Palestine, Iraq, and American Strategy

(Foreign Affairs) - Michael Scott Doran Even if the United States were somehow able to broker a stable Palestinian-Israeli settlement that met many Arab aspirations, this would not necessarily generate a great deal of goodwill. Those who argue the opposite see Palestine as the primary obstacle blocking an American-Arab rapprochement. They claim, correctly, that Arab political discourse revolves around Palestine and that a great many Arabs hold the U.S. responsible for Palestinian suffering. But what they overlook is that although Palestine is central to the symbolism of Arab politics, it is actually marginal to its substance. There are many reasons why Washington should distance itself from misguided Israeli policies such as the building of settlements in the occupied territories, but among them should not be the hope that such a move would greatly affect the broader sources of resentment and despair that Palestine-as-symbol encompasses. If coupled with a stand-down on Iraq, moreover, dramatic pressure on Israel now might even inflame matters further, by calling into question American willingness to support its friends and oppose its enemies in the region.

2003-02-10 00:00:00

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