Aaron David Miller on Greenblatt’s Israel Visit

Aaron David Miller shared his thoughts about Greenblatt’s Israel visit in a phone interview with Jewish Insider:

“The real issue is not the man or woman in the middle – between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It’s not important whether it’s Greenblatt or Kushner or John Kerry or whomever. The central problem is that the Israelis and Palestinian leaders are not willing or able to make the kind of decisions required to sustain a meaningful peace process that could actually – even if it’s done in phases – create the basis for the least worst outcome, which is two states. And until they own the process with a vision and a set of tactics that are aligned with one another, we are talking here about – at best – managing the problem.”

On Trump’s ME policy: “If you take a look at Mr. Trump’s statements before the AIPAC speech (last March) they are rather extraordinary.  No presidential candidate I am familiar with ever said the kinds of statements he said – about being neutral, about Israel maybe giving back some of the aid we provide them and about not addressing the issue of moving the embassy to Jerusalem etc. Some of those statements reflected Mr. Trump’s instincts as a negotiator. So it may well be that his instincts collide with his political moves. I don’t know where he is, obviously. I would say that this administration is doing a couple of things that are better than the previous administration. 1) I think they are smart in avoiding, publicly, boxing in the Israelis on settlements. 2) They are smart in wanting to engage the Arab world. 3) They are smart in not focusing on a process trying to deal with the core issues. All of that strikes me as learning something from the mistakes of the Obama administration.”

“But here is the key question: have they also learned that if they really do want to resolve this problem then at some point nothing is going to substitute for an Israeli-Palestinian negotiation to deal with the core issues? You cannot use the bottom-up approach or the top-down approach with the Arabs to somehow get around the central issue. Because the central problem is still that neither Abbas nor Bibi are prepared to take the kind of steps required to change the environment, even over time, and then engage on the issues so that a third party could somehow find a way to bridge the gaps.”

“And the other thing is, even if Bibi could reach an agreement with Naftali Bennett and even if the U.S. and the Israelis could hammer out some understanding on where to build in the settlements and what to do about East Jerusalem. Even if you could do all that, you still then have to take those understandings and make them functional by selling them to the Arabs and the Palestinians. Because only if you do that, and the Palestinians reciprocate with steps of their own, that will make the whole structure stable.”

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