The Key to Peace: Selling the Two-State Solution in Palestine

(American Interest) Walter Russell Mead - The war in Syria, the revolutions in the Arab world and above all the rise of a bitter Sunni-Shiite transnational religious war have pushed the Israeli-Palestinian dispute into the background for many Middle Eastern governments. When the Gulf monarchies are focused on what they see as a stark threat from Iran, Israel looks more like a strategic asset than a threat. Many people want to embrace the happy fantasy that the Palestinians are ready today to make peace if those nasty Israelis would just stop provoking them by building new settlements, and that if we in the West press Israel enough on the settlement question, peace will quickly come. But we don't think that pressuring Israel on settlements is the way to get to peace. The real problem is exactly what it has been for sixty years: deeply rooted Palestinian opposition to a two-state solution. While many Palestinians are ready to accept that solution, many of those see it as only a temporary step on the road to a single, Palestinian state. President Obama and other aspiring peacemakers need to understand that it is Palestinian opinion rather than Israeli policy that is the key variable in the peace equation. The question that haunts Israelis isn't so much whether a Palestinian leader would sign a peace treaty as whether the peace treaty would stick. Many Israelis don't think the pro-peace Palestinians are there yet, and looking at the political strength of Hamas and of forces like Islamic Jihad that are even farther to the extreme, it is hard to disagree. At a time when Islamic identification and militancy is rising across the region, it may not be possible for Palestinian moderates to deliver a lasting peace.

2013-01-08 00:00:00

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