Thomas Friedman argues that settling the Israeli–Palestinian dispute is essential to long-term success in Iraq. He is rather optimistic that something can be worked out, as he sees the rise of Abu Mazen as the Palestinian PM as a “silent coup” that signals a new way of thinking. This creates an opening:

There is a natural deal here among America, Europe and the Arabs: the Europeans and Arabs use their influence to force Mr. Arafat to accept Mr. Abbas on his terms, and the Americans use their influence on Mr. Sharon to produce an immediate settlements freeze, the rollback of all illegal settlements and a resumption of negotiations after a new Palestinian security force, under a new prime minister, is in place.

The Europeans and Arabs missed their chance to be part of Saddam’s removal. But they can contribute now by being part of the easing aside of Mr. Arafat. At the same time, U.S. conservatives who supported war against Iraq need to understand that if they miss this chance to help nurture an alternative Palestinian leadership — by refusing to make demands on Mr. Sharon — not only will Israel be less safe in the long run, but chances of President Bush succeeding in Iraq will be diminished.

I’m less optimistic than Friedman–who doesn’t account for radicals like Hamas–but hope he’s right that this decades-old dispute can be settled.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. oceanguy says:

    Friedman’s wrong in asking too much from the Israelis and too little fo the Arabs. Teh Arab world created the palestinian crisis, the Arab world hates Israel. There will be no peace until THAT is changed. Does anyone really think Hezbollah and Hamas are going to stop killing Jews just because there is a second palestinain state?

  2. Ryan says:

    I’m pessimistic about this becasue Ariel Sharon is in charge, and I think he’ll drag his feet as much as or more than anyone in Israeli history.

    But what I wanted to say: the whole business of pushing Arafat aside is just being done at the behest of the Israelis, or so it seems to me. Obviously the man is corrupt and useless, but having him cherry-pick new leaders should be useless. The Israelis (and argueably the Americans) just think they’ll be able to squeeze more concessions out of the Arabs with someone else in power.

  3. Caleb says:

    I’ve always believed the whole “peace process” is just an engineered effort by the surrounding Arab nations to chop off more land from Israel in exchange for “peace”, thereby undermining their defense and security, while at the same time continuing their holy “Jihad” to destroy via the funding of “Palestinian terrorism. They won’t overtly attack Israel because of the United States.

    I’ll tell you something, the Arabs got some set of balls to demand Israel give up land for a “Palestinian” state, when the surrounding nations have 400 TIMES the land mass, and it was THEIR refusal to absorb the refugees, causing the mess we have today. And I wonder how long we’ll entertain the stupidity of calling the West Bank Arabs “Palestinians” considering they have no culture, no history and no unique language, and more than 60 years ago there was no such thing as Palestinians.

    In spite of the Balfour Declaration, the Jews got royally screwed out of much of their land, and it seems only appropriate that the only democracy in the Middle East that even remotely approach the realm of civility (Israeli Jews and their Western modernized culture) should be given the rest of their land (and that includes all of the West Bank). If the “Palestinians” really want their own state, then it should be carved out of Jordan or Syria.

  4. James Joyner says:

    I keep reading this idea that the Palestinians don’t have a history, which is just bizarre. The Arabs, pretty much by definition, all speak Arabic. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t groups that feel a sense of group-specific nationalism within the Arabs. The Palestinians have a rather long history although, like the Jews and some others, it’s a history of subjugation. See the Encarta article on Palestine, for instance.

    I’m not sure why it is the responsibility of Jordan and/or Syria to provide a homeland for the Palestinians who were displaced by Zionist conquest, although I could see that as a partial solution.

  5. Ryan says:

    Hey, James, you’ve got a lot of crazy commentors. The idea that the arabs want to drive Israel into the sea is today nothing more than a racist stereotype, unsupported by facts. I agree with your last comment totally. It must be hard surviving as a right-wing moderate in a blogosphere full of right-wing extremists…

    Additionally, I think the problems caused by Hamas and Islamic Jihad will slowly start to go away if a fair solution is reached. These people are extremists, and they won’t give up, but their support will dry up. The current violence breeds extremism on both sides, and a peace agreement will probably result in violent resistence from minority extremists on both sides. But once they realise the writing is on the wall, and once security forces concentrate on getting rid of them, they will become a much more minor problem.

    That’s what I think, anyway.

  6. Caleb says:

    “crazy commentors. The idea that the arabs want to drive Israel into the sea is today nothing more than a racist stereotype, unsupported by facts”

    Ok, I’m crazy, an extremist, a racist, simply because what, I believe the Arab antipathy towards Israel is fueled by fundamental Islamic beliefs, beliefs that call for an end to Israel’s existence? And you’re saying there’s no facts to back this up??? Are you blind and deaf, or are you just an idiot?

    I mean what hey, shouldn’t it be a bit of concern when the most popular foreign work in “Palestine” is Mein Kampf? Has it escaped your notice that no Jew can be a citizen in Saudi Arabia? Did we somehow overlook that in the past few years, over 2 million Jews and “infidels” were slaughtered in Muslim nations for no other reasons than because they were not Muslims? Is there a lack of documentary on the MAINSTREAM clerics in Muslim countries that call for the slaughter of Jews, for the destruction of Israel on almost a daily basis?

    Should I ignore the Palestinians leaping for joy as our Twin Towers fell, and marching by the thousands in support of Saddam’s regime? And for that they should be rewarded with a state of their own? Have we gone bonkers?

    Does Israel have a somewhat equitable relationship with the “Palestinians” when Arabs can and are members of the Knesset, yet it hasn’t occurred to anyone that a Jew being a member of the PLA is an absurd fantasy? Who’s REALLY being racist here?

    Why do we ignore the wholesale slaughter of Jews, infidels and even Muslims like the Kurds by the thousands which reach into 7 digit numbers by various Muslim nations, yet when a Jew kills a handful of “Palestinians” who more than likely were terrorists, everybody screams at the top of their lungs? But nah, there’s no systematic effort to annihilate Israel, it’s all in my head (and the head of millions of other rationally minded Americans and Israelis)