While the entire Middle East explodes around us and the states which traditionally waged open war on us, such as Egypt, are in the process of returning to their aggressive postures (with a little help from an Obama-led bailout in Egypt’s case), there may be a silver lining for Israel: The theory of Palestinian centrality is no longer viable.
According to the theory, the main Arab/Muslim/Middle Eastern claim against the United States and the reason for violence in the region is the lack of justice for the Palestinians. If a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinian Authority can be reached and a Palestinian state established all of the hatred will melt away and the region will be at peace.
In an interview I conducted with Elliot Abrams for the Jerusalem Post, for example, Abrams recounted how immediately after the 9-11 attacks, officials in the State Department proposed to President Bush that he pursue an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, on the grounds that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the main source of Arab hatred for the United States.
(Abrams said Bush rejected this argument, but not that long after 9-11, Bush adopted the Road Map for Peace).
Another example is the Iraq Study Group report, which was commissioned by President Bush to find solutions to the violence in Iraq. One of the report’s key recommendations was pursuing Israeli-Arab peace.
The theory of Palestinian centrality has been put forward by many in the diplomatic field, probably because this is what their Arab counterparts are telling them.
For example, in July 2008 then-Senator-and-candidate Barack Obama explained to NBC’s Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press why Jordan’s King Abdullah was correct in asserting that Iran was not the number one threat to peace but that “the lack of peace [between Israel and the Palestinians] is the major threat.”
Obama said as follows:
[O]ne thing I want to pick up on, because I think King, King Abdullah is as savvy a analyst of the region and player in the region as, as there is, one of the points that he made and I think a lot of people made, is that we’ve got to have an overarching strategy recognizing that all these issues are connected. If we can solve the Israeli/Palestinian process, then that will make it easier for Arab states and the Gulf states to support us when it comes to issues like Iraq and Afghanistan.
It will also weaken Iran, which has been using Hamas and Hezbollah as a way to stir up mischief in the region. If we’ve gotten an Israeli/Palestinian peace deal, maybe at the same time peeling Syria out of the Iranian orbit, that makes it easier to isolate Iran so that they have a tougher time developing a nuclear weapon.
In other words, because of Palestinian centrality an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is the silver bullet to all the problems of the Middle East.
(Side note: Brokaw asked Obama if he told Abudulla that as president he “would appoint a presidential envoy who would report only to you to work exclusively on the issues of peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.” Obama said ” I told him something approximating that.” Obama also told former President JimmyCarter that he wouldn’t wait a month to make a peace agreement a top priority. Two days after being sworn in as President, Obama appointed George Mitchell as a special envoy and pressured Israel for the next two years).
But as Barry Rubin noted in his article today on the JewishPress.com:
Remember the old argument that the Arab-Israel or Israel-Palestinian conflict was the centerpiece of the region; all the Arabs cared about, and what they judged the West by? Now there are a dozen other issues more important to the extent that this cannot even be hidden by the Western mass media and “experts.”
With Muslims attacking American U.S. embassies in the Middle East and rioting all over the world over an obscure youtube video, and various Muslim factions vying for power, the State Department, the E.U., etc., can no longer seriously contend that regional volatility and violence is related to Israel – either Western support Israel or the fact that a Palestinian state has not been established or that Israeli-Palestinian/Arab peace accords have not been signed.