Sunday, January 28, 2007

CARTER'S PALESTINE: Badly Flawed with a Large Kernel of Truth, Gidon D. Remba, Israel Horizons, Meretz USA Quarterly Magazine, Winter 2007

CARTER’S ‘PALESTINE’: Badly Flawed with a Large Kernel of Truth
by Gidon D. Remba

Serious factual errors mar ex-president’s analysis.

PALESTINE: PEACE NOT APARTHEID by Jimmy Carter, Simon & Schuster, 264 pages, $27.

As Published in Israel Horizons, Meretz USA Quarterly Magazine, Winter 2007

President Jimmy Carter advocates many of the same constructive policies endorsed by moderates on the Zionist left and center in Israel and the American Jewish community: a negotiated Palestinian-Israeli peace under the rubric of the Road Map and the Geneva Initiative, two states for two peoples, an end to the expansion of settlements and the occupation of the West Bank.

Nevertheless, his book is replete with major errors of fact, all systematically biased against Israel. Although Carter himself is no Israel hater, at times he does an uncanny impersonation of one, unfailingly showing deep sympathy for Palestinian perceptions, while displaying little understanding for Israeli attitudes or needs.

Apartheid and Separation Barrier

Before reviewing Carter’s troubling errors, we must give the former president his due. Even with his biases and blunders, Carter unearths a moral truth that many Jews find difficult to face. Carter describes Israel’s 40-year occupation of several million Palestinians in the West Bank as a form of “apartheid.” Despite Carter’s insistence that Israel within the Green Line is a liberal democracy, his use of this word has provoked outrage in the American Jewish community.

Yet many Israelis and American Jews recognize Carter’s kernel of truth. It was, after all, Israel’s own Ehud Olmert, while still Sharon’s deputy prime minister, who warned in 2003 that within a few years Jews risked becoming a minority controlling an Arab majority in the land between the Jordan and the sea. If Israel did not soon leave much of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it would be forced to choose between remaining a Jewish state and a democracy. Eventually, Ariel Sharon himself grudgingly endorsed this view.

Carter concedes some of the salient differences between South African apartheid and what he terms Israel’s “abominable oppression and persecution in the occupied Palestinian territories, with a rigid system of required passes and strict segregation between Palestine’s citizens and Jewish settlers in the West Bank.” He understands that “apartheid in Palestine is not based on racism but the desire of a minority of Israelis for Palestinian land and the resulting suppression of protests that involve violence.”

But Carter’s analogy breaks down in his claim that Israel is constructing an “encircling barrier,” a “segregation wall,”by which it is imposing on the Palestinians a “forced separation” into “Bantustans.” For Carter, this separation recalls the original meaning of the term apartheid – which literally means “apartness” in Afrikaans – segregation, domination and disenfranchisement. Carter writes that “the area along the Jordan River ... is now planned as the eastern leg of the [Israeli] encirclement of the Palestinians....” Yet this proposal to build an “eastern fence” was unceremoniously discarded by Israel some years ago, as reported widely in the Israeli and international media. Still, Carter contends that the eastern barrier is an operative plan. He even includes a map entitled “Palestinians Surrounded 2006” which depicts the fictitious “Proposed Segregation Wall” along the Jordan River, and a vast swath of the Jordan Valley which he labels “Area of Planned Israeli Settlement Control.”

Carter regards all Israeli withdrawal plans from the West Bank that are not total as evidence of bad faith. He overlooks the fact that Olmert is not proposing to withdraw from only 40-50 percent of the West Bank and to annex the rest, as Sharon did. The barrier’s present route places some 9.5 percent of the West Bank on the Israeli side, leaving over 90 percent on the Palestinian side.

Carter misrepresents American jurist Thomas Buergenthal's opinion on the International Court’s ruling against Israel's separation barrier, claiming that his dissent was based largely on "procedural grounds." In fact, Buergenthal objected to the Court's denial of Israel's right to take action in defense of its citizens.

Doug Cassel, director of the Center for International Human Rights at the Northwestern University School of Law, among other legal experts, regarded the decision as “one-sided and imbalanced,” noting that it “virtually ignores the terrorist attacks on Israel, which led to the construction of the barrier.” According to Cassel, the Court’s "lack of evenhandedness prompted protests by four of the 15 judges – from Britain, Japan, the Netherlands and the United States." And its ruling ran counter to the spirit of the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on Israel’s barrier, which called on the Palestinian Authority “to undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt and restrain” terrorist individuals and groups, and confirmed the right of all states, including Israel, “to counter deadly acts of violence against the civilian population.”

International Law

Carter often cites international law as a basis for a just peace. But on this conflict, he cites international law only when it serves his argument, casting it aside when it doesn't. Carter lumps together Israel’s attacks on terrorists with acts of terror against Israeli civilians: "The killing of noncombatants in Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon by bombs, missile attacks, assassinations, or other acts of violence cannot be condoned." These words fail to distinguish ticking bombs and civilians taking part in hostilities — like launch squads in Gaza or Lebanon preparing to fire rockets into Israel, guerrillas who have lost their civilian noncombatant immunity under international law — from Palestinian, Lebanese and Israeli civilians who do not participate in combat and thereby qualify for protection. Article 51(3) of the 1977 Additional Protocol of the Geneva Convention is clear: “Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by this section, unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.”

Carter further conflates the unintended deaths of noncombatant civilians, permitted under the laws of war if the combatant is making reasonable efforts not to harm them, with deliberately targeting civilians with the aim of maximizing harm, as Palestinian suicide bombers and rocket squads always intend.

Despite his record as a humanitarian and an advocate of peace, Carter does not call for an unconditional end to Palestinian "suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism." Instead he says that "It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel."

To be sure, Carter does condemn suicide bombings as morally reprehensible and politically counterproductive for the Palestinians. But he is not prepared to demand a cessation of such heinous acts, which are war crimes, until Israel ends its own violations. Carter's position is at variance with the laws of war, which do not permit one party to commit war crimes on the grounds that the other party is already committing them, or in response to political injustice. Under international humanitarian law, both sides have an independent and unconditional duty to obey the laws of war.

Blame Israel Only

In his concluding summary, he states that "there are two interrelated obstacles to permanent peace in the Middle East" – as if the Palestinian-Israeli conflict were the only source of conflict in the entire region:
"1. Some Israelis believe they have the right to confiscate and colonize Palestinian land and try to justify the sustained subjugation and persecution of increasingly hopeless and aggravated Palestinians; and
2. Some Palestinians react by honoring suicide bombers as martyrs to be rewarded in heaven and consider the killing of Israelis as victories.
In turn Israel responds with retribution and oppression, and militant Palestinians refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Israel and vow to destroy the nation."

Israel's occupation, in Carter eyes, is the primary cause of the conflict, and Palestinian suicide bombings are simply a reaction to Israeli injustice. Indeed, Carter says outright that “Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land.”

But Palestinian rejectionism preceded Israel's occupation and is an independent cause of the conflict. Such violent rejectionism will not evaporate when the occupation ends, but it would be easier to combat if the moderates have won the day.

There are also errors of omission in Carter's book, which are invariably biased against Israel. For example, Carter's chronology omits any mention of the firing of more than 600 rockets by Palestinian militants into southern Israel during the months between Israel's Gaza disengagement and the abduction of Gilad Shalit.

Carter says that "the Palestinians have accepted the Road Map in its entirety, but the Israeli government announced fourteen caveats and prerequisites, some of which would preclude any final peace talks." I agree with Carter that Israel's objections to the Road Map were intended to prevent its implementation so that Sharon could proceed with his unilateral plans. Still, the Palestinians also had major objections to the Road Map and have completely failed to live up to its most central near-term requirement on their conduct: making a sustained effort to disarm terror groups and enforce a truce.

As the US has stated many times, both sides are obliged to fulfill their commitments under the Road Map regardless of the performance of the other. Israel must dismantle the illegal West Bank settlement outposts regardless of whether the Palestinians have disarmed the terror groups, and the Palestinians cannot use Israel's failure to take serious action against the outposts as an excuse for inaction in fulfilling their security obligations.

Clinton, Hamas, Oslo

Carter claims that Barak gave "no clear response" to President Clinton's "final proposal," "but he later stated that Israel had twenty pages of reservations. President Arafat rejected the proposal" —a position which Carter justifies on the grounds that "no Palestinian leader could accept such terms and survive."

Yossi Beilin served in Barak's cabinet at the time. Beilin reports that "On December 28 [2000], at a meeting of the government, the [Clinton] plan was endorsed in principle together with permission to send reservations that had not been presented to the government for endorsement.... From that moment, the Clinton Plan embodied Israel's stance on the Palestinian-Israeli issue." (From “The Path to Geneva: The Quest for a Permanent Agreement 1996-2004,” p. 223.) Ross reports this as well in his memoir, “The Missing Peace” (pp. 754-5), as does Shlomo Ben-Ami, Israel's foreign minister at the time (see his “Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy,” p. 272). Ross adds that Israel's reservations were "within the [Clinton] parameters, not outside them."

Carter, who should know better from his experience as a mediator, ignores the fact that Clinton never asked Arafat or Barak to accept his plan unconditionally. Arafat was not obliged to accept its terms and risk his survival, as Carter suggests, misappropriating a line Arafat used at Camp David about an earlier proposal. In December 2000, Clinton simply asked both leaders to accept his plan as a basis for further negotiations towards a peace treaty. The Israeli government agreed to continue negotiating within Clinton’s parameters.

Carter claims that the famous Palestinian Prisoners' National Reconciliation Document "endorsed a two-state proposal." He says that "the prisoners' proposal called for...acceptance of Israel as a neighbor within its legal borders. It endorsed the key UN resolutions regarding legal borders...." But it did not even mention Israel let alone recognize it or endorse UN Resolution 242 or the Arab League peace proposal. Carter ignores Hamas’s repeated denials that its willingness to accept a Palestinian state in all of the West Bank and Gaza, as called for in this document, constituted a readiness for peace with Israel.

Here is the Americans for Peace Now’s analysis of the prisoners' document on this crucial point: "... in the introduction of the revised document—which the paper says must be considered as part of the whole initiative—it is stated that the document is being put forth 'on the basis of no recognition of the legitimacy of occupation.' Given that Hamas has considered all of Israel to be occupied territory, in addition to the West Bank and Gaza, it's unclear that the moderates have achieved any sort of compromise on this matter from Hamas.’ Indeed, one Hamas legislator, Salah al-Bardawil, told Reuters, 'We said we accept a state in 1967 — but we did not say we accept two states.'....”

Another misrepresentation is Carter's belief that "Withdrawal to the 1967 border [is] specified in UN Resolution 242 and ...promised in the Camp David Accords and the Olso Agreement and prescribed in the Roadmap of the International Quartet." Again, this is a misreading of key documents. It is widely known that UN Resolution 242 omitted the definite article in its English version, referring to "occupied territories" so as not to dictate Israel’s complete withdrawal to the 1967 borders in exchange for peace. Moreover, the resolution called for an eventual Israeli withdrawal to "secure and recognized borders" in exchange for peace, which would be the outcome of negotiations, not simply a restoration of the pre-war status quo ante.

The Oslo Accords actually say nothing about what the final borders will be, and the Road Map's call for a final peace treaty that will "end the occupation which began in 1967" does not mean that the withdrawal will be to the 1967 boundaries. In a final peace accord in which the parties define the final borders, they will agree that the occupation which began in 1967 has ended.

These borders will not be identical to the 1967 lines and Carter knows this. He talks of "mutually agreeable exchanges of land, perhaps permitting significant numbers of Israeli settlers to remain in their present homes near Jerusalem." He's not wrong on the big picture — the 1967 borders must be the basis for a negotiated land swap — but he fudges important details.

The book concludes with his recurrent blame-Israel-only refrain: "Peace will come to Israel and the Middle East only when the Israeli government is willing to comply with international law, with the Roadmap for Peace, with official American policy, with the wishes of a majority of its own citizens — and honor its own previous commitments — by accepting its legal borders." After Israel concurs, then "all Arab neighbors must pledge to honor Israel's right to live in peace under these conditions” and issue a firm “pledge to terminate any acts of violence against the legally constituted nation of Israel.”

The onus to make peace falls solely on Israel. Palestinians, for Carter, bear no share of responsibility for forging the conditions necessary for successful peacemaking.

GIDON D. REMBA is co-author of the forthcoming “The Great Rift: Arab-Israeli War and Peace in the New Middle East.” He served as senior foreign press editor and translator in the Israel Prime Minister’s Office during the Egyptian-Israeli peace process from 1977-‘78. His commentaries have appeared widely in the general and Jewish press and are available online at

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Look Who's Pressuring Israel, by Gidon D. Remba

Look Who’s Pressuring Israel


Gidon D. Remba

Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle

January 23, 2007

As the Israel-Lebanon war raged last summer, I called for the U.S. and Israel to renew peace talks with Syria, aborted seven years ago under Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Bill Clinton. Such talks, I maintained, would offer Israel the best chance for cutting Syrian support for Hezbollah and Hamas while isolating Iran, a trifecta that would weaken all of Israel’s greatest enemies at once while removing Syria itself from the orbit of confrontation.

By early September, I reminded readers that the Egyptian-Israeli peace process began with secret meetings between Egyptian and Israeli officials in Morocco, thanks to Romanian mediation. The Palestinian-Israeli peace initiative was born in the early 90’s from unofficial contacts between Israeli academics and Palestinians not affiliated with the PLO, under the auspices of Norway in several European capitals, especially Oslo. As the talks progressed, they were upgraded to include PLO officials, and then top Israeli Foreign Ministry officials under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Recalling these earlier peace efforts, I suggested that third party mediators were likely carrying messages between Syria and Israel to lay the groundwork for direct negotiations, which would doubtless be preceded by unofficial Israeli-Syrian contacts. If progress is achieved behind the scenes, I noted, “we can expect the clandestine dialogue—and the public denials—to intensify.”

Now we learn from Ha’aretz’s chief diplomatic correspondent Akiva Eldar that a series of secret unofficial meetings were conducted in Europe between September 2004 and July 2006 between Syrians and Israelis. The Israeli negotiator, former Israel Foreign Ministry director-general Dr. Alon Liel, met with Abe Suleiman, a Syrian-American who is close to Syrian President Bashar Assad. They were brought together by Geoffrey Aronson, an American analyst from the Foundation for Middle East Peace in Washington, under the auspices of the government of Switzerland, represented by Nicholas Lang of the Swiss Foreign Ministry. Their meetings produced a breakthrough framework for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria, resolving many of the issues which had derailed the official talks under Barak and Bashar Assad’s father. The Syrian representative showed flexibility on many of the most intractable issues:
  • Much of the Golan Heights would become a park administered by Syrian civilian authorities, with Israelis free to visit during daytime without visas.
  • The entire Golan would become a demilitarized zone, and areas of reduced military forces would be created on both sides of the Golan in Syria and Israel at a 4:1 ratio in Israel’s favor.
  • The time-table for Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan, which was not finalized, might be extended beyond five years.
  • Israel would control the use of water in the upper Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee.
  • The US would operate an early warning station on Mt. Hermon.
Other accounts in the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv indicate that Syria may agree to Israel holding 20% of the Golan, where two-thirds of Israeli residents live, in exchange for an equal land swap. Eldar reports that “The European mediator and the Syrian representative in the discussions held eight separate meetings with senior Syrian officials, including Vice President Farouk Shara, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, and a Syrian intelligence officer with the rank of ‘general.’” The former Israeli diplomat kept top brass in Israel’s Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office abreast of developments in the talks, while the Syrian-American negotiator informed high-ranking US officials, who updated Vice President Dick Cheney. The Syrian representative even traveled to Jerusalem and met with top figures in Israel’s Foreign Ministry to convey Syria’s readiness for a peace treaty with Israel. Like Egypt a generation ago, an increasingly economically distressed Syria, whose proven oil reserves will run out within the decade without a major infusion of foreign capital, is seeking a lifeline and rapprochement with the West.

The Syrian representative agreed that Syria would end its support for Hezbollah and Hamas and “distance itself from Iran” under a peace treaty with Israel. Former Israeli cabinet ministers and current Knesset members from several parties recently heard a similar offer from President Assad’s legal advisor, Riad Daoudi, at the Madrid + 15 conference, which commemorated the 15-year anniversary of the historic 1991 Madrid Arab-Israeli Peace Conference, convened by President Bush’s father. Syria would also promote a solution to the conflict in Iraq, using its influence to broker an agreement between Sunni and Shia militia and political leaders. Syria would further contribute to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum by helping to settle the Palestinian refugee problem on terms acceptable to Israel. In an interview with the German magazine Spiegel on Sept. 24, 2006, Assad, remarkably, adopted Israel’s view that the Palestinian refugees should have the right of return to a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, not to Israel.

Leaving no doubt of the seriousness with which the Syrian leadership took these “Track 2” talks, Suleiman attended a final meeting with his Israeli interlocutor in the midst of this summer’s Lebanon war, and conveyed a request from the Syrian government for a secret meeting with the director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry or the Prime Minister’s Office, to be attended by a Syrian deputy minister and a high-level US diplomat. Israel rejected the Syrian request. Lang, the Swiss mediator, met recently with Prime Minister Olmert’s chief of staff, and presented him the draft Syrian-Israeli agreement. Olmert’s advisor told him that Israel was not interested.

Writing in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz in November, I wondered whether AIPAC would work to promote a US-Israeli peace initiative with Syria or the Palestinians. AIPAC’s Israel spokesperson responded on November 23rd in Ha’aretz that “AIPAC’s mandate is not to pressure the Israeli government to follow a particular course.” Reading these words, I scratched my head. Who said anything about “pressure?” In reality, the Bush Administration is pressuring the Israeli government to refuse peace talks with Syria, according to the testimony of Prime Minister Olmert, his advisors and cabinet ministers. AIPAC, and its allies in the organized Jewish community, who rush to loudly protest any time there is a whiff of US pressure on Israel in favor of a peace initiative, has absolutely nothing to say when the White House blocks Israel from talking with Syria. Even when the US isn’t making overt demands on Israel, US foreign policy choices have so large an impact on the Middle East and the overall strategic context in which Israel lives, that every action the US takes—and those actions it fails to take—casts an iron boot of coercion on Israel. American choices heavily constrain the Jewish state, eliminating options and creating the environment in which Israel must make its own now far more limited and difficult choices.

The Bush Administration’s military escalation in Iraq, which includes raids and arrests of Iranians, may lead the US down the slippery slope to a new war with Iran, warns Kenneth M. Pollack of the Brookings Institution. Bush’s actions may provoke “the Iranians to respond, which in turn would escalate the situation and provide the Bush administration with the casus belli it needs to win Congressional support” for such a war, fears Johns Hopkins University Iran scholar Trita Parsi. Bush’s refusal to bargain directly with Iran, his rejection of the unanimous bipartisan recommendation of the Iraq Study Group for direct talks with Iran and Syria, and his preference for more force, are recklessly pushing Israel and our Sunni Arab allies into an incendiary region-wide conflagration with Iran, Hezbollah and Syria. Neither Israel nor the US will achieve their military or political goals in such a clash, which will give birth to an even more insecure and explosive Middle East in which Israel will have to live.

I called, and I call again, on the Bush Administration to return to sanity: to abandon its failed policy of isolation and implied threats of regime change against Syria and Iran; to explore the possibilities for a grand bargain with both countries which would meet US strategic interests in Iraq, Lebanon, the Gulf Arab states, Israel and Palestine. I call on the President not only to permit Israel to test the waters with Syria through a secret back-channel, but to send American mediators to such meetings to maximize the chances of their success.

Finally, there’s the stifling burden of inaction to which we subject Israel daily: the crushing weight of the Bush Administration’s failure to build a regional diplomatic framework within which Israel can make safe and secure choices for peace with its Arab neighbors; the failure of American Jews to speak up—as American citizens, if not as Jews who are deeply concerned for Israel’s well-being—about what’s best for the national security of the United States and its allies, especially Israel; the timorousness and apathy of so many American Jews who have yet to express their solidarity with the forces of progress and peace in Israel itself, even within the Israeli government. We, the American Jewish community, have massively constrained Israel’s freedom by the many dangerous choices we have let our communal leaders, and our government, make in the Middle East. Citizenship doesn’t end at the voting booth.
Gidon D. Remba is co-author of the forthcoming The Great Rift: Arab-Israeli War and Peace in the New Middle East. His commentary is available at He served as senior foreign press editor and translator in the Israel Prime Minister’s Office during the Egyptian-Israeli peace process from 1977-1978. His essays have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Times, the Nation, the Jerusalem Report, Ha’aretz, Tikkun, the Forward, the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, Chicago Jewish News, JUF News, and the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle.

Monday, January 22, 2007

What Israel Can Do for America, Dan Fleshler, Jerusalem Report (Guest Post)

What Israel Can Do for America

Dan Fleshler
Jerusalem Report
January 22, 2007

Too many Israeli and American Jewish leaders have a problem with the L-word, “linkage.” They reflexively denounce any suggestion that progress toward Arab-Israeli peace will help America solve its own problems in the Middle East. They should change their approach, because what they are doing not only ignores reality; it harms American and Israeli interests.

The rejection of the L-word is often prompted by denial of the tragic, obvious fact that U.S. support of Israel is one the main reasons why Muslims throughout the world despise Americans. This support is used as a recruiting tool by jihadists who want to spill American as well as Israeli blood, and it inhibits moderate Arab leaders from cooperating with the U.S. to address a host of challenges, including the bloody chaos in Iraq. The whole world knows this is the case, but Israeli and American Jewish leaders often try to wish it away.

Recently, this mentality was demonstrated by the hue and cry over the report by the Iraq study group led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former U.S. Senator Lee Hamilton. It asserted that America “will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the U.S. deals directly with the Arab-Israel conflict.” The authors believe that in a time of widespread, anti-American rancor on the “Arab street,” a U.S.-sponsored, Israeli-Arab peace process would make it easier for leaders of relatively moderate Sunni states to join America in a coalition that could help stabilize Iraq and isolate Iran.

Prime Minister Olmert’s predictable response was that “the problems in Iraq ... are entirely independent of the controversies between us and the Palestinians” and that Israel opposed any attempt to connect them. A senior Israeli official told the New York Times: "Why should we want to link our own problem to a nightmare like Iraq? It’s a terrible mess there."

At least judging from their public statements, these and other Israelis who have weighed in on the report seem oblivious to the fact that Americans – including American Jews –desperately crave an end to the ongoing catastrophe in Iraq. About 2,800 American soldiers have died there, including some of my neighbors in New York. Maimed, shell-shocked veterans of the Iraq war have started to become visible on my city’s streets. I, for one, am a supporter of Israel who implores its leaders to try to help us get out of there as fast as possible.

I am not arguing that Israel should necessarily accept every recommendation made by the Study Group. If Olmert believes it is not in Israel’s interests to negotiate immediately with either Syria or the Palestinians, the U.S. should not force him to do so. But Olmert has expressed an interest in negotiating with both under the right circumstances. He and other Israeli leaders should clearly acknowledge that creating those circumstances as soon as possible will not only help Israel: it also might save American lives in Iraq.

There is at least a chance that Syrian-Israeli peace talks under American auspices will prompt President Bashar Asad to seal his borders with Iraq and stop insurgents who want to kill Americans from crossing back and forth, and stop making common cause with Iran, which sponsors America's fanatic Shi’ite enemies. There is at least a chance that jumpstarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will be an incentive for Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other states to use their leverage with Iraqi Sunnis to calm things down. Of course, the same coalition would also benefit Israel if it helped to isolate and enforce tough sanctions on Iran.

Heard any better ideas, lately? I haven’t. Olmert is off the hook when it comes to the Syrians, for the moment, since the Bush Administration has nixed talks with Asad. But why shouldn’t Israel embrace the basic premise that our two countries’ fates are intertwined, and a solution to Israel’s daunting problems will help solve America’s?

Some fear that acknowledging the L-word will put Israel in a position where it is pressured to make concessions. But it is hard to believe that the Bush Administration would do more than ask Israel to talk seriously to its neighbors, since prodding it to make compromises before it is ready to do so would spark a fearsome domestic backlash.

Still, there is a tiny but admittedly tangible risk that if diplomatic initiatives are undertaken to address the Iraq war and the Israeli-Arab conflict simultaneously, a momentum could be created that would put pressure on Israel. Its supporters in the U.S. will need to ensure that this does not happen. But right now, Americans patrolling the streets of Baghdad are taking much greater risks.

Whether a peace process comes about on the basis of the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations or another plan, America urgently needs to make it happen for its own sake, as well as Israel’s. And it needs help from Israel and American Jews, not a panicky denial of the connection between Mideast peace and American interests.

The author, a media and public affairs strategist in New York City, is a Board Member of Ameinu (formerly Labor Zionists of America) and Americans for Peace Now.