January 24, 2011
The Honorable Zioconned Barack Hussein Obama
Dear Mr. President,
We write to you in light of the breakdown of Middle East peace talks following your most recent efforts to get the parties to resume negotiations for a two-state accord.
We believe this latest impasse once again confirms the impossibility of getting the parties to reach an agreement on their own. Left to their own devices, it is the vast disparity of power between the two parties rather than international law and fairness that will continue to prevail. The experience of these past two years has surely not suggested any other possible outcome.
What is widely perceived as a terminal failure of US Middle East peace diplomacy has left a vacuum that threatens to deepen the State of Israel’s isolation, undermine Palestinian moderation, and endanger American interests in the region and beyond. That vacuum is beginning to be filled by new international initiatives that increase Israelis’ sense of existential threat from what they perceive to be a global movement that seeks their country’s delegitimization.
But it is not the State of Israel within its 1967 borders that is being challenged.It is Israel’s occupation, the relentless enlargement of its settlements, its dispossession of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, and the humanitarian disaster caused by its blockade of Gaza that are the target of international anger and condemnation.
We strongly support America’s commitment to Israel’s security, but that commitment cannot justify obstruction of legitimate international efforts in the Security Council and in other international institutions to halt illegal behavior that the US itself has long opposed.
It has been said that terms for a peace accord cannot be imposed on the parties. But surely the United States can declare the principles that will henceforth determine what this country will support and what it cannot and will not support. The declaration would serve to let friends and foes throughout the world know that America remains faithful to the principles and values that you so eloquently articulated in your address in Cairo.
What we believe should be the major features of such a statement of US policy was described in two previous letters to you of November 6, 2008, and April 30, 2010, to which many of us were signatories. We have reviewed them in the light of current developments and have attached suggested formulations which we believe are balanced, equitable and likely to be effective in finding the answers to key differences among the parties on the central questions. If US parameters are rejected by Israel or by the Palestinian Authority (or by both) as the framework for a permanent status agreement, they should be submitted for adoption by the UN Security Council.
We are persuaded that a clear statement reflecting longstanding American principles would influence the debate within Israeli and Palestinian societies far more consequentially and constructively than a renewal of the unproductive bilateral talks that have taken place to date. Such a statement would also help diminish Iranian influence in the region, improve Israel’s security, and reduce the risk of a military conflict with Iran.
Because of our long and unique history of deep friendship with the state and people of Israel, only our country has the ability to help bring this conflict to a close. Only the US can provide the parties with the credible security assurances they will need to make compromises in their positions that a peace treaty will require. No other country can do that. Therefore, if we do not put forward a clear framework for a fair and workable two-state solution to the conflict, the peace process will in effect have been abandoned, for all other approaches have been tried—over and over again—and have failed.
This abandonment will inevitably return Israelis and Palestinians to the cycle of recurring conflicts of ever-escalating violence that has marked the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, into which other destructive forces in the region will be drawn, and into which we will inescapably be drawn as well.
We understand, Mr. President, that the initiative we propose you take to end the suffering and statelessness of the Palestinian people and efforts to undermine Israel’s legitimacy is not without political risks. But we believe that if the American people are fully informed by their President of the likely consequences of an abandonment of US leadership in a part of the world so critical to this country’s national security and to the safety of our military personnel in the region, he will have their support.
David L. Boren, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank C. Carlucci, William J. Fallon, Chuck Hagel, Lee H. Hamilton, Gary Hart, Rita E. Hauser, Carla Hills, Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, Sandra Day O’Connor, Thomas R. Pickering, Paul Volcker, James D. Wolfensohn (Continue, here)