A year ago, veteran American Mideast negotiator Aaron David Miller wrote a much-talked about article for Foreign Policy magazine in which he disavowed any hope for the Arab-Israeli peace process. Called “The False Religion of Mideast Peace: And Why I’m No Longer a Believer,” the piece detailed his disillusionment with what began with the Clinton administration’s Mideast peacemaking, of which he was a participant, in the 1990s. The main casualty of the failure of the administration’s efforts throughout that decade, Miller had written, was hope. “And that has been the story line ever since: more process than peace.”
But that line, buried 3,000 words into the 5,000-word cover story, should have been featured more prominently. It’s the point. Because if there’s one thing that has been proven time and again in the course of Arab-Israeli negotiations, it’s that you cannot have both peace and the process; it’s one or the other.
Just in time for the first anniversary of the FP story, Miller has another one striking similar themes. The main difference this time is that Miller now exhorts President Obama to join him in hopelessness. Called “The Virtues of Folding,” Miller’s message is simple: give up—at least for now.
“Thirty months in, a self-styled transformative president with big ideas and ambitions as a peacemaker finds himself with no negotiations, no peace process, no relationship with an Israeli prime minister, no traction with Palestinians, and no strategy to achieve a breakthrough,” Miller writes.
To be sure, the process of which Miller was a part caused so much damage to the lives of Israeli Arabs and Jews that we should be perfectly content to let him retire without protest. But Miller has still—unbelievably—refused to learn the primary lesson from all his years of failure: the peace process was over before Miller ever got involved.
That doesn’t mean that neither side wants peace. Most Israelis have always wanted peace, and if the polls are accurate many Palestinians want peace as well. It’s the process that has always stood as the principal hindrance to peace. The process allows the Palestinian leadership to soak up foreign money. It allows the United Nations—via its Relief and Works Agency—to keep generations of Palestinian families mired in poverty by assigning them a nonsensical “refugee” status that encourages the Arab leaders of their country of residence—Syria, Lebanon, Jordan—to preserve their identities as second-class citizens. And it forces Israel to make tangible concessions in return for promises.
Contrary to popular mythology, the peace process didn’t begin with the Paris peace conference and the Oslo accords; that’s where it ended. Here is Yitzhak Rabin—the symbol of the peace process for many, especially on the left—speaking to the Knesset in 1992: “From this moment on, the concept of a ‘peace process’ is irrelevant. From now on we shall speak not of a ‘process’ but of making peace.”