A Question for Zbigniew Brzezinski

After calling out Joe Scarborough last week, Zbigniew Brzezinski sat down for an interview with Nathan Gardels in order to provide an unsuperficial view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unlike Steve Clemons, Daniel Levy, or Matthew Yglesias, Brzezinski actually says what he thinks a framework deal ought to look like:

The only way . . . to move forward is for the international community, led by the United States, to put on the table the framework of an eventual agreement. This agreement should be based on four fundamental points:

— No right of return for the Palestinian refugees. This is a very bitter pill for the Palestinians to swallow, though it can be sweetened by an international acknowledgment of their suffering.

— Jerusalem has to be equitably shared as the capital of two states, Israeli and Palestinian. Admittedly, this is a bitter pill for the Israelis. But the fact of the matter is that no peace will be viewed as equitable without this.

— An equitable territorial arrangement based on the 1967 lines, with some changes permitting the incorporation into Israel of some heavily urbanized communities beyond the 67 lines. In return, the Palestinians would be compensated with other territory, perhaps in Galilee and the Negev.

— A demilitarized Palestinian state with the deployment of American troops along the Jordan River, thereby insuring Israeli security by providing “strategic depth.”

Brzezinski argues that this deal “would, in my view, be supported by the majority of Israelis and Palestinians, and would isolate the extremists on both sides, both the settlers and the right wing of Likud in Israel as well as Hamas.”

This seems to me to be an excellent plan, but it’s got a big problem.

Here’s the question, Zbig:

Outside of Sari Nusseibeh, can you name any Arab or Arab-American leader–one–who would endorse this publicly?

I can understand why perhaps people in governmental authority might be hesitant to endorse this for fear of compromising their negotiations, but is there anyone in civil society who might be willing to support this? Because I can name you several in the Jewish community who would do so.

Brzezinski seems to believe that all that is standing in the way of a deal is American engagement and a couple of more weeks at the negotiating table. It seems to me that this is extraordinarily naive–not adjectives usually applied to Brzezinski.

Maybe I am wrong and he is right: I certainly hope so. But wouldn’t it be nice, a full eight years after the Taba negotiations, if someone from the Arab world or the Arab-American community would back him up? Just once? And if they haven’t, maybe that should lead him to reconsider things?

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.