being abrogated, which they are very much now, for example, in North Korea. Or the treaties abrogated again and weapons of mass destruction and nukes start floating into Gaza Port, who does what?
DP: I'm not the strategist of the Palestinian state. But should things come to that pass, a true Palestinian state and also a rogue Palestinian state, we will have roughly the same options that we have today between Libya, Syria, Iraq, a matter of cajoling, using economic pressure and ultimately even using military force. But I must admit, I haven't thought that through.
CR: Yes, right here. There are several hands up, so we'll move that mike line and we'll get as many people as possible.
GL: Thank you. I'm Glen Lewy from Hudson Partners. There's been no discussion at all of the other three participants to the quartet. All three of whom I think can be expected to engage in a strategy of trying to put maximum pressure on Israel and probably minimum pressure on the Palestinians. What should the U.S. role be and what do you think the U.S. role will be in trying to balance out their partners in the quartet?
MI: This "quartet" mechanism is entirely a function of our disengagement from the process over the last two years. Because we didn't care and they did, we allowed them to construct the process and the Road Map - it's not a U.S. Road Map, it's an U.N.-E.U. Russian Road Map that we accepted. So now we have this mechanism here.
Now that we, I think, have decided to engage it's not a particularly useful mechanism. Why? Because I can tell you from bitter experience that when you have four mediators it's impossible to get anywhere. Because especially in the case of the E.U., they will always outbid us on the Palestinian side. And the Palestinians will always have an opportunity to do an end run around us in the negotiations. So I think the E.U. has an important role to play but it's not to lead the negotiations.
And it's not to lead the negotiations for a different reason as well. And that is what I was saying before about how to work with Israel. The model that you see most prominently advocated by the French, but unfortunately in recent days by the British as well, is a model which very much evolves beating up on Israel. Pressuring Israel that defines the problem as Israel. Israeli settlement activity, for instance, rather than Palestinian violence.
And whether you agree or disagree with that, there's a critical result which is that the Israelis will not trust the E.U. to be the mediator in those circumstances because they see it as biased and not caring about Israel's security interests. And therefore, the E.U., by adopting that kind of approach, renders itself irrelevant. It actually hurts our efforts rather than helping them. And so, as long as they're going to pursue that approach, we can't use them in the way that they could play a very useful role.
CR: All right, yes, a gentleman here and then here and then we'll come over here.
SK: Thank you. Steven Kass. My question is to Mr. Pipes. What actions do you think we should take to change the Palestinian public opinion? How long do you think that will take? And how long ... and how will you know when we're there?
DP: To answer your last question first: how will we know we're there? I'd like to use a symbolic presentation as follows. That when the Jews living in Hebron need as little security as the Arabs living in Nazareth - we've arrived. This formulation says nothing about the final status, whether the Jews of Hebron are going to live under Israeli sovereignty or Palestinian sovereignty. It just says violence is in the past and no one is worried about it. This example is, to be sure, symbolic but I think the implications are clear: there really is no more violence.
What the United States can do? There are many steps. Let me give you one illustration of how our lack of attention to the Arab rejection of Israel works out. There's an institution of the United Nations called the United Nations Relief and Works Agency or UNRWA. It has been in existence for over a half-century and its sole purpose, despite it's general name, is to provide aid to Palestinian refugees. Those refugees, by and large, date from the late-1940s. Some from 1967. But the largest host is from 1948/49.
It is well-known that there were many refugee flows in the aftermath of World War II. Koreans, Vietnamese, Germans, the subcontinent, Hindus and Muslims. Vast numbers, all of whom long ago have been settled. All of whom have long ago been integrated, not perfectly in every case, but are assimilated and are not a political problem; none are trying to go back to where they came.
The outstanding exception are the Palestinians. They were frozen in amber in early the 1950s as a means, as a dagger, against Israel. And they continue to be frozen. Palestinians lack all sorts of rights, for example, in a country like Lebanon or Syria. They are not enfranchised. They're not able to enter certain professions or own land and the like. They are kept in this refugee status now until the second, third, and fourth generations. So that the actual refugees number just a tiny percentage of the overall population, which grows and grows. We are providing money to UNRWA; in so doing, we maintain this refugee status. We should rethink this. We should look towards integrating the Palestinians in the Middle East, into the countries where they live. This is something that's not on the table, because we don't think about it. But if we're going to get a resolution, then these hundreds of thousands of individuals must find a home elsewhere than in Israel.
CR: Yes? Go ahead, Martin, sorry.
MI: If that's all right. I could accept Daniel's standard of how we'll know we're there, if he would say, also, that the Jews of Hebron have to live by the same standard.
DP: Same standard as what?
MI: Of non-violence.
DP: Oh, sure.
MI: Well, no, but you didn't say that. And the Jews of Hebron, some of them at least, have a standard of violence and rampaging. And we have to think back to about Goldstein, the beginning of the process, and the massacre that took place in Hebron, and by a Jewish settler from Kirya Arba', just on the outskirts of Hebron. Or the destruction of Palestinian homes and property that goes on regularly. These are very extreme people there. So I just think, and I'm not calling for even-handedness here, but there is, in this particular case, that you use, some egregious behavior by Jewish settlers that needs to be remarked upon.
As far as integrating the refugees, I agree with Daniel's basic point here, that it is really a shame on the Arab world, on the international community, that the Palestinian refugees have been used as pawns for so many decades, and that a solution has not been found for them, in the way that solutions have been found for other refugees. But the interesting point here is that the Arabs have integrated the refugees, perhaps not in the way that Daniel speaks of. But for instance, when we were dealing with this problem, in the last year of the Clinton Administration, it became clear that the problem did not exist for Palestinian refugees in Syria. Their camps have become suburbs of Damascus and elsewhere. They are not looking to go home, so-called, back to Israel. Nor is that the case for the Jordanians either.
It's the case for the Palestinians in Lebanon, where the Lebanese will not allow them the kinds of rights to work and protections that they have in these other Arab countries. And there, there has to be a solution for them, and that should be done as soon as possible. And I don't think it should wait for a final settlement. But we should pass this and understand that it's not entirely the case that they're all living in squalor and terrible conditions.
DP: I wasn't pointing to squalor so much as a political consciousness.
CR: All right, yes, here.
MG: I'm Marty Gross from Sandalwood; for Martin. Let's assume that the administration accepts your advice and rejects Dan's advice. And it turns out that they go down the path you suggest, but Dan's turns out in the end to have been right. What's your Plan B? (Laughter).
MI: Well, I don't accept the premise of the question, sorry, mate. (Laughter) If they go down my road, then you won't be right. Why do I say that, it's because I'm saying that the road that we have to travel, and indeed learn from the mistakes we made, we did make mistakes in this process. One of the mistakes we made was not to hold the Palestinians to account. Not to hold Arafat to account, on the question of violence and on the question of incitement. So we have to learn from that. We have to develop a process that deals with that problem, that achieves Daniel's objective. The question is, we don't disagree on the objective, I think we've made that clear. But the question is how to do it. And what I'm saying is we have to develop a Plan A that shapes their calculations in a way that leads them away from violence towards peaceful settlement of this conflict.
CR: Yes, sir, here.
RB: Thank you, my name is Robert Brown. Mr. Chairman, I'd like to point out that tomorrow, May 4th, represents one year and one month since I was sitting on my television listening to you interview Ehud Barak on the 4th of April, all on television. And at that time, he made what I thought was the most startling statement ever made by anyone from the area. It wasn't a complete sentence, even, it was part of a sentence, dealing with another topic. But he said, and I've written it down, quoting it, "We would, of course, prefer to have Canadian neighbors."
MI: It wasn't a joke.
RB: Well, it may have been a joke, I don't know, Mr. Barak, but it wasn't said as a joke. You chose not to follow-up on it, which I thought was rather surprising.
CR: Now that you say it, I do, too. (Laughter). Nor do I remember it. (Laughter).
RB: Fortunately, it's on a DDS tape. So what I'd like to point out is ...
CR: Who is this Barak? (Laughter). Go ahead.
RB: For those of us who lived during World War II and heard this thing develop, rather than read it as history, I recall very much learning about the Holocaust, and learning about the Jews, listening to the Jewish plea for a homeland where they'd be safe and secure. Being very sympathetic. And astounded when it wasn't us who was taking the initiative to offer them anyplace. Instead we looked around to find somebody else whose land we could give to them. But, of course, that came about not only because there was ... not arguing that there wasn't a Jewish petition calling for that area. But there was another factor in the United States which was quite prominent at that time, and that was racism. Not that it's gone, but it was much more powerful then. The New York Times refers to it as "NIMB," "Not in my backyard." We don't want these people as neighbors, we'll help them. I think the country has changed in those 50 years. I think we would accept giving up a part of our own beloved territory to solve this problem. (Laughter) But no one ever talks about that.
CR: Your question is directed to...
RB: Anyone who wants to talk about a new approach, because I'm tired of going through this same old thing every year, a little variation, a little variation.
CR: Now we did ask that question on my program last night, I promise you. (Laughter) Thank you, sir. Here.
GH: I'm Gerry Hamilton from the American Council on Germany. Mr. Ambassador, you talked about the Road Map, and the way that we were backed into being supportive of that Road Map. I think we were all a little curious, and I was, when the very first thing out of the official Israeli mouth, once it appears that the Road Map is going to be placed on the table, was a series of reservations. So one quick issue would be what do we draw in terms of conclusions from that. But a quick second piece would be, since the Road Map includes Europe, and since Europe collectively doesn't have great credibility on the Israeli side of the Middle East dispute, but within Europe, there is Germany, who certainly has the strongest long-term backing for Israel. Is Europe divisible or is there a way in which this is a potentially useful element?
MI: Yeah, absolutely, and I appreciate the question, because I think Germany is exactly the example of the kind of approach that, if it prevailed in the EU, would be very productive and very helpful to the effort. And indeed, Joschka Fischer, the German Foreign Minister, and we may have a problem, serious problem over Iraq, has been a stalwart supporter of the effort to achieve some kind of reconciliation between the Israelis and Palestinians, by working with the Israelis, and they highly appreciate him for that. The Dutch, also, adopt that approach. And the British used to adopt that approach. And therefore, you had a kind of a balance in that direction. Now the British, going over for, I think domestic political reasons, Tony Blair going over to kind of focus on a much more strident approach towards Israel, the balance has shifted towards the French approach, and that's where the problem now arises.
So can you posit? Yes. The Germans are welcome visitors in Jerusalem. Joschka Fischer can have an important influence, and he does. He plays ... he continues to play an important role. In terms of the Israeli reservations over the Road Map, I think it's important to understand this process. The Roadmap was devised, as I said, by the Quartet. It was not devised in negotiations with the Israelis and the Palestinians. And it was presented to them. The Israelis had problems, reservations, those reservations were not taken into account, precisely because the United States did not want to spend the next ten months negotiation every step. If you look at the Road Map, there were hundreds of steps involved. And it would not be a productive enterprise, because every change the Israelis made, the Palestinians would insist on a different change. And you would get nowhere in that basis.
So, yes, the Israelis have reservations about it. By the way, the Palestinians have, too, but they're tactically smarter in not registering them at this stage. When they saw the Israelis had reservations, we accept it. But it's typical of the zero sum game that goes in this arena. The point is, rather, to use the Road Map as the President says as a guide, as a starting point. Those steps, in the first phase, are not new ideas. They were in the Tenant cease fire plan. They were in the Mitchell recommendations. They have been accepted by both sides in the past. And what the President has now focused on is getting both sides to start taking those steps.
And it's not, you know, the other argument, which you didn't mention, that Kenny Bialkin did, was who goes first. Do the Palestinians have to stop all the terror before Israel does anything? And the answer to that is it has to be worked out between them. That both sides can take steps that help each other, as long as they have an understanding, that they're both trying to achieve the same objective. And I believe that Abu Mazen and Ariel Sharon do have the same objective in that regard. And they can work out those steps, reciprocal steps with our help. But without our help, they won't be able to do it, because the mistrust is so great, because there are so many opponents to the process, that we have to be in there, in a sense, to vouch for each side and encourage each side.
CR: I'm going to try to do this as I saw you. The gentleman here and here and here. Yes, sir.
KI: Kaleil Isaza-Tuzman from the Recognition Group. Ambassador Indyk, I think a number of us are intrigued by your concept of a U.S.-lead trusteeship. I was wondering if you could get a little practical with us and give your perspective on openness in the Bush Administration to a pathway like this. And also, whether the conflict in Iraq hinders or helps the Commonwealth nations, as you proposed, being supportive and key in that trusteeship process.
MI: Well, the trusteeship idea is a little bit before its time, because there is another idea on the table, which is the Road Map. And we'll have to see whether that succeeds or not, before other ideas become relevant again. I suspect that it won't succeed, for reasons that we've already discussed. It certainly has an uphill battle. But if in fact I prove to be right, I hope I'm not right, that it doesn't work, then I think the idea of a trusteeship becomes relevant, because if it fails, it will essentially fail, there may be other reasons, but it will essentially fail because the Palestinians do not have a government that is capable of acting as a responsible partner. And do not have a security force that is capable of confronting the terrorists. And those are the two things in which everything else hangs. Israelis move that will then get us out of this violence and terrorism and into a virtuous process of negotiations.
And the purpose of the trusteeship is basically to have a third party international intervention that helps the Palestinians develop a responsible leadership, and the security capability. So if they can't do it on their own now, and I don't think they'll succeed, because of Arafat and Hamas, and so on, then that kind of intervention is useful. As to how whether it's been helped or not by Iraq, I think it's been helped. I mean, we've shown that we can take on that kind of obligation, to rebuild the nation of Iraq. It's at least ten times the challenge, probably 20 times the challenge of doing it in the West Bank and Gaza. And as for the others that would join us, that would need to join us, the Canadians, the Australians, the Brits, I think ... I don't think, I know, that they are actively considering this idea at the moment.
CR: Yes, here and then here, and then maybe I missed someone and I'll come over here.
RG: Richard Gardner, Columbia University. My question is about the ultimate outcome of these negotiations. And it's to both of you. Realistically, now, do you believe that Sharon is capable or willing to offer as much as was on offer by Barak at Taba? And do you believe that Abu Mazen can accept anything less?
DP: This is not my game plan. (Laughter).
CR: Not a thought you want to entertain? (Laughter).
DP: Well, no and no. No, I don't think Sharon will offer as much and I don't think Abu Mazen will accept less. But I mean, it's not the pressing issue.
CR: And do you think anything less than that should be offered? Go ahead.
MI: Well, I agree with Daniel's first answer. I don't believe that Ariel Sharon is ready to agree to essentially the June 4th, '67 lines with territorial swaps, the kind of offer that Barak was prepared to agree to. Nor is he willing to agree to dividing Jerusalem. One more sentence, Charlie. Nor is he willing to agree to dividing Jerusalem, which is also part of that approach. And that's why I say to try to jump to a final status deal now is not going to work. It's not just because Ariel Sharon is not going to do it, it's because Ariel Sharon won't do it in circumstances in which he is not convinced that the Palestinians have given up on violence and terror. And therefore you need a different kind of process. You need to return to an interim process. But to remove the problems of the Oslo process. And what Abu Mazen can accept, I believe, on the basis of discussions I've had with him, is a weigh station that gives the Palestinians contiguity, that frees the settlement activity, that removes some of the settlements which sends a signal to both sides of the future of the settlement enterprise. And that enables the Palestinians to build their institutions, rebuild their economy and at the same time, negotiate of the final states. That is something that Sharon can accept.
CR: I have to stop that, because in fairness to the audience, and in fairness to both of you, they have asked me to set aside five minutes for closing remarks. And I'll have you go. Dan, you go first.
DP: I think I'm supposed to go second.
CR: You were, that's what I thought, yeah. Thank you.
MI: I'll go first?
MI: I'm a little taken by surprise and I've also have made all my arguments. (Laughter) But let's go back to the fundamental question here, because I think that again, the difference between us is not whether the United States should be actively involved in trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it's when and how. And Daniel says, this is essentially not the time, because the Palestinians haven't given up on violence.
And I say, it is the time, because there is a process of questioning going on on the Palestinian side that gives Abu Mazen's declaration that there is no military solution, that there can be only one authority, that it is not acceptable to have groups going around with arms. And if he will disarm them. And that there has to be an eschewing of violence in the process of negotiations. All the things that he delivered, in effect, in a manifesto of his government, is not falling on deaf ears on the Palestinian side, because they are exhausted by the conflict. Because they see the truth of his statement, that violence and terrorism has caused destruction to their cause. It has set them back dramatically.
And that is an objective reality in the West Bank and Gaza today. I think Daniel would agree with me on that. But we now have a leader on the Palestinian side who is standing up and saying, we made a mistake. There is another way. And this is the way we need to go, which is a nonviolent way.
So the difference, I guess, between Daniel and I is that I believe that there is now fertile ground, that there is now a ripeness on the Palestinian side. But we need to take advantage of that opportunity. We need to empower Abu Mazen, we need to show that his way can deliver. And it happens to coincide with a similar attitude on the Israeli side, which Daniel doesn't like. He dismisses them as being impatient, and suggests that what the Israelis need to do is basically suck it up for another decade or so.
But the Israelis are not going to do it. So his recommendation is not a practical one. The Israelis want a way out of this conflict, too. They, too, are suffering from exhaustion. Their standard of living has dropped dramatically. Their unemployment has increased dramatically. Their scientific base is now eroding. One in five Israelis are living under the poverty line. There is a situation of despair in the Jewish state today which is very dangerous for Israel's future. I would argue more dangerous than the next suicide bomb. And that is why I think that there is a willingness on the Israeli side to work with us, as we try to empower Abu Mazen and help him to stand up to the terrorist, and stop the violence, to lay a basis for a path to a resolution of this conflict.
CR: Thank you, ambassador. Martin Indyk.
DP: Indeed the Israelis want out. No dispute there. But they're in a war. And when you're in a war, you don't have the option, other than giving up, of getting out. You either win or you lose. This is a war. I think it's very important to understand, this is a war underway, in which the Palestinians wish to destroy Israel, and Israel wishes to achieve its acceptance. One side is going to win, one side is going to lose. There is no compromise. There can be compromise when the war ends, and negotiations begin. We did not negotiate with the Taliban. We did not negotiate with Saddam Hussein. Once we went to war, we went to war to win, as states do. If the Israelis decide midway through the war that they don't want to fight it, well, that's their prerogative. But then they well might lose it. They either will win it or lose it. It is binary. There is no third way here.
Now, point one about the Israelis, about the Palestinians, yes, there is an environment of questioning. And Abu Mazen has been at the head of it, saying the violence has not worked. And it clearly has not worked. Compared to two and a half years ago, the Palestinians are worse off in probably every way. But it's important to note that this questioning has resulted not from diplomacy but from losing a war. The Palestinians have done badly. They have not achieved their aims. They're further from achieving their war aims than before. It was not the result of the seven years of Oslo; that led to the inflamed Palestinian ambitions evident at the end of 2001 – a very violent Palestinian approach. They lost. It didn't work. Two and a half years later, they're rethinking matters.
Therefore, I think the conclusion is that they should continue down this road of rethinking and not open to them all sorts of benefits before they've come to the conclusion that violence does not work. I do not see Abu Mazen's rethinking as strategic. I see it as tactical. He realized that, for various reasons, he had to make changes vis-à-vis Israel and he did so. Did he in his heart give up the struggle? I don't think so. And I think the Palestinians broadly did not either.
Let me conclude by noting that the benefits that derive from the Palestinians giving up their dream of destroying Israel will be universal. Obviously we want it, at least in terms of how I understand our national interest. We don't want a war. The Israelis obviously want this; it is their war goal to be accepted. And the Palestinians, though small and neither militarily nor economically powerful, exert a considerable influence on other Arabs. So once the Palestinians truly do accept Israel, then it is only a matter of time until other Arab and Muslims follow behind them. So the Palestinians are very key in this regard.
And when both sides agree, or more specifically when the Palestinians give up on their goal of destroying Israel, then the chances of war are very much diminished. But what I want to stress, and it's a bit ironic, is that the Palestinians, ultimately, will gain the most by this, because it is they who are the most deprived by their own wish to destroy Israel. They are the ones who are suffering most. Yes, the Israeli economy is down; yes, there are hundreds of Israeli deaths in the last two and a half years. But it's the Palestinians who are suffering more, not just in terms of numbers of dead and injured, but also in terms of their economy, the corruption in their system, their schools and hospitals are doing poorly, and so on.
Only when the Palestinians give up their dream of destroying Israel can they make real progress. And until that time, the diplomacy that takes place is, I think, fundamentally futile. That was the case during the seven years of Oslo. I firmly believe it will be the case next time, too. The premises need to change.
CR: Thank you, very much, Daniel Pipes. (Applause).
There is someone else to thank, too. Richard Plepler and HBO for their sponsorship of this meeting. This meeting was webcast and the video can be accessed, as all of you know, on the Council's web site, at WWW.CFR.org. Thank you for joining us, and we'll see you at the next function. (Applause).
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