New Article: Miller, Gulliver’s Troubles: America in the Middle East

Miller, Aaron David. “Gulliver’s Troubles: America in the Middle East [The Eighth Angier Biddle Duke Lecture].” American Foreign Policy Interests 36.4 (2014): 219-224.





And, finally, the Arab–Israeli issue; it is something that I have worked on for most of my career. I wish that I could say, after working for half a dozen secretaries of state, that we have produced a breakthrough on the Israeli–Palestinian issue. We didn’t. It is quite clear why John Kerry failed. He can’t succeed because the gaps on the core issues that drive the conflict—borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, recognition of Israel as the Jewish state—the gaps between the two leaders are simply too large to bridge. In the history of the world, the expression goes, “no one washed a rental car.” Do you know why you don’t wash a rental car? Because you care only about what you own. The same principle is applicable in life, politics, and diplomacy. Abbas and Netanyahu like the process, but they are not prepared to pay the price of what it will cost to bring the process to an end. I don’t care how bad we want it; we aren’t capable or willing to impose it. And even if we could, it wouldn’t last. As a consequence, after nine or ten months, Kerry’s efforts are suspended. I assume Kerry will pick it up again. There is no magical, philosophical, religious reason why the Palestinians and Israelis can’t resolve this conflict. It just requires three things that aren’t there now: (1) leaders who are prepared to become masters of their political constituencies, not prisoners of them; (2) ownership; (3) urgency, enough pain and gain to motivate Israelis and Palestinians to risk changing the status quo.


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