26 March 2007

Could this be as big as Nixon in China?

Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China, signaling the normalization of relations between the two powers, was considered one of the great diplomatic breakthroughs of the last century. Is it remotely possible that the Bush administration's new approach to the Palestine problem will lead to a similar breakthrough?

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced yesterday the intention of the United States to enter into
negotiations for a Palestinian state even as Israel continues to boycott talks with the Palestinian Authority. Rarely does the U.S. act independently of Israel. The Americans' unequivocal support for Israel, combined with their insensitivity to Arab grievances, particularly those of the Palestinians, has made settlement of the Palestine problem difficult, if not impossible.

The administration's new approach is no doubt a result partly of desperation as the Middle East situation grows steadily worse for the United States. As Nixon approached China in order to circumscribe the influence of the Soviet Union in Asia, the Americans desperately seek ways to circumscribe the growing influence of Iran in the Middle East. But their motivation is irrelevant if it leads to a solution to perhaps the most toxic problem in the world of international relations.

This is only a small gesture, and may lead nowhere. Hope waxes and wanes in the Levant like the seasons. But if it results in a stable Palestinian state, George Bush could go out on at least one high note on what has been the most miserable presidency in living memory.

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