November 17, 2018

“A Path to Peace – A Brief History of Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations and a Way Forward in the Middle East – by George J. Mitchell and Alon Sachar – A Review

Former Senator George Mitchell brought peace to the Northern Ireland conflict, so President Obama thought Mitchell could work miracles as U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace and bring about a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This 226-page volume tells that story. In reading these words of this master diplomat who understood the Israeli and Palestinian concerns, aspirations, and arguments and who represented the only super-power in the world, a reasonable person would have expected a positive two-states for two-peoples outcome.

That wasn’t, of course, to happen primarily because each side was unwilling to do what was necessary and make key concessions for the sake of peace and security. In addition, neither side trusted the other and neither was convinced that it really had a true partner in the other for peace.

Opportunities since the 1947 UN Partition Plan (accepted by by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs), the Autonomy agreement as part of the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement of 1979 (never happened), the Oslo Accords (fell apart after the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin), the Clinton Parameters (sat on a shelf despite Israeli PM Barack going further than any Israeli leader in making concessions), the Geneva Accords (never taken seriously), the Olmert-Abbas secret negotiations (Olmert resigned in scandal and went to prison, but it is questionable whether Abbas was serious or strong enough to present the Palestinian public a two-state solution), and the Kerry initiative of 2013-2014 (didn’t happen – again!).

This volume offers an objective and complete accounting of all those efforts (as well as the history to that point) and especially what Mitchell and the Obama Administration offered as a path to a two-state solution, which Senator Mitchell insists is the only destination that can assure long-term security and peace (I agree with him).

This book is a strong and important companion volume to the book I reviewed a couple of weeks ago written by my friend Yossi Klein Halevi called “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor.”

Read them both and you will find greater clarity about what is necessary for Israel and the Palestinians, with massive American and international support, to solve this seemingly intractable conflict.

Senator Mitchell concludes the book this way:

“We believe there is no such thing as a conflict that cannot be ended. Conflicts are created and conducted by human beings; they can be ended by human beings. We recognize the daunting difficulties that lie ahead. We acknowledge the long litany of failed past efforts. We are especially mindful of the many other conflicts and complexities in the region that work against an early resolution. Yet we firmly and realistically believe that there is a path to peace through a two-state solution and that all of us who care about the region and its people, in particular Israelis and Palestinians, must do whatever we can to advocate and work for an end to the conflict.”

Amen!