Getting it backwards

The UN Development Project has released its 2004 report on Arab development. It finds that a good portion of the blame for the Arab world’s lack of progress lies in the creation of Israel 57 years ago, and in the support by the U.S. for Israel’s existence since then (our presence in Iraq hasn’t helped either). That’s right — 300 million Arabs live under oppression because 5 million Israeli Jews live in freedom, supported by the U.S.
Israel and the U.S. already have officially rejected this crackpot theory. However, Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post points out that “both Israel and the US are basing their policies towards the Palestinians specifically, and the Arab world generally, on an internalization of the UNDP’s ridiculous claims.” First, they assume that the Palestinian conflict with Israel is the cause of the Arab conflict with Israel. Second, they assume that the Palestinians are weak and the Israelis are strong, and that the way to solve the conflict is to strengthen the Palestinians and weaken Israel. This latter assumption “leads both Israeli and American foreign policy elites to advocate Israeli surrender of land and rights to the Palestinians and to support Palestinian acquisition of arms, money and sovereignty.”
Glick dispatches these assumptions. She shows how the Arab states conspired to keep the Palestinians in squalor thus fueling the rejectionism that would promote their perpetual conflict with Israel. She also shows how the strength of the Arab states, based in large part on the economic power they wield thanks to their oil reserves, has enabled them to play this deadly game for decades.
Rocket Man has argued that, contrary to the conventional wisdom (not to mention the nonsense promulgated by the UN), the transformation of our relations with the Arab states, and the transformation of these states themselves, does not depend on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather, resolving that dispute depends on the transformation of the Arab states that stand behind it. Glick’s piece provides powerful support for this thesis.
President Bush is the first western leader to understand the primary importance of reform within the Arab world. However, this is a gradual process. Under pressure from the Europeans, and with time running out on his presidency, he apparently has decided, in conjunction with Ariel Sharon, to move ahead in pushing for a Middle Eastern settlement, on the assumption that with peace between Israel and the not-yet reformed Palestinians and Arab states is possible. I doubt that it is.


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