Sunday, November 26, 2006

Earlier today I was listening to a show on C-Span radio on which Jordan's King Abdullah was being interviewed by Wolf Blitzer of CNN. The king declared that the most important and dangerous problem in the Middle East - more important than the ongoing carnage in Iraq, and more important than the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran - is the endless fight between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He said that the Palestinian issue was one on which all the Arab lands were united, and the one on which the most progress toward a comprehensive Middle East peace might be made. Wolf Blitzer seemed skeptical, but didn't press the King.

With respect to King Abdullah, who is, after all, a man with a large Palestinian population to worry about, I think he's wrong.

Not that the resolution of the Palestinian issue would not be a good thing, for the Palestinians and the Middle East as a whole. To me, though, it looks as if the larger Arab world cares absolutely nothing for the Palestinians except as a useful cudgel with which to beat the Israelis and deflect attention from their own failures.

Consider the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. One might have thought that the Palestinians would use this event as a platform from which to show their ability to govern themselves and take the first tentative steps toward the eventual goal of a Palestinian state. Instead, in their time-honored tradition of always doing what is in their worst interests, the Palestinians began fighting among themselves and using Gaza as a platform from which to continue attacks against Israel...with predictable results. And far from urging them to act responsibly, the rest of the Arab world encouraged their self-destructive behavior.

When, one wonders, will a leader arise in the Arab world who will for once consider what is in the best interests of his people as a whole? How long will it take for the Arabs to realize that Israel isn't going away, and that all their blind hatred and support of violence, as much as they hurt individual Israelis, are doing more harm to themselves?

As I've said before in this space, I've given up on finding any rational adult leadership in the Arab world. While I'm no apologist for Israel, I think a good case can be made that they have at least built a prosperous nation in a difficult neighborhood, in spite of the unrelenting hatred and stupidity of their neighbors. Do the Palestinians have legitimate grievances? You bet. Are they acting in their best interests to resolve them? Hardly. And are the rest of the Arabs helping them out? Not in the least.

King Abdullah is welcome to his opinion. I respect him and the difficulty of his position. But if he really wants to help the Palestinians, the best thing he could do is exert a little leadership and try to turn the Arab world from a gaggle of squabbling bigots into true partners in a peace process that can only benefit everyone.

But don't hold your breath.

Have a good evening. More thoughts tomorrow.


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