A former official in the State Department spoke yesterday about his experiences dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and how the conflict may be solved by equally weighing the interests of both sides.
Aaron Miller, who served as a Middle Eastern policy advisor during five presidential administrations, highlighted the need for the rekindling of fruitful negotiations.
“There is out there somewhere what I describe as an equitable solution,” Miller said to a group of students in an Angell Hall auditorium. “Negotiations that last are based on a balance of interests, not on a balance of power.”
Miller said lasting peace negotiations in the past – such as the Egyptian-Israeli and the Jordanian-Israeli agreements – worked because there was a balance of interests as opposed to a perfect solution.
“The only rational solution … is two states – what I call separation through negotiation,” Miller said, adding that “real reciprocity” must take place.
“The road to that solution will not be quick and will not be easy,” he added.
Miller also addressed problems facing the peace process. “We have a light but no tunnel. Everybody knows what the endgame is … the tunnel lies bloody in the streets of Ramallah, Haifa, and Jerusalem,” Miller said.
He pointed to a crisis prevalent among the leadership and constituencies of both sides. “The only time anything good has happened, it has been a consequence of top-down change.”
Miller added that part of the reason the leaders are not making concessions is because “embittered constituencies are not pressing” them to do so.
Political Science Prof. Mark Tessler, who teaches a class on the Arab-Israeli conflict, agreed with Miller’s assessment that negotiators know what the eventual solution to the conflict will be.
Tessler also said a tougher negotiation stance is needed. “We need serious diplomacy where we are tougher on both sides,” he said.
Miller said he resigned from the State Department in January because he felt the peace process was a long way from being completed.
“I resigned because we are in danger of losing an entire generation,” Miller said. “Everything I thought the U.S. could achieve fell apart.”
LSA sophomore Kraig Peterson listened to Miller speak as an assignment for Tessler’s class. He said he found Miller’s views both optimistic and sobering.
“It was one of the most hopeful speakers we’ve had,” Peterson said. “I wish he was still in the State Department.”
Miller is currently the president of Seeds of Peace, an organization that brings children from countries around the world – such as Israel, Cyprus, India, Pakistan and the United States – together in a camp in Maine. According to the Seeds of Peace website, the program is designed to develop a sense of “mutual understanding and respect” among the participants.