What to Do About The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

What to Do About The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

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Middle East and North Africa

Diplomacy and International Institutions

from What to Do About...

Elliot Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at CFR and former special assistant to the president and senior director at the National Security Council, Edward P. Djerejian, director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University and former U.S. ambassador to Israel, and Martin S. Indyk, executive vice president at the Brookings Institution and former U.S. ambassador to Israel, join CFR President Richard N. Haass to  evaluate U.S. policy options in approaching the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The panelists consider the interests of the incumbent Israeli government, the state of Palestinian unity, the broader geopolitical situation in the Middle East, and the feasibility of the United States successfully leading negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Each meeting in the What to Do About... series highlights a specific issue and features experts who put forward competing analyses and policy prescriptions in a mock high-level U.S. government meeting.

HAASS: I'm Richard Haass. And today's meeting is what to do about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Let me just take 30 seconds to talk about this series of meetings. We started the What to Do About series within the last two years. We've had—I don't know, maybe a dozen or so meetings in the series, and the whole idea is to stage a version of what might be a National Security Council conversation about a specific topic. And, very quickly, then, the emphasis is to go from description to analysis to—to prescription.

And the people who are coming to the meeting are not there representing agencies so much as our ministers without portfolio, where a president would bring in three individuals, say, who would be in a position to advise on the policy.

For today's subject, we could hardly do better. We started doing the math, but there's probably up here, I don't know, a good—close to a century, maybe 75 years at least of U.S. government experience working with the issues that are on the table today. And I don't want to think about how many person years were actually spent in meetings of this sort.

(LAUGHTER)

But a lot. I'm not sure if you got your tax dollars' worth or not. We'll let you decide.

We've got Elliott Abrams who was the senior fellow—now is the senior fellow here at the council for Middle East. In the government, though, he was the senior director on the NSC staff for this part of the world. He's also been an assistant secretary of state several times for international organizations, as well as for Latin America, if my memory serves me right. So maybe human rights, as well.

ABRAMS: Human rights.

HAASS: OK, only Tom Pickering has held more portfolios...

(LAUGHTER)

... than Elliott.

Sitting next to him is Martin Indyk. Martin is now the executive vice president at the Brookings Institution. He was the former special envoy for the subject of this panel, the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and he was also the U.S. ambassador to Israel. And also, if I remember correctly, held the job at the White House.

INDYK: I took that one from you.

HAASS: Exactly.

INDYK: And I was an assistant secretary.

HAASS: And he was an assistant secretary.

And, last but not least, Ed Djerejian. Ed runs—was the founding director of the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. He also worked on these issues at State as well as in the field and, among other things, he was the U.S. ambassador to Israel and Syria.

So I think I've made my case that you've got tremendous experience here, as well as expertise.

Full disclosure, I have also worked on these jobs and for President Bush, the father. I held the position that several people on this—two at least these people had which was the senior person on the National Security Council staff for—for this part of the world, and for this set of—of issues.

OK, so let's begin with—and what we'll do, by the way, we'll talk amongst ourselves for a half hour, a little bit more, then we'll it open to you, the members, with whatever questions or issues associated with this you want to raise.

Let's start, though, with the setting. Before we start talking about what it is the U.S. might and might not do, let's just talk about what is the situation and let's just start with—I've got a list of about six or seven possibilities.

Let's start with the new government of Israel. It's been in place for, what, a week, give or take? What is the—what—what are the what you might call the consequences for the issue of the day for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations of this government? Is there—well, let's leave it at that. That's a pretty self-evident question.

Martin, you served there as ambassador twice. You get—you go first because Ed only served there once as ambassador.

(LAUGHTER)

What is the—what do you see as the consequences of this government for what we used to call the peace process?

INDYK: First of all, thank you, Richard for hosting me and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. See many friends in the audience.

The just-constituted government of Prime Minister Netanyahu is a—is a right-wing government, narrowly based, it is on a one-seat majority, so it's in a rather tenuous position. But it has all the parties of—of the right and the Orthodox religious parties in its coalition, but none of the parties of the center or—or the left as opposed to the last government which had parties of the center in it.

It's not in any way in its platform committed to the two-state solution, and its prime minister is talking about a diplomatic process but he doesn't talk about a peace process any more. And—and...

HAASS: When he—just out of curiosity, what if—if we were to parse the difference between a diplomatic process and a peace process, what—what is—that's a distinction with a difference, I hear you saying. What is the difference?

INDYK: Well, the—the—he'd have to explain it but I believe why he uses the word "diplomatic" is that he—he wants a process in which he can avoid Israel's isolation on this issue but he doesn't want a process that leads to—to direct negotiations and the establishment of a—of an independent Palestinian state living alongside Israel in peace because he said that's not going to happen in his—on his watch or in his time.

And, you know, there are a lot of objective circumstances which we can get into. But I think that's—that's essentially the answer. Behind that, it's important to understand that even if it were a differently constituted government, it would not have a mandate for peace. This was not discussed at all in the last elections. Nobody ran on a campaign platform of—of peace with the Palestinians.

HAASS: Last question on that specific area. This government is not, if you will, constituted to make peace or negotiate peace. It wasn't—it didn't figure in the campaign. Where is the Israeli population both in terms of a snapshot but also a moving picture? What is your take—or we can open up to Elliott or Ed, about both? Where the Israeli polity is now and how does that compare, say, with five or 10 years ago, and how is that likely to compare with five or 10 years from now?

DJEREJIAN: I think a preoccupation especially during this campaign, and my colleagues may not agree with me on this, is that security was the major issue, and I think Bibi Netanyahu won his slim majority because he did base his campaign on security and, specifically, the Iranian threat as an existential threat to the state of Israel. And, as Martin said, the Israeli-Palestinian issue was really subjugated to—just wasn't part of the campaign agenda.

And the commitment of this government if you look at it, it is so narrowly based and so right-wing that I think the land for peace formula which is the fundamental formula since 1967 as we all know, is simply not one that this—this government I think is going to pursue.

When Martin mentioned, the diplomatic initiative on the Palestinian issue, I think what that means—I wouldn't use the word so much diplomatic, but what it basically means is that this government may look at the non-political aspects of negotiations with the Palestinians, i.e., build up the Palestinian economic system, build up Palestinian security capabilities so that the occupation, frankly, will be more manageable on the part of Israel. And I think that's the most what one can think of now.

HAASS: But—Elliott, I'll turn to you, but I'm trying to get a sense whether this government, has constituted—that's two questions. Whether it is in some ways—I get to use geography—is to the right of the Israeli body politic on this issue and, second of all, whether we can discern any shifts in the Israeli body politic from this issue.

ABRAMS: Well, it's—this is now 15 years of right-wing governments in Israel from the day that Sharon was elected in 2001. That's not an accidental occurrence; it reflects a move to the right on the part of Israelis, not on economic issues I would say but—but on security issues. And it is a result of things like Lebanon and Gaza and now the more general disorder in the region. And it is also a measure of the failure of the left, of the Labor Party, and the—the Palestinian behavior I would argue has largely killed the left. And the labor party has also been unable to come up with the magic thing that it needs to win elections, which it appears to be a general. They—they do better when—when they can answer the security issue by having a general. They had Barak, he won, then he lost and they haven't had a general come along since then, so they're still losing.

HAASS: What about the other side which is—I want to move quickly here. We're not going to do justice to some of these issues but I want to—want to make sure we cover the turf, which is the Palestinians. What is the situation there and what are both within the West Bank and Gaza separately and then between the West Bank and—and Gaza? What are the dynamics there?

DJEREJIAN: Well, I think the Palestinian situation is rather dire. Let's face it, Abu Mazen, President Abbas, has staked his whole reputation and career on a negotiated settlement with Israel. He has failed in achieving that. There is a great deal of anomie being created amongst especially the youth in the Palestinian territories.

HAASS: Can I just interrupt that?

DJEREJIAN: Yes.

HAASS: This institution's—this organization's 94 years old. No one has ever used the word anomie...

(LAUGHTER)

... before so I don't know what award we hand out.

(LAUGHTER)

DJEREJIAN: I'm the first

HAASS: Anyhow, I apologize.

DJEREJIAN: No, it's basically disenchantment. I mean, there—there's a great deal of criticism of the Palestinian Authority, the PLO. There's a division with Hamas which is a major structural challenge that the Palestinian Authority has. There's infighting within the Palestinian Authority group as to next steps in succession.

And what we can see from a position of relative weakness is that the Palestinians are opting for more symbolic gestures such as recourse to the United Nations and non-observer member status in the United Nations—United Nations which they've achieved. But going beyond that, acceding to these various agencies like the ICC to bring pressure upon Israel in order to get back perhaps to the negotiating table.

The—they're getting support, there's public support. The Pope's support for the Palestinian cause is not insignificant in terms if you want to use the word public diplomacy but there is—there's real malaise within the Palestinian community and—and situation in the West Bank and, obviously, Gaza. Hamas is a real problem.

HAASS: Martin.

INDYK: I—I—I would just say, just to kind of sum it up, so we can move on. In terms of what is to be done if that's the...

(CROSSTALK)

INDYK: ... question you're asking. Just saying in terms of the situation, neither side wishes to enter into direct negotiations to establish an independent Palestinian state living in peace with Israel. There is not—neither the politics nor the commitment of the leadership on either side for that.

John Kerry, you know, God bless him, made a huge effort to get the parties back to the table but what we discovered in the 10 months of intensive negotiations, was that the—that the parties didn't really want to be there and they were further apart at the end of the negotiations than were at the beginning of the negotiations.

HAASS: Can you say a little bit about the Palestinian dynamics of that? When you say neither party, is that because the Palestinians don't have a mechanism for coming up with a common position, or is that your assessment of what you might call the separate position of West Bank Palestinians, of Fatah, as much as the people in Gaza?

INDYK: I think it's—it's—it's a—a number of—of circumstances on which you touched on and the others Ed touched on, which is, first of all, Abu Mazen lacks legitimacy. He hasn't gone to an election since 2005 and he feels that very strongly, that he doesn't have a mandate from the Palestinian people, especially not a mandate for the kind of compromises that would be involved on Palestinian—what Palestinians claim as their rights if there were to be an agreement. So he's paralyzed by that.

Secondly, as I said, the Palestinian polities deeply divided so any political leader is going to be looking over his shoulder as Abu Mazen was for fear of being accused of being a traitor by the other side, which is Hamas, which does not accept the two-state solution, (inaudible) seeks the destruction of Israel.

So you—you've really got—got circumstances on both sides that I think make it extremely difficult to get from here to there.

HAASS: Elliott, let me ask you to bring up one other factor. The president just had a meeting up at Camp David; the principle focus of this was Iran, broadly, as well as the Iran nuclear program, in specific. But what have we learned about the saliency of this issue with the (inaudible) I remember, for example, when the then Saudi King visited the president—President Bush down in Texas—this is President George W. Bush—how central this image was and it nearly torpedoed the entire meeting. One gets the sense—tell me if I'm right or wrong—that this issue has receded. This hasn't gone off the agenda but it's going down the agenda from the—of the Arab states.

What is—what is your take about the prominence or salience of the Palestinian issue now in the Arab world?

ABRAMS: I think for governments, it certainly has gone down. I mean, I find that myself when I talk to Arab diplomats, they don't even mention the Palestinians. You see it in some of the public statements and speeches. They're—it is mentioned—it has to be mentioned, but it's paragraph 18, and it's one paragraph, not five.

Now, that's not to say that it isn't salient for public opinion which is a separate thing.

(UNKNOWN): That's right.

ABRAMS: But when you talk to, say, Egyptian, Jordanian, or Gulf leaders, you know, they're concerned about two things. They're concerned about Iran and they're concerned about America. They're not so concerned about the Palestinians any more.

HAASS: The—let me take it (inaudible)...

DJEREJIAN: Having said that, I think we all make the mistake—Elliott touched on this—amongst the governments and the leaders of the Palestinian issues not central, but the Palestinian issue still resounds strongly in Arab and Muslim opinion, and we should not make the mistake to think that this issue is not still a central issue in Middle East public opinion. I think policymakers err when they come to that conclusion.

HAASS: Let me—you can circle back on some of this. This conversation isn't taking place in a vacuum. You've got the dynamics in Iraq, last 24 hours, the fall of Ramadi, so clearly ISIS has not been checked within Iraq despite the—what you might call tactical—remarkable tactical success of the last 48 hours in eastern Syria against ISIS. Once has the profound strategic reality of—of what it has become. Syria, Libya is what it is, multiple failed states. Yemen is moving in—in—in that direction, and so forth.

Given the ideological and political tenor of the debate in the Arab world, what are the implications of that? To what extent in particular are Palestinians in either the West Bank or Gaza looking over their shoulder and saying, "if we make any signs of compromise, we are all, shall we say vulnerable," to put it mildly. And to what extent is Israel looking at what's going on, the disarray in the region saying, "We'd have to be crazy to make concessions to any entity, no matter how well intentioned, simply because the political foment and dynamics of the Arab world, we can't be sure that anyone we deal with on Monday would still be in power Tuesday."

To what—and this—so, again, this is—this is taking place in a larger Middle East. The Middle East is going through what I've described as a—the modern-day version of the 30 Years War. What do you see as the implications of that?

ABRAMS: You know, I think there are logical ones from—just take the Israeli point of view. How can you make a really good argument today for getting out of the Golan, for God's sake? I mean, if you wanted to get out of Golan, who would you give it to? There are no government in Syria. The argument in Israel now is—and you see it in the newspapers all the time—thank God this did not happen two or three or five years ago.

Likely, same thing in the West Bank, I would say. And I would even add the Jordanian point of view. Put aside Israeli security and think for a minute about Jordanian security. Do you enhance the security of Jordan by moving the IDF out of the West Bank and out of the Jordan Valley so they can look across at poor Palestinian security forces and perhaps one or two or 10 years from now at Hamas forces?

So I think what's going on in the region adds to the sense that nobody wants to make a big gamble on Israeli-Palestinian changes.

DJEREJIAN: May I add one thing to that?

HAASS: Sure.

DJEREJIAN: Richard. The—Elliott mentioned the Jordanian aspect. I think we need to be focused on Jordan's stability. It's critical. And this is both a great concern of the Israelis and the PLO that if Jordan goes because of these forces of disarray and all of the sudden, God forbid, ISIS succeeds in destabilizing the Hashemite regime, the whole basic security structure—political security structure of Israeli-Palestinian peace is put into question.

So I think one has to really—I hope our Washington policymakers are focused...

HAASS: You are, for purposes of this meeting, a Washington policymaker.

(LAUGHTER)

DJEREJIAN: OK, I am a Washington policymaker. I'm not getting paid for that. But...

HAASS: You didn't when you were...

DJEREJIAN: That's true. I was very ill-paid, right. Dick Murphy gave me very little money.

No, but fundamentally, I think that's a very important point because in my discussions with both Israeli officials and—and PLO officials, they are all massively concerned about the future of Jordan. And I think that's something we can fit into a response.

INDYK: And—and yet, Jordanians, the king himself would say that, you know, he's—his greatest security challenge comes from a failure to advance the Palestsinian issue.

DJEREJIAN: Exactly, exactly.

INDYK: So, you know, I would say we...

ABRAMS: First of all, whether he would mean it is a different...

INDYK: Now, well, he's got a majority Palestinian population, you know, it's—it's an existential issue for him but let me just say couple other points on this.

First of all, in terms of the broader strategic environment, there is an unusual confluence of interests between Israel and the Gulf Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, when it comes to these broader threats you've been talking about. Whether it be from Iran's destabilizing efforts at promoting its hegemonic ambitions in the region all the way up to Israel's borders with Hezbollah in the north.

And on top of that, of course, there's a kind of common sense of interest against whether it's Hamas or Muslim Brotherhood or—or Assad's regime and so the—notwithstanding everything else we're describing, the—those events are actually creating some kind of common interest between Israel and its Arab state neighbors. And so then it leaves the question, it's a very big question as to whether that can be parlayed into something more positive, a kind of outside in process that would help to create a better circumstances for (inaudible)...

HAASS: We're going to turn to that in about...

ABRAMS: ... do.

HAASS: ... five or 10 minutes. Let me get one or two other things on the table.

I've got two rules in the Middle East and one of them is things have to get worse before they get even worse. And one of the questions I have is could things get worse in this issue? Because we're talking about the difficulties of things getting better. Well, what we saw over the last—what, six, eight months, were some near misses in Jerusalem. How much should we be worried about what you might call the tribalization of the Jerusalem problem where the inflamed religious views or passions on both sides start creating their own dynamics in—in Jerusalem?

INDYK: That's why I thought you were being optimistic when you said it was going to be the 30 Years War.

HAASS: Yes. There you go.

INDYK: Yes, look, I mean there's—there's plenty of—plenty of ability for this to get a lot worse. What's interesting, I think, is in the midst of this Gaza war last year in which tensions were running very high in the West Bank and in Jerusalem, nevertheless, it did not blow. And I think there are at least couple of reasons for that. Partly, the intense security coordination that took place between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Security Services, notwithstanding, huge pressure on Abu Mazen and his security chiefs to break that. He refused to do so.

And—and that is an abiding reality now which suggests that even though the Palestinian leader and the Israeli leader, Abu Mazen and Netanyahu distrust each other, even despise each other, they recognize that they both have a common interest in preventing this from blowing again into another intifada, into another a religious conflict or whatever.

Bibi Netanyahu moved very quickly to—to stop—to put a stop to the—the incendiary activities that were going on from his own right wing on the Temple Mount. So, I mean, that—there is, you know, that sense that these leaders have that if they—if they hang separately, they'll hang together. That—that there is under—underneath it all, a common interest in survival.

HAASS: To what extent is the ideology of groups like ISIS making inroads either amongst the populations of Gaza and the West Bank or amongst the leadership of Hamas and the—and Fatah. Are we seeing if really ISIS-ization in any way of the Palestinians?

DJEREJIAN: I don't think so. In my discussions recently with the PLO and Palestinian Authority, their great fear is—what they say is what Israel is so blind to, if they don't negotiate with us, they're going to be negotiating with the Islamic radicals, either ISIS or Al Qaeda or Hamas. And so at the leadership level, at least, they realize that this is a common enemy but I cannot answer the question, Richard, as to what appeal ISIS may have to a disenchanted youth and—and the younger population of Palestinians. That's always very worrisome.

HAASS: Elliott?

ABRAMS: I don't have—I haven't seen one good analysis of this. Of course, we're not now seeing the (inaudible)...

HAASS: We could ask the intelligence agencies as a result of (inaudible)...

ABRAMS: We should certainly do that and it's—if—if we're concerned about this, you can be sure that the leadership of Hamas is much more concerned.

INDYK: And there actually has been incidences recently of ISIS raising its ugly head in Gaza and Hamas suppressing it very clearly. But the—the danger here is that—that ISIS affiliates, Al Qaeda affiliates are operating in the Sinai right next to Gaza and so there is a real challenge there. But, again, that—that would be the ultimate irony that Hamas and Israel will have a common interest in preventing ISIS from—from establishing itself inside Gaza.

HAASS: One last scene setter. I kind of want to save time for prescription. Which is here it is, it's May of 2015; people converge on this city in New York in September for the U.N.. What is likely to be the choreography and the play at the United Nations this fall?

Elliott, you used to have the I.O. job. What is—what is your sense of what is—could or—or like that could happen or like that happen?

ABRAMS: Well, this depends partly on the French and partly on President Obama.

INDYK: New Zealand.

ABRAMS: Will—will the—will the French really try to push forward with a resolution of the sort that has some substance and, therefore, Israel's really going to oppose it. And what will the President do? And this is being debated in great deal in Jerusalem. Will the president cast the usual American veto or will he negotiate a resolution that would not require a veto but is, from the Israeli point of view, much worse than any that they've had before because it is prescriptive as to the terms of a possible outcome.

Of course, president's made a lot of speeches as did all his predecessors saying you can't make peace at the U.N.. The parties have to negotiate directly. So there is something of a contradiction here if he allows a resolution that does have a good deal of substance as to the nature of a—of a final agreement between Palestinians and Israelis.

DJEREJIAN: I think this—this follows up on one of the earlier questions, Richard. Look how things have shifted. We've all been part and individuals in the audience where the United States is assumed to have to take the lead in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the assumption and hypothesis that the parties left on their own cannot come to an agreement. So the president of the United States plays a critical role. Our country plays a critical role. I still believe that. There's not going to be an Israeli-Jordanian bilateral face-to-face agreement between—I believe, between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

But look at how things are shifting in this new environment. The United States' role is being relegated to a U.N. role, and where we often, as we know, made recommendations up the line that the United States must come up with terms of reference to give a political horizon to the Israelis and the Palestinians of where they're going so that serious negotiations take place, that is now being relegated to United Nations Security Council resolution, which is a new game.

And—and this is a significant shift. And it may happen. As the French say, froq de mear (ph) in the absence of direct negotiations brokered (ph) by the United States, this might be the new parameters and we may come up with a United Nations Security resolution with the terms of reference. Is this good or bad? We can debate that.

INDYK: Has froq de mear (ph) been used at...

(LAUGHTER)

DJEREJIAN: I use anomie, I've used froq de mear (ph), and (inaudible) and never twice I'll use something else.

(LAUGHTER)

INDYK: Could I—could I have a go at this one?

I think Elliott is—is right, that the French are the prime movers here, but they—they will be held off first of all by the threat of a—of a veto from the United States. And I think they understand now that that would be forthcoming in the context of a—of a move now before September because the White House is very much focused on the Iran deal and doesn't need to complicate its life with two issues of—that would cause tension with—with the government of Israel.

But, come September, which was Richard's question, I do think the French will—will move and it's not really the French resolution that—that is the critical issue here, it's whether that forces the hand of—of the Obama administration and it decides to move ahead with—or in partnership with, say, the British, to put forward a resolution that would essentially encapsulate the basic principles of the two-state solution.

Those principles are things that—that John Kerry and I were involved in negotiating for—for 10 months that come out of that intensive direct negotiation between the parties. And—and they—the reason that the administration might decide in these circumstances to go for it, I suspect, I don't know, is that precisely there are no negotiations and no prospect of negotiations, and no alternative therefore on the ground and the question is, then, how do you preserve the two-state solution in an environment in which other things are happening on the ground that undermine it?

HAASS: OK.

INDYK: And so, in that context, and in the context of Obama's own legacy, you could see them move forward.

One thing I—I'd just add on this is that not only would the government of Israel as presently constitution—constituted have a real problem with it but so does the Palestinian leadership and they do not want this resolution any more than the Israelis do because it would represent a compromise on their claims, as well.

HAASS: You've made the segue, so let's take the next few minutes to talk about what we can do, and I want to use a template, Martin, that you introduced, which is outside in and inside out.

And outside in could technically come from two directions, could be things that the United States does and we could either come forward with a plan, we could come forward with principles, we could come forward with conditions that needed to be met in order for us to come forward with a plan, so there's all sorts of things that we could do. Or we could try to resurrect, for example, the Saudi peace plan. Get something—building on what several of you pointed out, the idea that there's a strange overlap between Israeli and Arab views right now.

So what about the idea—I'm not asking you to predict, I'm asking you to recommend. Is—given—despite the poor prospects, is anyone here comfortable or thinks that it would be wisest rather than simply allow things to drift or allow a vacuum, that the United States should either push certain things itself that and so (ph) what, or push the Arabs, or suggest to the Arab governments that they put something on the table?

Is there a place, if you will, for an outside initiative at this moment?

ABRAMS: I don't believe there is a place for a diplomatic initiative aimed as secretary here has been aiming since the day he came to office at a comprehensive agreement. That's not going to happen in the remaining period of the Obama administration. And it's a fool's errand, I think to waste secretary's time and American prestige on it.

What would be useful I think is to see what can be done between the Israelis and Palestinians to make life better and to go back to the idea of building the institutions that would ultimately become those of a Palestinian state.

HAASS: What—for example, what—what's on the short list?

ABRAMS: Well, short list, economy and security. So security, they've actually made significant advances, not only in the last few years but even in the last few months. There is an expansion of Palestinian police presence in areas east of Jerusalem that—that—that was previously prohibited by the Israelis. That's a very good thing.

On the economy, the Israelis have finally, I guess, turning the water on for Rawabi but there are other things that can be done. Netanyahu's done some of them but to improve the economy of the West Bank, the example I like to give best is they've got 2G con (ph) activity in the West Bank which is really awful, rather than 4G which is what we have in most of the United States.

HAASS (?): They can't compromise on 3G?

ABRAMS: Propose it, I mean, you know, we're having our meeting here.

I think that's the much smarter way to go because it has seemed to me, at least since the Annapolis failure, that no matter who was prime minister of Israel, Abbas was not ever signing anything, and I still believe that. He's 81, it is not his job in his view to take the risk being illegitimate, as Martin said, to sign an agreement that half of Palestinians will oppose.

HAASS: What about—what about the idea of encouraging the new Saudi leadership to essentially say the positions of the old Saudi leaderships still remain the case and to push some type of an Arab diplomatic initiative at this moment?

INDYK: I think what you're talking about here is two approaches that—that actually can complement each other. I think what—what Elliott's referring to is the kind of bottom up approach. Whereas, what you're talking about an outside in approach, they think we, in fact, need to encourage both but I don't think they'll be a big problem in getting King Solomon to say that the Arab peace initiative is still sound policy. But—but the mistake people make is to assume that just because the Saudis have embraced the Arab peace initiative, that they're actually prepared to do something about it.

The—the Saudi view is that it's up to others to—to get the two parties to agreement and then they—they will normalize relations, make peace, et cetera.

DJEREJIAN: This is very important, but one—one does not assume that the Saudi peace initiative, which is critical, which is a very important factor, and as long as it's alive and it's reinforced by the new King of Saudi Arabia that that is critical. But, again, as Martin has said, I think Elliott has also mentioned, is that what is critical is that there has to be movement on the ground between Israelis and the Palestinians for the Saudi peace initiative to kick in in one way or another. The Saudis cannot independently make an initiative any absence of any forward movement.

And, let's be honest with ourselves, you know, we're talking about Palestinian abilities to move the process forward. American—what about this government? Are they going to continue with a (inaudible)...

(CROSSTALK)

DJEREJIAN: And Israel. Are they going to continue with a very robust settlement policy that could destabilize the political situation in the Palestinian territory?

HAASS: (Inaudible) you raise one issue I wanted to talk about which is settlements. We now have an Israeli government. To what extent should the United States be weighing in either to influence their policy on settlements and to what extent should the United States have in place what it will do? I mean, for example, should the U.S. essentially say look the other way when there's an expansion of the three blocks but not look the other way when there isn't? What should be U.S. approach to settlements at this point?

INDYK: I...

DJEREJIAN: You've been there. Take that one.

INDYK: Well, I've been there so many times that I really think that it's a mistake for the United States to get itself wrapped again around this particular axle. The Israeli government, I think, understands by now that it enters a whole world of hurt if it undertakes controversial settlement activity. And, you know, we've warned them repeatedly, and if they don't heed the warnings, then, you know, they will—they will reap the whirlwind, and there will be one.

It'll start with the Europeans but it'll end up in the U.N. Security Council. And I'm not sure whether the Obama administration will veto a—a resolution which reflects U.S. policy on settlements, longstanding U.S. policy, bipartisan U.S. policy when it comes to opposing those kinds of settlement activities.

So—but I do think it's up to the Israeli government and there are things it can do. So if it decides only to build in the blocks, that will be still controversial, not something the Palestinians or even I think the E.U. would accept, but it could reduce the criticism by doing something that would be of considerable value to the Palestinians and something that this government could do since it was put on the table in the negotiations on the very last night of the negotiations before they were called off. And—and that is to allow Palestinian—the Palestinian Authority to build in sea areas adjacent to major cities and towns in the West Bank.

Those sea areas for those of you who are not familiar with the nomenclature are areas that are under complete Israeli control. Now, the Palestinian Authority has controlled that 42 percent of—of the West Bank, Gaza the A&B areas, and—or is it 58 percent is under the control of Israel. So in those areas, Israel can allow the Palestinian Authority to actually build. It doesn't require cabinet decision; it could be done by the very forward-leaning head of the administration of the territories, a guy named General Mordechai, who's been responsible for expanding Palestinian authority and control in the way that Elliot refers to and a whole lot of other things as well, including allowing for exports from Gaza to the West Bank, something which we were told repeatedly during the negotiations was impossible. We just did it, and we did it without any pressure from the United States.

So these are the kinds of things that could be done by the Israeli government on its own initiative that—that would, on one hand, play into your policy of—of building the situation on the ground—create a more positive atmosphere there and also reduce the international condemnation of Israel for its settlement activity if it does it in—in a discreet way.

HAASS: Let me ask you one or two more questions, then we'll open it up.

What about just in terms of modalities, in terms of process?

Secretary of state's, at least for the foreseeable future, busy with Iran. That'll let up a little bit once there's an agreement. There is the rest of the world.

To what extent do we need to at least show some activity, and if so, ought it to be him, or ought we to resurrect some sort of a high-profile envoy? I'm not asking any of you to suit up.

But—but is there something to be served, if you will, by the appearance of continued American attaching of priority to this but still preserving the secretary of state's time for other things and keeping the president out of it, particularly that the next year and a half parallel an American political campaign?

Was does the administration do between now and—and November, essentially, of next year in order to show, if you will, to avoid, I guess, either too little or too much interest in the—in the issue?

(UNKNOWN): Well, I think you've answered the question. My advice would be to appoint an envoy.

The level should not be tippy-top, you know. You don't want a former president. You want someone who also understands, let's be candid, that there's going to be no deal in the next few years and that his or her job is to make sure that people don't think the president and the secretary are forgetting about this, even as they're somewhat forgetting about this.

INDYK: We have an envoy at the moment. There is an envoy.

(CROSSTALK)

INDYK: His name is Frank Lowenstein. He was my deputy. He's now the envoy. I think that's probably the right level.

I think there are things that we can do if the—if the Israeli government is willing to continue the kinds of things they've allowed Mordechai to do. That—there's a lot of potential there.

But, you know, the deputy defense minister is from the Jewish Home party, and his—his business in the defense ministry is responsible for the—the administered territories, and his—his purpose is to administer them for the settlers, not for the Palestinians.

So I don't know whether that's going to work. But certainly, the envoy can work on those issues.

I think the—the point that we need to consider, Richard, is that the—the action is going to move to the Security Council.

HAASS: That's right.

INDYK: And—and so, you know, as much as we can—can work this on the ground and try to encourage it, we're going to have to have a strategy for dealing with the push in the Security Council.

And—and I think that we need to consider seriously changing policy fairly dramatically and deciding to go for a positive resolution that would lay out the principles in broad terms of a two-state solution.

Now, the problem with that is—the question you're bound to ask next is, well, what happens the day after when both sides reject it, which they will? And I would say that the answer to that is...

HAASS: Because it'll be too much for the Israelis and not enough for the Palestinians.

INDYK: That's why the Palestinians will reject it and vice versa.

HAASS: Yeah.

INDYK: But the—the key here, and this is where it ties into your question about the Arab Peace Initiative, the Arab Peace Initiative means to be part referenced in the resolution.

And we would—if we were going to go down this road, we would need to make sure that the Arabs voted for it and that it would there become a unanimous resolution, which laid out the basic principles, including principles that Israel would like, like recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, like meaning to take care of Israel's security concerns, but also '67 lines plus mutually agreed swaps and something they wouldn't like, which is that Jerusalem would need to be the shared capital of the two states.

And so we would lay that out in a Security Council resolution and—and let it sit, and the parties will reject, but...

HAASS: When you say let it sit, it would pass and then...

INDYK: Pass unanimously.

HAASS: And then—but then we would...

INDYK: What we would have...

HAASS: And what would be the criteria for acting on it? We would say—imagine it passed, that became the new framework, the template. What would then—what would be U.S. policy if that were to happen? What would you recommend we do the day after?

INDYK: We let it sit. That's what I would recommend.

(CROSSTALK)

INDYK: Well, it would be the next administration's job, but basically, it would be up to the two parties to wrestle with this.

HAASS: OK, so basically, you would create a new baseline and say when you're ready to run with it...

INDYK: But when the parties are ready to come back to a negotiate, we would have a terms of reference. We have no terms of reference, none, when—when I was designated to be responsible for those negotiations.

This would represent the terms...

HAASS: I just wonder if you'd get a unanimous Arab vote for Israel as a Jewish state.

(CROSSTALK)

(UNKNOWN): But—but the terms of reference are very important, Richard.

I mean, we need to put terms—either an American administration or in a U.N. context, the terms of reference that path a political horizon forward would probably be the best thing to do while we wait until viable face-to-face negotiations can be renegotiated.

HAASS: OK, so just to sum up—and I'll probably do vast injustice, but no matter—actually, in Washington, first, you have the meeting about the meeting, which is what the meeting meant to be about and who's attending it and so forth.

Then you have the meeting, and then you have the meeting about the meeting, and you argue over what was actually agreed. So what you're going to see now is a demonstration of the third, but we're—we're not going to pursue it any (inaudible).

But what I hear is something of a consensus on do all sorts of bottom-up stuff as best you can with the Palestinians, certainly in the economic and security realm.

Some things may just—not even require us to do anything. Some things may just happen, quietly encourage them, and some cases, we support them.

No real—no real possibility right now for what you might call inside-out diplomacy. This is not Oslo. Nothing like that is going to happen from these Palestinians and these Israelis now.

Could be, though, some possibilities for outside-in diplomacy.

One idea that we'd need to look at seriously is whether to take—rather than be passive, take the lead in proposing some type of a resolution at the U.N, I hear people saying, some type of terms of reference or principles for a—a comprehensive framework, obviously, shop it around, not simply to get major-power support but—and European support but also to get—to—to get Arab support and to essentially get that to become the—the new baseline until such a point as our local politics perhaps evolve or even in the region, where people might be more prepared to move out on it.

Does that do basic justice for what the consensus is?

(UNKNOWN): Yes, although I want to say I'm not in that consensus, because I think the U.N. idea's an awful idea.

HAASS: OK, (inaudible) one last question then, and I will open up.

If you don't follow—if you don't approve that, your feeling is that you would support everything else minus that, or would you actually have something else you would rather have in lieu of that?

(UNKNOWN): I think the diplomatic part at this point should be simply put aside for a couple years, wait for the next president.

HAASS: OK. So just basically to park it.

OK. With that, we're going to open it up. You heard essentially line, some elements of which were common. One element of which was not.

And anything is fair game, either what's been discussed up here and what my three colleagues and I haven't had the—the (inaudible).

Just—again, typical rules. Just identify yourself with the microphone.

QUESTION: Thank you. Allen Hyman (ph), Columbia Presbyterian.

First, congratulations, Richard, on this format. I think it really works very well.

HAASS: Thank you.

QUESTION: And since you're so interested in language and syntax, I notice it's a question but it's not followed by a question mark. So I thought that should be pointed out.

(LAUGHTER)

HAASS: I'll take your question, or non-question, under advisement.

QUESTION: I'm—(inaudible) we're looking for new dynamics.

And I think one of the more dramatic dynamics is a country that was not mentioned today, and that's Egypt. This week, President Morsi was sentenced to death, and it appears the relationship between our government and General Sisi is improving.

Egypt borders on Hamas, playing an important role there. It borders on Israel. It borders on Saudi Arabia. It has a very important position. It's the largest Arab country.

How do you think the new dynamic might affect the overall process? Anybody want to take that, (inaudible), and in particular, whether this government of Egypt—(inaudible) take a step back.

The government of Egypt has historically been a principle partner of the United States in managing or advancing the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Is this government of Egypt likely to be one willing and, two, able to do that, given all they've got on their plate, and do we want to bring them in?

INDYK: Well, I think Sisi has—has manifested an interest. But it goes back to the point about what are the priorities now for these countries, and—and solving the Palestinian problem is not—is not a priority for him, given—given the other challenges that he faces, both domestically, particularly with the economy and in the Sinai and in the western desert as well, and that spills over into Libya.

So it's not high on his priority list.

What is high on his priority list is cooperation with Israel on the security issues that they face together, that is to say Hamas, Gaza and, of course, these—these groups, jihadist groups in Sinai, which he's having a real difficulty getting control of, basically because the Egyptian army doesn't want to fight them.

And—and so the Israelis are working very closely with him on that. He appreciates them. He—he values his relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

And so, you know, eventually, out of that, in better circumstances, which may take a lot of time to come around, he—he could play the role that Egypt has played in the past as the kind of protector and—and umbrella for the Palestinians and adviser to the Palestinians in helping to make up for that lack of legitimacy that I spoke about at the beginning.

(UNKNOWN): I think for now, the degree of his cooperation with Israel is so high that the last thing he wants is for anybody to talk about.

(LAUGHTER)

And I...

INDYK: "His" being Sisi?

ABRAMS: Sisi. And I think that, for reasons that Martin states, and others, he's got plenty to do and the idea of mucking around in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy is just not going to be—he will not wish to do that, I think, for the next few years.

I think he'll also wait for a new American president.

DJEREJIAN: But I think there are two fundamentals here. First, it's obvious these Egyptian commitment to the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty, but secondly the pressure that Sisi is putting on Hamas as part of the general threat of the (Ikhwandi) Muslim Brotherhood threat.

Those are two major factors in that relationship.

INDYK: Can I—just picking up on that, because it's classic of the Middle East is that the pressure that Sisi is putting on Hamas because he wants to choke them in Gaza.

And by the way, his ally in that effort is (Abumazi). They both want to screw Hamas. But that is driving Hamas into the arms of Israel, and now Hamas is talking about a 10 year hudna, a ceasefire, with Israel, which by the way, Israel would like to have.

And it doesn't want to have to go back to war in Gaza every two years. So, a 10 deal in which Israel opens up Gaza more in return for Hamas cracking down on all the elements that would seek to cause a problem for Israel, is a deal that people are now talking about on both sides.

And that would be the ultimate irony, is that Israel would throw a lifeline to Hamas because of a common interest that's emerging as a result of Sisi's efforts to screw them.

HAASS: Elliott, I just want to understand one thing also, about your position before, when you were very critical of Martin, and the idea, if he had had basically supported about the U.S. either introducing or supporting a resolution that laid out the terms of reference or principles of it.

On the basis that you can't be something with nothing, what would then be your strategy for dealing what would likely to happen at the U.N.?

Would it be to simply use vetoes, or would you have another idea about what it is we might do in order to manage events on the east side of the city?

ABRAMS: I think I would begin now to take a very strong position about vetoing almost anything. That is, to establish a negotiative position.

I would talk about veto, veto, veto. Then, after Iran, let's say, in July or August, I would go to the French and the Brits and say, "You know, it might be possible to have a resolution here. It's going to be very tough."

We're getting into elections in the U.S. And I would try, I wouldn't oppose any resolution, I would simply try for something that is more traditional and more anodyne.

HAASS: OK. Sure.

QUESTION: Is it possible that we are just in a period where, in comparison to Egypt, ISIS, Iran, Syria, that this issue just is not important?

That people view it as something can be contained even a Gaza war every two years for a month, in comparison to those things is, almost irrelevant.

And how do we take advantage of, or are you able to, the fact that we could have a long period of time where people just do not see this as a major issue, and want to see how the other issues first get resolved?

DJEREJIAN: One of the problems with that is that, and I think we've all witnessed this in our times in government, when you have periods of stagnation like this, bad things happen.

So, we can't apply Western logic that, you know, we're in a stasis.

It's the Middle East and, welcome to the Middle East. It's very irrational what happens. And I think that stagnation of this issue, conflicts will arise, be it with Gaza, perhaps with Hezbollah, against Israel in the north.

So, you just can't take an aloof position, in my view, and let me put something on the table, if I may, if we get down to basics. I believe that, you know, Bibi Netanyahu talks about the existentials, about Israel being an Iranian nuclear weapon state. Agreed.

But let's submit that the other existential threat to the state of Israel is the failure to come to a two state solution, which could preserve a democratic Jewish state according to the definition of the local government.

Because in the absence of arriving at a two state solution, the alternative is what? It's what we're talking about, stagnation, more conflict, et cetera. But then beyond that, a one station solution.

And what would be the future of a democratic, Jewish state in a one state solution, given the demographics have changed?

HAASS: I'd like to give a slightly different answer to your question, just very quickly. I think it's fair to say that the, and I think you heard it from everybody here, the prospects for diplomatic progress are de minimus. To use a word that I worked with once, it's not right for any number of reasons.

DJEREJIAN: That's the third foreign war...

HAASS: Secondly, I would be prepared to argue that even if that's dead wrong, and you could have major progress, it would not have a significant effect on most of the other problems we're seeing in this part of the world.

It would not affect the dynamics in Syria, in Yemen, or Libya or Iraq or Iran's nuclear program, or what have you.

A third question, though, to think about it, though, is what will the passage of time do? And whether you took if what is the thrust of your question and let it sit, let it park, are you likely to have more or less to work with in a couple of years?

And I think that's the other question you have to ask. And if you are persuaded that time works in your favor, and action will ripen it, then that might lead you down one path.

If, however, you're persuaded or think there's a pretty good chance that, in action or will actually be reduce your options down the road, might lead to further radicalization, you might have crises that you don't want to have right now.

Then it might lead you to think more about a form of intervention, diplomatically, wants to work, or another.

INDYK: Can I just say, the trouble with that is, that time, that the parties themselves both believe that time works in their favor, so neither of them have a sense of urgency.

All of them, both sides, refer this status quo to the alternative, and so therefore, it's going to require, it's going to take some kind of shakeup.

One other point...

HAASS: Cause there's—that's true, but that doesn't necessarily mean the United States comes to that conclusion.

INDYK: Well, but, that's where I was headed, because, for the United States, the one issue that we haven't put on the table is, that U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East are declining.

And they're declining because we no longer have the dependence on Middle Eastern oil that we used to have. Now, it's true that our major trading partners and our allies do have that dependence, and we still have to play a role there.

But the combination of the exhaustion from the Iraq War, and the sense that U.S. intervention, whether it's diplomatic or military, really doesn't help, it just seems to make matters worse, and this sense that, you know, we've got bigger fish to fry in other parts of the world, means that, I think, that just like it's not the top priority for the Arabs and it's definitely not the top priority for the Chinese or the Russians or the Indians or any other of the emerging powers. It's also not the top priority for the United States.

And so, you know, we could do things on the margin; we could encourage this and do a resolution there. But, you know, we may be entering a period in which the notion that the United States is gonna be the lead player and the honest broker, trying to do a deal, may have gone away for some time to come.

(UNKNOWN): My only question for you, again, this is—if this were a meeting in the government, the question, we would say—is, after you made that comment, we would say, do we think that's right? Do we think we will be better off, to put it—to put it one way, to put out some ideas, even if they don't happen?

Because you seem to be saying, if I understood you 10 minutes ago, that we would be better off leaning forward, putting out ideas even if they gain no traction. Place holders. That would be—and Elliott's argument is in a sense...

(UNKNOWN): Not as a precursor to an active...

(CROSSTALK)

(UNKNOWN): I understand that. You just basically get it out there and have that become part of the "new normal," if you will, just sitting there. And Elliott's argument is hold off, wait until the new administration comes into office and then consider something like that, right?

(UNKNOWN): And then at our meeting, we need to figure out if we decide not to do any of this, who's gonna tell John Kerry?

(LAUGHTER)

(UNKNOWN): That's the president's job.

(UNKNOWN): Yes, ma'am?

You've got a microphone right here.

QUESTION: Hi, Hillary Cecil Jordan (ph).

When and if or when Iran and the U.S. conclude an agreement, that would strengthen Iran, but what effect would it have, if any, on the prospects for negotiations here?

(UNKNOWN): The prospects for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations?

(UNKNOWN): I don't think there's a direct cause-and-effect there. I think the Iranian negotiations are part of a larger strategic picture, certainly on the nuclear issue, which in itself, in terms of nuclear nonproliferation has great importance and limitations.

It depends on what the agreement actually says, but fundamentally, the U.S.-Iranian relationship will be positive beyond the nuclear issue on whether or not we will be able to engage with this very problematic regime on the other issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian issue, but including their support for Hezbollah and terrorism and all these other factors.

But I don't think it's going to have a direct causal effect on the Palestinian issue.

(UNKNOWN): Yeah. It's actually interesting. I think Ed's right that historically that was not the case.

(UNKNOWN: That's true.

(UNKNOWN): In the st1990s...

(UNKNOWN): Yes, I do agree. Yes, both Ed and I were engaged in the effort with Bill Clinton to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Iranians were very active trying to subvert the efforts, through Hezbollah and through Hamas and through Palestine's Islamic Jihad, in particular, which was kind of Holy Lands (ph) subsidiary for the Iranians.

And that's changed. In the negotiations that I was involved in last year, we saw no Iranian activity whatsoever. Now, that was partly because their relationship with Hamas is broken and it's partly because Hezbollah is preoccupied and Iran are preoccupied in Syria. And I don't—I'm not sure if they have the bandwidth for it.

But it may also be because what they were doing then was tactical. I don't think it was strategic, as much as the Israelis have good reason to believe they want to destroy Israel, their efforts to subvert the peace process were basically because they understood that if we succeeded to establish a Pax Americana through the peace process, they would be isolated.

And so, they figured the best way to prevent their isolation was to disrupt the (inaudible).

Now, they're not being isolated. They have the opportunity through this nuclear deal to re-enter the international community with sanctions lifted and so on.  So, I don't think they have the same—they see the Palestinian issue as something that's actually useful to them at the moment.

(UNKNOWN): Sir? Steven (ph)?

Wait for the microphone.

QUESTION: Ambassador Indyk, when you sketched out the parameters of a possible Security Council resolution, you did not mention the right of return. Could you comment on that?

INDYK: Now, that—the issue of refugees would have to be in such a resolution, because there's a formula that is in the Arab peace initiative which talks about an a just and agreed solution. Meaning a just solution for the refugees, but Israel has to agree to it.

And you could simply use that—use that wording.

QUESTION: Herbert Levin (ph), council member.

Proceeding from Ambassador Indyk's more modest view of the potential American role, we're no longer dependent on oil from Saudi or the Gulf. The Japanese and the Chinese say they really don't care who controls it, they'll pay anybody who'll export it, and they're all gonna export it, so they're not gonna get actively involved.

And I agree with you, it would be, you know, very nice if Jordan stayed the way it is and so forth, instead of becoming another Syria or Iraq.

The point is, what are our actual American interests in the area?

We wish the Libyans wouldn't kill each other or the Zayawqar (ph) weren't killing each other. We have very, very limited interests.

Now, and if I may, there's a domestic political side to this. I was delighted when the president appointed a special emissary to bring human rights to North Korea—I'd love to have that job, because you wouldn't accomplish anything, but no one would blame you. But that was not to do anything for the North Koreans, it was to satisfy the domestic human rights constituency.

So, the point is, what are our minimum interests, what are the minimum American domestic political problems and what is the minimum thing you do?

DJEREJIAN (?): Let me make a comment on that in terms of oil and energy. I think it's a fallacy to think—first of all, I think what's happening in North American shale oil, shale gas discoveries is changing the 21st century geopolitics of energy throughout the world.

And it is now possible, as you said, that the United States can become a net exporter of oil, so our dependence is less. But don't make the mistake of thinking that because of our increased capacity to produce oil and gas that our dependence on the Middle East will all of a sudden disappear, because oil and gas is a global commodity. Let's not forget that.

I mean, look at—we are suffering, our American corporations are suffering by the steep fall in the price of the oil. And that's because the Saudis made the basic decision to go for market share to preserve their Asian markets, and they're not—they're simply not playing the old game of cutting production in order to prop up the price of oil.

So we're still dependent in terms of the geopolitics of energy on the Middle East. And the Middle East is going to remain the oil producers, the major markets for energy for Japan, China and Asia.

HAASS: I would just quickly say—I want to get one or two more questions in—in addition to what Ed said, I think you've also got to think about we have a real commitment not to see the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials around that part of the world. If you think the Middle East is bad now, just wait until that were to happen.

Terrorism is not just a local phenomenon; terrorism spreads digitally or physically. The United States does have, I believe special obligations to the state of Israel.

So I actually think U.S. interests remain considerable. How it is we promote and protect those interests, that's a rich foreign debate.

But the idea that the Middle East has somehow fallen off the edge, simply because U.S. direct oil dependence has somewhat changed, seems—I agree with Ed, I think you have to wait...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: But do you agree, Richard, that it doesn't have the same strategic weight that it used to have? It doesn't have the same alacrity.

HAASS: I'm not so sure. No, because if tomorrow—I actually think there's a decent chance that we will see instability in Saudi Arabia over the next couple of years. I think the odds of that are much higher than most analysts give credence to. That would overwhelm any cushion in global energy markets now.

So I don't think U.S. interests in the Middle East are necessarily fundamentally different.

(UNKNOWN): I just would add, those TV scenes of ISIS beheading people and killing Americans I think raised the saliency of all of these issues once again for American politics and for American security.

HAASS: Oh, we got time? Sure.

Mr. Lorenti (ph)?

(OFF-MIKE)

QUESTION: Jeff Lorenti (ph). Thank you for a very stimulating discussion.

The Israelis have been particularly allergic about the Palestinians' ratification of the International Criminal Court statute, and I wonder if you all might comment a bit on as this lumbering process gets under way, and not just on alleged war crimes in the Gaza battle by Hamas or the Israelis, but on the settlement enterprise in the occupied territories and the potential for the Europeans and others, if some decision is rendered, to try to, quote, "enforce" it somehow, whether it be with trade sanctions on the occupied—on the settlements in the occupied territories or of visas for people who have moved in there, what do you see as the long-term consequences? Why were the Israelis so upset about just another U.N. talk shot (ph)?

(UNKNOWN): I think—I think you're absolutely right to focus on the settlements. That's what I was referring to earlier, because if there's some new settlement announcements, I think it's likely that the Palestinians will seek the International Criminal Court's judgment on that, on the grounds that that is a war crime.

And—and they can make a case, that case.

Whether they'll succeed or not, I don't know. I'm not an international lawyer, but I believe that that's what they will do, and that will be highly problematic for Israel.

So, you know, it's a problem.

But the bigger problem that the Israelis are worried about, though, is that as a result, say of the Gaza inquiry or other inquiries, that Israeli generals or soldiers will be hauled up or arrested internationally and pulled up before international criminal proceedings.

I think that's probably farfetched, but that's very much on their minds.

HAASS: Which is very close to the American opposition on the International Criminal Court, which explains why we haven't become a member (inaudible).

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) of Pace University.

Given their activities in the recent Gaza war, Turkey and Qatar, how do you see their role going forward?

(UNKNOWN): I think the Qataris and the Turks, both, got out a little bit ahead of where it turns out it is in their national interest to be. So you now see the Qataris trying to be better members of the GCC. And I would say working a little bit more closely with their brethren, mainly with the Turks, who, you know, go back five or 10 years, we're hearing about the new Ottomans and they were going to their own dominant position in the entire Turkish-speaking region. They could not have their way in Syria, and now turn back to the United States and Arab allies for dealing with Syria. So I think in both cases, we're going to see less adventurism in the next 10 years than we have in the last 10 years.

DJEREJIAN (?): And then just to add one quick—quick point about this thing—one of the things to watch in this is the Saudi role. Because the Saudis were very hard line against the Muslim Brotherhood. And the Turks and the Qataris have basically identified with the Muslim Brotherhood parties and the Muslim Brotherhood party.

So, under the previous king, you had this kind of divide with the UAE and the Saudis on one side and the Turks and the Qataris on the other. The new king has adopted a—a less hard line approach to the Muslim Brotherhood. And so we now see not only greater alignment between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but Qatar working as a mediator between Saudi Arabia and Turkey. And if you had that kind of alignment, it would have impact—I think it's already showing up—in Syria, where the Qataris, the Turks and the Saudis, despairing of the United States doing anything but occasional attacks on ISIS, could actually work together there in more robust way that could be also complicated for us.

HAASS: I want to thank these two—these three gentlemen for two things. One is for persevering through the fog and the weather and the transportation disruptions, sitting on tarmacs to get to New York. And secondly, I want to thank them for their many decades of public service. So thank you—thank you all.

ABRAMS (?): Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

END

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