Chicago Journal of International Law


In retrospect, that September day in 1993 was filled with irony. The United States has often been accused of serving merely as a "caterer for peace." By this, I suppose, is meant passively hosting ceremonial signings rather than exercising "superpower responsibilities." (The U.S. has also, of course, been accused of the opposite-dictating solutions to life-and-death issues whose consequences Americans will not have to bear.) All I knew at the time was that the Israeli and Palestinian legal representatives were not agreed on the final wording of their document, and I was not going to allow the dispute to move on to the stage to the embarrassment of all concerned. This initial experience taught me there can be far more to "catering for peace" than meets the eye. Simply providing technical assistance in preparing documents or logistical support for negotiations can be tricky, even nerve-wracking. But third-party facilitators can play an invaluable role in defusing the emotional barriers that impede constructive problem-solving for more than ceremonial events. For the United States, this has meant careful attention to nurturing the negotiating environment for Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. The U.S. has used its influence to urge the parties to restrain their public rhetoric and encouraged them to engage in confidence-building measures. More generally, it has expressed unwavering support for the process and sought to instill a sense of optimism to help build constituent support. When, as has happened all too often, the enemies of peace have lashed out violently, the United States has used its influence and prestige to overcome shocks to the process. It has organized and hosted emergency summits, boosted its own counter-terrorism support, and given the parties the confidence to continue once they have buried their dead. [CONT]