The Future of an Illusion

(Weekly Standard) Elliott Abrams - Since the Oslo Accords of 1993, 17 years of efforts under three American presidents and six Israeli prime ministers have taught clear lessons that are being ignored by President Obama, which is why his own particular "peace process" has so greatly harmed real efforts at peace. Israeli withdrawals do not lead to peace unless law and order can be maintained by responsible security forces. Israelis learned this the hard way in South Lebanon and Gaza, and it is unquestionably the greatest factor leading them to oppose a similar withdrawal from the West Bank. There has been considerable progress in training Palestinian security forces, but no one believes they can yet maintain order without the presence of the IDF and the Israel Security Agency. Those who say that there can be a peace deal in 24 months are saying that fundamental security issues can be finessed or forgotten. What Arab political leaders want most of all is calm. Palestinians are not at the center of their hearts or they would visit the West Bank and bring plenty of cash with them. What preoccupies them is survival and Iran. If they take any lesson from the current coldness between the U.S. and Israel, it is that the U.S. is not a reliable ally. If we can ditch Israel, they know we can far more easily ditch them. The argument that Israel would be a great burden and ruin our place in the Arab world was proffered in 1948 by George Marshall - and rejected by Harry Truman. It should be as disturbing to Americans that traces of this approach are emerging again in Washington. We explode, and damage U.S.-Israeli relations, over a tiny construction announcement because it might slow "proximity talks" Mitchell has cooked up. We use American influence with Israel to try and impede Jewish (never Arab) construction in Israel's capital city. This set of priorities is perverse and will not lead to peace. The writer is a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

2010-03-29 08:03:03

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