Condi Heads to the Mideast

[Wall Street Journal, 9Jan07] Bret Stephens - Secretary of State Rice's forthcoming Mideast tour is yet another effort to rally Sunni Arabs on behalf of the government of Iraq, first of all by showing the U.S. intends to make a major push toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Until Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke a year ago, Israelis were broadly prepared to make significant unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank, not because they thought the Palestinians were prepared to make peace but because they believed that Israel was more secure putting its enemies on the opposite side of its borders. But Israel's manifest vulnerability last summer in the face of Hizbullah's rocket attacks raises reasonable questions about that assumption. If Israel faces a missile threat along its border with Gaza as well as one on its border with Lebanon, should it then allow a third front to be created along its much longer border with the West Bank? The upshot is that even if America's predicaments in Iraq really could be eased by the appearance of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front, such progress is exceedingly unlikely to happen. Yes, the administration can try to bolster Mahmoud Abbas by supplying funds through which he can extend his patronage, and perhaps enhance his authority and prestige, at the expense of Hamas. But tens of millions of dollars have already gone down that hole without plugging the drain. The real problem is that Abbas no longer controls Fatah. Rice surely has better things to do than to chase after this fool's gold of international diplomacy. The U.S. cannot merely butt Israeli and Arab heads together and arrive, through an act of American leadership, at a negotiated compromise that has already eluded American diplomats going back to the Eisenhower administration. Nothing Israel can give by way of concessions to the Palestinians is going to make much of a difference in terms of America's credibility in Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Kabul or anywhere else on the proverbial Arab street.

2007-01-09 01:00:00

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