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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Policy Planning Staff > Secretary's Open Forum > Proceedings > 2003

Is Arab-Israeli Peace Possible? How To Get There

Dr. Aaron Miller, President, Seeds of Peace Organization
Ambassador William J. Burns, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Presentation at the Secretary's Open Forum, Washington, DC
July 2, 2003

Opening Remarks and Introduction

The views and opinions expressed in this presentation are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect Administration views or policy.

AMB. BURNS:  Thank you very much, Bill, and good afternoon. I really was delighted when Bill Keppler called on behalf of the Secretary's Open Forum and asked me to introduce my friend Aaron Miller to you today. And before I formally introduce Aaron, I would like to put in a quick word of appreciation for the Secretary's Open Forum. I have admired its work for many years, and Bill Keppler has put together a very challenging and a very diverse set of programs that does a great service for all of us.

Now back to Aaron. Aaron Miller has dedicated his professional and personal life to peace in the Middle East. Whether this is a noble or a foolhardy path is open to debate, but my personal sympathies are, of course, with the former view. This is an important moment, a "hopeful moment," as the President recently put it for the region. President Bush's meetings earlier this month in Sharm el-Sheik and Aqaba were aimed at seizing this moment and creating a new dynamic that has been sorely missed for the past 2-1/2 years or more. In Sharm el-Sheik we saw a remarkable meeting between Arab heads of state and a new emerging Palestinian leadership committed to peace, and a renewed regional commitment to the President's vision. In Aqaba, President Bush brought Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas together for a candid, frank discussion of how to move forward. Both sides made very clear commitments to the President's vision and, most importantly, acknowledged their own responsibilities and obligations to achieve it.

Israeli and Palestinian actions on the ground since then have been encouraging with understandings reached on redeployments in Gaza and Bethlehem, and a very positive atmosphere in yesterday's direct bilateral discussion between Prime Ministers Sharon and Abbas. It's an excellent start, but it's only a start. As Aaron knows better than any of us, the continued implementation of these commitments will be the hardest part, and I look forward to hearing Aaron's views on how we can move ahead.

Aaron Miller has always represented the very best that the State Department has to offer. In over 25 years of public service, Aaron established a record of professionalism, dedication, and commitment which few can match. For over two decades he served as an adviser on the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli peace process to six Secretaries of State. His incisive judgment and analytical skills contributed significantly to the accomplishments in the Middle East during his tenure. He served as senior adviser for Arab-Israeli negotiations, and before that as deputy special Middle East coordination, a senior member of the State Department's policy planning staff in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research and in the Office of the Historian. Aaron holds a doctorate in American diplomatic and Middle East history from the University of Michigan. While with the Department, he was a Council on Foreign Relations Fellow at the Georgetown Center for Strategic International Studies. In 1984 he served in the American Embassy in Amman, Jordan, along with a certain callow young political officer who is especially proud to be on the stage with him today. Aaron has written three outstanding books on Middle Eastern politics and diplomacy, and I look forward very much to his next one.

Aaron left the State Department, as Bill suggested, earlier this year. He now heads a remarkable organization called Seeds of Peace that trains teenagers from regions of conflict in the leadership skills needed to promote coexistence and peace. Seeds of Peace aims to heal the psychological wounds of conflict by reaching a next generation of leaders. And in Aaron they have an outstanding example of that leadership. The real gift that Aaron gave to all of us who have worked toward peace in the Middle East over these difficult years is the ability to focus on possibilities where others saw only obstacles. Aaron's approach has never been naive, and I am sure he will give you all a very healthy dose of realism today. But Aaron has always understood very clearly that for real peace to take hold the people of the region will have to look forward with a sense of hope--not backwards at the suffering and the missed opportunities that have marked this conflict.

Aaron, I want to thank you again for all that you have contributed to this institution over the years. Thank you for all that you have contributed to the noble cause of Middle East peace. And thank you most of all for your friendship. Welcome back. Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. KEPPLER:  And now, ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Aaron Miller

DR. MILLER:  First of all, Bill, the first Bill, let me thank you for inviting me to the Open Forum and for adding so much intellectual weight and seriousness of purpose to the Open Forum. It's an extraordinary organization, and I am truly honored to be here.

To Bill Burns, what can I say? Long-term friendship; a lot of hours spent together talking, analyzing, and I appreciate everything that you've done, your friendship, and your support. And, thanks for introducing me, Bill. I really appreciate it.

To all of you, I will say at the outset that I am honored to be back here surrounded by friends and colleagues. The 25 years--almost 25 years--that I have spent at the Department of State were the most remarkable years, the most extraordinary years of my life. I don't think there's a way to replicate them. I treasure them and the memories--the ups and the downs. But for sure throughout all of this I will never forget them.

During that almost quarter of a century, I had the honor and privilege of working for six Secretaries of State on one single issue, one discrete piece of an issue: How could the United States and this great country facilitate, broker, mediate, help Arabs, Israelis, and Palestinians find their way out of a very difficult conflict--perhaps one of the most intractable and morally compelling conflicts of this century?

During those 25 years, I developed a profound faith in two basic propositions. I believed in them when I started; I believed in them when the peace process was worthy of its name; and I believe in them now, even though most of what we tried to achieve lies broken and shattered in the streets of Jerusalem and Ramallah. Number one, I believed then and I believe now that there is an equitable and durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is no more perfect justice. There was never perfect justice. But there is an equitable, durable solution that would satisfy the needs and requirements of all sides. And, second, the only way that this outcome will ever be achieved is through the long and painful, and fundamentally flawed, process of negotiation--flawed because it depends on human frailty, imperfect because it depends on domestic politics, and ultimately challenged by the one reality that it depends on people not getting everything that they want. And if there was one line that should be inscribed above the portal of every negotiating room in the world, I would argue it should be this one, translated both into Arabic and into Hebrew: The perfect can never be allowed to become the enemy of the good, because when the perfect becomes the enemy of the good there is no solution, there is no decision, and there is no reasonably approximated form of justice. To abandon these two basic propositions, in my humble opinion, essentially means giving up on the future, and no one has the right to give up on the future.

The issue at the moment, however, is not whether or not there can be a lasting peace between Arabs and Israelis. Frankly, and quite directly, I don't think that's a relevant question right now. I can't tell you how long it's going to take before Arabs, Israelis--and Israelis and Palestinians are again debating, discussing, and negotiating the issues that confounded them 3 years ago this months--3 years ago this month--at Camp David. That's not the relevant question right now. The relevant question is: Can, in fact, an environment be created--recreated--in which that proposition, that lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace, is possible that that proposition can be tested. That's the objective at the moment, because we are not going from 0 to 60 back to Camp David any time soon.

Now, what I would like to do this morning is to make--let's call it a baker's dozen because I may lose count--observations on--and I want to run through them very quickly, and spend most of my time focusing on Seeds of Peace, because I left the State Department in January of this year for two reasons. Number one, I convinced myself, I would argue rightly, that the timeline for Israeli-Palestinian peace is way out into the future. I hope I'm wrong, but I think it's going to take a lot of time--and that my efforts could best be used to address a much more fundamental challenge and that is simply this: How do we ensure that we do not lose an entire generation of young Palestinians, Israelis, and Arabs to the forces of hopelessness and despair and extremism that we witnessed over the past several years? I made a judgment for myself that my talents and abilities, be they as they are, could be best used to address that. I want to spend a fair amount of time of the 20 minutes that's allotted to me talking to you about simply what I'm doing now in Seeds of Peace. But I want to run through six basic observations--call them lessons learned. Many of them may be obvious to you. But they served to guide me in providing a certain measure of direction with respect to peacemaking and the issue of Arab-Israeli peace.

First and foremost, perhaps, the end game must be clear. The resolution of the Palestinian issue is the sine qua non for the resolution of the Arab-Israeli issue. It is not the sine qua non for Middle East stability, but without a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue there will be no solution the Arab-Israeli conflict comprehensively--and we will be confronted and faced with heightened instability and turmoil.

The only rational outcome--and it may be the worst of all possible outcomes--but the only rational outcome that deals with the psychological, demographic, and political roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is separation through negotiation with reciprocity into two states. Neither trusteeship nor one state, which has come into very vogue not surprisingly these days; one vote, one man, one woman, one state, neither fences nor barriers nor unilateral acts by other side, can end the conflict. Only separation through negotiation into two states, living side by side in peace and security.

Before January I would not lay out the parameters for what those negotiations could be based on. And as head of this organization, which is nonpolitical in its essence; I won't do that here either. But we cannot erase the past at the same time. And what has transpired over the last several years should not be forgotten when in fact serious negotiations resume between Israelis and Palestinians.

Second, those negotiations must, if they are to succeed, be based on a balance of interests, not on a balance of power. Negotiations work when they are based on a balance of interest, not on a skewed asymmetry of power. And in this regard they are no different--that is to say negotiations in good marriages, good business propositions, or good friendships. They must be based on both sides getting their mutual needs and requirements met. And I would submit to you the only two successful examples of Arab-Israeli negotiations, while not perfect--and Israelis would admit this, and Egyptians and Jordanians would admit this--these two peace treaties are not perfect, but they were based on a balance of interests. That is why they endure.

And I am not here to argue that the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Egyptian negotiations are analogous to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations--they are not. The Israeli-Palestinian problem is a fundamental of a fundamentally different character. But, nonetheless, unless those negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians are based on this fundamental balance of interest, they will not succeed. And Oslo did not succeed because of the skewed asymmetry.

Third, what is that asymmetry? Well, it cuts both ways, frankly. Palestinians wield, in my judgment, the power of the weak. Never ever underestimate the formidable nature and character of the power of the weak. The power of the weak allows a party to basically say: This is not my fault. This is not my responsibility. I am the aggrieved party. I am under occupation. I have rights and obligations. They must be recognized before I will assume responsibility. And under the guise of the power of the weak, in my view, there has been an acquiescence, if not an orchestration, in the instruments of violence. The power of the weak must be essentially modified. No authority, whether it's the District of Columbia or the State of Maine or the Government of Switzerland can allow its monopoly over the forces and sources of violence within its own society be dissipated. Because if that happens to an authority, it loses its credibility with its own constituents as well as with its neighbors. And I would submit to you that is what has occurred over the course of the last 3 years--that power over the sources and forces of violence must be reasserted.

Israelis, on the other hand, wield, in my judgment, the power of the strong; that is, the capacity and the capability to act unilaterally in any number of areas, whether it's imposing curfews and closures-- internal and external, land confiscation, housing demolitions, and settlement activity. That capacity, which accrues to the power of the strong, can also undermine on issues that may have nothing to do with Israel's security, may undermine and do undermine the confidence and trust in the other side, and prejudge and predetermine a serious knowledge for negotiations. That asymmetry, if this process is going to move forward, must be addressed.

Fourth, I would argue, without looking for miracle cures because there are none, that to address the asymmetry you need a serious process of negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians as a foundation. Without that no external mediator can do much. And great powers have meddled in the Middle East for thousands of years at their own risk and at their own peril. And look at the results.

The last 2,000 years of Middle Eastern history is littered with the remains of great powers who believed they could somehow impose their will on small tribes. They cannot do it, because small tribes have one overriding preoccupation: physical and political survival. Great powers are beset with a number of interests and priorities, and they don't live in the neighborhood. But without the external mediator, without the third party, without the United States, involved fully on a 24/7 basis, to try to accelerate and facilitate the process of trust-building and confidence-building between Israelis and Palestinians, this process will not work. I never subscribed to the notion that the United States is a judge and a jury. I don't subscribe to that notion now. We have never played that role. In the history of Arab-Israeli negotiations, we have never played that role. We have never imposed. Have we cajoled? Have we sought to use pressure? Yes. But in an existential conflict where the parties' physical and political identity are at stake, great power pressure frankly, I would argue, is counterproductive. We need to work with--cajole and pressure to be sure--but in an existential conflict. I don't care how big, tough, and mean we may think we are, we don't have all the answers, nor can we impose them.

Fifth, roadmap or no roadmap, the paradigm for serious Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, in my judgment, is yet to be determined. It is yet to be determined. We don't know what the paradigm is going to be. The old game, what I would call the old game--and by use of the term "game" I don't mean to suggest for a minute frivolity or to trivialize it--but the old game of permanent status negotiations, in my view for a while, is not relevant. It's not relevant for Israelis and Palestinians. Not negotiating in these current circumstances with these leaders--Jerusalem refugees and an ultimately demarcation of borders. I just don't see it.

The new game--what I would call the new game, which is proposed by some, I think, is dangerously alluring. The new game has many variations. We'll wait for the democratization of the Middle East. And only when that comes will there be a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Or we'll create a sort of trusteeship in which the great powers will somehow take over the West Bank and Gaza, put it in escrow, and somehow hope that over time the Israelis and the Palestinians will get used to one another and they can resolve their differences; or somehow that Iraq is the key to democratization of the entire Middle East and will somehow have a profound effect on recalibrating the calculations and motivations. To a degree Iraq has had an impact. But do you believe Jerusalem will be any easier to resolve in the sake of Iraq?

So we are left with only one game, and that is a variation of an old game, which is the interim game. And here I am at a loss, frankly. Maybe it will revolve around a provisional state; maybe it will revolve around simply negotiating territory and leaving the identity issues; that is to say, Jerusalem and refugees--for a later period. I don't know the answer. But my point, in my view, is more important than the specifics. The basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiation has not yet been determined. Roadmap or no roadmap?

Sixth, based on my observations, I think that we are rapidly discovering that the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and maybe the Arab-Israeli issue, is truly a generational proposition. In its modern incarnation it has now been ongoing for 50 years. And even if you deducted half of those years, and began the serious efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli issue 25 years ago, look at what has happened in 25 years, look at what's happened in 50 years. This conflict is not going to be resolved any time soon. That is a judgment. I make it with all due respect for my capacity to see the possibilities; but I also cannot ignore--and we ignore at our own peril--the probabilities. So it's a generational conflict.

And if this analysis is correct, then what happens to the next generation becomes a critical ingredient of any serious approach to peacemaking. And my view is that I will hold myself as responsible as anyone else for this. We have pursued over the last 30 years a view of peacemaking that I would call transitional. We have treated negotiations as if they were business propositions, a series of calculations, self-interested. And I understand why: We have dealt with governments, with power. And the truth is that is how the political agreements between Arabs and Palestinians will be reached-- through transitional arrangements. But that is not enough.

Where we have, I think, been deficient--and I would include the Arabs and the Israelis here as well--is that we never believed that it was important enough to add the transformational dimension of peace-making to the transitional. It's not just a series of business propositions. It's not just the purview of diplomats. It's not just guys and some women sitting around a table negotiating over maps. It's fundamental changes in attitudes and perceptions by individuals and by societies who have been caught in conflicts--not of their own choosing. And the question is: Can you create a strategy that deals with the transitional aspect of peacemaking, which is what governments do, and marry it to the transformational dimension of societal changes, or even I would settle for individual changes?

Now my theory about conflict resolution and the Arab-Israeli issue and Seeds of Peace deals with young people from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Greek, and Turkish Cyprus, the Balkans--but it's primarily focused on Arab-Israeli peace. My assessment of Arab-Israeli peace over the last 50 years leads me to the conclusion, sadly, that public opinion plays little or no positive role in creating breakthroughs. If George Mitchell were here talking to you, he would say that the reason the paramilitaries and the politicians came to the table in Northern Ireland is because the publics got sick and tired. That doesn't seem to happen in the Arab-Israeli equation. There seems to be no limit to one side or both's capacity to inflict pain on the other or to absorb pain. Breakthroughs have occurred every single time--and I would defy any of you to find an exception to this rule--when individual leaders stretch beyond their constituencies--usually in dark rooms--made deals and sold them to their respective publics. It was true in Israel and Egypt --negotiated secretly. It was true in Israel and Jordan- negotiated for years secretly. It was true certainly about Oslo--negotiated secretly and then sold. And if that analysis is correct, then leadership as well as changing constituencies' behavior becomes extremely important.

Seeds of Peace is an organization that over the last 11 years, since it was created by John Wallach--an amazing man who died way ahead of his time, a year ago this July--on the fundamental notion that you can add and should a transformative aspect to peacemaking. Now Seeds differs from any of the other coexistence and conflict-resolution organizations in the world today, because these young people, usually between the ages of 14 and 16, begin to participate in this program, sanctioned or associated with their governments. We do not choose these kids. These kids are chosen by ministries, schools, educational systems. They come representing their governments. We had a flag-raising last week, in which every flag representing Israel, Yemen, Morocco, Afghanistan, the Palestinian Authority, India, Pakistan, flew outside of the camp. The kids sang their national anthems as official delegation members, and they walked through the gates of this camp where there was one flag flying and only one. That does not mean that they subordinate their national identities; they do not.

In a series of painful coexistence sessions--90 minutes every day--I would call them detox sessions, under the guidance of professional facilitators, these kids spew out the misperceptions and maybe the realities, and the poisons and the hatreds of what it's like to be in conflict with one another. We have kids from Jenin and Nablus and Tulkaram sitting right now representing the Palestinian Authority with Israelis chosen by the Israeli Ministry of Education--sitting, arguing. And during a 3-1/2-week period, which is inherently transformative, you take an Israeli and a Palestinian kid--we have boys and girls--who the first night express anxieties and fears about what would happen to them if they go to sleep next to one another. In 3-1/2 weeks, if what has worked for the last decade works again, they will be--most--involved in an emotionally traumatic separation from one another. And they will be here in Washington, Congress, and hopefully at the White House on July 15. And again we'll bring them to the State Department. The Secretary will speak to them in mid-August, second session.

This transformation will not keep if it is not followed up with all-year-round programming. In Jerusalem, where we have a coexistence center, through Seeds Net, which is a confidential listserve in which these kids communicate, hundreds of e-mails every day through an olive branch called the Olive Branch newspaper, published jointly by the Israelis and the Palestinians, through a series of conferences and seminars.

We run 450 young people every summer through this program. Hamas may be running 10,000, 20,000 young people through their summer programs in the West Bank and Gaza. So how is it possible to compete? It's a very good question. I would argue to you that the objective of Seeds of Peace is not to create--if we had the resources, I suspect we would do a better job at this--creating hundreds of thousands of transformed Arabs and Israelis. I don't think that's realistic. What is realistic is to create an infrastructure, a constituency of young leaders. Twenty-five hundred kids in 11 years, some of the most remarkable young people I have ever met--sadly, older and wiser beyond their years, transformed by this experience. In the words of one young Jordanian woman who wants to go back to Amman and take over the Jordanian Foreign Service, "In order to make peace with your enemy," she said--and she's 23 now; she's my daughter's age; she said this 4 years ago: "In order to make peace with your enemy," she said, "you have to go to war with yourself."

Now, that's the last peace I want to talk about, which is the internal transformation. There are two transformations that occur in this program--the external one in which Israelis and Palestinians, Indians and Pakistanis, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, change their view of the other. But there is an internal transformation as well. An internal transformation that convinces young people in conflict, whose hearts and minds are still open, that there may be an alternative, there may be another way. This program empowers and raises the young people's confidence levels to an extraordinary degree. I've seen it here in this room on in Dean Acheson over the last several years when young people stood up and said to Madeleine Albright or to Colin Powell or to former President Clinton, "I don't like the policy. This is what I think." These kids feel empowered and legitimized by participation in this program. And exposing them to people who are important and people who have power is an important part of the empowering process for these young people.

Let me close with one observation. Bill hinted at it in his introduction, but I'll put a very fine point on it. I'm a Baltimore Orioles fan, which if you marry that to my search for Arab-Israeli peace might put me in the patron saint of hopeless causes category. (Laughter.) But that's okay. It really is okay. Because what I have learned in this business over the last 25 years is that the glass--it's not half full, and it's not half empty. The glass fills up every single day with a different opportunity and potentially different setback. And how you deal with those opportunities and those setbacks--that's the essence not only of leadership, of character but also, I would argue, it's the essence of diplomacy. A balance must be struck between the world the way it is--that's the world of the probable--and the world the way we want it to be--that's the world of the possible.

A good American policy, I would argue, toward the Arab-Israeli conflict or in the Balkans or in Cyprus or South Asia or Iraq is based on finding the balance between the way the world is and the way we want it to be.

With respect to Arab-Israeli peace, I felt very strongly, very passionately for many years. I still feel passionately, because I think the risks and the stakes in front of all of us are very, very high. I'm sad to have to report my view that this may in fact be a generational problem which will take a long time to resolve. But I think there is a real price to pay for not committing the resources that we have at our disposal toward resolving it. There was a war, when you think about it, in every decade of the last half century of the Arab-Israeli conflict--19'48, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982. The 1990s came and went without a major Arab-Israeli confrontation. Isn't that interesting? It's really interesting, because the 1990s was the decade of Madrid under a Republican president, of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty under a Democratic president. It was the decade of Oslo with all its imperfections. It was the decade of Israeli-Syrian negotiations. It was an extraordinary decade filled with tremendous achievement.

As we enter this new century there is a great risk, it seems to me, because if the idea that Arabs and Israelis cannot use talking to sort out their problems is undermined, or fundamentally exposed to be fraudulent, then it seems to me we risk something quite profound and quite catastrophic. We risk surrendering the field to what I would call the forces of history. And I've said this many times, but I'll say it again: If the forces of history could speak to you in this room, here's what they would say about the Arab-Israeli issue. They would say: “We know how it's going to turn out. There's going to be one winner and there's going to be one loser.” And, frankly, I do not believe that anyone who cares about American foreign policy, anyone who cares about the interests of the state of Israeli, anyone who cares about the well-being and political settlements and solutions for Arabs and Palestinians, and anyone who cares about real peace, can afford to court that kind of outcome. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MR. KEPPLER:  Dr. Miller is available to take some questions and answers. I'd strongly encourage people who are not sitting in front of microphones to come to the microphone so we can record your comments on our transcripts. If you are sitting in front of a microphone, please press the button when you are recognized. This gentleman over here.

Q:  Yes, Matt Levinger (ph) from the Bureau of Political and Military Affairs. I very, very much like the way you talk about peace as a transformational process, and so I am heartened by your words, even though it is, of course, distressing to hear your view of how difficult the challenges are. But I want to go back to a comment you made at the beginning of your talk, where you said the only rational solution is a two-state solution. And I am wondering why a one-state solution is not equally rational, if you're using--I mean, I can understand why you might say it's preferable to have a two-state solution, but the principle of Arabs or Palestinians and Israelis as full citizens in one state seems equally rational. The reason I ask that question is that there is some academic literature suggesting that partition as a strategy for settling conflicts actually can have a counterproductive effect, because it, in effect, inhibits the transformational process that you are talking about, so that to the extent that people get locked into a set of boundaries, no one is going to be satisfied with them. There is a lot of conflict over that. And so you can end up perpetuating and exacerbating the conflict by a partition solution.

DR. MILLER:  Right. Again, rational in the sense that my view is that a solution ultimately ought to be conflict-ending, not conflict-provoking or -perpetuating. I would simply argue that if you look at the forces that need to be factored in and mixed in order to produce an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--now, forget for a minute the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is inextricably linked to another set of conflicts between Israel and the Arab states. Both states that share contiguous borders and those that do not, it seems to me that demographically, politically, and psychologically, which are the three factors that I use to measure what I consider to be a potentially conflict-ending solution, that a two-state solution is infinitely preferable.

Number two, I may be too much a prisoner of the past and of history, but I look around the Middle East--forget any other area of the world--where, in fact, you mix national and ethnic identities together in a confederational, federational, or one-state paradigm. And I don't see much reason to be encouraged. Even Cyprus, which strikes me as the one example where, in effect, you can maybe create or you might be able--because it's small, it's--there are identity issues, but the issues on the table don't seem to be as volatile, even though there's obviously a Greek and Turkish component, state component to interests in Cyprus. Even there it's been incredibly difficult--not to mention Lebanon.

So my notion is that proximity is both the curse and the blessing of the Arab-Israeli problem. It is proximity that, in my judgment, demands separation through negotiation. And it is proximity that will ensure that there is no status quo to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. There is a separate issue, of course, for the Israelis demographically; that is to say, Palestinians who are citizens of the state of Israel, roughly 18% to 20% of the Israeli population--not to mention the issue of governing against their will. And I'm not suggesting that the Israelis sought out this occupation; I don't think that's a fair analysis. But they now have it. And it seems to me the only way to ensure both the democratic character and identity of the state of Israel is in fact to separate through negotiations with reciprocity. I mean, the one-state solution seems to me to be falling back in times of despair and hopelessness, when in fact the prospects of a two-state solution seem remote or impossible. Now whether that two-state solution is still possible can be argued all day long. Is it 5 minutes to midnight, is it midnight, is it past midnight? I don't know the answer to that question. There are Israelis who argue that it's too late already, and there are Palestinians who argue it is too late for a two-state solution.

But I am not sure that there are--I describe it as the best of a series of bad options to deal with what I consider to be the overwhelming strategic problems that both peoples face, which is their proximity to one another.

MR. KEPPLER:  The gentleman over here at the microphone.

Q:  George Southern (ph), International Organization Bureau. A follow-up question and observation. I served in South Africa during the waning years of apartheid and, of course, apartheid is defined as separateness. I have always been struck by the similarities between apartheid South Africa and current Israel Palestine. I was again struck by your comments on the only solution being separate states. I cannot in my mind see any difference between your comments and the position of P.W. Botha and the Nationalist Party in South Africa. In both cases you have countries with European colonists and state laws that welcome the immigration European-based colonists to that country, while at the same time rejecting the citizenship of the native population. So I'd appreciate you continuing your previous comments and somehow helping me rationalize why we ultimately realized that the South African policy of apartheid, separate but equal coexistence, was a moral failure and a practical failure, but why we continue to believe that the only place in the world we can support that and it would some day work would be in Israel.

DR. MILLER:  Well, first of all, I don't accept at all the presumption or assumption of your question that what I am suggesting will produce an apartheid-like situation. That's point number one. [Short audio break for tape flip.] --with reciprocity in an environment in which ultimately two states would be able to live in peace and security, with a full measure of factors, including movement in trade and open borders. I'm not suggesting that at all. That's point number one.

Number two, one of the things I learned very early on is not to stray in trying to compare and contrast conflicts. This is not an academic seminar. It is not. And each conflict is idiosyncratic and deserves to be treated as such. There is an inherent logic to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which sets it on a course, despite the similarities that you've asserted which, frankly, I think give it a different prospect for resolution. Now there the outcome in South Africa I think was a surprise to all of us. There in fact you had a situation in which one state seemed to be--if in fact it could be a state in which power was shared and human rights respected, but that's not what I am suggesting at all. I mean, I am not sure I understand where my notion where separation via negotiations and reciprocity of two states living in peace and security and mutual respect bears any resemblance whatsoever to what the reality was in South Africa, or what the reality is now. I am not calling for a one-state solution. I'm calling for a two-state solution. I mean, maybe the word "separation" is what throws you. But the issue is separation through negotiations. I don't see any other way. And to use--as far as the word "rational" is concerned, I don't see any other rational way to produce an end over time to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The mutual respect that we want to facilitate has to come, I would argue, through separation, because right now the chances of creating the kinds of relationships given the asymmetries of power that exist and are skewed both ways, I think, are almost remote. I think Israelis and Palestinians know each other very well. I think they have the greatest chance, frankly, of any of the Israeli-Arab conflicts to creating a basis of real trust and confidence with one another. And when you watch them, when you are with them in negotiations, you see this.

Now, conflict has hardened them. It's closed hearts; it's closed minds. It's created all sorts of stereotypes. It's also reaffirmed certain realities. But the notion that Israelis and Palestinians and their future need be somehow follow the same line of logic of black-and-white South Africans, I just--I don't understand.

MR. KEPPLER:  The gentleman over here at the microphone.

Q:  Yes. My name is Ivan Moyenstein (ph). I am in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. My question has to do with anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world, which seems to be largely based on--seems to be related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the perceived American support for Israel. Do you think that if the Israeli-Palestinian situation is either resolved or somehow ameliorated that that would somehow reduce the anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world?

DR. MILLER:  People spend their entire professional careers these days trying to figure out an answer to questions of why the gaps, why the misunderstandings. Some argue it's a clash of civilizations. Some argue--and I think I would put myself in this category--that it's a clash for interests; that for some in the Arab and Muslim world it is a clash of civilizations. If it is in fact a clash of civilizations, then it's interminable, it's internal, and there will never be a resolution.

If it's a clash of interests and misunderstandings which flow from diametrically opposed interests, then maybe--again rationally--it might be possible if you can address certain issues like the Palestinian issue, for example--it's not the only one--that you can somehow ameliorate or even reconcile those conflicting interests. So I would put myself in that category.

And in answer to your question, yes, if the Israeli-Palestinian problem were resolved, or if it was seriously on the way to being resolved, I think that it would be easier for the United States certainly as a government to operate. It would not end, to be sure, much of the resentment and animosity which--I was recently in Jerusalem and Amman; I mean, I know how--I see the anger. It's palpable in the press, and talking to even the elites it's palpable. One of the things that we are considering at Seeds for next summer is to create a new program which would bring 60 to 80 Americans--14, 15, and 16--from all over the country, together with Arabs from North Africa, the Levant, and the Gulf. And we would run a 2-week program in Maine, and then a regional component in which we continue the dialogue and the discussion. Because I think this issue is a cutting-edge issue, and I think again it's a generational proposition, and we are going to have to continue to work it.

MR. KEPPLER:  Before we take the next question, I would just like to point out that one month ago, here at the Open Forum, in this room, we had Dr. James Zogby, President of the Arab-American Institute, who specifically addressed that question. For anybody who would like a further exploration of that, I can refer you to our website, the Open Forum's website. If you click on the link "proceedings," that will take you to the transcripts of all of our programs, and you can see what Dr. Zogby had to say about that particular question. The lady there, with the white blouse, please?

Q:  [Off mike.]

DR. MILLER:  Well, again, I give you--I came back from Amman last week with 35 Palestinians and Jordanians. And in Paris we had 7-hour overlay, so I got a chance to sit with each of the Palestinian and Jordanian kids to talk to them. When these kids come, they are in a state of shock. They really have no idea what to expect. They come to a facility in Maine, which is like nothing else they've ever seen. Maine is like nowhere else. There is no place in the Middle East, I would submit to you--(laughter)--quite like Maine--all right? And in the course of --I'm answering your question, but in a different kind of way. Maine offers them--we offer these kids four things that it's hard for them to get at home. Number one, we offer them freedom of association without stigma. Israelis want to talk to Palestinians, as long as boys aren't mixing with girls in the water, and we have prohibitions against this because--for obvious reasons, and obviously boys and girls are separated bunk-wise. Israelis want to talk to Palestinians and vice versa, not a problem. No green line, no fences, no nothing.

Second--and it's a variation of the first--is freedom of movement; almost unrestricted movement with respect to the other.

Three is freedom from fear--absolute and total security for Israeli and Palestinian kids for 3-1/2 weeks, with no fear whatsoever other than, I guess, skunks--I'm new at this--skunks and bees and camplike- assorted injuries.

And, four, a capacity for awhile--free from the pressures of media and the conventions of their own society and the day-to-day sobering catastrophe of conflict--freedom to think and reach conclusions about one another by themselves.

If I didn't believe it, if I didn't see it, I wouldn't believe it. You create a transformative change. My daughter is at camp. I had a conversation with her the other night. She's describing to me a friendship between an Israeli kid who came with very, very--the camp is a week old--very, very tough views on Palestinians and on a solution. And a Palestinian from Aram who now lives in Jerusalem. Now, my daughter does not tend to the naive or the idealized. She said, "Dad, they are best friends--best friends." So what am I thinking about- best friends--14, 15, 16. I know what that was like. That is possible for these kids. It's still possible for them. So I would submit to you that the basis of this change is transformational. Then the question becomes--and I was in Jerusalem meeting with some of the older kids. We track them to the age of 22 or 23. We have got 100 Seeds grads on scholarship all over the United States now. We offer them substantive programming in mediation and negotiation.

At 23 and 24 do you know what's happened? These kids have lost the gushiness of the original transformative experience. But what remains is even more important. What remains is what is usable and what is practical to them as young adults. They have tough views of the conflict, but they have managed to find a way to respect one another. And I am absolutely convinced that that approach more than any other is the basis of these kinds of societal changes.

MR. KEPPLER:  The gentleman at the microphone first, and then the lady.

Q:  Welcome back, Aaron.

DR. MILLER:  Hey, Mike, how are you?

Q:  It's rare that one hears good-news stories from the Middle East. This morning on NPR you may have heard the story on the school. Is that a man-bites-dog story, or how many examples are there out there? Your statistics on how many people the Hamas is training versus how many Seeds is training is pretty daunting. Is that a man-bites-dog story, or are there a lot of examples of that?

DR. MILLER:  No, there are all kinds of examples of coexistence and conflict-resolution organizations. I mean, I am embarrassed to tell you that for 25 years other than John Wallach, who is a friend of mine, I am not sure I took any of this seriously. John used to--and again, I'll answer--John used to call me and say, "Look, can't you get these kids to Camp David to get exposed to the leaders and negotiators? Can't you get them to Wye? Can't you--he had them on the White House Lawn, 46 of them, on September 13, 1993; 46 Egyptian, Israeli and Palestinian boys were there. That's the last vestige, frankly, of anything that is working with respect to the Oslo process. But I'm embarrassed that all these years I--and I can't speak for any of my colleagues--really never took any of this very seriously. I didn't know about these groups.

We ran a P-to-P--people-to-people funding. I think that we tried, but we didn't take it seriously. And, frankly, neither did the Arabs or the Israelis. It was always viewed as a soft issue. Soft. I mean, it's power that counts. It's marshaling constituencies for agreements. And they are right. They are absolutely right.

Q:  But not of the transformational.

DR. MILLER:  It's not enough. I mean, look outside your window in Jerusalem or open the paper. It's just not enough. It won't take us where we want to go. Seeds of Peace and Givat Haviva and any of the Parent Circle, headed by a man by the name of Yitzhak Frankenthal, which is an Israeli-Palestinian organization composed of parents who have lost kids to terror. We need groups like this to play a supplementary, complementary, and, ultimately, a determinative role when the hand-off occurs--but even now before. So the answer is to a large extent--it is man bites dog. I think if the situation on the ground changes you will see a lot more of these groups functioning, each in their own way.

Q:  Thanks. Keep it up.

MR. KEPPLER:  We have time for about three more questions. So we'll take the lady with the Pepsi can, the two people who have been standing and waiting, and then the last person to ask a question--I wish we had more time, but we don't. Please.

Q:  [Off mike]?

DR. MILLER:  I may be a dreamer. I can't answer your question with any guarantees. I only know what I've seen, what I've witnessed, and what I heard over the last quarter century, and how extraordinary the achievements and efforts of Israelis and Palestinians, particularly over the last decade and a half have been. The fact that they have not succeeded is a reality. We need to learn and then move forward. But I don't see an alternative. Watching the two prime ministers yesterday, watching their language, listening to their language, and observing their motions was, I found, remarkable. And frankly the good news about yesterday's photo was who wasn't there. We weren't there. That's important. Do you know how important that is after 3-1/2 years of this that we weren't there? I find that just remarkable, and it just reconfirms to me again that there's an enormous amount of potential for moving toward a two-state solution.

As far as democratization, again, what can I say? I think this is a long-term process. Let's hope it's an evolutionary process and not a revolutionary process. But I think there is no reason. I mean, the Middle East seems to be immune. I have to say one thing. I mean, if you look at other areas of the world in which you have seen changes, political changes that have occurred, they have occurred everywhere. They really have. Africa may have more democracies. And this is a long history of conflict and colonialism and internal differences. The Middle East does seem to me much harder in this respect, but that doesn't necessarily mean it can't be over time.

MR. KEPPLER:  The gentleman there with the notepad.

Q:  Thank you. Judah Ariel (ph) from Americans for Peace Now. You spoke about the fundamental changes in attitude that are necessary toward building peace. And when I interned at the Seeds Center in Jerusalem, I saw that happen with the young people who were coming back from camp before the intifada. My question is: How can the interpersonal relationships that are built at Seeds camp withstand all the powerful social forces that seem to dominate life back in the region of terror for Israelis and of occupation for the Palestinians?

DR. MILLER:  The answer is unless there is a fundamental change on the ground that brings a certain measure of normalcy, then Seeds will continue to make its contribution. But the potential that it has to expand, to take root, to run programming in the region. Remember, Maine is just a departure point for a journey that--for a 9-year journey from the age of 14 to 22, 23. But you know this is not--the Seeds world was not my world. I came from this world. I came from the world of power, politics, and realpolitik and American self-interests and national interests. And I was, frankly--with the exception of John because he was such an extraordinary person--I was very skeptical. I think, as I mentioned before, the reality is there has to be a marriage. Maybe "marriage" is not the right word. There has to be a mutually kind of self-reinforcing partnership between the forces of conventional diplomacy which drive negotiations, drive transitional change, and the forces of what I would call unconventional diplomacy that drive transformational change. And the intersecting point, frankly, is--and I'd start with myself as an example--getting people to take seriously--to really take seriously. I am still confronted by people who say, "You run a nice program, but after all they are just a bunch of kids." And I look at these people like they have descended from another planet, because I think to myself, kids--just a bunch of kids. Generational conflict is not going to be resolved today or tomorrow or next year. I mean, these kids are the future. And the question is: What do you do about it? You invest in NGOs, you legitimate people-to-people programs in the corridors of power.

John's suggestion, which I dismissed as a kind of--that's great, but that's John, of getting leaders exposed to kids and kids exposed to leaders is right. It's absolutely right. And I think, do we need a camp for adults? We actually had a camp for adults 3 years ago this month. It didn't work. Gemal Hawal (ph) knows it didn't work.

So you know I feel myself pulled by the world from which I came and the world that I now inhabit. I borrow a phrase from John Kennedy, who described himself as "an idealist without illusions." I like that phrase a lot. I really do. Because that's what I think is required. And trying to do what you suggest is very hard, because there are a lot of people who aren't persuaded. It's hard for me to believe we have detractors. It's hard for me to believe that people wouldn't say, "Well, you know, I don't think it's going to work -- but go ahead." I have people who don't believe in this. They just don't. Not only do they think it's silly, they think it's counterproductive.

MR. KEPPLER:  The gentleman here at the microphone, and then the lady back there with the backpack on will have the last question.

Q:  Anthony Knollman (ph), MP Bureau. You spoke earlier about the two-state, separate-but-equal solution, and I was wondering what effort will be made to prevent the Palestinian state from being an underclass for time to come, similar to apartheid in South Africa was lifted, and American apartheid was lifted. You know, you left a permanent underclass that lasted for generations upon generations. What efforts should be made to prevent that from happening? The Palestinians have received billions upon billions of dollars over time. How will we also assist the Palestinians in strengthening their society as well?

DR. MILLER:  It's a fair question. I don't know where we got side-tracked on the--separate but equal certainly has a connotation for me. It's not a connotation, frankly, that in my judgment has anything to do with the Arab-Israeli issue. I talk about two states that--I mean, a viable Palestinian state living in peace and security with Israel. So on the issue of separate but equal, I just want to make it clear that I am not suggesting--"separation" I think is a bad word, and I think I may have to reformulate that. That's not what I intend, some kind of apartheid-like future for Palestinians.

On the issue of change within Palestinian society, it's a very good question. There is no historical precedent--I think I could be wrong--for a national movement negotiating, negotiating its way out of occupation. I could be wrong, but I think I'm right. When I say negotiating, I don't mean negotiating on Monday and then using the instruments of violence on Tuesday. I mean a commitment to pursue a political solution and a political solution only, as well as building institutions, which is why Oslo was so difficult for Palestinians, I think. The mandate was broad; the prospects or what was on the Palestinian plate was huge and enormous.

First of all, you have got to have a solution ultimately that crosses certain political red lines on both the territorial issues and the identity issues. That is to say on the issue of a state and also a satisfactory resolution on the issue of Jerusalem and refugees. Then you are going to have to have a huge economic effort and, I think, there is reason to believe, given the talent and quality and entrepreneurial capacities and capabilities of Palestinians inside and outside, that in effect with the help of the United States and the international community you could seek and expect a pretty rapid transformation of the quality of life for Palestinians.

Then there are issues like rule of law, respect for human rights, and the integrity and character of institutions. The international community can help there. But in the end it would depend on one fundamental fact: Do we have leaders who care about their peoples, or do we have extractive--what I call "extractive" leaders who are much more interested in themselves and what they can take out rather than what they can give back? In the end, leadership will be absolutely critical.

So all of these things are part of the same piece, as the first tenet of steps on this roadmap are undertaken. But I just don't see any reason to be so deterministic. My only point to all of you here today is I am very optimistic about the future. I just think that the future is going to require a lot of time to realize.

MR. KEPPLER:  The lady over here, and I'm sorry this is--we don't have any more time, so this will be our last question.

Q:  Hi. I was wondering--you talked about the idiosyncratic nature of conflicts, and I was wondering if that's something that you see as only occurring in the kind of traditional transitional diplomacy level, because it seems like at the transformational level that you are talking about there are principles that could be widely applied, and that you seem to apply at the Seeds of Peace camp with various conflicts.

DR. MILLER:  Right, they are. And it's very interesting when we mix conflicts. We don't put Indian and Pakistani and Afghan kids in the same coexistence groups with Israelis and Palestinians, but they do mix. It's very interesting to see the differences. And here I would argue again for the uniqueness of each conflict. With the Indians and the Pakistanis, the transformation is incredibly quick. Now, it's hard for me, because I'm just an observer, to know how enduring--I mean, whether this is superficial. But because the only place Indians and Pakistanis are in conflict is in Kashmir, and their day-to-day lives are not pulled one way and the other. The Indian and the Pakistani kids come with a greater sense of openness and commonality and much less suspiciousness.

In the case of the Israelis and the Palestinians the change is filled with all kinds of highways and byways. Some of them are very traumatic. So I think circumstances of particular conflicts do in fact matter. I am just very wary and have been when I was here for 25 years. There is a lot of public speaking and of trying to deal with creating a common vocabulary for this conflict or that, because I think somewhere along the line you really risk being wrong--or, worse than wrong, saying something that is going to be provocative, when that is not the intention at all. (Applause.)

MR. KEPPLER:  Aaron, thank you. I invited Aaron Miller here for two reasons. One, I wanted to take a fresh look at the Arab-Palestinian-Israeli conflict from a different type of prism, and I knew about the Seeds of Peace. But I also wanted somebody who had walked a mile in the shoes of the negotiators. As Aaron said, some people dismiss the Seeds of Peace approach as "touchy-feely." By having someone who has dedicated his life, as he said, from the other side, I think it gives credibility to the mission of the Seeds of Peace.

The other reason is a personal one. Aaron and I first met each other about 13, 14 years ago. We served on the Policy Planning Staff together. I was impressed at that time with his intellectual honesty and his commitment and his passion, and I am glad to see over the 15 years we have been associating with each other off and on that hasn't diminished. The only thing I have in common with Aaron is we both worked for six Secretaries of State.

But, Aaron, don't ever give up your passion or your integrity, and certainly don't give up your optimism on the possibilities. You are an inspiration to the rest of us, and I want to thank you. (Applause.)

It's running late, so I'll just say this: I noticed a lot of you were furiously taking notes. Within 5 to 7 business days we hope to have the transcript of today's entire proceedings on our website. Click on "Proceedings." And also mark your calendars: September 16 George Soros is coming to the Open Forum. Thank you very much. See you at the next Open Forum.


Released on July 10, 2003

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