US Role in Resolving the Conflict

Our Policy

In the wake of the latest breakdown in negotiations and the deadly spiral of violence that has subsequently erupted, J Street is urging the United States not to walk away from the effort to resolve the conflict but to step forward in bold and creative ways. In particular, J Street strongly believes the time has come for the United States to put forward its own plan – specifically a set of parameters for a negotiated resolution to end this conflict.

While Secretary Kerry has talked about making public the progress said to have been made in talks this past year, J Street is recommending something different – laying out an American position on the core issues to serve as a benchmark against which the parties and the publics on both sides can judge their positions. We would urge the Secretary to build broad-based international support behind the American ideas as well – to make clear to both parties that these ideas represent the consensus of the broader global community – from the European Union to the Arab League – on how best to resolve the conflict.

At the beginning of the last decade, President Clinton laid out his own parameters before leaving office, but specified that they were not American policy. In 2002, a group of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators acting in their private capacities laid out a complete peace agreement known as the Geneva Accord. Together with the Arab Peace Initiative, these frameworks have established for the past decade important benchmarks for discussions about a possible end-of-conflict agreement.

We believe the time has come for the United States to update that benchmark in light of changes on the ground and in the parties’ thinking over the past decade. The parties should be offered the chance to resume negotiations on the basis of those parameters. A clear statement by the United States of its position can be both a prod to the two sides to seriously debate what they are ready to do and what it will take to end the conflict, and it can serve as a standard against which the Israeli and Palestinian publics – as well as the international community – can judge the seriousness of both parties.

J Street has therefore called on the Obama administration to put forward its own position on all the final status issues, to build international consensus behind them and to ask the parties to return to negotiations on the basis of its parameters.

Tough Questions

Why is a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a major national security interest for the United States?

The conflict continues to threaten the security of Israel, the number one American ally and supporter in the region. It also threatens to undermine and erode key elements of Israel’s democracy and democratic values, which form the basis for the strong US-Israel relationship.

Achieving a two-state solution is the best way to secure Israel’s borders and its future as the democratic homeland for the Jewish people, and to cut down on a source of violence, animosity, and instability that has exacerbated conflict in the region and inhibited greater regional cooperation between the US, Israel, and other regional allies. It is the best way to secure a peaceful and prosperous future for millions of Palestinians, and to head off the further spread of anti-American and anti-Israel extremism.

Isn’t it the responsibility of Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the conflict between themselves? Why should the United States be involved?

The resolution of the conflict is a major national security interest for the US. It is true that only the Israelis and Palestinians themselves can ultimately agree to end the conflict – no outside party can impose a solution. Yet the parties can greatly benefit from outside assistance that helps to build confidence, address tough issues and bridge gaps.

By laying out suggestions and fully engaging in international peace efforts, the United States can create more fertile ground and propitious conditions for negotiations. Far from imposing a solution, proactive US leadership can help to make negotiations between the two sides more likely to succeed.

How can the US play a fair and constructive role in facilitating peace negotiations between the two sides while also maintaining its special relationship with Israel?

Reaching a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a vital national security interest for Israel. By strongly supporting a two-state solution and helping the parties to resolve the conflict, the United States is acting in the best interests of Israel and on the basis of the core principles underlying the US-Israel alliance.

At the same time, the US is acting in the best interests of the Palestinian people, who deserve self-determination and independence in a state of their own.

Does ‘daylight’ between the US and Israeli government threaten the special relationship?

The alliance between the US and Israel is as strong as it’s ever been, with greater military and security cooperation between the two countries than ever before.

A truly productive alliance means honest and open dialogue designed to acknowledge and respond to challenges that confront our two countries. As a close ally, the US must reserve the right to confront Israel when it feels that it is acting counterproductively against its own interests or core values, or against the prospects for peace.

The strength of the US-Israel relationship cannot and should not rely on unconditional support. Debate over Israeli policies is healthy and open in Israel, and that is how it should be here, in our Congress and in our community.