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Experts warn time running out for two-state solution for Mideast crisis

By Heather Yamour

WASHINGTON, May 16 (KUNA) -- Middle East policy and regional experts say time is running out for the United States to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, warning "failure has a cost."

Speaking on a panel at the Woodrow Wilson Center event Wednesday on the two-state solution, Ghaith Al-Omari, former advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine, said while recent developments such as the Arab Spring and unrest in Syria have overshadowed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and have strained relations between President Abbas and neighbors and allies, in order to put the negotiations back on track, the United States needs to take the helm and "show it can deliver."

"Bringing all parties to the negotiating table is easy, but keeping them there is the hard part," Al-Omari said.

"This requires a credible process," which would require the U.S. to bring both Israelis and Palestinians to reach amenable policy terms that will lead to a two-state solution, as well as take a parallel negotiating track between the U.S.-Israel and U.S.-Palestine that will serve as a sort of fail-safe in the case that an agreement cannot be reached between both sides, he suggests.

"The possibility of failure is real. (It's) possible two leaders cannot agree on policy and ideological terms on a common ground. And we might end up in a deadlock. We have to look at parallel lines as creating the possibility on the ground that if the negotiations fail," he said, also raising a question in this respect by stating, "Can we create a process of constructive unilateralism to create a holding pattern to manage the process until the management changes?".

Echoing Al-Omari's sentiments, former Policy Coordinator for Israeli's Prime Minister Ehud Barak and research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, Israel, Gilead Sher, stressed a two-state solution "as imperative." "There is no other way (so that Israel) can secure its future as a Jewish and democratic state. We need to have a proactive approach, among all parties, including the Israelis, Palestinians, U.S. and the Arab League," he said.

 "We cannot just sit and wait and see how things develop because they are never developing the way we want." "I believe that a process of producing certain constructive steps that complement the bilateral and multilateral steps are essential to avoid failure because failure has a cost.

It has a cost and we've seen that," Sher said. However, Sher was not optimistic on achieving an immediate "end game" to the peace process, suggesting instead that Israelis and Palestinians reach an "interim" or partial agreement to resolve security, end conflict, statehood and economic issues and to continue talks towards permanent status on all other outstanding issues between the two sides.

Also, he opined that pushing multilateral dialogue within the region and between Israel and the Palestinian Authority would help gain traction and ease frustration and animosity on the ground.
"I don't think a solution is impossible but I don't think a solution is possible indefinitely. Just because a two-state solution is the preferred solution on both sides doesn't make it happen on its own, it requires a set of conditions and developments for it to happen," said Marwan Muasher, former foreign minister of Jordan and Vice President of Studies at the Carnegie Endowment.
He expressed skepticism the United States will do what is necessary to revive the peace process in time. "Do it in two years or face an impossibility that it won't happen," he said, repeating the warning made by Secretary of State John Kerry to congress last month.
He said Arab leaders throughout the region need convincing that President Barack Obama is dead serious on reaching a deal, which means presenting parameters for negotiations. These parameters need to be tactful and specific enough to allow for movement between Israelis and Palestinians. But Muasher cautioned that any deal that did not include East Jerusalem as part of the Palestinian Authority would be a "non-starter" for Arab leaders. "Can it be done in two years, yes even with all the regional difficulties, which has made things worse," Muasher said.

"This is extremely difficult but if you agree that it will be impossible very soon, then maybe the difficult can be more readily acceptable." Last month, Kerry restarted the Obama administration's efforts to revitalize the peace process, hosting a meeting with Arab League officials and Arab foreign ministers in Washington.
He is scheduled to meet with President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week to discuss resuming talks. Both sides withdrew from the peace process late 2010 as a result of a dispute over continued Israeli settlement building within the Palestinian Authority's borders. (end) hy.rk KUNA 161258 May 13NNNN