The Catholic University of America

The Only Solution Left

It is a mistake to speak of a two-state solution, one Jewish and one Palestinian, as just another possible path to peace in the Middle East.

"In fact, there is no alternative to a two-state solution," stated Daniel C. Kurtzer, the United States ambassador to Israel from 2001 to 2005.

Invited to speak at the Columbus School of Law on March 18 by the law school's Middle East Religious Dialogue Program and the Center for Study of Islam and the Middle East, Kurtzer's remarks, "The Role of America in the Arab-Israeli Peace Process," were a frank and realistic assessment of what has and hasn't worked in the long struggle to achieve a fair and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Most of it hasn't worked, according to Kurtzer, who believes that both sides must finally acknowledge that military might alone will never succeed in achieving peace.

Kurtzer compared Israel's periodic invasions of the Gaza strip to engage with Hamas fighters to the "Rocky" movie series, where exhausted, punch-drunk pugilists continue to slug it out just for pride's sake, with no clearly articulated goals in mind.

"In 2006, the two sides fought just to hurt each other," he observed.

Kurtzer, who also served as ambassador to Egypt under President Clinton, retired from the State Department in 2006 and assumed a chair in Middle East policy studies at The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

A frequent lecturer, he is the author of "Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East," published in 2008.

Kurtzer is convinced that the United States still has a vested interest in nudging the Israelis and Palestinians toward the eventual establishment of two distinct nations, living side-by-side. For demographic reasons, the two-state solution is in Israel's best interest, too, he said. High birthrates among Palestinians living under Israeli control means that even within the borders of Israel, Jews will become a minority population within the next 25 years or so.

The necessary steps leading to lasting peace are well understood, but there remains a lack of political will to implement them, Kurtzer said.

"The problems on the ground are almost timeless. One could have given this talk 20 or 30 years ago and made most of these same points," he said.