Thursday, March 27, 2008

The price of Washington's obsession with the Palestinians

While the West fiddles, the Middle East threatens to burn. Recent months have seen a renewed surge in American efforts to jump-start the political process between Israel and the Palestinians, as a stream of high-level officials have made their way to the region. We've had visits by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice looks set to be upgraded to "platinum" in whatever frequent flyer program she takes part in. The Secretary of State has already been to Israel twice this year, and it's only March.

Of course, these labors have thus far failed to achieve anything, other than to send a message to the Palestinians that they can continue to use violence against the Jewish state while hoping to wring out still more concessions at the negotiating table.

But there is a much deeper, and even greater, cost involved in all the American time and energy that are being expended on cajoling the recalcitrant Palestinian leadership.

For just as there are a finite number of hours in the day, so too there are a finite number of issues that senior US diplomats can grapple with. And the more time they spend banging their heads against the Palestinian wall, the less they have to devote to a far more pressing matter, one which threatens to shake the foundations of the entire region - the growing danger of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

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