The Baker paper: Kerry's guide to Mideast peacemaking

Kerry and Sami Al-Abid

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (center) speaks with the Baker Institute's Diana Tamari Sabbagh Fellow in Middle Eastern Studies, Dr. Samih Al-Abid (right), and the U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, Michael Ratney (left), at the Al-Bireh Youth Resource Development Center in Ramallah on March 21, 2013.


A recent Baker Institute study is aiding Secretary of State John Kerry"s efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, The Jerusalem Post reports.

Citing an unnamed Western diplomat, correspondent Herb Keinon writes that the study, titled "Re-engaging the Israelis and the Palestinians: Why an American Role in Initiating Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations is Necessary and How It Can Be Accomplished," gives "insight into the structure and logistics of what Kerry seems to have in mind" for the region, and provides "a clue to the U.S. plan to solve sticking points."

Released in March 2013, the special report offers specific recommendations for the U.S. administration to advance prospects for a two-state solution. The study is the result of a year-long project involving Israeli and Palestinian working groups convened, respectively, by Baker Institute fellows Dr. Yair Hirschfeld and Dr. Samih Al-Abid under the direction of Edward P. Djerejian, the Baker Institute"s founding director and former U.S. ambassador to Syria and Israel. Dr. Al-Abid handed copies of the report directly to President Obama and Secretary Kerry during their visit to the Al-Bireh Youth Club outside Ramallah in March.


Obama in the West Bank

President Barack Obama (fourth from left) participates in a roundtable discussion with young Palestinians and Baker Institute fellow Dr. Samih Al-Abid at the Al-Bireh Youth Center in Ramallah on March 21, 2013. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza.)


The unnamed diplomat advised Keinon to "pay attention" to the institute"s proposed strategy, which depends on the determination of the U.S. administration to announce general terms of reference for the negotiations to which the parties can aspire; to negotiate and sign proposed memorandums of understanding with the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to address their respective considerations and concerns; and to call upon the parties to start direct negotiations in fast and graduated tracks.

"According to the paper, and an approach seemingly adopted by Kerry, U.S. peacemaking efforts can ¬タリreshape and redefine the U.S. relations with peoples and states in the region" during a time of tremendous transformation,"" Keinon writes. Indeed, the study contends that "proactive United States engagement is the only policy option that has the potential of creating a realistic policy trajectory of peace and stability building in the Middle East and re-establishing United States leadership in the region."

The study further "advocates the adoption of some different negotiating principles this time, first and foremost the idea -- which one Western diplomat said was currently being discussed -- that ¬タリwhat is agreed upon is implemented,"" Keinon notes. "This principle is the direct opposite of the approach taken in the past: that nothing is agreed upon until everything is agreed upon."

The new approach would "create visible, positive momentum on the ground that people can see, which -- at least in theory -- could create an incentive for the sides to crack the hard nut issues, such as Jerusalem and the refugees," says Keinon.

The study builds on the Baker Institute"s 2010 report, "Getting to the Territorial Endgame of an Israeli-Palestinian Peace Settlement," and addresses the prospects for negotiations under current political, economic and security considerations in the region. It is "intended to demonstrate to policymakers, particularly in the United States, Israel and Palestine, that despite current adverse circumstances, viable and sustainable negotiations can be initiated and lead to a two-state solution," Djerejian said.