Mideast Peace: Paving the Way

Earlier U.S. plans for Israel-Palestine peace attempted to stop the violence but failed.

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Before the Road Map–a diplomatic initiative to help break the stalemate between the Israelis and the Palestinian–several other diplomatic initiatives tried and failed to achieve that same goal. The following article looks at two of those plans.

The dynamics of the various diplomatic attempts to end the Intifada and resuscitate the peace process have all been influenced decisively by the views and actions of the United States.

The Background 

The so-called Al-Aqsa Intifada broke out in September 2000 in the waning days of the Clinton administration; many observers regard the failure of the Camp David summit convened by President Bill Clinton in July of that year as one of the triggers of the Palestinian uprising. Clinton and his staff–with the full agreement of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak–reacted by redoubling efforts to arrive at a speedy resolution of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
mideast peaceDespite marathon sessions conducted by Israeli and Palestinian teams in Washington and at Taba on the Egyptian-Israeli border in December 2000 and January 2001, no breakthrough was achieved. Soon after Clinton was succeeded by George W. Bush, the Barak government was replaced by that of Ariel Sharon, from the right-wing Likud party.

The attitude of the new Bush administration to the Middle East peace process initially appeared to be the polar opposite of the Clinton administration. Where Clinton had invested a lot of time and energy into nearly every detail of the peace process, Bush projected aloofness from the subject, exhibiting a preference for concentrating on domestic US issues over matters overseas.

The Mitchell Plan

Given the central importance of U.S. foreign policy in the region, however, it was impossible for Washington to ignore the increasing violence of the Intifada. On April 30, 2001, a group of international diplomats called the “Sharem El-sheikh Fact Finding Committee” published a report subsequently termed the Mitchell Plan after the committee’s chairman, George Mitchell. The Mitchell plan, which was adopted by the Bush administration as a basis for diplomatic talks, called for ending the violence, rebuilding confidence between the two sides, and resuming negotiations. 

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Ziv Hellman is a Jerusalem-based writer and mathematician. A former editor at the Jerusalem Post, Ziv was a founding member of Peace Watch--the watchdog group reporting on the implementation of the Oslo Agreements. He also led the Israeli elections observer team evaluating the Palestinian Authority elections.

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