Global stability can no longer be held hostage to the claims of Israeli settlers.
Early next month, the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza (and the Syrians of the Golan Heights) will have the dubious honor of having lived for 40 years under foreign military rule. Where is the final peace agreement that can end these people's plight?
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has spoken about offering Palestinians and Israelis a "political horizon" for the eventual resolution of their conflict. But the only plan she's offered so far would merely tweak some small details of the vast system of movement controls that Israel maintains over the Palestinians. And with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and US President Bush both very weak politically, don't expect diplomatic boldness from either man anytime soon.
Yet the Israeli-Palestinian issue remains one with crucial impact on global stability. The time has come for the United Nations and other world powers to tell Washington that the near-monopoly the US has exercised over Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy for most of the past 40 years needs to end.
The last time the US undertook any serious final-status diplomacy was the last-ditch effort that President Clinton launched in late 2000. But that was too little, too late. And quite predictably, it failed. For his part, Mr. Bush has always been very reluctant to push for the kind of final-status peace talks that the Palestinians – and most Israelis – so sorely need. A final peace would, most importantly, end the decades-long conflict that has weighed heavily on both societies. But both nations would need to make painful concessions. Substantial bodies of opinion on both sides are ready for this, but in the absence of meaningful final-status diplomacy, the fears of the doubters always loom disproportionately large.