Monday, as an American delegation including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Steve Mnuchin, and top Republicans from Congress gathers for a ceremony to mark the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, they may also be marking another milestone: the end of America’s role as the central mediator of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.*
Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the United States has been the primary negotiator between Israelis and Palestinians. Bill Clinton came closest to ending the conflict during the failed Camp David summit between Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak in 2000. George Bush led the Annapolis process in 2007–08, failing to yield results. And most recently, under Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry spearheaded an effort in 2013–14, which also crashed and burned. (I was part of the State Department negotiating team in that latest round.)
In every one of these talks, other countries played an important supporting role. The Norwegians hosted the secret dialogue that led to the initial breakthrough in 1993 and set the terms for future negotiations between Israelis and the Palestinians. The Arab states, especially Egypt and Jordan but also increasingly Saudi Arabia, have been brought in to give the Palestinians greater political cover while offering incentives to the Israelis in the form of full normalization with the Arab world. The international community has provided humanitarian, economic, and political support through the Middle East Quartet, which comprises the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia.
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