Philip Zelikow: US needs to take active role in settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Historians in the News

It has taken five and a half years, but at least some of President Bush’s aides have begun to acknowledge the patently obvious: There needs to be a serious effort to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Without one, the United States has no chance of salvaging its battered reputation in the Islamic world. No chance of rallying moderate Arab leaders to fight extremists or contain Iran. And no chance of ensuring Israel’s lasting security. We just hope that Mr. Bush will now make the long neglected peace effort a central priority for the remaining years of his presidency.

With Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveling to the region next week, Mr. Bush should give her an explicit mandate to press Israel, and not just the Palestinians, for real compromises. He should also give her the authority to talk to adversaries, and not just friends, about how to support the effort.

For years, Mr. Bush’s advisers have woven an entire mythology about how Middle East peace required tanks on the road to Baghdad, rather than diplomats on planes to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Damascus.

So it was surprising to hear one of Ms. Rice’s closest aides, Philip Zelikow, the State Department counselor, tell a think-tank audience that some sense of progress on the Arab-Israeli dispute is “just a sine qua non” for getting moderate Arabs and the Europeans to cooperate on Iran and the region’s many other dangerous problems. “We can rail against that belief. We can find it completely justifiable. But it’s fact,” Mr. Zelikow said....

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