Former President Bill Clinton has an op-ed in USA Today offering his solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict:

After three years of intense violence, we know what needs to be done. The Palestinian terrorist infrastructure must be thoroughly dismantled and the Palestinian Authority reformed. Israel needs to evacuate settlement outposts, freeze settlement activity and withdraw from reoccupied territory. Both sides must cease acts of provocation.

While this sounds obvious and innocuous, it seems to imply a moral equivalence between PLO terrorists and acts of retalliation by the Israeli government. That’s certainly not the case. Even though I think the Sharon government is rather unhelpful, targeting terrorist leaders is hardly the same as blowing up women and children at shopping malls.

For both sides to have confidence that their core concerns will be met, they must achieve a common understanding of what peace will look like. That, in turn, can bolster peace constituencies, isolate extremists and empower Palestinian moderates to crack down on violence, all of which will energize a political process leading toward peace.

This is certainly true. But, of course, we’ve done that before without success.

For the United States, in particular, linked to the region by moral, historic and strategic ties, engagement in the peace process needs to be unrelenting and vigorous. We should empower Israeli and Palestinian citizens who support a comprehensive settlement. And we should make clear our willingness, along with the international community, to back up any agreement with military and political weight, providing the two sides with confidence that the deal will be implemented and their security ensured.

This, too, seems perfectly reasonable. But I thought it rather obvious that the US would be part of a peacekeeping force if a settlement were ever implemented. Indeed, we’re still in Sinai a generation after the Camp David accords.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Gabe Posey says:

    And they call W simple. He could have just summed it up, “Can’t we all just get along?” I agree his moral equivalence is sickening. A failed president retrying his own failed strategy in order to try and supplant some fading limelight on his ego. Yeah, this definately needs to be in print.

    My take on why history will judge Clinton a forgettable failure:

  2. Enrak says:

    “and empower Palestinian moderates to crack down on violence”

    I see this all the time. “Palestinian moderates” Where is the evidence for this phenomenon. I am entirely serious. I never see any evidence of it in the news. I believe there are Palestinian moderates (among any group of people you are going to see people that cover an extremely broad range of points of view), but are they organized? Do they have any substantial voice? Do they even have any players in the game?

    If someone could please point me to a legitimate Palestinian moderate that has an organization, and at least some small popular support I would have much more hope for the future.

    It seems to me that mostly politicians just assume that Palestinian moderates exist.

  3. Tom says:

    I think this is just another effort by Bill to keep the Clinton name front and center, so as to suck the oxygen out of the Democratic Primary. I am starting to believe that he would almost prefer to be the last Democrat President. He may want his wife there, although I would not bet on it.

    A Very Scary Man…

  4. Kevin Drum says:

    Oh please, not with the moral equivalence again. Why does someone always pull that out in response to the (quite unremarkable) suggestion that both sides are going to have compromise?

    Clinton is hardly an apologist for Arafat, who he bitterly criticized for derailing the Camp David talks. Exactly which part of “The Palestinian terrorist infrastructure must be thoroughly dismantled and the Palestinian Authority reformed” do you all not understand?

  5. James Joyner says:


    I agree with that, but the opener very much came across with the idea that both sides are equally at fault.

  6. Gabe Posey says:


    If it were just a matter of compromise, this crap he’s suggesting might actually work. But saying that Isreali’s must stop retaliating against those targeting women and children is, well, retarded.

    There is no compromise in this situation. Anything less than complete change isn’t worth considering.

  7. Paul says:

    I just gotta chuckle.

    Two Dems Presidents (Carter and Clinton) who both failed miserably in the middle east are now jumping up and down say they know how to fix things.

    Clinton had 8 freaking years. What did he accomplish? SQUAT.

    What the (dirty word) makes anyone think he knows (dirty word) about what he is talking about today?

    They were both miserable failures. I don’t want them giving advice today.