Reengaging with the Quartet is Important for Our Roadmap Back to Active Engagement

By CALME Luminary, Ambassador Edward “Skip” Gnehm

On Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice convened a meeting of the Quartet to consider ways to revive the 2003 Road Map and re-start Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.  This is an encouraging sign that the Administration is once again assuming international leadership of an effort to bring about a Middle East peace agreement.  After 35 years serving seven Presidents in senior positions in the Departments of State and Defense, I see no objective more critical to U.S. interests globally.

President Bush has consistently pledged his commitment to bringing about a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, most recently in his January 23 State of the Union Address when he again called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security.  

This was not the first time in recent months that the President has reaffirmed his dedication to pursuing a two-state solution.  He highlighted his vision during last year’s United Nations General Assembly in September.  Then after his November meeting with Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki, he said that resolving the crisis would help bring greater peace to the Middle East.  It is time that the President takes active and sustained steps to make this vision reality in 2007.

I am hopeful that he is starting to do just that.  Last month, he dispatched Secretary Rice to the Middle East to review with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and heads of moderate Arab States ways to reinvigorate the peace process.  Shortly after the Quartet meeting, she will convene a summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas to explore ideas for renewing a dialogue that may build a framework for future negotiations.  I hope these discussions will build momentum for immediate, concrete steps to bring the parties together and narrow their differences.

This is a time of great challenge in the Middle East.  Islamic radicals are gaining strength, weakening moderates working toward peace.  Iran and Syria continue to fund and support Hamas and Hezbollah, emboldening them to carry out violent attacks in Israel, Iraq, and Lebanon. 

Yet challenges offer opportunities.  Never has there been a more important time for the United States to lead an international effort to lay the groundwork for future negotiations, based on the Road Map, which will lead to a comprehensive two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

A two-state solution with rigorous security guarantees, the protection of human rights, and guaranteed access to Jerusalem’s holy sites is the only way to give Israelis and Palestinians the stability they want and deserve, and to build a brighter future for both peoples.  Resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not immediately bring stability to the entire Middle East.  However, it will be an anchor to enhance security for citizens of moderate states throughout the region.

Furthermore, American leadership in reaching a comprehensive final status agreement is vital to restoring our image and building greater stability across the region.  Many in the Arab and Muslim world currently view the United States through the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.  There is no question that Israeli-Palestinian peace is in America’s national security interests. 

What about critics who claim there are too many obstacles on the path to peace?  There will always be obstacles, but the stakes of sitting on the sidelines until the “time is right” are too high.  We have seen for nearly six years what can happen when the U.S. steps back to wait for a more fortuitous opportunity to engage –violence and tensions across the region continue, and in fact, have escalated.  

Israeli-Palestinian violence is at one of its lowest points since September 2000.  Both Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas are publicly committed to negotiating a two-state solution.  Secretary Rice has pledged her personal involvement in peacemaking efforts.  This is precisely the time for active and sustained U.S. diplomatic leadership in bringing Israelis and Palestinians back to the table.
I have long believed that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be one of the United States’ top foreign policy priorities.  That is why I joined the Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle East (CALME.)  

CALME is a non-partisan American campaign that advocates a two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.  Many of my friends and nearly 10,000 citizens across all 50 states have signed on to this initiative.  Just before the State of the Union address, we delivered a letter to President Bush highlighting American public support for his commitment to achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians and asking that he make this a central and sustained goal of American foreign policy.
I applaud the President’s vision of a two-state solution.  We hope that 2007 will be the year that he and his Administration will actively work with our allies in the Quartet and in the Middle East to make that vision reality.

Ambassador Edward “Skip” Gnehm previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Jordan and U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait.  He is currently Kuwait Professor of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Affairs at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

Explore posts in the same categories: CALME Luminaries, CALME Updates, Israel, Middle East, Middle East Peace, Palestinians, Two State Solution, U.S. Role

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