The Real Lesson of the Oslo Accord: “Localize” the Arab‐​Israeli Conflict

May 9, 1994 • Foreign Policy Briefing No. 31

Despite Washington’s efforts to broker a Middle Eastern peace agreement, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators quietly concluded the Oslo agreement with virtually no American involvement. Since the agreement was reached, however, Washington has sought to reestablish a prominent American role in the Arab‐​Israeli peace process. That would be a mistake.

Since the end of the Cold War and in view of the new emphasis on geoeconomic, rather than strategic, priorities, the United States has little reason to commit significant time or resources to resolving the Arab‐​Israeli conflict. Furthermore, it is very likely that high‐​profile American involvement in negotiations would actually hinder the process and further inflame radicals in the Israeli and Palestinian communities who oppose the Oslo agreement.

Instead of trying to micromanage the Arab‐​Israeli peace process, the United States should minimize its financial commitment to Israel and the emerging Palestinian entity and encourage economic cooperation between Israel and the Arab states, which could be the foundation for an interdependent Middle Eastern economy. Regional prosperity will advance peace far more effectively than American payoffs to prop up an artificial pax Americana.

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