February 14, 2007
2172 Rayburn House Office Building
Chaired By: Representative Gary L. Ackerman (D-NY)
David Makovsky, Director, Project on the Middle East Peace Process, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy;
Martin S. Indyk, Director, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, The Brookings Institution;
Daniel Pipes, Director, Middle East Forum
Transcript by the Federal News Service.
REP. GARY L. ACKERMAN (D-NY): The subcommittee will come to order. Today the subcommittee had hoped to examine those realistic and productive measures that the parties directly and indirectly involved with the Israel-Palestinian conflict might have taken to restore a sense of hope and maybe even make some material progress towards peace. But in light of the Mecca Accord, which if implemented will create a Hamas-Fatah unity government for the Palestinian Authority, sometimes I’m not sure what’s left to discuss.
Over the past six years there have been many plans and many envoys. And contrary to popular opinion there hasn’t been a deficit of attention, merely a deficit of performance. Commitments made to the United States or between the parties have often been honored in the breach. The timing was never right. What was promised was never delivered.
There is always a provocation, an incident, an upcoming election, a crisis, an attack and so it is again today. Recent weeks held the promise of change, maybe not all but things were moving. The United States and Israel seemed ready to work with the Palestinians to provide some kind of political horizon, setting aside earlier obligations in the president’s Road Map. Why? To strengthen Abu Mazen.
The president asked the Congress to agree to reprogram $86 million for the Palestinian security services. Why? To strengthen Abu Mazen. Secretary Rice agreed to participate in a tripartite meeting next week. Why? To strengthen Abu Mazen.
And what has Abu Mazen done to strength himself? He has capitulated to Hamas. The Mecca Accord neither strengthens him nor helps the cause of peace. I, for one, have been urging a different kind of assistance to Abu Mazen, suggesting both publicly and privately that significant economic assistance should have been provided to him long ago. We’re now well beyond that point and due to the courtesy of our friends in Saudi Arabia, we now have what Secretary Rice once said we could not accept, a Palestinian Authority with quote, “one foot in terror and one foot in democracy.”
How can anyone describe what happened in Mecca over the weekend as progress is beyond me. And if in Abu Mazen we have seen a leader who has chosen a form of government with a multiple personality disorder, in Israel we see a government suffering from depression, schlepping along with no mandate except that provided by inertia. Things seem so hopeless and fearful in the region that Arab governments are actually threatening to begin cooperating with each other.
I had hoped that this hearing would explore ways to fill the gaps between high minded principles and facts on the ground. So many Americans, indeed so many people across the world, are desperate to see some kind of progress, some indication that this conflict between two people fated to share the same land can at least be put back on the path towards peace. Instead, we have to contend with the implications of the Mecca Accord and those implications look severe.
The Mecca Accord seems quite clear on the necessity of Hamas accepting the Quartet’s three non-negotiable conditions for the resumption of assistance to the PA. It ignores these conditions all together. Hamas is not required to recognize the state of Israel. Hamas does not have to commit to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through exclusively non-violent means. Instead, Hamas has to respect, but not necessarily obey, the prior obligations and agreements of the Palestinian Authority.
Must Israel renegotiate and try to exist every time the Palestinians change government? That would be lunacy. In exchange for this massive reversal, Hamas (through ?) Abu Mazen could pick a new foreign minister and a new finance minister. The foreign minister would be responsible for explaining the political disaster to the world and the finance minister will have the job of distributing funds, the Mecca Accord will preclude the PA from receiving from members of the Quartet.
It’s a trifecta of a diplomatic disaster. Abu Mazen has gutted his own credibility, empowered his opponents and taken it upon himself the responsibility for the inevitable failure of his two-headed monstrosity of a government. Yogi Berra had it right. It’s deja vu all over again.
I’d like to turn now, with great pleasure, to my partner on the committee, the ranking Minority Member, Mr. Pence.
REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN): I thank the chairman for the recognition as well as his calling this extremely important hearing. I am greatly privileged to serve in the capacity of ranking member on this subcommittee and can’t help but feel that the chairman’s decision to begin our work on this subcommittee on this issue is commendable and appropriate.
Mr. Chairman, I know we share a commitment to the long term health and security of Israel and it is heartfelt in both of our lives. She is our staunchest ally in the Middle East and one of our best friends in the world. Fifty-nine years after the birth of the modern state of Israel and 30 years after the beginning of the first Camp David Accords, the very existence of Israel still goes unrecognized by the Palestinian leadership and most of the Islamic world. The absurdity of Israel enduring years approaching decades of negotiations with an entity that does not recognize its right to exist, is historically striking. The fact that this is still a subject of negotiation is outrageous.
Mr. Chairman, contrary to some of the testimony we’re about to hear with respect, I believe this problem is not shrouded in great mystery or complexity. As President Ronald Reagan often said, there is a simple answer, not an easy answer but a simple answer. We’ll hear talk about the U.S. being an honest broker. We will hear talk about a return to the Road Map, to more action by the Quartet, of re-starting the peace process. And I will listen intently.
We’ll hear a lot of discussion about confidence building measures and processes now on the political horizon. But Mr. Chairman, I plead with the Palestinians and the Arab world, if they are serious about peace, take the simple answer, not the easy answer, but take the simple step of recognizing Israel and renouncing violence against it. In fact, the Bush administration and several European countries have three basic conditions required of the new Palestinian government, and we know them well: recognize the right of Israel to exist, foreswear violence and accept previous Palestinian agreements.
On 8 February, as the chairman has reference, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Fatah and Hamas signed an agreement to form a national unity government in hopes of lifting the international embargo and ending their own virtual civil war. The step is hailed in many quarters, notably the governments of Russia and France, as a breakthrough. But none of the basic steps that have been at the center of our expectation in this region were met, as the Chairman has noted eloquently.
Even before the Intifada, Hamas spokesmen would tell the world there’s no-quote, “We will never recognize Israel. There’s nothing called Israel,” he said, “either in reality nor in imagination,” close quote. This agreement is not a step towards reform, since it does not come close to addressing this basic problem, in my judgment. The new Palestinian government is a hybrid still dominated by Hamas. Hamas holds nine cabinet ministries to Fatah’s six. One of our witnesses, David Makovsky, describes the Mecca Agreement as a victory for Hamas, since a unity government has been one of its standing goals.
In spite of the president’s first approvals of direct funding of Palestinian Authority, in the anticipated request of $73.5 million for Fiscal Year 2008 in aid to the Palestinians, I ask, Mr. Chairman, how can we support funding any official Palestinian entity when an internationally recognized terrorist organization dominates that government? The fact that Hamas was chosen by the Palestinians to represent them is a bigger obstacle to peace than is any disengagement by this administration of the peace process. Mr. Chairman, as an aside, without giving my opinion on the peace process, let me speak a little in defense of the administration’s efforts.
This subject was a priority for Secretary Powell and is a priority for Secretary Rice. General Zinni was dispatched along with shuttle diplomacy in 2001. And, in fact, Secretary Rice will return to the region in five days. I do not believe that the peace process has suffered primarily from a lack of administration attention.
I also know, Mr. Chairman, parenthetically, that the president must face criticism from the Congressional majority for not opening an active dialogue with Iran and Syria, which I would point out are both internationally recognized terrorist regimes. But virtually no one in this Congress on either side of the aisle has ever called on the (many powers ?) of this world to negotiate directly with Hamas, one of the main beneficiaries of those regimes. If negotiating with terrorists is (our ?) policy, I would offer that we shouldn’t hear so many admonitions about negotiating with their patrons.
Mr. Chairman, today marks the 2 year anniversary of the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, which was credibly linked with Syrians who then occupied that country. That outrage and so many events in this region remind us that not everything is a matter of negotiation, dialogue and talk. Some (persons ?) are evil, prone to violence and hostile to civilization. Mr.
Chairman, thank you again for calling this hearing. I look very much forward to our witnesses, to their presentations and our dialogue that will follow.
REP. ACKERMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Pence. Congratulations and I look forward to working with you on the committee. The chair will follow the general procedures of the full committee in recognizing members in order of appearance at the meeting at the time the gavel was struck.
REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. There’s incredible aching in this room for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We’re now told that not only would it be good for the Holy Land, but perhaps Shiites and Sunnis would stop fighting each other in Baghdad if only Israel made concessions. A peace agreement would be a good thing. We shouldn’t over sell it.
But it’s hard to begin thinking of a peace agreement if the government of the Palestinian Authority doesn’t recognize the three conditions: recognize Israel, renounce violence and affirm adherence to previous agreements with Israel. The response of this new entity that has been created by discussions in Mecca fails on all three counts. Three strikes and you should be out.
The new government does not recognize Israel or renounce violence and it does not – and if you do not recognize Israel it is hard to reaffirm agreements made with Israel. The agreement, instead, stresses the importance of confronting the occupation, which means it endorses the continued use of violence and terror. Hamas, when it uses the term occupied territories, refers not only to Ramallah but to Tel Aviv.
Hamas is adamant that the agreement does not recognize Israel, as I believe my colleague from Indiana quoted. Their senior leader in Gaza said we will never recognize Israel. There is nothing called Israel, neither in reality nor imagination.
Finally, immediately after signing the agreement with Abbas the top Damascus-based Hamas leader, Khalid Mashaal, I apologize if I mispronounced his name, continued to call for attacks on Israel saying, “We devote ourselves to the battle for Jerusalem and we, Hamas, battle for our prisoners in order to recover our rights and enable the refugees to return to their homes.” What this means he says, refugees return to their homes. He means the Ahmadinejad approach, which is that roughly 5.5 million Israelis should be excluded, ethnically cleansed from the Middle East and that any Arabic speaking person who claims, because there are no records, that they or any member of their extended family or any of the ancestors (that are ?) forgoing, ever lived where Israel is now has the right to move to Israel.
Israel is alone among the countries of the world where people try to turn back the clock. No one suggests that Australians should not live in Tasmania where once it was exclusively occupied by Tasmanians. No one says it’s wrong for Turks to live in (Silesia ?), though it was once part of a (Silesian ?) kingdom.
And no one says that it is wrong for Poles to live in what was once called East Prussia. Yet somehow we are told that the clock in the Middle East should be turned back. Not all the way back to before (inaudible), not all the way back to Roman times, but only turned back to some propitious moment at which Jewish residency and members and population in the Holy Land was at a low point.
Those who declare that the clock must be turned back can only confront the results of that thinking in Kosovo and which was once called Old Serbia, where Milosevic believed the clock should be turned back. Ethnic cleansing is often (a prelude ?) to genocide and it seems to be the ideology governing this new Palestinian Authority agreement. So I look forward to a time when Israel has a partner for peace, but until then we should recognize that self delusion is not a substitute for having a peace partner and that pressure on Israel will not bring peace to the Holy Land and certainly won’t help our other efforts in the Middle East.
I yield back.
REP. ACKERMAN: Perfect timing, you had six seconds left. Thank you very much. I now recognize Representative Klein who is a new member of the House as well as of the committee and we welcome you to the committee.
REP. RON KLEIN (D-FL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’m delighted to serve with the ranking member as well as the other members of this committee. I’ve had a long personal interest in Middle East policy as a civilian, as somebody who has been very anxious to make (exchange ?) efforts as well as travel. I know a lot about the history but have a lot more to learn. I look forward to learning more about the United State’s policy in terms of where we need to be at this moment in time.
My people all understand that historically the United States, administration after administration, has tried many different avenues. It’s tried to bring peace and stability to Israel and its neighbors, sometimes with more success than others. But, this is an ongoing issues. And when we have pulled back from our active involvement, our active responsibility, unfortunately many times things have happened that spiral out of control.
That being said, I had the chance to be over in Israel last year during the war, up in the Haifa area, and once again we see visually, first hand, when missiles are coming down and the media is reporting missiles going down the other way and the world seems to cast a blind eye toward that event. So, we understand as American citizens that Israel is a strategic issue for us, the only true democracy, our friends in the area. But we obviously know that Israel’s relationship with the United States is extremely important to the United States and its citizens.
And we need to continue to be vigilant and diligent and recognize that our active involvement in the Middle East as a whole and – (specifically ?) – is something that will be necessary for Israel’s long term safety and security. But let’s not mix up the differences between solving the Israel-Palestinian issues as solving everything else in the Middle East. There are lots of complicated issues in the Middle East and certainly we ought to do everything we can to continue to provide safety and security for Israel, but don’t let it get tangled up in the recognition, the — (inaudible) — if you solve that problem you’ve solved everything else in the Middle East. I think we all understand that’s a misnomer and a misunderstanding promoted by certain people.
So, Mr. Chairman, I look forward to learning and listening and being part of this committee and hoping to work with the administration and moving a real peace process along. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ACKERMAN: Thank you very much. Next we’ll hear from Representative Scott, not new to the Congress but new to the committee. Welcome aboard.
REP. DAVID SCOTT (D-GA): Thank you very much, Chairman Ackerman. It is indeed a pleasure to serve on this committee and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and areas are very important, and at no more critical time than now. I was last in Israel a couple of years ago and had the distinct pleasure of speaking with, on one hand and at one meeting, with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. And then the same day just a few hours later with Abu Mazen.
And our hope was great at that time. At that time we were discussing the feasibility of building a fence of protection, which is certainly Israel’s right to defend itself. We felt that with Abu Mazen we were moving in a strong direction. No one could have foreseen that just a few years later we’d be in a situation where a basic terrorist organization, Hezbollah and Hamas, would be in the rather strong positions that they are in now.
It often brings to mind the wondrous challenge of whether or not peace can be found. But as I ponder that I’m also reminded of the interchange between two great Americans in the Civil War: Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln. It was in the throes of that war that they had a conversation where one said, I believe it was Robert E. Lee, who said, “It’s not incumbent upon us to complete the task.” Before he could finish that sentence Abraham Lincoln said, “But neither are we free to desist from doing all we possibly can.”
I believe that is the cornerstone of this subcommittee, the Foreign Relations Committee and we must do everything we can to bring peace to this region. And I believe we can do that. We’re going to have to talk to people that, unfortunately, in some measure we’re not talking to: Syria and Iran, and bring this about. So, Mr. Chairman, I really look forward to the hearing today and I look forward to working with the members of the committee and to my other distinguished colleagues.
I yield back the balance of my time.
REP. ACKERMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Scott.
The chair is delighted to recognize the senior member of the committee and an old hand on the subcommittee as well, Howard Berman.
REP. HOWARD L. BERMAN (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It’s a pleasure to be on your subcommittee once again with a new ranking member and a number of new colleagues. There’s a lot to say but I – you’ve really assembled for your first hearing a wonderful group of people who truly can be called experts. And I’d be curious to hear what they have to say, so I’ll yield back.
REP. ACKERMAN: Thank you, Mr. Berman. A long time member of the House, a new member to the subcommittee, Sheila Jackson-Lee.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON-LEE: Mr. Chairman, thank you for your graciousness and particularly in utilizing the term old time and not old. Thank you for that kindness. I thank the ranking member and I am pleased to join this subcommittee as a new member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and to represent my views on the Middle East, which can be characterized as a hopeful optimist.
And I say that because for the last two-plus years the 18th Congressional district which I represent has sent about 17 people from our inner city schools to Israel every summer. They’ve come back changed and despondent. And they’ve spoken to young people from one end of Israel’s great land to the other end. And these families that have hosted them have expressed a sense of hope and optimism.
As I look forward to the testimony, and the chairman (is holding ?) two hearings, I also in my thoughts – we did have a period of intense engagement in the waning hours of the Clinton administration that at least had the doors of dialogue open. Some may have agreed with that process, others may have not, but you cannot agree or disagree with the fact that the process was ongoing. We need to engage intensely again, speak to the hopefulness of Israelis and the hopefulness of many Palestinians, families, young people who don’t want violence, don’t want suicide bombings. They want hope and education and prosperity.
I do believe that the experts that we are about to hear and the leadership of this chairperson and ranking member, that we will be able to move that (dodge ball ?) along a little bit further and bring hopefulness and hopefully peace to the Middle East.
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back my time.
REP. ACKERMAN: Thank you very much. This being the first meeting of the subcommittee I’d just like to introduce the staff director for the committee, Dave Adams, who sits to my right. In back of him, our professional staffer, Howard Diamond. Sitting at the small table to my right again, Dalis Blumenfeld who is our staff associate. And sitting over here to my left is Greg McCarthy who is the minority professional staffer. So, welcome. Everybody get to know them.
There certainly being no further members who wish to be recognized, we’ll turn to our three witnesses. I’d ask each of them to summarize their testimony if they can, and without objection their full statements will be entered into the record. Joining the subcommittee today are David Makovsky, Ambassador Martin Indyk and Dr. Daniel Pipes.
David Makovsky is the Senior Fellow and Director at the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is also an adjunct lecturer in Middle Eastern studies at Johns Hopkins University, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.
Ambassador Martin Indyk is the Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution. Previously, Ambassador Indyk served as U.S. ambassador to Israel, assistant secretary of State for Near East Affairs, senior director for the Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, and he is a wonderful host when you get to visit him wherever he serves in his post.
And last but not least, to my left but certainly to the right of the panel is Dr. Daniel Pipes, who is the Director of the Middle East Forum and distinguished visiting professor at Pepperdine University. He served the United States in two capacities. First, as vice chairman of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarships and also as a member of the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace, and probably had the most difficult time of the panel in getting here, with all kinds of airport problems across the country. We’re so happy you persisted and are with us today.
We will begin with David Makovsky.
MR. DAVID MAKOVSKY: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Chairman Ackerman, Ranking Member Pence and distinguished members of the Middle East Subcommittee, I’m pleased to appear before you today.
The Israeli-Palestinian political landscape has been rather bleak over the last several years.
Between 2000 and 2004, the second Intifada has brought almost unremitting terror and violence. Despite Israeli’s pull out from Gaza in the summer of 2005, the parliamentary victory of the rejectionist Hamas party in January of 2006 contributed to this downward trend. Compounding the problem of peacemaking today has been the inadequate leadership, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Both leaders have been weakened, Olmert by the consequences of the war in Lebanon and Abbas by his willingness to yield to his Hamas rivals.
This trend was demonstrated last week at the Mecca summit. The agreement signed there will greatly complicate Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s effort to reach a quote, “political horizon,” end quote between Israelis and Palestinians which is scheduled to be launched next week in Jerusalem at a meeting with Olmert and Abbas. Secretary Rice’s mission is to create a political horizon for the Palestinians, specifically a discussion rather than a formal negotiating channel between Olmert and Abbas to see if they agree on principles that would shape the contours of a final deal. According to this view, Secretary Rice sees a political horizon discussion in both validating Abbas’ focus on negotiations instead of violence, and satisfying Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s belief that such a wide ranging discussion avoids ensuring that Israeli concessions are made in a contextual vacuum.
Livni, and apparently Rice, believe that only under the rubric of discussing principles about a final status agreement can significant tradeoffs be reached and a grand bargain be struck. And then the Roadmap implementation will flow easier. It is critical to understand how the recent Mecca summit has undercut this endeavor. While there are favorable aspects of the accord, especially the prospect of halting internecine Palestinian violence, the negative side weighs heavily.
The Mecca accord is a victory for Hamas, which has achieved its goal of forming a unity government without agreeing to the conditions imposed by the Quartet, namely no recognition of Israel, no disavowal of violence and no commitment to agree to past written agreement. At Mecca, Hamas resisted Abbas’ insistence that Hamas commit to these principles. It is hard to escape the conclusion that Abbas has, in fact, legitimized an unrepentant Hamas. A rationale for Secretary Rice’s political horizon initiative was done in no small measure in order to help bolster Abbas at Hamas’ expense, to show that progress comes through negotiations and not terror. Israeli officials may wonder how it would be possible to proceed with such weighty issues as a political horizon under such circumstances.
Moreover, there is ample reason for skepticism that the PA coalition policy guidelines will substantially be better than Mecca. Hamas’ Haniye will be the prime minister. Palestinian Authority officials are now publicly saying that the Hamas Executive Force militia of Gaza will continue and this time they’ll be financed by the PA. Hamas has the right to put forward quote “an independent,” unquote name as Interior Minister. This person would head the security services. All have implications for U.S. policy.
People who felt there was a logic to bolstering Abbas against Hamas’ growing strength and therefore supported the security mission of General Keith Dayton and $86 million in non-lethal security assistance, must now wonder if the new Palestinian coalition alignment could lead to a very different outcome. Clarifications about this new setup are critical. Irrespective of the Dayton issue and the $86 million, the Quartet should keep to its three criteria. Such a commitment by the Quartet has not meant a cutoff of funds toward the regional and humanitarian needs.
According to the U.N. Special Coordinator’s office in the Middle East, they confirmed earlier this week overall foreign aid to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza reached $1.3 billion in 2006. It is estimated that this is 10 percent above the year before, although there is an obvious shortfall of tax revenues passed along by Israel.
It is hard to see how Secretary Rice’s mission on creating a political horizon can succeed without the active involvement of the Saudis and Egyptians who are critical at the backing of compromises, including the key issue of whether refugees cannot just-whether they’ll be able to go of course to a Palestinian state, but whether the Palestinians will insist they go to Israel. This is a deal breaker. Compromise on this issue would enable Israel to also make concessions on the peer editorial (ph) issue which would be serious. Therefore, without Arab backing, Abbas is unlikely to succeed and the political horizon will fail.
In the wake of the Mecca accord, as the Saudis lead from the back stage to the center stage when it comes to Middle East diplomacy, one of my key conclusions is a belief that there’s a need for high-level urgent U.S.-Saudi consultations about whether the two countries share a common outlook towards peacemaking. A benign interpretation of Riyadh’s intentions is that the Saudis realize the risk of radicalism and are ready to take the plunge into Arab-Israeli peacemaking. According to this view, there is a changing regional context that could create opportunities. There is little doubt that the Saudis, along with Egypt and Jordan where I just visited, fear that an ascendant Iran of envious existing order, and if Iran pursues nuclear weapons, this could change the balance of power in the Middle East.
The wake-up call was last summer between the war between Israel and Hizbullah. But there’s also a less benign interpretation. It states that what is driving Saudi Arabia now is sectarianism without the pursuit of Arab Israeli peace. Under this view, Riyadh has no problem supporting Hamas’ program so long as they are sitting and can keep uranium money and spare of influence at bay. Therefore, it would be critical for the U.S. to explore Saudi objectives and strategies.
Moreover, for a political horizon to succeed, one needs to consider whether Riyadh and Cairo are willing to do something they were not willing to do in 2000 at the time of the Camp David in July and the Clinton Parameters in December. Namely, they need to provide that requisite political cover for Abbas to compromise it. If they do not, unlike 2000, I would urge that they need to know that from the United State that they had be politically exposed for failure to do their share.
In short and in conclusion, if the Bush Administration is really serious about a political horizon, it needs to have a dialogue not just with the Israelis and the Palestinians but also with our Arab friends to discern the depth of their commitment to peacemaking in a very specific way. The Mecca experience suggests that not everyone is on the same page to put it mildly. This is not a good omen, as peacemaking requires broad support. But without such assistance, there is little prospect that Secretary Rice could succeed, but instead her mission could constitute motion without movement.
Thank you very much.
REP. ACKERMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Makovsky.
AMB. MARK INDYK: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to address this subcommittee. I want to begin by congratulating you on assuming, the chair, and it’s very good to see you in that position.
There is a strange disconnect, which I think you, Mr. Chairman, know and refer to in your opening remarks, between the initiative that the secretary of state is about to embark upon for peacemaking in the Middle East and the reality on the ground. And that disconnect seems certain to end such that it’s futile. So why then is she engaging? I think as David has suggested, she sees and she speaks of a new opportunity emerging from the war in Lebanon last summer when Israel and Saudi Arabia, in particular, found themselves on the same side for once against Hezbollah and Iran. And it is this emerging threat from Iran, the sense that Iran’s rise in the region, is generating a common threat to both Sunni moderate Arab leaders and to Israel. That, I think, is what gives the secretary the sense that there may be an opportunity here.
Since all these neighbors face a common threat from Iran, the assumption is that they have a common interest in working together. But such a virtual alliance can only cohere if there is a basis for the Sunni leaders, particularly King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, to demonstrate that he has a justification for co-habiting with Israel, and there the glue of this virtual alliance is progress on an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
That kind of new opportunity is something that she is now trying to take advantage of through this idea of developing a political horizon of a two state solution that would give Israelis and Palestinians a better sense of what they can expect at the end of the peace process: what the approximate borders of the Palestinian state might look like; whether refugees would have a right of return to Israel or not; what would happen to the major settlement blocks; how could you reasonably become the capital of two states? This is the kind of agenda which I believe she wants to discuss in talks with Prime Minister Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas.
Ironically, this is what President Clinton intended to do at the end of his administration when you proposed the Clinton Parameters for an Israeli-Palestinian final status agreement. The difference between the secretary’s political horizon and President Clinton’s Parameters is likely to be very little indeed. I believe that the secretary deserves Congressional support for this effort, not just because of its closeness to the Clinton approach, which I had a role in helping define. It’s rather because defining the end-game of peace negotiations with greater granularity has been sorely missing from the Bush Administration’s approach over the last six years.
It is absent from the Roadmap of the Quartet which defines the phases through which the parties must pass, but is silent on what awaits them on the other side. That has done little to assuage Israeli fears that Congressman Sherman referred to, that the Palestinian state that might emerge will merely be a spring board for further efforts to destroy the Jewish state. And it’s done little to persuade the Palestinians that the state that President Bush has offered them will be viable, contiguous, and independent.
Defining a political horizon can therefore boost confidence in the process and enable the Israeli-Palestinian leaderships to better justify the painful steps that would have to be taken along the way. It is not a substitute for the Roadmap but rather a complement to it and a means of encouraging the long delayed journey along it by both sides. All of this should be welcome news.
But the secretary’s initiative comes late in the game when the ground seems unfertile for this new effort. My colleague, Dave Makovsky, has already referred to the weakness of both Prime Minister Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas, the secretary of state’s partners in this new effort. I think that Olmert’s first priority is to ensure his own political survival.
He has to stabilize his government, and without doing that he cannot pursue a peace process which is inherently destabilizing because of the secretary’s idea that they should now discuss the politically (fraught ?) of issues of settlements, refugees, Jerusalem, etcetera. At a minimum, I think he will want to wait at least until the Labor Party leadership contest is resolved at the end of May And he may have a different partner in the Labor Party leader and defense minister to work with.
On the other side, President Mahmoud Abbas is engaged in his own struggle for survival with Hamas. To head off an incipient civil war in Gaza, Abu Mazen, Mahmoud Abbas, has now, as we know, joined forces with Hamas in this National Unity Government. Hamas in the process has considered some important portfolios in the Interior, Finance and Foreign Ministries. It no longer has the majority in the cabinet, the 15 of the portfolios are not in Hamas’ hands-that’s 15 out of 24. It only has nine now.
But he has not yielded on its fundamental principles that it will not recognize Israel nor forswear violence and terrorism, it calls resistance. So in these circumstances, how can the secretary and Prime Minister Olmert engage with Abu Mazen? From a legal standpoint, Abu Mazen, as Chairman of the PLO, has the legal authority to negotiate with Israel. All the previous negotiations with Israel were conducted by Israel, the government of Israel, and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
They were not conducted with the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority is a product of the agreements that were struck during those negotiations. And Israel still, from a legal standpoint, is dealing with the PLO when it comes to negotiations, especially final status negotiations. So he’s fully empowered to negotiate with Israel, and one option, the option that I think both Prime Minister Olmert and the secretary of state are going to take, is simply to ignore the fact that Hamas is now in a cohabitation agreement with Abu Mazen as they conduct these talks about the political horizon.
But Prime Minister Olmert’s rivals are not going to be willing to ignore the cohabitation agreement, and they will surely argue that any concession he makes, even a concession in principle to Abu Mazen, will be concessions now made to his Hamas partner as well. And on the other side, any understanding that Abu Mazen might reach with Olmert and Rice that concedes anything to Israel is likely to be denounced by Hamas, his partner, as a betrayal of Palestinian rights. So in those circumstances, it’s difficult to see how these discussions can really move forward given the political jeopardy involved.
Beyond that, (one would have thought ?) Abu Mazen does not have the capability to deliver on any commitments he might make in the peace process. Hamas is now systematically establishing a failed terror state in Gaza. In the West Bank, it’s a little different. Hamas is very weak there, thanks to the systematic efforts of the Israel Defense Forces over the last four years to destroy its infrastructure of terror. But Abu Mazen will need to restructure, train, and equip security forces loyal to the presidency before he can assume responsibility there for any territory from which the Israeli Army might withdraw.
Because American influence in the Middle east has been so weakened by the debacle in Iraq, Secretary Rice is no longer able to wield it in a way that might compensate for the weakness of local partners. And without presidential engagement, it’s difficult to imagine that she could overcome the formidable obstacles to real progress in any negotiation. But it’s hard to believe that this president is now likely to develop, to devote in his reigning years a kind of effort involved to a peacemaking endeavor, which frankly speaking, I don’t think he has ever really believed in. But having said all of that, I don’t think the situation is as bleak as it appears on the surface.
And the reason for that is because there are unusual alliances, tacit alliances now emerging precisely as a result of Iran’s power play in the region. The first is between Prime Minister Olmert and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah cannot accept Iranian, Shia, Persian hegemony in the region, and the only way that he can counter it, I believe, is by showing that a path of moderation and peacemaking can provide a better future for the Arab world.
And for Prime Minister Olmert, Saudi involvement in peacemaking can help to compensate for the Israeli public’s disillusionment with the Palestinians as partners. King Abdullah’s offer to Israel of real peace and modernization with the Arab world, contained in his and the Arab League’s Peace Initiative of 2002, if lent real credibility by Saudi direct engagement with Israel, could boost Olmert’s ability to sell a West Bank withdrawal to Israelis who are keen to be rid of the burden of occupation but don’t see a credible Arab partner to take responsibility for it.
The second unusual emerging partnership is between Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian leader, like his Saudi counterpart, is threatened by Iranian backing for Hamas, Iranian control over Palestine Islamic Jihad, and even renegades in Abu Mazen’s own Fatah Party.
Iran is now blocking an Egyptian-brokered effort to get a prisoner swap that would release the Israeli prisoners held both by Hamas and by Hezbollah. Iran is financing Hamas’s takeover of Gaza, and Hamas is now training its cadres, both in Tehran and in Gaza.
Olmert understands, therefore, that it is in Israel’s interest to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas in his struggle with Iran and Hamas. That’s why he handed over $100 million in Palestinian tax revenues; that’s why he agreed to Egypt’s transfer of weapons to Abbas’s security forces, and that’s why he’s using the Israeli army systematically to destroy Hamas’s infrastructure in the West Bank.
It’s too early, Mr. Chairman, for these emerging partnerships to yield a viable peace negotiation. But it’s not too early, in my view, for a newly engaged secretary of State to start to put those building blocks in place.
Sustaining a conversation with Abbas and Olmert about a political horizon is just one of those blocks.
The United States still needs to make a serious effort to rebuild the capabilities of the Palestinian president, particularly in the security realm, while I still think that Congress should go ahead with the security package that the administration is now seeking, albeit with the kinds of benchmarks and assurances and transparency about where the money will go that could give some assurance that it is not going to end up in the hands of Hamas or security forces under Hamas’s control.
And the secretary of State-I agree here with David Makovsky-needs to carefully orchestrate this virtual alliance between moderate Sunni Arab leaders and Israel, so that the Arab states are more visibly and actively involved in bolstering a process they claim to care so much about.
Who knows, Mr. Chairman, from these modest beginnings, nurtured by a common Iranian threat and the hope of peace that still lies in many Israeli and Palestinian hearts, great things may eventually grow.
Thank you very much.
REP. ACKERMAN: Thank you, Ambassador.
MR. PIPES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Ranking Member Pence.
I’m in broad agreement with almost everything that has been said. What I’d like to do is complement it by looking at what one might call the big picture.
You asked in the title of this hearing, “Next Steps in the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process.” I shall argue three points: First, the peace negotiations have so far been so counterproductive, they could better be called a war process; that their failure results from an Israeli conceptual error 15 years ago about the nature of warfare; and third, that the U.S. government should urge Jerusalem to forgo negotiations and instead return to its earlier policy of deterrence.
So first, Mr. Chairman, to review the peace process.
It is embarrassing to recall today the elation and expectations that accompanied the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993 when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands with Yasser Arafat. For some time after this, “The Handshake,” as it was known, served as a symbol of brilliant diplomacy, whereby each side achieved what it most wanted – — dignity and autonomy for the Palestinians; recognition and security for the Israelis.
President Clinton lauded that deal as, quote, “a great occasion of history,” unquote. Yasser Arafat called it, quote, “An historic event, inaugurating a new epoch,” unquote. Shimon Peres, the prime minister of Israel, discerned in it, quote, “the outline of peace in the Middle East,” unquote.
These heady expectations were then grievously disappointed. Before Oslo, when Palestinians still lived under Israeli control, they benefited from the rule of law and a growing economy independent of international welfare. They enjoyed functioning schools and hospitals; they traveled without checkpoints and had free access to Israeli territory. They even founded universities.
Terrorism was declining as acceptance of Israel increased. However, then came Oslo, which brought Palestinians not peace but tyranny, failed institutions, poverty, corruption, a death cult, suicide factories, and Islamist radicalization.
Yasser Arafat early on promised that the West Bank and Gaza would evolve into what he called, quote, “the Singapore of the Middle East,” unquote, but the reality that he shaped became a nightmare of dependence, inhumanity and loathing.
As for the Israelis, for them Oslo brought unprecedented terrorism. If the two hands in the Rabin-Arafat handshake symbolize Oslo’s early hopes, it is the two bloody hands of a young Palestinian male who had just lynched Israeli reservists in Ramallah in October 2000 that represented its dismal end.
Oslo provoked deep internal rifts and harmed Israel’s standing internationally. Israelis watched helplessly as Palestinian rage spiraled upwards, spawning such moral perversions as the United Nations World Conference against Racism in Durban in 2001. That rage also re-opened among Westerners the issue of Israel’s continued existence, especially on the hard left. From Israel’s perspective, seven years of Oslo diplomacy undid 45 years’ success in warfare.
Palestinians and Israelis agree on little, but they concur that Oslo was a disaster.
Now, why was it a disaster? Where did things to so badly wrong? Why did the war-the peace process turn into a war process? Where lay the flaws in promising-in so promising an agreement?
Of its many errors-and I think all analysts will agree there are many-the ultimate mistake lay in Yitzhak Rabin’s misunderstanding of how a war ends. And it’s revealed in his catchphrase; what he said repeatedly: “One does not make war with one’s friends. One makes”-I’m sorry; do that again. “One does not make peace with one’s friends. One makes peace with one’s enemy.”
The Israeli prime minister implied by this that wars concluded through a mix of goodwill, conciliation, concessions, mediation, flexibility, restraint, generosity and compromise, all topped off with signatures on official documents. In this spirit, his government initiated an array of concessions, hoping that the Palestinians would reciprocate, but they did not. Those concessions, in fact, made matters worse.
Still in a war mode, Palestinians understood the Israeli efforts to “make peace” as signals, instead, of demoralization and of weakness. The concessions reduced Palestinian awe of Israel, made it appear vulnerable, and incited irredentist dreams of its annihilation. Each Oslo-negotiated gesture by Israel further exhilarated, radicalized, and mobilized the Palestinian body politic. The quiet hope of 1993 to eliminate Israel gained traction, becoming a deafening demand by the year 2000.
Rabin ensured-made a shattering mistake, which his successors then repeated. One does not in fact make peace with one’s enemy; one makes peace with one’s former enemy-former enemy. Peace nearly always requires one side in a conflict to give up its goals by being defeated. Rather than vainly trying to close down a war through goodwill, the way to end a war, Mr. Chairman, is by winning it.
“War is an act of violence to compel the enemy to fulfill our will.” That’s what the Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz wrote in 1832. War is an act of violence to compel the enemy to fulfill our will. And however much technological advancement there’s been in the nearly two centuries since he wrote that, the basic insight remains valid. Victory consists of imposing one’s will on the enemy by compelling him to give up his war goals. Wars usually end when one side gives up its hope of winning; when its will to fight has been crushed.
Arabs and Israelis since 1948 have pursued static and binary goals. Arabs have fought to eliminate Israel; Israelis have fought to win their neighbors’ acceptance. The details have varied over the decades, with multiple ideologies, strategies, leading actors and so forth, but the goals have barely changed. The Arabs have pursued their war aims with patience, determination and purpose. In response, Israelis sustained a formidable record of strategic vision and tactical brilliance in the period 1948 to 1993.
Over time, however, as Israel developed into a vibrant, modern, democratic country, its populace grew impatient with the humiliating, slow, tedious task of convincing Arabs to accept their political existence. By now, almost no one in Israel sees victory as the goal; no major political figure on the scene today calls for victory in war. Since 1993, in brief, Mr. Chairman, the Arabs have sought victory while Israelis have sought compromise.
It is my view that he who does not win loses. To survive, Israelis must eventually return to the 1990 — pre-1993 — policy of establishing that Israel is strong, tough and permanent, the policy of deterrence. The long, boring, difficult, bitter and expensive task of convincing Palestinians and others that the Jewish state is permanent and that dreams of eliminating it are doomed.
This will not be quick or easy. Perceptions of Israel’s weakness due to terrible missteps during the Oslo years and even after, such as the Gaza withdrawal of 2005, have sunk into Palestinian consciousness and will presumably require decades of effort to reverse. Nor will it be pretty. Defeat in war typically entails experiencing the bitter crucible of deprivation, failure and despair.
I look at this process, Mr. Chairman, through a simple prism. Any development that encourages Palestinians to think they can eliminate Israel is negative; any development that encourages them to give up that goal is positive. The Palestinians’ defeat will be recognizable when, over a protracted period and with complete consistency, they prove that they have accepted Israel.
My third and final point: American policy.
Like all outsiders to the conflict, Americans face a stark choice. Do we endorse the Palestinian goal of eliminating Israel, or do we endorse the Israeli goal of winning its neighbors’ acceptance?
To state this choice is to make clear that there is no choice-the first is offensive in intent; the second defensive. No decent person can endorse the Palestinians’ goal of eliminating their neighbor, and along with every president since Harry S Truman and every congressional resolution and vote since then, the 110th Congress must continue to stand with Israel in its drive to win its acceptance.
Not only is this an obvious moral choice, but I think it’s important to add that a Palestinian defeat at Israel’s hands is actually the best thing that had ever happened to them. Compelling Palestinians finally to give up on their foul, irredentist dream would liberate them to focus on their own polity, economy, society and culture.
Palestinians need to experience the certitude of defeat to become a normal people-one where parents stop celebrating their children becoming suicide terrorists; where something matters beyond the evil obsession of anti-Zionist rejectionism. Americans especially need to understand Israel’s predicament and help it win its war, for the U.S. government has, obviously, a vital role in this theater.
My analysis implies a radically different approach for the Bush administration, and for this Congress.
On the negative side, it implies that Palestinians must be led to understand that benefits will flow only after they prove their acceptance of Israel. Until then, no diplomacy, no discussion of final status, no recognition as a state and certainly no financial aid or weapons.
On the positive side, the administration and Congress should work with Israel, the Arab states and others to induce the Palestinians to accept Israel’s existence by convincing them the gig is up-the gig is up-that they have lost.
Diplomacy aiming to shut down the Arab-Israeli conflict is premature until Palestinians give up their hideous anti-Zionist obsession. When that moment arrives, negotiations can re-open with the issues of the 1990s-borders, resources, armaments, sanctities, residential rights-taken up anew. But that moment is years or decades away. In the meantime, a war needs to be won.
REP. ACKERMAN: Wow. I guess we picked the right panel.
REP. BERMAN: Please excuse the interruption, but did I hear Dr. Pipes say that he agrees with almost everything that the previous two witnesses said?
REP. ACKERMAN: Yes, we heard that, but we didn’t hear whether the two previous witnesses agreed with Dr. Pipes. (Laughter.)
Well, let me say at the outset, the chair anticipates a second round of questions, having not begun the first round yet. I thank the three distinguished witnesses for their powerful testimony. Let’s see if we can sort some of this out.
It occurred to me, listening both to myself and my colleagues, as well as the panel, that it was hard to pick out a positive sentence or word with regard to the Palestinians in general. Negative comments were addressed to the Palestinian leadership or a generic-generically, the Palestinians.
Do the Palestinians have legitimate rights and concerns, and in the end, should they get their own state?
Let me start with Mr. Makovsky.
MR. MAKOVSKY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Peel Commission. The Royal Peel Commission was trying to decide what to do with the land of Palestine and how you could really reconcile the aims of these two different peoples. And I think that their conclusion is the only conclusion, frankly, and that is there has to be a partition.
One can argue, you know, with the success of Oslo, certainly, but I think the concept of partition is the core. And, you know, there’s just too much history and too little geography, and basically, they’re going to have to split that land.
And therefore I argue that both sides deserve what I would call a moral legitimacy; that they both have come home-you know, the Jews to Israel, or Palestinians to Palestine-and they both have legitimate rights.
I think on the positive side of the ledger, there’s some very impressive people at the top of the PA. I think of Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, who spent 20 years at the International Monetary Fund, and he’s a world-class economist. I think they have some very, you know, credible, talented people, but I just fear, as I tried to say in my remarks, that the Mecca agreement, unfortunately, instead of bringing the best talent forward in the new hope for reconciliation and partition, I feel greatly complicates the matter right now.
REP. ACKERMAN: Thank you.
MR. INDYK: Yes, the Palestinians have legitimate rights as a people.
I remember the formula adopted by Moshe Dayan, former defense minister and foreign minister of Israel, when he said, “The Palestinians should have the right to determine their own future, but they should be denied the right to determine Israel’s future.” And I think that is the heart of the matter here.
President Bush has articulated what President Clinton before him developed, the notion of two states for two people, which David was referring to when he talked about the only solution being to divide the land between these two people, because it has been, from its inception, a contest between two national rights and claims.
But the heart of the matter is that the Palestinians must come to accept that they will have their state and their right to self- determination if they are prepared, in return, to live alongside the Jewish state of Israel in peace. And that’s what the peace processes in their various forms have been trying to address: trying to find a way, on the one hand, to get the Palestinians to the point where they would accept this compromise deal.
And one has to say, Mr. Chairman, that the Israelis have tried looking for other solutions but they, too, have come back to this basic formula. And it wasn’t just the Labor Party or the — (inaudible). It has indeed become the policy of the right-wing party of Likud as well that the Palestinians should have a state.
That policy was introduced by none other than Ariel Sharon who, after he tried all the other alternatives, including-one might say to Daniel-including trying to achieve victory through war. But in the end, every Israeli leader, of the right or the left, has eventually come around, including Menachem Begin, for that matter, to accepting that the Palestinians do have legitimate rights. The challenge is to find a way to give expression to that in concrete terms that does not threaten Israel’s existence and future.
REP. ACKERMAN: Dr. Pipes, knowing if you agree with the other two-
MR. PIPES: Again, we do agree.
Martin just said that – he paraphrased Moshe Dayan that the Palestinians can’t determine Israel’s right, and he concurs with it, and I concur with it. Where we differ is on the tactics to get there. And these are major differences, but our goal is the same: The Palestinians must accept Israel. That, I think, we-everyone who’s spoken so far concurs with.
Now the question is: How do we get there?
I believe Martin has said that the war hasn’t worked, and I said the peace process hasn’t worked. Take your pick which one, again, that hasn’t worked. (Laughs.) Nobody can claim that a great deal has worked here.
I, too, concur with partition is ultimately the way forward. My major difference from my fellow panelists is I believe there should be no-absolutely no-discussion of final status before the Palestinians have accepted Israel-no rewarding of their irredentist ambitions; no discussions with them while they still have this, while they’re still engaged in murder, while they’re still attacking their neighbor, while their children are still being taught in schoolbooks and the television and the wall posters and the mass sermons and the media and the politicians speeches all agree that there can be no Israel. So long as that’s the case, there can be no discussion of final status.
But in principle, yes; partition is fine.
REP. ACKERMAN: In your statement you state that division pretty clearly, saying that diplomacy, final status negotiations, recognition, economic and security assistance should wait until the Palestinians, quote, “prove their acceptance of Israel.”
I guess I come back to two questions.
The last one was the first question that I asked, and that was, at that time, should they be getting a state? But the first question I have to ask is: How do they prove their acceptance? What, to you, would constitute proof of their acceptance? Do they sign public oaths or make public statements? Do they have to give to the UJA?
MR. PIPES: No, they do not have to become lovers of Zion, but they do have to permanently accept it. They must overhaul their education system to take out the demonization of Jews in Israel. They should tell the truth about Jewish ties to Jerusalem, stop inculcating hatred of Jews, and accept normal commercial, cultural and human relations with Israelis.
They can have their differences with Israel; they can disagree with its policies and dislike those aspects of it, but they must not engage in violence against it. And they must not engage in violence in a systematic and a consistent way over a protracted period, and then to look beyond violence to a shift in society-the sort of things that were expected in 1993, with that signing on the White House lawn: that this was a new dawn and that the hatred that one heard before would be gone. But, in fact, there’s more hatred since 1993 than before 1993.
REP. ACKERMAN: Mr. Ambassador?
MR. INDYK: Could I?
REP. ACKERMAN: I think we’ve provoked something here.
MR. INDYK: Could I, Mr. Chairman, just very quickly?
REP. ACKERMAN: Ambassador Indyk.
MR. INDYK: If we accepted Daniel’s requirements, then I think a fair case could be made that Abu Mazen, the Palestinian president-who’s the elected Palestinian president-has met all of those requirements, including removing, once he became president, ending the incitement of Israel in the Palestinian media and beginning the process of dealing with the demonization of Israel in Palestinian curricula.
He has led the effort to bring the Palestinians around to acceptance of Israel; he has a clear history of having done that over a period of the last 25 years; he has not played a double game like Yasser Arafat did. And so that’s why I think that, as I said, the Israelis are prepared to deal with Abu Mazen, prepared to accept that he does accept Israel’s right to exist, not just its existence.
The problem is he doesn’t have the capabilities to enforce his will. He is, as we all agree, I think, weak, and the challenge, therefore, is to see whether it’s possible to ensure that he does get the capability so that his way can prevail.
REP. ACKERMAN: I’ve run the clock on myself, but David, quickly?
MR. MAKOVSKY: Mr. Chairman, I-in my remarks I tried to make clear-and this is where I guess I differ from Daniel-I don’t see by putting forward the horizon when you make the trade-offs on the final deal, it’s not the same thing as implementing the final deal. That’s why I think it was important that — (inaudible) — and Rice have both talked about the road map would remain, and then the first stage of the road map has to deal with the incitement issues, dismantle the militias.
I think if you at least demonstrate to people here’s the light at the end of the tunnel, they might take the journey. And I think Israel wants to know this, too, and not engage in salami tactics, you know, making these concessions without any sort of context.
At the same time, I guess where Daniel and I would differ is I think the time is not necessarily a neutral variable. I see the Islamist wave in the Middle East; I see it with great alarm. And I think its necessary to say that if you just put this issue in the freezer for 20 years that everyone is better off-I mean that