Zbigniew Brzezinski and Stephen Solarz write in the Washington Post:
More than three decades ago, Israeli statesman Moshe Dayan, speaking about an Egyptian town that controlled Israel’s only outlet to the Red Sea, declared that he would rather have Sharm el-Sheikh without peace than peace without Sharm el-Sheikh. Had his views prevailed, Israel and Egypt would still be in a state of war. Today, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, with his pronouncements about the eternal and undivided capital of Israel, is conveying an updated version of Dayan’s credo — that he would rather have all of Jerusalem without peace than peace without all of Jerusalem.
This is unfortunate, because a comprehensive peace agreement is in the interest of all parties. It is in the U.S. national interest because the occupation of the West Bank and the enforced isolation of the Gaza Strip increases Muslim resentment toward the United States, making it harder for the Obama administration to pursue its diplomatic and military objectives in the region. Peace is in the interest of Israel; its own defense minister, Ehud Barak, recently said that the absence of a two-state solution is the greatest threat to Israel’s future, greater even than an Iranian bomb. And an agreement is in the interest of the Palestinians, who deserve to live in peace and with the dignity of statehood.
However, a routine unveiling of a U.S. peace proposal, as is reportedly under consideration, will not suffice. Only a bold and dramatic gesture in a historically significant setting can generate the political and psychological momentum needed for a major breakthrough. Anwar Sadat’s courageous journey to Jerusalem three decades ago accomplished just that, paving the way for the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt.
Similarly, President Obama should travel to the Knesset in Jerusalem and the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah to call upon both sides to negotiate a final status agreement based on a specific framework for peace. He should do so in the company of Arab leaders and members of the Quartet, the diplomatic grouping of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations that is involved in the peace process. A subsequent speech by Obama in Jerusalem’s Old City, addressed to all the people in the region and evocative of his Cairo speech to the Muslim world in June 2009, could be the culminating event in this journey for peace.
Meanwhile, Aaron David Miller thinks the Obama administration seems intent on pushing Netanyahu out of the way.
There’s a widespread view — almost a conviction in Washington these days — that Netanyahu just isn’t capable of reaching a deal, and that the Palestinians and Arabs will never trust him. So why expend months of effort starting a process with Netanyahu that you can’t possibly conclude with him?
The remedy, if regime change is the goal, is to hang tough on settlements, create conditions for starting negotiations that are reasonable but that Netanyahu’s coalition can’t accept, and not-so-subtly suggest that Netanyahu can’t be a real partner in a peace process. The administration’s recent leak that it’s considering putting out its own peace plan will only further undermine any chance of partnership.
Sooner or later, the thinking goes, it would become clear in Israel that the prime minister can’t manage the nation’s most important relationship, and that he is putting settlements above Israeli security at a time when the Iranian threat looms large and close ties with the U.S. are more important than ever. The American hope would be that public and political pressure would mount, forcing Netanyahu to broaden his government or even impelling a change at the top.
The only problem with this line of thinking is that the odds of success are slim to none.