A pep talk to Bush on the Middle East

While we’re on the subject of US policy on the Middle East, take a look at the letter to Bush and Condi in the new edition of the NYRB from Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinksi, the ISG’s Lee Hamilton, Ted Sorensen, Paul Volcker and others (co-ordinated behind the scenes by Scowcroft, Gareth Evans and Steve Clemons).

It’s essentially a stiff a pep talk in advance of Bush’s Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in late November. “Failure,” they say, “risks devastating consequences”. And in blunt contrast to the more incrementally focussed Road Map, the signatories say that the talks need to cut to the chase on final status issues: “Because a comprehensive peace accord is unattainable by November, the conference should focus on the endgame and endorse the contours of a permanent peace, which in turn should be enshrined in a Security Council resolution.” In practice:

  • “Two states, based on the lines of June 4, 1967, with minor, reciprocal, and agreed-upon modifications as expressed in a 1:1 land swap;
  • “Jerusalem as home to two capitals, with Jewish neighborhoods falling under Israeli sovereignty and Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian sovereignty;
  • “Special arrangements for the Old City, providing each side control of its respective holy places and unimpeded access by each community to them;
  • “A solution to the refugee problem that is consistent with the two-state solution, addresses the Palestinian refugees’ deep sense of injustice, as well as provides them with meaningful financial compensation and resettlement assistance;
  • “Security mechanisms that address Israeli concerns while respecting Palestinian sovereignty.”

And while the letter welcomes the administration’s decision to invite Syria to the talks, they say there’s still some way to go as far as relations with Hamas are concerned: “we believe that a genuine dialogue with the organisation is far preferable to its isolation”.