The Middle East peace crisis between Palestinians and Israelis is one primarily of leadership. The fact that the lone superpower in the world has been inconsistent in its handling of the territorial disputes in the region speaks volumes about the reasons that the process is where it is today.
Although we have aligned ourselves as steadfast allies with Israel, displaying independent, impartial leadership would better represent our interests, building support for peace by meeting both sides half way. The overwhelming sentiment in the Middle East is that the American spirit of freedom, through democracy and social liberty, can only apply to those countries that are wealthy and industrialized, or with countries that want to permanently envelope themselves in U.S. political relations.
Inherently, democracy flourishes in countries that have a developed economy, not countries or territories like Palestine that lack social mobility. However, the Palestinians do have a framework of leadership that has yet to be tapped as a resource by international diplomats and peacemakers.
The Bush administration needs to be stern with both sides, demanding that the Palestinian leadership punish those responsible for the terrorist attacks against Israel, and encouraging steadfast resolve amongst Israeli leadership to see the peace process through. No government can control the fanaticism prevalent in Palestinian territory, so it is unreasonable for Israelis to expect that during peace negotiations things will be perfectly peaceful. Arafat has been tied to several terrorist organizations in the region, but he alone cannot control their extremist acts of terror. Inadvertently, the United States and Israel are empowering the right-wing fundamentalists in the Middle East by making the peace process contingent upon total cooperation from every Palestinian civilian.
The aforementioned crisis of leadership is paralyzing the already stagnant peace process in the Middle East and abroad. Although conservatives have been hawkish about going to war in Iraq since the dawn of the first Bush administration, finding the diplomatic means to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to be of lesser importance.
While there is clearly no simple answer to this political quagmire, the Bush administration must change its tone in dealing with the Palestinians in order to protect American interests in other moderate Arab nations. The only thing that is a diplomatic certainty is that the United States has the political clout to force both sides to work towards a resolution.
We must affirm that the American ideals of democracy and prosperity for all people are incorporated into the peace process. Fairness, negotiation, impartiality and a mission of creating an atmosphere that is both tolerant of cultural differences, but excludes hate and terror, need to be at the center of the Bush administration’s peace plan. By constantly siding with the Israelis after military invasions of the disputed territories, we are only opening the doors for more anti-American and hence anti-democratic sentiments in the region.
Allowing the Israelis to occupy Palestinian territories in the wake of terror attacks on Israel is a tactical and calculated position by the Bush administration. By not chastising the Israelis for taking pre-emptive actions against a state they consider to be a rogue territory with terrorist underpinnings, the perception of the United States may not be as hypocritical when we invade Iraq.
We need to position ourselves to be the impartial negotiators that can be trusted by both sides. The best we can do now is to build a spirit of resolve amongst both sides, and guide the process under the auspices of freedom and renewed hope. We must work tirelessly to establish stability in the region, an effort that has been noticeably lacking under George W. Bush’s leadership.