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Reader riposte: Road from Damascus

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23 April 2010 12:41

Nick Chapman writes:

I had read with interest Aaron David Miller's article and was considering drawing it to your attention, only to find the piece referenced by The Interpreter the next day!  What I did find interesting was that, despite professing to have undergone something of a reverse 'road to Damascus' conversion on the issue, Miller seems yet to make up his mind about the United States' centrality to brokering peace in the region.

Stating first that, 'Indeed, it's a stunning paradox that with the exception of the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, every other successful accord came not out of direct negotiations, but as a result of U.S. mediation. The Oslo accords, often touted as the miracle produced by direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians, proved to be a spectacular failure', Miller then goes on to hold that:

'The painful truth is that faith in America's capacity to fix the Arab-Israeli issue has always been overrated. It's certainly no coincidence that every breakthrough from the Egypt-Israel treaty to the Oslo accords to the Israel-Jordan peace agreement came initially as a consequence of secret meetings about which the United States was the last to know.'

It is true that there are some nuanced differences in emphasis between these seemingly contradictory claims, but, even when warning of the United States' impotence in the area, Miller still appears to cling to a firm belief in US centrality in any mediation of Middle East peace: either the Israelis and the Palestinians sort it out for themselves, otherwise the US is the only one who can work it out for them.  Whilst this may certainly have been the pattern followed for many years, it rests on some (seemingly) unexamined assumptions and ignores the potential role of alternative players.

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