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Americans Give Up on Middle East Peace

According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, American public opinion favors the Israelis over the Palestinians by a six-to-one margin. Only nine percent of the country sympathizes more with the Palestinian Authority.

As some would have it, the American left sides with the Palestinians while conservatives support Israel, but obviously this is wrong. Even if all nine percent of pro-Palestinian Americans are on the political left, they make up less than a fifth of those who voted for Barack Obama. Conservatives are more likely to support Israel, but the bipartisan consensus is iron-clad.

At the same time, an overwhelming majority think the United States should take a pass on leading peace negotiations. I can’t read the minds of hundreds of millions of people, but I’m pretty sure most recognize that peace talks are futile right now, so why should we take the blame when they fail again? There is nothing Barack Obama can do to make the two sides sign a deal. Not a thing. And it isn’t his fault. He might as well try to halt gravity.

The United States should mediate peace talks if and when both sides are serious. This might actually happen after the regimes in Syria and Iran are overthrown or reformed out of existence.

Sunni Arab governments haven’t waged a war against Israel for forty years. The 1973 Yom Kippur War was the last time it happened. Only the region’s non-Sunni governments in Syria and Iran, along with their Palestinian and Lebanese terrorist proxies, have bothered to keep the war going. Who knows what might happen when Damascus and Tehran have changed? Without patrons, Hamas and Hezbollah will feel an unprecedented amount of pressure to make deals with their enemies. Even if they refuse, they’ll be shadows of their current selves. Then the United States should consider getting involved again.

The so-called “linkage” theory, which places the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the center of the Middle East’s Gordian knot, is ludicrous. Syria’s civil war won’t be resolved with a peace treaty, nor will Iran’s nuclear weapons program be put on ice, nor will tensions abate between  the region’s Sunnis and Shias, nor will secularists and Islamists achieve a modus vivendi in unstable post-Arab Spring countries like Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. But all that said, it’s still in the United States’ interest to see peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and it will be worth pursuing the minute it’s viable.

In the meantime, conflict management rather than conflict resolution is the best we can reasonably hope for.

The next American president might see an opportunity where Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have failed. The next American president might think he or she is more clever than the last three and can pull it off with some stroke of genius. Such is the hubris that accompanies election to the White House. The American public, however, will surely remain skeptical and will laugh at jokes like the one in Adam Sandler’s ridiculous film, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. “They’ve been fighting for 2,000 years,” says the lead character’s mother. “It can’t be much longer.”

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