Gen. Anthony Zinni
Former head of U.S. Central Command and U.S. envoy to the Middle East peace process in 2001 and 2002
What I learned: By now, we should realize what doesn't work: summits, agreements in principle, special envoys, U.S.-proposed plans, and just about every other part of our approach has failed. So why do we keep repeating it?
Israel's ambassador to the United States; historian of the Middle East
What I learned: Calling this an Arab-Israeli conflict today is largely a misnomer. We have two states that have peace treaties with Israel. The largest antagonist is Iran, which is not an Arab state. But I've been studying the relationship between the United States and Israel for a long time, back since the 1967 war, when it was truly more of an Arab-Israeli conflict, and one thing that has struck me is the depth of the relationship between the United States and Israel. The relationship is truly deeper and more multifaceted than how I understood it in the past.
Who's to blame: I don't think assigning blame is productive, but I think the main obstacle is getting the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table. It's quite extraordinary: We now have a situation that existed before Oslo in '93 and before Madrid in '91 -- we can't get the Palestinians to sit down face to face with us and discuss the issues.
Out-of-the-box idea: As an ambassador, we don't generally do out-of-the-box ideas. If you ask me what the key to moving forward is, I would say that Palestinians, and Arabs more generally, must feel that they have more to gain by participating in negotiations than not. If they believe that by staying out of negotiations they can win concessions over issues such as East Jerusalem, why would they participate in what can be a drawn-out, uncertain process?
Israeli Knesset member and co-author of the 2003 Geneva Accord, a model
agreement for a two-state solution
What I learned: There are majorities on both sides that would support any peace treaty, but that was not enough. I did not appreciate the significance of small minorities that were ready to pay a very high price to torpedo any peace process.
Who's to blame: The leadership on both sides that were not courageous enough to get to the moment of truth. On both sides, there was always a feeling that they had room for maneuver: Let's wait for the next American president; let's wait for the next government on the other side. The combination of Yasir Arafat and Benjamin Netanyahu after the assassination of Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin was also very problematic. I believe that had Rabin not been assassinated, we could have had peace by now.
Special envoy for Gaza disengagement during George W. Bush's administration; former World Bank president
What I learned: I first approached the peace process thinking it was solvable -- that if you came up with a reasonable plan, each side would think that it was in their enlightened interest to follow it. I thought rationality would prevail. But to my great sadness, the notion of some perfect peace plan has not emerged. What's desperately needed is an intervention by, frankly, our country and the president. Absent that, I think it's unlikely you're going to see a near-term solution.
Out-of-the-box idea: If the United States were to take a very straightforward and unyielding line, it would help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if he wants to do a deal, and it would certainly help the Arabs come together. But that's certainly not a new idea.