Will the Arab Spring Bring a Peace Agreement with Israel?

(Washington Post) Editorial - For the United States and other Western democracies, the most critical challenge in the region in the coming years will be guiding Arab states toward liberal democracy and preventing the rise of new authoritarian or extremist Islamic regimes. Western diplomats and politicians nevertheless remain preoccupied with creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, and the issue is likely to return to center stage in Washington in the coming month. President Obama has appeared fixated on the Israeli-Palestinian problem since the beginning of his administration. European governments have been pressing for a new initiative by the Middle East "Quartet" that would attempt to set the parameters for Palestinian statehood. The Palestinians themselves are preparing to ask the UN General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state at its meeting in September - the date Mr. Obama unwisely set as the deadline for reaching a peace settlement. To its credit, the administration has been resisting these initiatives, which would probably set back rather than advance the Palestinian cause. The American position remains that Palestinians can achieve statehood only through negotiations with Israel. The problem is that Palestinian leaders have little interest in negotiating with the current Israeli government. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has conditioned further talks on concessions that he knows Israel will not make - such as a freeze on all housing construction in Jerusalem. As President Bill Clinton learned a decade ago, outside intervention won't succeed if the parties themselves are not ready to deal. The administration should pressure Mr. Abbas to begin talking to Palestinians about why peace with Israel is desirable and what concessions will be necessary - something he has never done.

2011-04-15 00:00:00

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