Former senior adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry discusses Israel-Palestine relations

Forrest Milburn

David Makovsky, a former senior adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace team, has spent his entire career working to reach an agreement between Israel and Palestine to try and solve issues through a sound, respectable two-state solution.

With an increase in conflict and violence in the Middle East and surrounding states, Makovsky said finding solutions is getting more difficult and negotiations are growing increasingly more necessary for affected citizens.

“It’s clear to me that if the stagnation continues, it’s going to lead to greater radicalization,” Makovsky said. “We’re going to see fresh graves and old problems.”

On Tuesday, Makovsky visited the UT campus to give a public lecture, hosted by Texans for Israel, to discuss his career and hopes for finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East.

While serving as an adviser to Kerry, Makovsky said his peace team made the third major attempt since the Clinton Administration to try and use policy to find a two-state solution to the conflict. 

“It’s important to try to inject policy ideas into the negotiations,” Makovsky said. “The secretary is someone who has devoted a lot of time to this issue, and … it was great to be with people who shared the passion and the commitment to try to solve this conflict.”

In 2000, the Clinton Administration tried to end the Israel-Palestine conflict at the Camp David Summit, when President Bill Clinton, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat met to discuss negotiations. 

However, it ended without an agreement, as it did in 2007 and 2008 as part of the second negotiation attempt under former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Makovsky said there are five crucial points to solving the conflict through negotiations: determining the borders of the new states; the security arrangements along the borders; the future of Jerusalem; the fate of Palestinian refugees; and perserving each state's character and culture. 

“What he really advocated for and saw as part of the strategy that would lead to a solution was setting small goals and achieving those goals,” said Madison Yandell, College Republicans President and government senior. “It’s a matter of taking small steps and achieving those before we can even try to reach this grand plan of achieving peace.”

Makovsky said his goal has always been to find a two state outcome that would provide dignity and continue the character and culture for both the Palestinians and the Israelis in their decades-long conflict.

After leaving Kerry’s team, Makovsky has visited many college campuses around the country to try and educate those who may not remember “when things were good,” when the two sides could come together, shake hands and attempt to negotiate, Makovsky said.

Although Makovsky speaks to students about peace negotiations in the Middle East, Makovsky frequently stressed the idea that finding peace is not something the older generations can simply defer to the next one. Both sides must come together to agree on as many of the five steps in negotiations as possible to give the youth hope in the grand scheme of finding peace, Makovsky said.

“One of the things he kept saying was ‘Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good,’” said Kevin Lefkowitz, Texans for Israel president and history junior, who listened to Makovsky’s lecture. “It’s that concept.”