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How US can reshape Israeli-Palestinian negotiating framework

By Samih Al-Abid, Edward  Djerejian, and Yair Hirschfeld

Baker Institute, Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, June 13, 2015

By Jeff Falk

 In the current absence of direct negotiations, the Obama administration has an opportunity to reshape the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating framework, according to a report by the Conflict Resolution Program at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. The report recommends that the administration continue to demonstrate strong U.S. support for the two-state model, test the willingness of the parties to compromise and adopt a more comprehensive approach to resolving the conflict with the support of the international community.

The paper, “How the U.S. Can Reshape the Israeli-Palestinian Negotiating Framework,” was written by a working group of Israeli and Palestinian experts convened by Baker Institute Director Edward Djerejian, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Syria, and led by Baker Institute fellows Yair Hirschfeld, the Isaac and Mildred Brochstein Fellow in Middle East Peace and Security in Honor of Yitzhak Rabin, and Samih Al-Abid, the Diana Tamari Sabbagh Fellow in Middle Eastern Studies.

“Experience demonstrates that negotiations alone are not a panacea for conflict resolution,” the authors wrote. “On the contrary, starting negotiations when the necessary preconditions for success have not been created may cause more damage than good. The failure of negotiations causes despair and, as a rule, can lead to violence and provide a dangerous impetus for the rise of radical forces. As there is a common U.S., Israeli and Palestinian interest to counter and prevent radicalization in the region, the U.S. administration should explore new options as outlined in this policy report to work closely together with Israeli and Palestinian authorities, as well as with regional allies and the international community to achieve positive change on the ground.”

The authors’ approach follows three concrete steps. “First, the U.S. administration should present clear final status parameters for a two-state solution,” they said. “Second, the administration should communicate this position and set expectations with the negotiating parties and regional governments regarding the minimum preconditions necessary for the renewal of peace negotiations. Third, if these preconditions are met, the United States should reshape the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating framework to first reach an understanding on the territorial issue before pursuing other final status issues, economic development and regional engagement.”

The approach would require consistent involvement by the U.S. administration in a complex political context, the authors said. The proposed path also requires a comprehensive public diplomacy effort to address the Israeli and Palestinian public directly. Such a policy will have to be supported by an in-depth policy dialogue with Israeli and Palestinian groups to gain support for a variety of bottom-up and middle-out initiatives.

“Independent of the reaction of either side, there is a clear U.S. interest in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement and maintaining security cooperation and political and economic stability in Israel, Palestine and the entire Middle East region,” the authors said.

The recommendations in the report are based in part on the findings of previous Baker Institute reports, including the 2010 policy report on the territorial components of a two-state solution; the 2013 paper outlining a suggested negotiating structure; and the 2014 report on strategies to promote effective public diplomacy that produces change on the ground.


 For more information, contact Jeff Falk, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at

The Paper can be accessed at:


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