Know More About Palestine

Wednesday April 28, 2010 11:17 AM (EST+7)
Miller: I am no longer a believer

Read more: US policy, US foreign policy, Barack Obama, Aaron David Miller

RAMALLAH, April 28 (JMCC) - In this article for Foreign Policy, Aaron David Miller outlines why he is skeptical that the Obama administration can make any progress in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict is still a big problem for America and its friends: It stokes a white-hot anger toward the United States, has already demonstrated the danger of confrontation and war (see Lebanon, 2006; Gaza, 2008), and confronts Israel with a demographic nightmare. But three other issues, at least, have emerged to compete for center stage, and they might prove far more telling about the fate of U.S. influence, power, and security than the ongoing story of what I've come to call the much-too-promised land.

First, there are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where tens of thousands of Americans are in harm's way and are likely to be for some time to come. Add to the mix the dangerous situation in Pakistan, and you see volatility, threat, and consequences that go well beyond Palestine. Second, though U.S. foreign policy can't be held hostage to the war on terror (or whatever it's now called), the 9/11 attacks were a fundamental turning point for an America that had always felt secure within its borders. And finally there's Iran, whose nuclear aspirations are clearly a more urgent U.S. priority than Palestine. Should sanctions and/or diplomacy fail, the default position -- military action by Israel or even the United States -- can't be ruled out, with galactic consequences for the region and the world. In any event, it's hard to imagine Netanyahu making any big decisions on the peace process until there's much more clarity on what he and most Israelis regard as the existential threat of an Iran with a bomb.

As Obama surely reckoned, moving fast on Arab-Israeli peacemaking would help the United States deal with these issues. But that linkage wasn't compelling when Bush used it to suggest that victory in Iraq would make the Arab-Israeli conflict easier to resolve; it's not compelling now as an exit strategy from Iraq either, as if engaging in Arab-Israeli diplomacy will make the potential mess we could leave behind in Iraq easier for the Arabs to swallow. Nor can the Arab-Israeli issue be used effectively to mobilize Arabs against Iran, because the United States could never do enough diplomatically (or soon enough) to have it make much of a difference. Finally, linking the United States' willingness to help the Israelis with Iran to their willingness to make concessions on Jerusalem and borders isn't much of a policy either. If anything, it risks the United States losing its leverage with Israel on the Iranian issue and raising the odds that Israel would act alone.

Read the whole essay at Foreign Policy...






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