February 19, 2007 In the past five years the Bush administration has missed opportunities to advance a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in so doing has compromised the security of the Middle East region, according to Lincoln Chafee, the former US senator and newly arrived Watson distinguished fellow. The consequences of a failed peace plan have even exacerbated the conflict in Iraq, he said yesterday during a lecture, titled “President Bush’s Road Map to Middle East Peace: A Promise Unfulfilled.”
Focusing on two critical junctures when the conflict looked ready for progress — the first in the weeks following a hopeful meeting of Palestinian, Israeli, and US leaders in Jordan in 2003, and the second in the months following the death of Yasser Arafat in 2005 — Chafee provided concrete accounts of what and where the Bush administration went wrong. He added that while in each case, the administration's rhetoric on the subject had been laudable, the government failed to act on its rhetoric. “Has this been a deliberate deception?” he asked.
Looking to the future, Chafee emphasized the broader implications, or “ripples,” that a successful resolution to the conflict could have in the region. The recent report of the Iraq Study Group, for whom Chafee expressed his admiration and trust, identified the mitigating effects such a resolution could have on the instability in Iraq.
Chafee, who was the only Republican Senator to vote against authorizing the use of force in Iraq, went on to say that precipitous US withdrawal from Iraq would have dire consequences for the security of the region. The Iraq strategy, he concluded, should emphasize above all a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “Whether we do or do not send an additional 20,000 troops to Baghdad is not nearly as critical to our success in Iraq as is US leadership on the Road Map. That is the crucial missing ingredient.”
Chafee expressed hope in the increased Saudi interest in the region, but also stressed need for the Bush administration to seriously pursue the Road Map, the name given Bush’s 2003 plan and timeline for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While recent developments signal a third key opportunity for progress, he warned it might possibly be the last.
His talk was the latest of Brown’s Ogden Lectures, which bring public figures to the University to share their world views.
By Watson Institute Student Rapporteur Kenta Tsuda '07
Watch a video of the lecture here.
Read the text of Chafee's speech here.
Read coverage of the speech by the Associated Press here.
Read coverage in the Providence Journal here.
Read coverage in the Brown Daily Herald here.