Cliff May

It is unlikely that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will have answered such questions before setting off soon on a new round of Middle East diplomacy. If her intention is to demonstrate energetic engagement, fine. If the goal is to find common ground between Israelis and Palestinians, good luck.

It’s hard to imagine where she would even look. In 2005, Israel withdrew from every inch of Gaza. In exchange, Israel has received no concessions, no benefits and no credit from the “international community.” Virtually every day since, Gaza-based terrorists have fired rockets at Israeli villages. Based on this experience, Israeli enthusiasm for also withdrawing from the West Bank, the other “occupied territory,” has faded.

As for Hamas, we must remember that its posture toward Israel is based not on political calculation but religious conviction. Hamas holds the Militant Islamist view that any land ever conquered by Muslims is an endowment from Allah. One can wage jihad for such holy ground, or one can shirk one’s sacred obligation. There is no third option; it is not for man to negotiate away divine gifts.

In the long run, keep hope alive. But at this moment, given the current Palestinian leadership and the support it receives from Tehran, the chance of resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict is as low as it’s ever been.

Why those who style themselves as foreign policy “realists” claim otherwise is a mystery; as is their bizarre insistence that the road to peace in Iraq runs through Jerusalem. More plausibly, it is only when al-Qaeda, the Iranian mullahs and other Militant Islamists are seen as having failed, that Palestinians will choose leaders who seek peace alongside Israel rather than the destruction of Israel.

Resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict would be a wonderful thing. But it’s not happening anytime soon. And it cannot be a predicate for salvaging the vexing situation in Iraq.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.