What Do You Mean, “Solve It”?

Both Israel and Hamas agree that the conflict should be solved–they just don’t agree on what that means. Israel would like to exist; Hamas would like it not to exist. How do you “solve” that?

Steve Clemons today:

America has to get out of the role of “managing” this conflict — and must solve it.

Daniel Levy today:

Today’s events should be ‘exhibit A’ in why the next U.S. Government cannot leave the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to fester or try to ‘manage’ it – as long as it remains unresolved, it has a nasty habit of forcing itself onto the agenda. That can happen on terms dictated to the U.S. by the region (bad) or the U.S. can seek to set its own terms (far preferable). . . A consensus of sorts is emerging in the U.S. foreign policy establishment that this conflict needs to be resolved. . . It will require tenacity and bold ideas – in framing the solution, bringing in previously excluded actors, creating mechanisms to implement a deal (such as international forces) and utilizing the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative – but the alternative is far worse, its what we see today and it guarantees ongoing instability in a region of paramount importance to the United States.

I’m detecting a meme here. But it would really be nice if that meme had any substantive content.

Look: no one is against “solving” the conflict. The United States has long had a consensus that it should be solved: there just hasn’t been a way to do that satisfies the foreign policy goals of the relevant actors.

Jeez, both Israel and Hamas agree that the conflict should be solved–they just don’t agree on what that means. Israel would like to exist; Hamas would like it not to exist. How do you “solve” that?

I’ll come clean on how I would solve it: the Nusseibeh-Ayalon agreement, otherwise known as the “People’s Voice,” which says two states for two peoples, 1967 borders with one-to-one adjustments, Jerusalem split according to demographics, right of return to the Palestinian state but not to Israel.

Lots of Israelis, including Israeli leaders, have endorsed this. So have hundreds of American Jews. Not a single Arab leader outside of Nusseibeh himself has backed it. I tried to get an American Friends of the People’s Voice group started a couple of years ago, and could not find a single Arab-American who would work on it.

And if Clemons or Levy thinks that this plan is too tilted toward the Israelis, then they believe that Israel should exist as long as it is an Arab state (because refugee return would make it so). If so, then they should say so.

If they think that the People’s Voice is a good basis for an agreement, then they should make it clear why this would command anything like the political support it would need to do so in order to “solve” the question. Levy is particularly silly on this, claiming with no evidence that Hamas “continue[s] to heavily hint that they will accept the 1967 borders.” That’s pretty thin gruel, especially after Arafat heavily hinted that he would accept Israel, only to reject the Clinton parameters (essentially, the same as the People’s Voice) and launch a terror campaign.

But enough of this. Enough with vague and flatulent notions about “tenacity and bold ideas.” All those who insist that the United States should “solve” the problem should explain how. And if they can’t do that, then maybe they should take some quiet time.

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.