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The Gipper's Mideast Playbook

Author: Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
April 6, 2007
Wall Street Journal

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It is easy to exaggerate the importance of the Palestinian problem. Solving it will not affect the situation in Iraq, where disagreements over the eventual borders of a Palestinian state may be the only reason Iraq’s Sunnis and Shia are not killing one another. Solving it will not affect the pace of Iranian efforts to enrich uranium. Nor will establishing a Palestinian state end terrorism or reconcile Islam with the modern world.

Still, pushing for a settlement makes sense. It would combat anti-Americanism and bolster U.S. standing, not just in the Arab and Muslim worlds, but throughout Europe. It would do wonders for Israelis, who could live a more normal life and focus their security concerns on Iran. It would allow Arab regimes to likewise concentrate on the Iranian and Shia challenges and give them confidence to undertake internal reform. And, of course, a solution would give Palestinians a state of their own and the chance for a prosperous and peaceful existence.

Alas, a settlement any time soon is not in the cards. This is not because of the absence of a reasonable plan. That exists. Rather, what is missing is leadership in either Israel or the Palestinian areas that is both able and willing to compromise for peace and make those compromises stick.

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