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A new report from Rice University"s Baker Institute for Public Policy lays out specific recommendations for the U.S. administration to advance prospects for a two-state solution. Titled "Re-Engaging the Israelis and Palestinians: Why an American Role in Initiating Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations is Necessary and How It Can be Accomplished," the report is the result of a year-long project involving Israeli and Palestinian working groups chaired by Edward P. Djerejian, the Baker Institute"s founding director and former U.S. ambassador to Syria and to Israel. The report was issued a week before President Barack Obama"s visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

"This report 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. "A core concept for potential United States engagement in peacemaking is clearly defined. This 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 main components of the proposed strategy depend on the determination of the United States administration to announce general terms of reference for the negotiations to which the parties can aspire; negotiate and sign proposed memorandums of understanding with the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to address their respective considerations and concerns; and call upon the parties to start direct negotiations in fast and graduated tracks with the obligation to build on areas of agreement reached and continue until a final settlement is reached.

According to the report, U.S. engagement should aim to achieve a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement as a first step toward achieving a broader Arab-Israeli peace when regional circumstances allow. The parameters of the end state should be broad enough to allow buy-in from both Israelis, Palestinians and regional stakeholders, while at the same time be sufficiently defined to ensure breakthroughs and avoid a deadlock in negotiations. They should also be linked to the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. The objective of the fast-track negotiations, in particular, is to create positive developments on the ground and to lead to a more sustainable path at the negotiating table to reach final status negotiations.

The report proposes an international supportive framework and backstopping initiatives. The report also proposes engaging regional and international support through a new international group expanded from the Quartet (the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia) and facilitating a monitoring and oversight structure for negotiations.

This report 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. Special attention is paid to the environment for negotiations in Israel and Palestine, respectively.