Nov 6th 2010

Calling on Robert Wexler

by Alon Ben-Meir

A noted journalist and author, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations and Middle East studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. Ben-Meir holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University. His exceptional knowledge and insight, the result of more than 20 years of direct involvement in foreign affairs, with a focus on the Middle East, has allowed Dr. Ben-Meir to offer a uniquely invaluable perspective on the nature of world terrorism, conflict resolution and international negotiations. Fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Ben-Meir's frequent travels to the Middle East and meetings with highly placed officials and academics in many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Turkey provide him with an exceptionally nuanced level of awareness and insight into the developments surrounding breaking news. Ben-Meir often articulates

It is time for the White House to bring on a new Mideast peace team. At various points in the past several months Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell has responded to reporters' questions about the stalled peace process by recalling his experience mediating the conflict in Northern Ireland, stating that he had "700 days of failure and only one day of success." Unfortunately, this analogy was never an apt one. In the Middle East, 700 days of failure serves to undermine credibility and trust-and that is exactly what has happened to Mitchell and his team.

In less than two months, Mitchell will reach his 700th day working to end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with no semblance of "success" achieved thus far, nor on the horizon. As a result, Israelis, Palestinians and the international community are deeply cynical as to the United States' peacemaking efforts led by the former Senator from Maine, and the two-state solution is being openly questioned like never before. It is time for Mitchell to resign. He should be replaced by someone who already has the trust of both sides, who can effectively communicate to leaders in the Mideast and to domestic audiences in the U.S., and who can live in the region to work face-to-face with the parties on a daily basis. There is one individual who fits this description to a tee-former Congressman Robert Wexler.

Wexler already has the trust of the President and both Israelis and Palestinians. As a surrogate for President Obama during the presidential election season, Wexler was a lead voice in promoting Obama's credentials to Jewish audiences in particular. William Daroff, the Washington Director of the Jewish Federations of North America told reporters when Wexler left Congress that "It was a crucial tipping point to have someone of Robert's stature in the Jewish community to vouch for (Obama)." Wexler could now have the same impact for Obama in the Middle East. As a Congressman from Florida, Wexler was described by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as "one of the stalwart leaders of the American-Israel alliance in Congress." But he has also earned the trust of Palestinian leaders. In recent months, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minster Salaam Fayyad have held two high-level, off-the-record meetings with prominent leaders of the American Jewish community in Washington, DC and New York respectively. Both were hosted by Wexler in his current role as head of the Washington-based Center for Mideast Peace. Even more, he enjoys the trust of one of the most aggressive and critical actors in the Middle East today: Turkey. Wexler co-founded the Congressional Caucus on U.S.-Turkey relations and today is a frequent visitor to the country. Few, if any, match Wexler's experience, credentials, and knowledge of the interrelated issues at play in this volatile region.

With trust in place, Wexler would have the ability to speak with the parties and domestic audiences in a way that Mitchell never could. Immediately upon his appointment, Mitchell was viewed with skepticism, perhaps unfairly, by some in the pro-Israel community in particular, but Mitchell still has yet to earn the trust of either side. The emphasis he placed on settlements has proven ineffective for advancing the peace process and actually served to undermine the already tenuous trust between the White House and the Israeli public. In fact, in order to obtain a settlement freeze or any other concession from the Israelis, trust with the Israeli public and pro-Israel advocates must be achieved. Mitchell has been unable to help President Obama do this, but Wexler could. As the former Congressman from the most heavily Jewish populated district in the United States, Wexler is not a novice when it comes to addressing the concerns of Israel and pro-Israel Americans. He fully understands and appreciates the mindsets of the players involved and would be able to provide both sides with the confidence needed to support significant concessions for advancing the peace process.

Rumors have been swirling for months that Wexler could be named the new U.S. Ambassador to Israel. He would be a good choice for that position. However, even better would be to give him the task of advancing the peace process: Post him in Jerusalem and put him to work capitalizing on the trust he has earned from both sides. One of the keys to the success of recently retired Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, the United States Security Coordinator charged with training Palestinian security services in the West Bank, was that he lived in the region and worked daily to earn the trust of Israelis and Palestinians on the ground. The same approach should now be applied to advancing peace talks. Also key to Dayton's success was his no-nonsense approach which Congressman Wexler fully shares.

What the peace process needs today is a messenger with a Presidential mandate to mediate and offer new and creative ideas, and who can also be blunt and honest with the parties to communicate what is at stake and the obligations that both sides must meet. Wexler wears his toughness and frankness as badges of honor, so much so that he titled his memoir "Fire-Breathing Liberal." For the sake of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the two-state solution, it is time to appoint former Representative Wexler the fire-breathing envoy.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jun 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "Xi Jinping’s call for friendship gives us an opportunity to examine Chinese politics on both the domestic and international stage. On the face of it, it suggests the possibility of rapprochement between the rich liberal democracies represented by the G7 and the authoritarian Chinese state. However, despite appearances of a call for a closer relationship, there is more than one way of being friends – and Xi’s idea might be somewhat different to what many in countries attending the G7 might expect."
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "
Jun 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " While many conservative Republicans opposed Trump and saw that he posed a danger to their party and democracy itself, they were hesitant to buck the mass movement they had created, fearing that it would turn against them. Some of these same conservatives assumed that with Trump's defeat, the horror of January 6th, and the former president's banishment from social media, the time had come to restore sanity to their party. But the GOP leadership’s continued cowering in the face of what they now call "Trump's base" has caused them to circle the wagons and purge their ranks of those who call for sanity. "
May 26th 2021
Editor's Note: This article is about the Federal Reserve, inflation in the 1970's, and possible similarities to today.
May 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "Netanyahu claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people. He certainly is not. Many Jews around the world, including me, despise Netanyahu’s racist politics. As an American, I am also deeply troubled by the US government’s knee-jerk support of Israel. Fortunately, I am not alone in this view. A growing number of Democratic Congressmen, Jews and non-Jews alike, have called on the United States to stop supporting Israel’s lawlessness. The truth is that the US government’s uncritical support for Israel has come to depend more on evangelical Christians, such as former US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, than on American Jews, who are deeply divided by Netanyahu’s actions. And the evangelicals’ real interest in Zionism is not Jews’ security, but Armageddon, the end of the world, which they believe will come only when all Jews are in Israel."
May 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "This period in US history could go down as the moment when America’s democratic system for electing a president – the most consequential duty of US citizens – was broken, perhaps for good."
May 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "While reading Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) monumental report “A Threshold Crossed,” I felt a range of emotions. It also left me with one big question. I was deeply impressed by the report’s rigorous scholarship. At the same time, it brought to the surface feelings of anger and profound sadness. It’s an extraordinarily complete study detailing not only the many ways Israel has violated a broad range of Palestinian human rights, but the ideology of racial superiority and entitlement that Israel has used to justify its repression." ..... "My advice to both Israel’s defenders and weak-kneed liberals is​, “Read the damn report.” "
May 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: .... "He transformed a transitioning market economy into a stable statist project that rests on an alliance of his inner circle," ..... "He transformed Russia from a respected member of the international community into a rogue state" .... ". He energized NATO by providing it with the adversary it lacked after the end of the cold war," ..... "He befriended hopelessly corrupt, dysfunctional, and unstable dictatorships..." ..... "He forged a quasi-alliance with China, thereby enhancing Russia’s dependence on the one country that might have reason to appropriate those Russian territories inhabited by Chinese."
May 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "On the face of it, the latest escalation of violence is following the template of all inter-ethnic wars. Muslims observing Ramadan shouted nationalist slogans and clashed with Israeli right-wing groups chanting “Death to the Arabs.” The Israelis haughtily marched with their national flag on Jerusalem Day, marking Israel’s capture in 1967 of East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the site of the biblical Second Temple, and of Al-Aqsa, completed in the year 705. Battles in and around the Al-Aqsa compound erupted, with worshipers inside throwing stones at the Israeli police, who responded by firing rubber-tipped bullets and other projectiles, wounding hundreds."
May 13th 2021
"Regardless of how the current and future violent conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem will end, there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace unless East Jerusalem becomes the capital of a Palestinian state while the city remains united."
May 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " Would the United States be prepared to risk a catastrophic war with the People’s Republic of China to protect the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan? "
May 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human history, ancient and contemporary, is replete with instances of genocide – that is, the effort to eradicate a people, erase their history, denigrate their culture, and destroy their physical presence. Many of these atrocities have been recognized by the victims and other nations who support them. But, with the notable exception of the German acknowledgment of the Holocaust, rarely have the perpetrators of these crimes accepted responsibility and offer recompense "
May 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The best way to defend liberal democracy is to practice it at home and abroad with the “courage and self-confidence” that Kennan touted at the dawn of the Cold War. This is also the best way to ensure the survival of our own conception of human freedom. And survive it will."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sammy Roth at the LA Times/ Boiling Point Newsletter reports that California’s main power grid was powered for several hours last Saturday by 90% renewables. For just four seconds that day, the grid, which covers 4/5s of the state, reached 94.5% generation by green energy. California is the world’s fifth largest economy. The main grid does not cover Los Angeles County. On the other hand, these figures do not include the electricity generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is not counted as renewable but which is also very low-carbon."
Apr 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "It is no accident that there has been an economic divergence in Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries that have joined the European Union have improved their economic governance, and GDP has begun to converge with Western Europe. Between 2014 and 2019, Hungary, Poland, and Romania grew at an annual average rate of 3.9%, 4.1%, and 4.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine experienced minimal growth during this period, and Russia’s economy expanded at an average annual rate of just 0.7%. Though Russia had a higher per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) than Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey as recently as 2009, all of these countries have since overtaken it. Russians today are shocked to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Among EU member states, only Bulgaria is still poorer than Russia. With its close proximity to the EU single market, Russia could have had higher growth if it had pursued sound economic policies. Instead,..... "
Apr 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "As far as anyone can tell, the US military is not on the verge of an internal breakdown, let alone primed to stage a coup d’état. But few predicted anything like the US Capitol riot before protesters equipped with body armor, stun guns, and zip-ties breached the building. Before the US is blindsided again, its leaders must act resolutely to root out extremism in the military."
Apr 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The new report on 2020 by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that the world’s renewable energy generation capacity increased by an astonishing 10.3% in 2020 despite the global economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic." .... "In 2020, the global net increase in renewables was 261 gigawatts (GW). That is the nameplate capacity of some 300 nuclear power plants! There are actually only 440 nuclear power plants in the whole world, with a generation capacity of 390 gigwatts. So let’s just underline this point. The world put in 2/3s as much renewable energy in one year as is produced by all the existing nuclear plants!"
Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."