Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Change They Can Believe In

Walter Russel Mead, author of the amazing God and Gold (and top dog at Harvard and CFR) says America can do what hasn't been achievable yet between Israel and the Arabs - but in order to do so Palestinian refugees have to become the central element of the discussion.

He quotes - as an estimate of the cost of resettling the refugees - an enormous $80bn, and says that Israel should pay a "significant" portion, with the US, Germany, Britain, Japan and Europe paying the rest. He believes this is justified as the wars between Jews and Arabs were a direct result of the UN's failure to provide security for both sides.

Many people have tried to end it; all have failed. Direct negotiations between Arabs and Jews after World War I foundered. The British tried to square the circle of competing Palestinian and Jewish aspirations from the time of the 1917 Balfour Declaration until the ignominious collapse of their mandate in 1948. Since then, the United Nations, the United States, and the international community have struggled with the problem without managing to solve it. No issue in international affairs has taxed the ingenuity of so many leaders or captured so much attention from around the world. Winston Churchill failed to solve it; the "wise men" who built NATO and the Marshall Plan handed it down, still festering, to future generations. Henry Kissinger had to content himself with incremental progress. The Soviet Union crumbled on Ronald Reagan's watch, but the Israeli-Palestinian dispute survived him. Bill Clinton devoted much of his tenure to picking at this Gordian knot. He failed. George W. Bush failed at everything he tried. This is a dispute that deserves respect; old, inflamed, and complex, it does not suffer quick fixes.

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