The Washington Post has a new entry up in its "Five Myths" series, this one about Middle East peace. I fully expected to see things categorized as myth that were not, but the characterization of myths is surprisingly accurate. The problems come with the analysis and recommended U.S. courses of action.
1. Direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians are the key to reaching an accord. The author, Aaron David Miller, points out that direct negotiations have achieved little, whereas advances -- such as they are -- have come from the U.S. But the recommendation for action is horrible, and conflicts with one of the author's later points.
Sooner rather than later, the United States will need to invest itself more heavily in the negotiations in order to bridge gaps on core issues such as borders and the status of Jerusalem; will need to marshal the billions of dollars required to support an agreement; and probably will need to deploy U.S. forces to the Jordan Valley to monitor security arrangements.How about no, no and no? None of that would be in the U.S. interest.
2. The United States is an honest broker in the peace process. I've made this point many times. The U.S. is an ally of Israel. It is not and should not pretend to be an honest broker. We are deceiving no one. Naturally Miller thinks we need to be more even-handed. We don't. We should do exactly the opposite of what he argues, recognize that Israel is our ally, the Palestinians are hostile, and act accordingly. It is not in the U.S. interest to try to benefit the Palestinians at the expense of Israel.
3. Settlements are the main obstacle to peacemaking. Again, right on target. Settlements are only one of many issues. Their impact is greatly exaggerated. Israel could declare a total halt to all settlements tomorrow and the Palestinians would simply switch to some other grievance.
4. Pressuring the Israelis is the only way to reach an agreement. No argument there. Any agreement obtained by pressuring Israel to accede to Palestinian demands isn't going to be in the U.S. interest.
5. Arab-Israeli peace is critical to securing U.S. interests in the Middle East.If it isn't, and I agree that it isn't, then this point undermines pretty much all the author's other recommended policy moves. There's only one good reason for the U.S. to damage relations with its ally, and assist those hostile to it (and that's what trying to adopt a neutral position means), and that's if there's no other choice in order to secure U.S. interests in the region. As the author rightly notes,
Arab-Israeli peace will not stabilize Afghanistan or facilitate an extrication of U.S. forces from there. It will not create a viable political contract among Iraq's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. It will not stop Iran from acquiring enough fissile material to make a nuclear weapon. It will not force Arab states to respect human rights. Nor will it end anti-American sentiment fueled by our support for authoritarian Arab regimes, our deployment of forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, our war against terror and our close relationship with Israel.The U.S. interest in Arab-Israeli peace is primarily to keep a lid on the situation while maintaining ties with our allies in the region. It would be nice if the so-called peace process was viewed primarily through that lens. But I know it's too much to ask that American leaders actually put American interests first.