Mort Zuckerman: U.S. Role in Israeli-Palestinian Talks Is a Problem

Having Americans in the direct negotiations is a serious problem in procedure.

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It is not that the Israelis are unwilling to take risks for peace. They recently dismantled hundreds of security barriers and checkpoints in the West Bank to improve mobility for people and commerce. They also worked out a program tantamount to parole for major terrorists, whereby they give up their weapons and place themselves under the protection and patrol of the Palestinian Authority.

Any agreement would have to be phased. Time would be needed to assess Palestinian success in preventing terrorism and halting incitement. Time would be needed to arrange the details of the Israeli security presence in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. A phased agreement could also assure the Palestinians that if they properly uphold their commitments, Israel would hand over more and more territory. This could take as long as 10 years, time that would also serve an Israeli government to prepare and legislate a proper evacuation and compensation for the thousands of settlers who would have to leave their settlements and relocate the center of their lives back into Israel proper.

 Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now the Quartet representative to the Middle East, put it well. The only Palestinian state that Israel can accept, he said, is "one that is secure and properly governed." The peace process must be the beginning of a new future, not the beginning of the end of Israel. 

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