"There 'is' an equitable and durable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. But such a solution can only be achieved through a long, imperfect process of negotiation. Sadly, Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs in general still see the struggle as an existential conflict over physical security and political identity. U.S. diplomacy must recognize that ending the conflict is a generational proposition. The fundamental asymmetry between Israeli power and Palestinian weakness undermines any prospect of making the Oslo peace process work. President Mahmoud Abbas hopes to finish Oslo, but suffers from an absence of legitimacy. Israelis and Americans could enhance his authority by facilitating his ability to deliver politically and economically. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon does not believe there is a mutually acceptable two-state solution to the conflict. His objective is to improve Israel's tactical, political, and demographic position as best he can for the ensuing struggle. Through the end of 2005 at least, U.S. policy can only hope to manage the conflict. Following a successful Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, President George W. Bush seems poised to seek Israeli-Palestinian agreement to a state with provisional borders. Success of this initiative would hinge on U.S. willingness to press Israel hard on further settlement building and, subsequently, to draft and sanction a plan for the end game that lays out the parameters for resolving each of the four or five core issues in this conflict."
Strategic Forum No. 215
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