Elliott Abrams: The Elusive Dream of Mideast Peace

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Twenty years ago this September, President Bill Clinton stood on the White House lawn with former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Together they shook hands and talked about a new era of Middle East peace.

Now, President Barack Obama is about to head to the Middle East with the peace process mostly in tatters.

September 13, 1993 was hailed as an historic day when Israel and the Palestinians would begin to put their differences aside.

"Enough of blood and tears. Enough!" Rabin said that day.

The concept seemed simple enough: Israel would give up West Bank territories it won in the 1967 Six-Day War, while the Palestinians would recognize Israel and get their own state, and the two peoples could live side by side in peace and security.

But a Palestinian Authority government mired in corruption had different ideas. Through the 1990s, terrorist groups increased their campaign against Israelis.

Just two years after the White House ceremony, Rabin was murdered by an Israeli gunman.

The peace process moved forward anyway, and President Clinton almost brokered a deal at Camp David in which the Israelis would give up most of the West Bank and part of Jerusalem.

But Palestinian leader Arafat rejected the U.S.-brokered agreement. The result was a second intifada and a wave of terror attacks, leading to more than 2,000 dead on both sides.

Under pressure from the West, the peace process continued. But the Bush administration departed from past U.S. policy and refused to deal with Arafat, seeing him as part of the problem rather than the solution.

With Mahmoud Abbas in power after Arafat's death, the Israelis under then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, uprooting more than 8,000 Jewish residents from their homes. They hoped it would lead to peace.

Instead, it led to elections favoring the radical Hamas, an eventual Hamas dictatorship in Gaza, and thousands of rocket attacks on a growing number of Israeli cities.

Today, as Obama prepares to visit Israel, the dream of two states living side by side in peace seems as distant as ever.

Why has there been so little progress toward peace in the last 20 years? Elliott Abrams, former national security adviser to President George W. Bush, has written a candid and compelling book about those years called, Tested by Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

Abrams talked about the situation for Israel and the prospects for real peace, on "The 700 Club," Tuesday, March 5. Click play for the interview.

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John Waage

CBN News Sr. Editor

John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.