Frustration regarding efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has generated much discussion lately about whether the Obama administration should present its own peace plan to the parties. Such a move is a tempting alternative to the lack of obvious progress toward direct negotiations, and it would certainly shake things up. As the idea of a U.S. plan gains currency, however, it is important to consider the implications of such an announcement.
First, we must remember that U.S. leadership in this dispute has always come in its role as facilitator and mediator. While the United States has a strong, independent national security interest in resolving this conflict, and is better positioned than any other nation to help shape the environment for peace, the parties are the central players in this story. Any peace agreement will first require Israelis and Palestinians to accept painful compromises which run contrary to their national narratives and make personal and political sacrifices without iron-clad guarantees of success. Presently, we may want a resolution of this conflict more than the parties—and could fairly easily dictate its terms—but the United States and the international community cannot impose a peace agreement if we want it to be implemented and last beyond the first inevitable crisis.
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