May 23, 2003


It may be the proper thing for America to take up the matter of Israel and the Palestinians; it may be a debt owed the stalwart British Prime Minister Tony Blair. But we should know the Arab world for what it is today and entertain no grand illusions about the gratitude the road map would deliver in Palestinian and Arab streets. We buy no friendship in Arab lands with pro-Palestinian diplomacy; we ward off no anti-American terrorism. There is no possibility the rancid anti-Americanism of Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt would be assuaged with a big push for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. The highest religious authority of that land, Sheik al Azhar Muhammad Tantawi, recently called the American-led coalition’s effort against Saddam a “crusading war” and said that Muslims everywhere were obliged to take up arms against the “invaders.” This kind of sentiment can never be stilled with a diplomatic effort on behalf of the Palestinians.

The Palestinian issue has always been an excuse — or a tool — for distraction, not the real key to settling down the region. We may have to wait until the last dictator is strangled with the entrails of the last mullah for that.

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