I believe that walking away from an active role in the Middle East
within the first couple of days of taking office, when President
Bill Clinton had been incredibly close to achieving an
Israeli-Palestinian agreement, was a terrible mistake by President
George W. Bush - his second mistake, naturally, being his actions
in the aftermath of 9/11 and, particularly, the invasion of
Jokingly, had it not been for my own defeat in the 1988 U.S.
presidential election against George H.W. Bush, the current state
of affairs and, specifically, George W. Bush would not be
The idea of a possible Israeli-Palestinian confederation does not
make sense if it is not preceded by a two-state solution (see "The
Israeli-Palestinian Confederation Proposal" by Josef Avesar in the
Palestine-Israel Journal, Vol. 14 No. 2, 2007 devoted to Future
Options - ed.).
For a Palestinian State with Viable Borders alongside Israel
An absolute precondition to the idea of confederation is two viable
governments in Israel and Palestine. Nothing the United States does
in the Middle East will make a difference if there is no solution
to the Palestinian problem. There must be a Palestinian state, with
borders, alongside the state of Israel.
It is preposterous for a U.S. president to go over to the Middle
East and lecture the people about democracy, but people are more
receptive to activity by the Quartet (U.S., United Nations,
European Union and Russia). The idea that the U.S. itself can
broker a deal is not feasible. The Quartet's Middle East envoy,
former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is doing a good job, but
it has to be a collective effort.
The EU Is the Historical Precedent for an Israeli-Palestinian
Concerning the idea of an Israeli-Palestinian confederation, there
is a historical precedent for this. In 1950, following World War
II, Jean Monnet and six European countries initiated the European
Coal and Steel Community. This evolved into the European Economic
Community, and now the European Union (EU). They now have a court
system which looks after humanitarian law, a common currency and
much more. But first there were six independent sovereign states. A
similar process can be the basis for a future Israeli-Palestinian
At the Taba discussions between Israelis and Palestinians, which
took place in 2001, they agreed on the idea of an international
fund which would help to finance components of a solution to the
conflict. That would definitely be one way to build trust between
the sides. It can be started by dealing with the social services,
perhaps not tackling the most difficult of problems first - but
investing in health care, publicly funded projects, aspects that
both sides need and require. We should not begin with the question
of the future of Jerusalem, whether it should be divided or not,
which is admittedly an incredibly difficult problem.
If You Don't Talk to Your Enemies, You Won't Make Peace
We have been absent without leave in the Middle East for the past
seven years. The basis for discussion is there. If you don't talk
to your enemies, you're not going to make peace. You need to have
dialogue. You're not going to make peace if you don't concede
anything - you need to have an open mind.
I believe that a future Democrat president will be much more
involved in the negotiations to realize these goals.