Israeli conflict can be solved, says former U.S. ambassador
August 30, 2014
Editor's note: "Bringing It Home" runs weekends in The Aspen Times and focuses on state, national or international issues that have ties to or impacts on the Roaring Fork Valley.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved by a two-state solution, a former U.S. diplomat told a crowd gathered in Snowmass on Aug. 24.
Speaking at an Aspen Jewish Congregation event at the Snowmass Chapel, Daniel Kurtzer, who was the U.S. ambassador to Egypt from 1997 to 2001 and to Israel from 2001 to 2005, said that creating two states would not meet all of the desires of each group, but it would meet the "minimum requirements," which are independent homelands for the two peoples.
Since the Madrid Conference of 1991, every negotiation between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders has been leading to that outcome, Kurtzer said.
"The majority of people (today) on both sides have a mental image of an outcome of this conflict which is essentially the same," he said.
That includes two states with two capitals in Jerusalem, some compensation for refugees and other people impacted by wars there, security and the involvement of the international community.
"What I've heard in the past two years from Israelis on the right, left and center, and Palestinians on the right, left and center, is they don't particularly like it, but they can live with it," said Kurtzer, who continues to work in diplomacy in a non-official capacity.
Although a two-state resolution is feasible, it won't be easy, particularly because of the current leadership on both sides, Kurtzer said. What the U.S. can do is to continue to advance that process, something that has not been effective because American diplomacy has not been tough enough. In addition, while there have been actions on the part of the U.S. in the peace process, the past three presidential administrations have lacked a strategy for addressing the conflict, and the goals of the U.S. have not been clear, he said.
"Right now we don't have a policy on how to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict," Kurtzer said. "We need a policy. … An active, affirmative, determined American policy, something that we stand for, that's fair and reasonable and that we don't walk away from."
The same would go for Israel and Hamas. Hamas doesn't have a political goal in killing Israelis, and Israel doesn't have one in fighting Hamas, Kurtzer said.
"Without a political horizon, all you're going to get out of this Hamas war is a cease-fire," he said. "These two will go at it again."
During a Q&A session after Kurtzer's presentation, one member of the audience asked how Israel can promote peace when Hamas is responsible for events such as the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in June.
"To suggest that the war started because of the kidnapping and murder of three teenagers, I think, is a misreading," Kurtzer said. "It's like saying that the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand caused World War I. … It was the last straw, which in a sense gave Israel the motivation and the reason to go after two strategic threats that it faced."
Another attendee asked Kurtzer why it wouldn't be possible for the two peoples to co-exist in a single state.
"(A) one-state solution may look convenient … if you're on the pro-Israel side of things, only if you can guarantee that Israel stays in control," Kurtzer said. "What happens if the population shifts?"
Demographers at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem think that sometime between 2020 and 2040, the non-Jewish population in the region will become the majority, which is not the Zionist dream, he said.
Kurtzer is now a professor at Princeton University.