America may increasingly link Iraq situation to Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Zalman Shoval Published: 11.29.06, 22:11
President Bush's expected trip to Amman, just like the meeting between Vice
President Cheney and Saudi King Abdullah, has the potential to affect Israel's
diplomatic situation in the near future.
These visits show that the American Administration is considering not only
steps that would extract it from the Iraq mess, but even wider Middle-Eastern
The Gordian knot that at this time ties the Administration's objectives and
Israel's objectives will not immune us in the face of certain steps that may
be planned these days. It may even create difficulties in the future within
the new Democratic-controlled Congress.
There is significance to the fact that shortly after Ehud Olmert left the
White House, former Secretary of State under Bush Sr., James Baker, entered.
Baker now co-heads the Iraq Study Group (along with Lee Hamilton) established
by Congress in order to recommend ways that will pull the US out of the Iraqi
Those in the know in Washington believe that similarly to British Prime
Minister Tony Blair, who in his speech two weeks ago argued that the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the heart of the problem in the Middle East,
and that if a quick solution isn't found it would be impossible to put an end
to violence in Iraq - Baker and his team will also tie together in their
recommendations the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iraq situation.
Perhaps not as a complete solution to the storm in Iraq, but rather, as a
means for enlisting the support of at least part of the Arab world, and for
placing an obstacle before Iran, who is taking advantage of developments in
Iraq (and Lebanon) in order to advance its geopolitical and strategic
interests throughout the Mideast.
The visits by the American President and his deputy must therefore be
understood in that context. There is no need for particularly sharp brains to
recall the linkage to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the same James Baker
espoused in the first Gulf War. Indeed, there is no certainty that the current
President Bush will buy into this merchandize as it is, but we cannot assume
he would be able to ignore it completely. The current meetings are the proof
Would these recommendations lead to an international Mideast conference, as
many in Washington assume? It's hard to know, as Bush is still far from
showing enthusiasm for it. Yet we should hope that Olmert directed the
conversation with his host, in addition to the Iran question, to these issues
as well, as the emerging trend will inevitably lead to difficult demands on
We do not know whether Olmert raised his own proposals and what he meant when
he spoke about generous promises to the Palestinians. What should have
certainly been raised in the meeting with Bush were the pledges he made at the
time to former Prime Minister Sharon regarding the principles that would lead
the US on the question of Israel's future borders and the question of
In light of the new developments in Washington and in other world capitals,
it would not hurt to further reinforce these pledges, particularly as Abdullah
would presumably propose that his Saudi initiative of 2002 be placed at the
center of US diplomatic activity. As we recall, this initiative fundamentally
contradicts the above-mentioned Bush pledges.
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