Congratulations for the ceasefire. Now the hard work begins.


I Indicated Last week, it was time to dispel any illusions that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was fueling quietly on a low flame, or mitigating new openings for Israeli-Gulf diplomacy. But after two weeks of horrific violence, including sectarian violence between Jewish and Palestinian citizens inside Israeli cities and hundreds of deaths in the already miserable and coronavirus-afflicted Gaza, what now?

The roots of this crisis lie in the diplomatic vacuum created by the slow and prolonged death of the Oslo framework for peace. This vacuum was exploited by politicians inside and outside the region for short-term gains, and it gave the extremists every incentive to indulge in their worst motives. This crisis is just a disturbing taste of what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can look like when the two sides (with the help of the Trump administration in recent years) move away from a negotiated settlement. This vacuum was evident and alarming long before May 2021, and for this reason ArguedAnd the In a December report by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) with Ilan Goldberg and Michael Coplow, the incoming Biden Harris administration cautiously embarked on a new diplomatic approach.

The violence and suffering of the past two weeks make that work even more difficult, but absolutely necessary. The shaky ceasefire between Israel and Hamas today is a good thing in itself, but without further diplomacy it will prove to be just a short respite from the violence. Now is the time for the United States government to take other steps, to try to prevent further violence and lay the foundations for Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, the two parties that recognized each other in 1993 as representatives of their people, to recommit to a negotiated settlement and a return to dialogue.

Here are some initial steps that Washington can take to pull this conflict out of the cliff and lay the foundations for dialogue:

Reconstruct effective diplomatic channels.

That power cannot be denied Diplomats will be necessary For the next work. The chief Israeli-Palestinian policy officer in the Biden Harris administration, our former fellow at the Brookings Institution Hady Amr, has been in the region since the start of the crisis. If management moves forward, as mentionedBy sending veteran diplomat Michael Ratney to Jerusalem as Chargé d’Affairs, it would prove a good step forward as well. But the United States desperately needs to re-establish a permanent diplomatic channel for the Palestinians that does not pass through the US embassy in Israel. This channel doesn’t need an actual platform in a new consulate – yet – but it needs to be created immediately. Reopening the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington should also be a goal, but it will take Some work By the Palestinians to meet Requirements Under United States law.

At the same time, the White House needs to realize that while it prefers high-level US-Israeli talks to focus on Iran and security cooperation, the president, the national security advisor, and other national security principles will have to devote time and attention. This is the case if they want to avoid the constant slippage that hinders other priority regional goals. This means confronting, rather than avoiding, the trade-offs imposed by the ways in which this conflict shapes the behavior of regional governments. Indeed, the crisis has rarely won Presidential commendation For the brutal, repressive Egyptian dictator, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, more such trade-offs are likely to come. The debate on national security policy about how to make it should start now.

And yes, the administration urgently needs a Senate-approved ambassador to Israel – someone who will interact across Israeli society and the political spectrum, and demonstrate America’s commitment to the vitality of the state’s democracy and a diverse civil society.

Pressure on both sides to address deep-rooted political challenges and renew their political leadership.

On the Israeli side, sectarian violence shocked the country, frightened it, and endangered the delicate balance of coexistence between Arabs and Jews. But this crack is in the social fabric It did not appear in the void. As a friend and partner, for him shared democratic values ​​are the basis of our partnership. The United States must not be silent about the imperative of equality and mutual respect between Palestinian citizens and Jews in Israel. Israel’s democracy, like ours, is emerging Signs of broader stress, Especially in freedom of association and in the media. Whatever the Biden-Harris administration’s intentions for democratic solidarity globally, the relationship between the United States and Israel is one area in which democratic solidarity can benefit our values ​​and interests.

The Palestinian people desperately need a legitimate elected leadership that can end the division between the West Bank and Gaza Strip and provide an official voice in talks with Israel. Earlier this year, Hamas and the ruling Fatah movement in the Palestine Liberation Organization reached a tentative agreement on elections for the Palestinian Authority as part of a reconciliation process that would produce a unified Palestinian authority and end the bitter division between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But the elections met with lukewarm international support, and they were Finally shot down Through infighting within the Fatah movement led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The US government should press Abbas to undertake political reforms that would liberate the wealthy Palestinian civil society, clarify the mechanisms of succession, enable a new generation of party leadership to rise, and facilitate the holding of free and fair elections. Israel should also facilitate these elections, including enabling Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote. Advancing this agenda requires that the United States overcome its fallout from the Palestinian elections in 2006, when Fatah split, Hamas won a majority in parliament, then Hamas withdrew from a coalition government and took control of Gaza by force. We go into details, including how to deal with Hamas’s role in this process, at CNAS recently Report.

If the Palestinians manage to hold elections in six to nine months, and if the Israelis finally manage to achieve a stable coalition government after two years and four elections, this will create a more reliable leadership that can establish a new basis for dialogue between the two sides.

Bring the area to help.

The so-called Abraham Agreements, Diplomatic editorials Between Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco SudanIt strengthened the pro-American alliance in the region and created opportunities for Arab countries and Israel to pursue security, economic and social projects that would benefit both parties. Violent Israeli actions in Jerusalem and the war between Israel and Hamas have put Israel’s new Arab partners in a state of instability Uncomfortable spot. This was the risk they took in opening relations with Israel.

The Biden Harris administration came under pressure to “follow up” the Abraham agreements. They must now do so by mobilizing Arab support for constructive Israeli-Palestinian participation. In fact, this should not take the form of a “peace summit” or any other symbolic meeting. I do not think that Arab governments want, or can effectively, take responsibility for the reconstruction of Gaza Suggestion By Michael Coplo.

Instead, the United States government should focus on practical projects that benefit everyone involved. The UAE, for example, is interested in cooperating in the health sector with Israel to fight COVID-19. Abu Dhabi should now launch a tripartite initiative that would bring Emirati investment, capacity, and Israeli medical expertise together to help the Palestinian population – particularly in Gaza – who are now at the mercy of an out of control pandemic. It does not hurt that the health sector in Israel is one of the most integrated sectors (between Jews and Arabs) in the country.

Other Arab countries also have major roles to play. Washington should press Jerusalem to mend its strained relations with Amman and bring Jordan back into the Israeli-Palestinian discussion, particularly in managing delicate arrangements at the Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount. King Abdullah II has a keen interest in being part of easing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. And the Jordanian stability It is the key to the region’s stability in general.

To move forward, President Joe Biden must move forward from his consistent and principled rhetoric that Israelis and Palestinians deserve equal measures of freedom, security, and prosperity. He must clearly express his insistence on a negotiated solution to this conflict as the only acceptable way to achieve these equal measures, and to affirm that he will support the steps that facilitate and advance the negotiations and oppose the steps that hinder them. Washington cannot compensate for the lack of leadership and political will to reach a negotiated compromise in Israel and Palestine, but it can engage both sides and their neighbors to help bridge the gap.

The primary cause of the current crisis – and yes, even with a ceasefire, Israelis and Palestinians are largely in crisis – is the lack of any meaningful diplomatic pathway for the two sides to negotiate their conflict peacefully. The steps outlined above can engage both local and regional actors in managing the crisis to prevent further violence and prepare the two sides to talk again.

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