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Israeli-Palestinian Peace remains elusive 60 years into the conflict

Author reflects on U.S. policies and failures

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Cleveland Correspondent


April 11, 2008: Aaron David Miller discussed his book “The Much Too Promised Land: America’s Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace,” at The City Club of Cleveland, as part of its Friday series.  

Miller spent 25 years at the Department of State as an adviser to six Secretaries of State, where he helped formulate U.S. policy on the Middle East and the Arab-Israel peace process. “The book is meant for a reading public, normal people who may not have enormous expertise in the region but enjoy a good story,” Miller said.


He claims the book as his story, complete with antidotes, “bad” baseball metaphors and interviews with former presidents, secretary of states, key Israeli and Arab negotiators—basically anyone who played a role in the Middle East Peace Process.


As Israel prepares to celebrate its 60th birthday on May 14, 2008 Miller’s book is a timely overview of why the United States, the world’s super power, has been unable to broker peace between the Arabs and Israelis. He said the book is an effort to honestly and candidly analyze the complex conflict and identify key reasons why peace has been so elusive in the Middle East and how the turmoil shapes current affairs of the world and threatens U.S. national security.

 “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a conflict between an occupied nation and a threatened nation,” he said and reconciliation, while possible, will require elimination of personal, political, religious, and cultural prejudices and the willingness of the Arabs and Israelis. “I don’t care how much America wants this—unless the political will and urgency exists on the part of Arabs and Israelis, it’s not going to happen,” he said.


For the U.S. government, he suggests a little self reflection and a revision course in thousands of years of Middle East history. Miller said the United States ignored the history of the region, misread the present circumstances and by invading Iraq has made itself and its key ally, Israel, unsafe. “If you want to blame the (George W. Bush) administration for anything, blame them for putting the nation in a position where it can not possibly succeed,” he said. Miller said the Iraq and Afghan wars leveled the plain for Iran which has the most potential for developing weapons of mass destruction.


The book is meticulously divided into subjective chapters and begins with full disclosure of who he is and the transition in thought of a young Jewish man growing up in Cleveland to a Senior Adviser for Arab-Israeli Negotiations. 


“Support for Israel was part of my political and ethnic DNA and it remains there but it shows the evolution of my views and how they expand to understand the Arab-Israeli conflict is more than meeting the needs and requirement of one side,” he said.


He concluded that there is no objectivity in the conflict and every person brings with them their preconceived biases, cling to them as the singular truth and hinder the possibility of a lasting peaceful solution.


“All you can do is put aside your prejudices…and try to understand the needs and views of the other side,” he said. Which is exactly the mission of Seeds for Peace which brings together Israeli and Palestinian youth to share their views for three weeks. “At the end they may not love each other but they do a better job of understanding the narrative of the other side,” Miller said, who served as president of Seeds of Peace for three years after leaving the State Department.


“America will remain committed to Israel and our special relationship,” he said, but stressed it can not be exclusive and allow Israel to act as it pleases and jeopardize U.S.-American interests in the region. Miller remains cautiously optimistic that peace is an achievable goal. “Never, ever give up on the possibility the world can be changed and made into a better place,” he said.


Peace will require understanding of history, laying aside personal, ethnic, cultural, religious, and political bias, an effort to understand the other’s side needs. “For that, we need leaders who are masters of their politics, not prisoners, and we do not have that today,” Miller concluded.


Miller received his Ph.D. in American Diplomatic and Middle East History from the University of Michigan in 1977. During 1982 and 1983, he was a Council on Foreign Relations fellow and a resident scholar at the Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies. In 1984 he served a temporary tour at the American Embassy in Amman, Jordan. He also served on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council between 1998 and 2000.





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