The American Interest

A Road Map to Nowhere?

In the aftermath of the war in Iraq, its most determined advocates predictably claimed that the United States should proceed with her alleged mission of bringing democracy to the Middle East.  The advocates of this approach seek to push the Israeli-Palestinian issue into the background, to subordinate it to whatever their agenda may be in Syria and south Lebanon today, Libya or even Iran tomorrow.

A nonideological, “realist” alternative is needed.  It should proceed from the premise that the United States has real interests in the Middle East, that those interests make lasting peace and stability in the region desirable goals of U.S. foreign policy, and that the most important regional problem is that of Israel and Palestine.  This is one regional issue that America can and should try to help resolve.  Such an attempt should focus on the five key issues: the final borders of Israel and the future Palestinian state; the future of Jewish settlements in the territories; the status of Jerusalem and its holy sites; the allocation of water and other natural resources; and a long-term solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees in lieu of “the right of return”—all within a realistic timetable.

For better or worse, only the United States can break the cycle of violence and encourage the leaders of both sides to take necessary risks.  At the same time, a determined effort...

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